A bird’s eye view of the Queen City from the top of the Carew Tower

At the end of our Iconic Cincinnati tour last Wednesday, we went up to the top of the Carew Tower for a bird’s eye view of Cincinnati and the surrounding hills.

From the top of the Carew Tower if you look south across the Ohio River, and slightly east, you’ll see the mouth of the Licking River. When Cincinnati was founded in 1788, it was originally named Losantiville, or “town opposite the mouth of the Licking River.”  Just two years later, the Governor of the Northwest Territory, General Arthur St. Clair, renamed it Cincinnati after the Society of Cincinnati, an organization of Revolutionary War officers. (WiseGeek.com)

Covington, Kentucky lies to west (or right in this photo) of the Licking River and Newport, Kentucky to the east. The front of a barge, a familiar sight in Cincinnati, can be seen entering the photograph to the right. The structure in the bottom left corner of the photo is the Red’s home stadium, the Great American Ball Park. You can see photos of the inside of the stadium at my Take me out to the ballgame post.

On this side of the river, you can see the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a museum devoted to “the Underground Railroad” and programs that educate the public about modern slavery and human trafficking. On the northern shore of the Ohio River, Cincinnati has a heritage of aiding freedom-seekers as some Cincinnatians played an important role in the Underground Railroad and aided former slaves once they made their way across the river to freedom.

If you shift slightly left in a counter-clockwise direction, you can see Cincinnati’s downtown area across from the Licking River. The Great American Ball Park is partially visible behind the towering office building. Restaurants have started popping up to the right of the ballpark in the area known as The Banks where The Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park has recently opened. If you look closely you can see a spot of green to the right of the ballpark, headed towards the river. I think  that’s part of the Smale Park with its waterfalls and kid-friendly fountains.

The US Bank Arena, where we saw the opening ceremony of the World Choir Games is on the left side of the ballpark.

The Great American Tower, with its tiara, recently bumped the Carew Tower from its place as the tallest building in Cincinnati. The Great American Tower  is 665 feet tall and has 41 floors above ground. The Carew Tower at 623 feet tall, with 49 floors above ground  still provides the highest look-out spot in the city. (Emporis.com)

You can see three bridges across the Ohio River from this vantage point. The small purple one, partially hidden behind the The Great American Tower, is the historic Purple People Bridge,

There used to be walking tours across the top of this bridge. I don’t know if they’re being done anymore.  The Purple People Bridge leads right to Newport on the Levee, a complex of restaurants and entertainment venues.

Back on the Ohio side of the river, you can see one of  the 2011 Artworks‘ murals, The Cobbler’s Apprentice Plays Ball, near the entertainment complex by the Great American Ball Park.

Cincinnati sits like a flat platter surrounded by hilly terrain just outside the downtown area. As the city grew, folks started moving up and settling on the surrounding hills. Legend has it that Cincinnati was built on seven hills, like Rome. Exactly which of the many hills surrounding the city are the seven hills has been debated over the years. Cincinnati.com answers that question based on a 1958 Enquirer report and lists the seven hills as Mount Adams, Mount Auburn, Walnut Hills, Fairmount, Fairview Heights, Clifton Heights, and Price Hill. I’ll point out some of these below.

A slight turn to the left and in the foreground you see the Procter and Gamble headquarters partly hidden behind the tall office building. The green park in the center of the picture is a beautiful park in front of the headquarters’ twin towers building. The dense green around the perimeter is not bushes, as you might imagine, but wisteria growing on a pergola.

Further out you see the Ohio River winding its way east. Just before the bend, Mount Adams is visible, although its elevation is not evident from this perspective. Holy Cross-Immaculata Church, discernible if you have excellent eye-sight, sits up on a hill overlooking the river. Anyone who has prayed the steps up from the river on Good Friday can tell you that it is indeed up on a hilltop.

You can see the Immaculata on Mount Adams a little better in this cropped and enlarged photo.  View my night shot of the Immaculata here.

When you turn about 90 degrees counter-clockwise from the river and look down, you get this nice perspective of the Genius of Water on Fountain Square, that I described in great detail on my Iconic Cincinnati post.

Another little turn counter-clockwise and Mount Auburn comes into view rising above the Over the Rhine area in downtown Cincinnati that I wrote about in  The Art Academy of Cincinnati. The big brick building at the top of Mount Auburn is Christ Hospital where three of our four children were born.

