* This is my eleventh in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to discover what makes the city relevant to me.
When finished, I will most assuredly look back on these days and consider how I strolled Cincinnati’s neighborhoods purely for procrastination (manuscript edits await), and a bit of inspiration.
Again, my husband, Mark, joined as we set off with goal of completing the trifecta of western riverside neighborhoods, landing in Sayler Park via a turnoff from River Road.
We parked near St. Aloysius Church where I turned to Mark and said, “I love a good road named Portage. Because you know you are close to water.”
Heading down Gracely Road (named after one of the town’s founders of Sayler Park), we walked parallel to River Road. Along this route the town was founded, beginning with a square and subsequent hardware stores, plus bakery (This is how I enticed Mark).
We strolled along Gracely for several miles, first encountering a bar stool store, then the many historical homes, brushed like painted ladies from the Victorian era of the neighborhood’s origins in 1911. Several boasted of soaring stairways where might imagine the carriage stopped at the base, and guests, including ladies in heels, had to step up to the main entry.
The neighborhood also developed to the north where a majority of houses surrounded several square blocks and the Fernbank Golf Course, with its executive par 3 course.
After a few miles, we looked downward towards the river and noted the entrance to the Hamilton County Park of Fernbank, a park developed from the combination of three parcels of land and city-county relationships. We hiked through the closed car entrance from River Road and found ourselves near the designated spot for riverbank fishing. That was the closest I had come to the river, other than below Smale Park, which is technically off-limits, and being in the river.
Along the bike/hike path in Fernwood Park, a sign tells the story of the Great Stairway. In 1885, the U.S. undertook the effort to construct 54 dams to put the Ohio River to work, beginning in Pittsburgh (Darn, they always beat us). Dam 37 was located near present day sightlines from Sayler Park. Those dams remained usable until 1929 and in the early 1950’s were replaced by modern day structures.
Prior to rejoining the neighborhood above River Road, we stumbled upon the sign for The Cabana bar, opening April 10th, and the old Fore & Aft. Years ago, I spent a few summer nights out on the Fore and Aft. Because of its distance from the city, I could distance myself from concerns of the day. Many would remember the sinking of the Fore & Aft in 2005.
Circling back, we crossed paths with Cincinnati Parks’ smallest park, Thornton Triangle, and eventually with the Parkland Theatre, showing RockDog and Batman.
Sayler Park felt more town-like than an actual neighborhood, which is where I often get confused. What, exactly, constitutes a neighborhood, other than the city, at one point, coveting someone else’s goods many years ago?
If one’s lifestyle included fishing or boating, this neighborhood was perfect. If one’s goal was to own a painted lady, one should monitor the real estate sites closely. As last check, very few homes were for sale.
Several portions of the drive reminded me of a few areas along the Oregon Coast that circled the bay, with homes situated on the hillside. Thus, I was saddened to come to the end of the line, not of just the walk, but in this neighborhood, of the western portion of city along the river.
I wanted to trek on like the intrepid travelers of old, following the whims of the river, motivated by the chance to chart worlds unknown.
BREAKING NEWS: Sayler Park to get new 13 Below brewery!