Filed Under Public Housing

Setty Kuhn - Promoter of Arts, Sciences, and Affordable Public Housing from Avondale

Setty Kuhn was a major philanthropist and important figure in the improvement of housing in Cincinnati. She helped found the Better Housing Leage, which studied the condition of tenements and other low-income housing. Kuhn also founded many cultural institutions and societies. Her actions and efforts are still felt by many in Cincinnati today.

Kuhn was born on June 18th, 1868, as Setty Swarts to a Jewish-American household, spending her childhood in Westwood. In 1886, at the age of 19, Setty Kuhn graduated from Hughes High School, which at the time was located at Fifth Street and Mound Streets. In 1893, Setty married a prominent banker named Simon Kuhn. Together they raised four children in Avondale, where they first lived on Forest Avenue before moving to a house at 3668 Washington Avenue.

Setty Swarts Kuhn then began work with and for the people of Cincinnati and beyond. One of Kuhn’s most important contributions stemmed from her involvement in the Women’s City Club. In July 1916, the Club founded the Cincinnati Better Housing League to document and find solutions for crowded and unsanitary living conditions in the city’s urban tenements. The League immediately appointed Kuhn as the first Chairman of the Board of Directors. Nearly two decades later in the 1930’s, the League established another organization called the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA). Today a CMHA housing project at 3700 Reading Road in Avondale is named for Kuhn to celebrate her accomplishments.

Outside of her role in public housing Kuhn also impacted Cincinnati’s cultural progress. In the year 1929, Kuhn founded the Cincinnati Chamber Music Society, which still performs today in Cincinnati’s magnificent Music Hall. The society is recognized as the United States' fourth oldest active presenter of Chamber Music. Kuhn was also involved in the founding and financial support of many other local institutions including The Foreign Policy Association, The League of Women Voters, The Woman’s City Club, The Losantiville Country Club, and more. Kuhn also contributed to the progression of science. For Setty Kuhn’s 80th birthday, on September 14th, 1948, a letter addressed to the Atomic Scientist and in particular Albert Einstein made out an initial payment of two hundred dollars with a repeating fund set up for the scientists in Setty Kuhns name. Near the end of her life, Kuhn became a strong advocate for disarmament and world peace. Her final contribution to Cincinnati and the world came after her death in 1952. A Cincinnati Enquirer article tells us that a memorial planned by the Better Housing League set up a fund in Setty Kuhn’s name. The fund’s purpose was to fund improvements on housing projects throughout the city beyond the budget of the Better Housing League.

Today a bench is dedicated to Setty and her husband Simon Kuhn in Eden Park by the Cincinnati Art Museum. The bench overlooks the city she so cherished and loved.


Portrait of Setty Kuhn
Portrait of Setty Kuhn Source: Movers and Makers
Bench dedicated to Setty Kuhn in Eden Park
Bench dedicated to Setty Kuhn in Eden Park Source: Kanah Johnson and Ian Rafferty Creator: Kanah Johnson and Ian Rafferty


3668 Washington Avenue, Cincinnati Ohio


Kanah Johnson and Ian Rafferty, Brenden Pulte, “Setty Kuhn - Promoter of Arts, Sciences, and Affordable Public Housing from Avondale,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed July 18, 2024,