At the bottom of the photo the white steeple of St. Mary’s Church is visible.

You can read a short history about the Germans who settled in Cincinnati, the Over the Rhine area, and old St. Mary’s Church at OldStMarys.Org.

Looking off to the left, still within the Over the Rhine community, St. Francis Seraph Church (with its clock tower and circular window) is visible on the spot where the first Catholic Church within Cincinnati, St. Xavier, was originally built and then moved to its downtown location. I photographed St. Xavier while on the Iconic Cincinnati tour.

As you continue on your counter-clockwise viewing of Cincinnati, you’ll see Clifton Heights rise up above Over the Rhine. The oddly shaped concrete building, along with many of the surrounding buildings, is part of the University of Cincinnati.

You’ll be facing mostly north now, and will be able to see The Singing Mural, also done by Artworks in 2011. The  cast of characters on this mural  represent the community coming together in celebration of the arts. You might recognize:  Sesame Street’s Grover, the Phantom from Phantom of the Opera, rock artist Elton John, jazz singer Cab Calloway, legendary composer Johann Sebastian Bach, the Nutcracker, PBS icon Mr. Rogers, and Mr. Redlegs. You can see the complete list of characters at The Singing Mural.

A little turn to the left and Cincinnati City Hall‘s unique architecture stands out surrounded by contemporary buildings.  City Hall’s main building comprises four and a half stories with a nine story clock tower. It is listed in the National Register of historic buildings.

Directly west you will see a tangle of highways. The road at the bottom left corner is the 6th Street viaduct that crosses over I-75 north and takes you to Price Hill, one of the seven initial hills. The 8th Street viaduct runs bottom to top at the center of this photograph, also taking travelers to Price Hill. The far end of the 8th Street viaduct is the location where the Price Hill incline used to be. The inclines that were built to transport travelers from the downtown area up to the surrounding hills are interesting and deserve a post all of their own.

At the top of the hill at the end of the 8th Street viaduct, the Queen’s Tower stands alone. It is a high-rise condominium building with an excellent restaurant, the Prima Vista, on top that affords a terrific view and dining experience.

I-75, the main north-south artery running through Cincinnati, crosses under the 8th Street viaduct in the lower right corner of this photo.

If you follow I-75 north a short distance you will see the Union Terminal that I wrote about in The Cincinnati Museum Center post.

Turn your feet just a bit more counter-clockwise and you’ll see the Ohio River winding its way west towards Indiana.

When you come full circle, you’ll see the historic Roebling Bridge crossing the Ohio River into Covington, Kentucky. This suspension bridge was placed on the National Record of Historic places in 1975. There is an excellent photo history of the bridge at Cincinnati-transit.net.

I lived here in the Cincinnati area for more than 30 years and didn’t know about this lookout point on top of the Carew Tower until I took the Iconic Cincinnati tour.

Did you ever wonder what you don’t know about where you live?


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Touring Cincinnati’s Icons

You’d think I’d know everything there is to know about the city I’ve lived in, as an adult, for more than 33 years. Thursday Mark and I went on the  Iconic Cincinnati Tour by American Legacy Tours and I learned a few things.  Maybe you will too.

The Genius of Water statue on Fountain Square.

The Genius of Water Fountain, Cincinnati, Ohio —July 11, 2012

Donated to the city of Cincinnati by Henry Probasco in memory of his brother-in-law and business partner, Tyler Davidson, The Genius of Water fountain, located downtown on Fountain Square, celebrates water and all its uses. It is composed of four levels, although the third level is not clearly visible in this shot.

At the very top The Genius of Water showers water down from the 438 holes in her hands.

Four sculptures on the tier below the genius depict the practical uses of water.  Facing this direction, a firefighter stands on a roof where a flame shoots up. To the right a woman gives an elderly man a drink of water. On the left, another woman bathes her child.  And, not visible here, a farmer appears on the far side of the fountain.

The third tier,  in the shade below the four practical uses, shows four children demonstrating the recreational uses of water. One has an ice skate, another a necklace made of shells, a third holds a crab, and the fourth is fishing. Between the children rectangular panels depict industrialization, fishing, farming, and navigation.

