Admits of Magnificently – Gettin’ My 52 On in Columbia-Tusculum

* This is the eighteenth in my series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods, in the year of the city’s 2017 election. What have I learned. What makes each relevant to me?

Strabo, an early geographer, wrote about Tusculum in Geography, V 3 § 12: But still closer to Rome than the mountainous country where these cities lie, there is another ridg,… on this chain that Tusculum is situated… a fertile and well-watered hill, which in many places rises gently into crests and admits of magnificently.

While every day thousands used Columbia Parkway as a means to enter and leave the city proper, I was coming to despise its construction, how the magnitude of the parkway impeded traversing to and from the river up to Columbia Tusculum and other entities higher up the hillsides of the river.

Also, the East End had this odd finger on the pulse of the neighborhood of Columbia- Tusculum, as if to act as gatekeeper. Mark and I parked in the East End, near Riverview East Academy, and trekked up Delta Ave, past the Precinct. We both commented on how we hadn’t eaten there in years, not since Mark perfected his steak grilling to rival any steakhouse in the city.

We headed past the former Funky’s Blackstone restaurant, and turned up Golden Avenue, because, surprise, my sister lived along here too, for a short period of time.

Why do you think she was always moving? Mark asked.

She was just Laura, Mark. She was always moving.

But Golden Avenue had been built out since Laura last lived there, and we walked along the stretch where the river splayed out below. The Meridian towered over the land here and I had been the lucky guest of a good friend who owned on condominium on the 7th floor. The views (up to 16 floors) took my breath away, they were like New York City views.

Along Golden’s ridge, homes of an interesting mix of architecture dotted the landscape and a small park provided respite for the dogs and my mind.

Back out on Delta, the variety of homes was more fascinating, tiny shotgun homes now probably worth 100K plus, ones built on stilts on the hillsides, and a set of steps, rather hidden that took us up to Grandin Road and the soaring heights of Alms Park.FullSizeRender_3

The Park was uniquely situated so that from one turn, we could watch airplanes land at Lunken field, and from the other, we could watch the river flow (like Stephen foster in the photo).

FullSizeRender_4Contained within 94 acres, the park was first known as Tusculum Heights, after the steamboat-building town of Tusculum formerly on the river banks below. One could view both the Ohio River Valley and Little Miami River valley from that height. The park was once home to many of Nicholas Longworth’s vineyards of Catawba wines and the entrance to an old vineyard tunnel was still apparent.

The Native Americans once clear-cut, yes, they of the environmentally sound practices, to achieve a view from what became known as “Bald Hill”, once they chopped down all the trees.

Before I joined the Manley family, Mark apparently had more time to paint. This is a “Manley original” from his brother, Kevin, and wife, Jen’s, wedding which took place in the Alms Park pavilion. I have it on good authority the painting still hung today, in a prominent spot in their home that is NOT shared with the toilet.

There was a well-built overlook dedicated to Kelsey Comisar, who died in a car accident as a teenager. Her family eventually created the driving clinic where a few of our kids took lessons on how to navigate during bad weather, or what felt like out of control conditions. The clinic was now funded by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

After our walk, I researched the trail marker for the Catawba Trail, and planned to go back and walk more. It appeared there was construction here and I would be happy if it became a trail of real vines again.

Columbia was known as the area’s first white settlement and any early settlers were buried in what is now the Pioneer Cemetery. And to be honest, I had thought was in Linwood, and therefore had covered this in a previous post.

The park circles back around, and as we had made a few errant turns, we never did get past St Ursula Academy up the hill.

As we made our way past the lovely painted ladies, and some not so lovely infill, we rolled down the hill, into the historical district of Columbia-Tusculum, formed in 1989 to protect many of the homes in the neighborhood.

We skipped a bit of the neighborhood center, where we once patronized Allyn’s Café to hear the famed Rumpke Mountain Boys. Stanley’s Pub, Tostados (famous for its karaoke) and Pearl’s rounded out some of the neighborhood establishments.

Though we brushed past, I made a note to attend Mass sometime at St. Stephen Church, which was a laity-led congregation, meaning by you and me. In crunch times for priests, perhaps the Catholic church should offer more of these options. The church also contained a health clinic, in partnership with Mercy-Health, and that seemed like a reasonable partnership worth exploring too. I, like many, found churches a safe space where connection and community could help foster healing.

It was a magnificent walk that day, most of that generated by contemplating life from above. I’m fascinated by the notion that many of our parks were created on high ground, to escape the grime of the city,  but of course, could only be accessible via an automobile, which then created more pollution.

FullSizeRenderI liked the flow in Columbia-Tusculum, of paint colors, of waters, even its name. The trek had calmed me down before heading off to a workshop I would teach later that day. Like for so many, my descent from the crests took me back into the course of my life. Into the currents of creativity I leaped.





In the words of the immortal President Barlett, “Mrs. Landingham, “What’s next?”



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