Mansions & Babies – Gettin’ My 52 On in N. Avondale

This is the thirty-fourth in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. Follow me on Instagram for a hint of where I’ll venture next.

I’d begun my walks in corners. SW, NE. Somewhere that signified a location where I could drop a pin on Google maps and remember where I parked my car. However, the strategy didn’t always work if I was in the opposite corner when rains came.

I parked along Reading Road, and hiked down Glenwood Avenue. There were ghosts of homes along the road that gave me a preview of what was to come. Soon enough, I strolled along Victory Parkway, thankfully on the shady side. The humidity was stifling, and I was tempting Mother Nature with my walk. The skies were painted a fuzzy yellow grey. It was only a matter of time before the deluge would descend.

Rain and heat and early, early mornings had been theme for the “summer I walked the city”, which is how I will remember it.

As I walked up Winding Way, I was reminded of my son’s frequent attendance at basketball camps (the scent of young sweat). Then my mouth fell open.

Massive mansions of glory were before me.

I thought, “I’ll have to find Marion Hall.” Friends of ours from Over-the-Rhine had renovated that mansion. On several occasions, we had been guests on to their historic mansion. As I pondered this point, I spotted a young man pushing a baby jogger. It was our friend, Ryan Messer! And, as an added bonus, with baby Lillian. Yes, the proud owners of Marion Hall.

“Hey what you are doing the suburbs?” Ryan joked.

I shared with him news about my project.

“That’s a pretty good idea. I could do that for the school board, something like running with / for kids.”

“You’re welcome to use it.”

Mark and I had first met Ryan and his spouse, Jimmy, one night at Zula. They were seated next to us at the pizza bar. One of them say something about living on 14th, and soon enough we were in conversation about our future home. Through Ryan, Jimmy and our streetcar and city advocacy, we had met many great citizens who Believe in Cincinnati, the name of the grass-roots organization advocating for continuation of the streetcar construction. We all saw something more in the city, hence these walks.

Ryan chugged up the hill with his baby jogger. And me, I just trudged wondering what was ahead of me.

Looking down at my phone to “watch” the weather, I crossed paths with another woman on the street, walking up to her home.

“Better get out early,” she warned, not knowing how frequent I had been checking the weather.

“Don’t I know it.”

We then conversed for five minutes about allergies and using Afrin nasal spray. Not kidding. Those were my mornings.

Marion Hall

I continued up Avondale Avenue, along Dakota, and found my way to Marion Hall.

IMG_2556Then, I pointed my feet towards Reading and the second half of my walk.

The skies were still a sunny grey, or a canvas gold. It was hard to tell at that point. I crossed over near the Belvedere. I will let Cincinnati Refined share more about the gorgeous building, which seemed like it came out straight out of New York City.

From there, I caught another glimpse into the past. But I knew how to tell when a storm was coming, the product of a mother watched baseball games and someone who lived to watch the skies along the Oregon coast.

Sure enough, the first sprinkle dripped on me. As I broke into a jaunt, the plop, plop became an all out drenching. I still had a mile to run before reaching my car. Without looking at the Google pin drop, I found my destination.

I sat in my car and laughed for while, wondering why the heck I was putting myself through theses tortuous mornings of finding the weather, finding my way, and finding myself. I did not arrive at an answer.

The next morning, Mark and I were scheduled to attend a brunch with our visiting niece. Mark had been on the call the night before, but he agreed to walk with me, knowing our time was limited. I picked him up at the hospital, and drove back to a familiar spot. The Belvedere.

There was no less humidity that day, but the threat of rain had dissipated some.

We picked up where I left off, with mouth gaping over the sheer wealth that had once occupied this neighborhood. And it wasn’t so much the size of the homes but the scope of the effort involved to care for the homes without hiring help on a daily basis. No one person could do that all.

We circled around a few areas, each home as spectacular and unique as the next, until we neared the Avon cemetery and Avon Fields Golf Course. We stepped a few feet into St. Bernard (not in the city and here’s why).

Then found our way to Wess Park and along a charming gaslight district. Had we turned west on Clinton Springs, we would have come across the Clinton Hills Swim Club. Friends of mine from Clifton, Avondale and Walnut Hills spoke highly of the pool community, so I will have to find out myself on some other walk.

We continued uphill on Clinton Springs until we met with Reading once more. Mark was still lugging his backpack, not wanting to leave it in the car. Despite the sweat, we still had a few miles to go, walking south on Reading and in and out of streets, like the one named after Fred Shutttleworth, a civil rights activist who spent many years in Cincinnati, while also fighting for rights in Birmingham.

The community has an active community council and a recreation center.

The area was settled by an influx of Jews in the late 1800’s. According to WPA Guide to Cincinnati, Reform Jews settled to the north of the suburb and the Orthodox Jews to the south. The grocery store magnate, B H Kroger, lived at 3863 Reading Road. And the Herschede Home (below) is at 3886 Reading Road.

The First German Protestant Cemetery was located where a parking lot was today. But read this fun research of what happened to the cemetery. Apparently, no one liked cholera in their ground soil.

North Avondale, like its southern sister, has plenty to teach us about wealth, diversity and maintaining a balance. (Read Casey Coston’s Soapbox blog here).Still, several worthy historic homes sat vacant, and I wondered if and when Cincinnati would have enough commerce for buyers to bring these back. At the end of Chalfonte Place, I discovered this overgrown property that was purchased in 2011.

The summer was wearing on me. I scanned my list of communities yet to walk and counted up the weeks until the election. That had been my goal. To walk all 52 within a year’s timeframe. Given Cincinnati summers, southern Ohio rains, and four kids living in four states, the odds of me making my goal were lower than I expected, when I first made my calculations months ago.

But I tarried on. The task was not exhaustive knowledge and there was no blue ribbon for finishing. Also there was no money. I did tabulate that if I walked all 52 and if each one took me approximately three hours to drive to, walk, photograph, then another two hours to blog, that would total 5 hours x 52 = 260 X $25-$50 / hour. My earnings would be $6,500.00 – $13,000.00. Perhaps I should have had the foresight find sponsorship, like Totes, or Coppertone, or Nike. Instead, I will have my blog as record and a little bit of wisdom as reward.


    • Casey – This is a great read. I’m going to add it to my blog as an addendum for others to relish. As much as I loved the homes in North Avondale and also, couldn’t afford one, I still like living where I can feel the heartbeat of the city and seeing you on your scooter!

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