On the ring around the pool at the very bottom, four children ride animals which produce water safe for drinking. I don’t know how many people realize this. I’ve never witnessed anyone partaking.

Tyler Davidson Fountain – The Genius of Water, July 11, 2012

Originally the fountain was located on an esplanade built that for purpose in the middle of 5th street. You can read more about it and see a photographic history of the fountain at codex99. Later the square was built and the fountain moved. It has since been renovated and moved a couple of times.

Fountain Square is located on the site of a large Indian ceremonial mound. As such, it became a popular place for the early settlers to gather and eventually it became the center of the city. This location was far enough away from the river to protect it from flooding. Today Fountain Square is surrounded by shops and restaurants and is a lively place where people gather for all kinds of celebrations and events.

Before leaving the square our tour guide Tim Shafer pointed out the inscription from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This may be where Cincinnati derived the nickname of Queen City.

Longfellow was friends with a Cincinnati wine-maker named Nicholas Longworth who grew grapes on the hills of Eden Park and beyond. In the mid-1800s at Cincinnati was the largest wine producing region in the United States. That came to an end during the Civil War when vineyard workers went off to fight. The vines died and were never replanted.

Longfellow apparently loved the Catawba wine produced by Longworth and wrote this poem to that effect, forever creating an image of Cincinnati as the queen city.

The Gwynne Building and Procter and Gamble.

Located on the corner of 6th and Main, just a short walk from Fountain Square, the Gwynne Building occupies the location that once contained Procter and Gamble’s first factory. After the factory was moved out of the city, The Gwynne Building, financed by Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt, was built here in 1914. Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt also played a role in the building of the Vanderbilt’s summer “cottage” at Newport Rhode Island—The Breakers (We visited The Breakers a couple of years ago and I thought I posted photos, but now can’t find them on my blog. So perhaps not.)

The Gwynne building served as Procter and Gamble’s corporate offices from 1914 to the mid-1950s. Initially P&G leased the building and then later bought it.

The Gwynne building’s architecture style is Beaux-Arts. Our tour guide has not been able to find out why the oxen heads are up on the corners near the top of the building.

The decorative grillwork on every window contains either the letter V or G for Vanderbilt and Gwynne. You can read a brief history of the Gwynne building at TheGwynneBuilding.com.

St. Xavier Catholic Church.

We walked on to our destination, St. Xavier Church. This side view was the best shot I could get of the whole church while on the tour.

Otherwise I ended up with shots like this of the front of the church, which I think are interesting but don’t give an accurate picture of the church building as a whole. St. Xavier Church sits on the site of the first Catholic church inside the city limits. In 1921 an old wooden frame church at the corner of Liberty and Vine was put on rollers and moved several blocks to this location. The move didn’t go well and the church had to be rebuilt here. The church that exists here today was built around 1860.

When the Archdiocese built the cathedral on the west side of town, St. Xavier became the Irish church for this area. St. Louis, a few blocks away, was the German church. Apparently, in the mid-1800s the spirit of Christianity was not large enough to embrace the two cultures within four walls. Today St. Xavier is a Jesuit parish.

We passed the headquarters of Procter and Gamble with its twin towers and wisteria covered arbor surrounding the front park. We could hear beautiful voices singing in harmony. Choirs from the World Choir Games were singing here during the lunch hours. Lovely.

The Masonic Center.

The Masonic Center is directly across the street from the P&G Headquarters. Although normally the iconic tour goes inside the center, we were not able to  because some of the World Choir Games events were being held in the 800 seat theater on the left side of the building. The Taft Theatre is beside the Masonic Center on the right side.

The Carew Tower.

Until recently with the addition of the tiara on top of the Great American Building, the Carew Tower was the tallest building in Cincinnati. It is Art Deco in style.  Our tour guide explained that Art Deco buildings often are built in successive smaller layers like a wedding cake.

The tower was begun in 1929 by John Emery who wanted to create a city within a city. The building was designed to contain hotels, restaurants, offices and retail. When he couldn’t get any financial backers for his idea, he sold all his stock (early in 1929, fortuitously right before the crash) and financed the building himself. The Carew Tower was built in two years with people working around the clock. Its construction provided many much needed jobs during the depression.

The panels around the entrance contain bronze medallions with all the modes of transportation that brought people to the city of Cincinnati. I can see a covered wagon, a steam boat, and a train on the bottom three shown here.

