Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cincinnati - The City of Seven Hills?

A Facebook follower asked if I could clarify the age-old question of Cincinnati's Seven Hills. Being situated in a basin with the hills rising up on all sides, it has been compared to Rome since Cincinnati's early days. So I searched and searched and here is what I found.

A view of Cincinnati's eastern hills in 1802. - Source

The question is one that is frequently asked at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. The first mention was in the West American Review, in "Article III--Cincinnati: Its Relations to the West and South." The hills in this list are: Mount Adams, Walnut Hills, Mount Auburn, Vine Street Hill, College Hill, Fairmount, and Mount Harrison (known now as Price Hill).

In 1881, Henry A. Ford, A.M. and Mrs. Kate B. Ford wrote the "History of Cincinnati, Ohio". The following is an excerpt of that book:
The Fords list ten hills, although today we lump Mount Hope, Price's Hill and Mount Echo into one name - Price Hill. 

This question has been debated in the newspapers over the years as well!
Cincinnati Times-Star; Nov. 8, 1952; p5
Cincinnati Enquirer; July 25, 1958
Cincinnati Post & Times-Star; Sep. 25, 1964; p45
In December, 2008, the Cincinnati Enquirer listed these seven with descriptions:
It has been said that Cincinnati was built on seven hills, just like Rome. Of course, the city has way more than seven hills. But here’s a list adopted by the Enquirer in 1958.

Mount Adams
Named for former President John Quincy Adams, who spoke at the dedication of the city’s observatory in 1843.

Mount Auburn
Cincinnati’s first hilltop suburb had this name by 1835. An Englishwoman in the area named it either for a line in a poem by Oliver Goldsmith or a garden cemetery in Boston.

Walnut Hills
The original owner, the Rev. James Kemper, called his property Walnut Hill Farm. Heirs divided the property and the area became known as Walnut Hill. The “s” was in place by the 1850s.

A businessman began developing the village in the early 1850s, and the name might have come from a park in Philadelphia, but it was probably a marketing ploy to suggest a pretty village on attractive high ground — not swamp land.

Fairview Heights
The neighborhood’s name came into use in the late 1860s from Fairview Avenue, probably because the hilltop provided a fine view of Mill Creek Valley.

Clifton Heights
Here’s marketing at work, 1850s-style. The neighborhood was next to Clifton — a plus for status-conscious buyers — and it’s on top of a hill.

Price Hill
Originally called Bold Face Hill (reportedly for an Indian who lived in the area), the land was owned and developed by merchant Evans Price and his son, Rees. Rees laid out a subdivision in the vicinity of what is now Eighth Street and State Avenue and established a sawmill and brickyard there. By the 1830s, a small village was at the bottom of the hill.

 And the library at the University of Cincinnati has this list:
Mount Adams
Mount Airy
Mount Echo
Mount Healthy
Mount Lookout
Mount Storm
Mount Washington
Panoramic View from Carew Tower - Source

I guess the question will never be clearly answered, however we can all agree we love our City of Seven Hills (except in the winter snow)!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cincinnati's Crematory - Hillside Chapel

I stumbled across this building while researching a nearby home for a client. A newspaper article mentioned the lots in a neighborhood in Clifton not selling well, perhaps because of its proximity to the Crematory. So I just had to dig more and find out when and where this building was built and if it was still in existence.

Cincinnati Enquirer; Aug 1, 1885; pg. 8
The Crematory was constructed between 1885 and 1888. It became necessary for Cincinnati to have its own facility after cremation became an accepted form of burial for its economic and health benefits. Many people believed that causes of death could make cemeteries a place of spreading disease.

The photo above comes from the same article below which describes the plans for the Crematory:
Cincinnati Enquirer; Aug 1, 1885; pg. 8
Benn Pitman was a great supporter of cremation and there was some controversy when he chose it for the burial of his wife. He purchased Italian marble from the Boyle Mansion before its demolition in 1892. By 1888, the Crematory was ready for dedication.
Cincinnati Enquirer; Nov 5, 1888; pg. 8
Click to enlarge
The Crematory was a successful business and in time, a cemetery was also built on the property, now known as the Hillside Chapel. Well-known Cincinnatians are buried here including Michael Werk (for whom Werk Road is named), Ruth Lyons, and arts patron Patricia Corbett, and other famous people were cremated here and buried elsewhere, such as "Superman" star, George Reeves. The Crematory was also an interesting place to visit for a school group from Tennessee.
Cincinnati Enquirer; April 24, 1947; p. 6b
The Cincinnati Cremation Company, made up of 41 area funeral directors, bought the crematory and mausoleum complex in 1984, however, by June of 2009, only 25 shareholders remained. Bankruptcy was filed and the complex was a risk of being taken over by the City of Cincinnati was a cemetery. In September of the same year, Don Catchen, owner of Catchen & Son Funeral Home in Elsmere, Kentucky was the winning bidder when the Cincinnati Cremation Company auctioned off of the property. It was more economical to sell the complex than to try to move all the urns held at Hillside Chapel to other cemeteries.

Additions have been added over the years, but the original building can still be seen.
Hillside Chapel made the news again in April, 2012, when an ex-employee pleaded guilty to stealing bronze urns for scrap metal. Luckily, only three of the urns had remains inside, which were left at the Chapel. Mr. Catchen replaced the missing urns for the affected families.
CAGIS Aerial View - 2011
The crematory is at center, with the mausoleum on the right.
For 126, the crematory sitting upon the hill at Martin Luther King Drive has been helping families in their time of grief, unbeknownst to most travelers on one of the busiest roads in Cincinnati. For interior pictures of the crematory, including the chapel and the retorts (both original and modern), see the slide show by Jane Andreasik of WCPO.