And let’s not forget the reliable four-legged friend.

The Netherland Hilton occupies the space on one side of the Carew Tower. The Netherland Hilton is also Art Deco in style. It has been renovated and is a beautiful place to stay if visiting Cincinnati with a few extra dollars in your pocket.

We entered the Carew Tower on the second floor, from one of the last remaining sections of the Skywalk that used to bridge congested roads for pedestrians. From here we have a view of the Arcade that used to be a bustling place but now is a more sedate shopping area. The mosaic at the far doorway (and on the one beneath us not visible here) is done in Rookwood tiles.

Art Deco elements are visible throughout the arcade with metal stylized flowers

and Egyptian motifs.

We took the elevator to the top of the Carew Tower for a fabulous panoramic view of the City of Cincinnati, that I’ll show you in my next post.

A big thank you to our excellent tour guide, Tim Shafer, who provided entertaining and informative stories about the people who were instrumental in building the city that we love.


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Art for All, Downtown — Fountain Square, Lytle Park, and Great American Ballpark

While downtown for the World Choir Games Opening Ceremony, Mark and I went in search of three more paintings from the Art for All exhibit.  We knew there was one at Fountain Square, but not exactly where at the square. I probably noticed this more yesterday because we were wandering around in 100 degree weather. If this heat front persists, I may have to cease and desist on this scavenger hunt until the fall.

In recent years the Fountain Square in the center of downtown Cincinnati has had a facelift and is experiencing a resurgence in activity. There always seems to be something happening on the square.

We found the painting on the right side of the square if you are facing the front of the fountain.

Portrait of a Man Rising from His Chair, 1633 by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), Dutch

The man portrayed here is unidentified, but his rich clothing shows that he was wealthy. “A portrait like this would have hung in the most prominent room of the house, where a host would greet his visitors,” (Art for All signage).

A closer look reveals vandalism on this reproduction. This saddens me. It is a sign of so much that is wrong with our society. No one should feel left out. There is no call for meanness, or destructive behavior. This art is for all of us. Why do people do things like this? I’ll never understand.

The Taft Museum. The Immaculata is visible in the background

Mark, who has always seemed impervious to heat, walked with a spring in his step, while I trudged beside him thinking of shade and a large cold glass of water, the entire seven blocks from Fountain Square to our destination. We passed the Metro Station where we expected to find a painting, but didn’t. (Now that I am home and looking closely at the map, the paintings location is actually Metro Bus Route 1, Bus # 1004. That might be tricky to get.)

We went on, in search of the painting in Lytle Park across the street from the Taft Museum, sponsor of Art for All, and home of the originals reproduced in this exhibit. I never before realized that the Church of the Immaculata is visible from this vantage point.

The Doctor’s Visit, about 1663, Jan Steen (1625/26-1679), Dutch

According to the sign, this painting is about “a young woman who is sick, and the doctor has come to take her pulse. Is it serious? Probably not. This story is a comedy starring a pretty young girl, an incompetent doctor, and a street-smart maid. To find out what’s really ailing this blond bombshell (Is she lovesick?) visit the Dutch gallery at the Taft Museum of Art,” (Art for All signage). I don’t know how they know this from looking at this painting, and can only surmise they have inside information. I may have to make a visit to get to the bottom of it.

The painting was at the far side of Lytle Park from where we entered (of course). We retraced our steps past the beautiful gardens and walked about four blocks more to the US Bank Arena where we enjoyed the Opening Ceremony of the World Choir Games inside in air-conditioning.

It was nearly dark when we left the opening ceremony. We walked a couple of blocks to the Great American Ball Park, where we found our third and final painting for the day hanging on a wall just outside the view of this camera shot to the left.

Charles Phelps Taft, 1902 by Raimundo de Madrazo Garetta (1841-1920), Spanish

Charles Phelps Taft was a lawyer, newspaper publisher, politician, and philanthropist. From 1914 to 1916, he owned the Chicago Cubs. Now his portrait hangs at the entrance to the home of the Cincinnati Reds. “He and his wife, Anna Sinton, acquired the works of art that now form the collection of the Taft Museum of Art,” (Art for All Signage).

About five blocks later we were back in our car and headed for home. Next time Mark says it’s just a couple of blocks, I’m going to check the thermometer right after I check a map.