Soapbox Neighborhood Profile: Hyde Park

The charm of Hyde Park, one of Cincinnati’s oldest neighborhoods on the east side of the city, captivates visitors upon arrival with picturesque scenery and a faint resemblance to Pleasantville - without the shellacked residents. Located five miles north of the city, the neighborhood’s mecca, Hyde Park Square, is home to shops, delectable eateries and swank but serious businesses.

The Square is built around a central green space which hosts enormous leafy trees and neatly trimmed hedges lining the perimeter of teakwood benches. The center of the quarter-mile scenic escape is the Kilgour Fountain, a bronze sculpture protected by fierce lion heads, gently spitting clear water into the frothing basin below. The ledge around the fountain serves as the perfect spot to cool off from the small splashes in the pool and enjoy a famous black raspberry chip cone from  Graeter’s Ice Cream on Erie Ave.

The Square has been a paradigm of shopping and entertainment in Cincinnati for more than a century. The .25 acre gem was acquired by the city in 1903 when Hyde Park was annexed to the city and transferred to the park board in 1917. It is now governed by the Hyde Park Square Business Association, headed by Lori Wellinghoff, also owner of DIGS, Cincinnati's only one-stop shop for every aspect of transforming a house into a home offering a plethora of services including but not limited to interior design, architecture, renovations, additions and landscaping. 

“It’s modern-day Mayberry,” Wellinghoff describes. “Hyde Park has imperceptible evolution. It is what it was and it is what it is. It’s always evolving, but at a Hyde Park pace. It always seems to fit in.” 

And that it does. With streets lined with stunning Victorian-style century homes to the current state of new construction at 2801 Erie, Hyde Park features unique architecture in a dynamically aesthetic range commingling the old with the new. A contemporary design by UC graduate Jose Garcia, 2801 is, according to Wellinghoff, "a landmark piece of architecture. Once complete I have every confidence that it will patina into the community and feel very much a part of it, even in its uniqueness."

Featuring 13 high-end residences in four stories half of which are sold, the building is registered for LEED certification, adhering to the U.S. Green Building Counsel's point system, making it a true green residence. Noted for open spaces and fanatical attention to architectural detail, the innovative building provides an indivisible mix to the areas classic homes. The residents who will call this green scene 'home' are a diverse lot of ages and backgrounds with one thing in common: each new tenant is already a resident of Hyde Park!

"They want that lifestyle but they don’t want to leave the great state of 45208," explains Wellinghoff, who works with Comey and Shepherd selling the upscale suites.

Perhaps this is due in part to the inimitable boutiques and vast array of restaurants ranging from the iconic Echo diner serving home-cooked breakfast all day to Teller’s, a one-time bank turned American-style bistro where diners can enjoy their dinner in the converted vault. One could eat out for a week at the restaurants and cafés on the Square and not duplicate the experience.

Awakenings Coffee & Tea Co. is the perfect place to sip a steaming cup of Fair-Trade Guatemalan blend and also offers an expansive wine collection, adorning the walls on floor to ceiling wire racks. Wine is a significant part of the culture on Hyde Park Square, with Hyde Park Wine & Gourmet Spirits, a small luxury shop offering French Bordeaux’s and magnums of Veuve Cliquot to artisan cheeses and garlic-stuffed olives for classy yet simple picnics. The Vineyard Café’s botanical patio is reminiscent of a brimming European café. Its sister business, The Vineyard Wine Room, tucked between Hyde Park Tailors and the contemporary Raymond Art Gallery, offers a secret garden where diners swirl their syrah and chat through sunset. Arthur’s offers the atmosphere of a classic “Cheers” bar with daily drink specials and $6 hunks of juicy beef during their famed Burger Madness Sunday through Tuesday. After a long day of window shopping and outfit-composing around the Square, meeting friends at Arthur’s winds the day down without whittling down the wallet.

For a shopping adventure, Alligator Purse is a trendy boutique showcasing one of a kind dresses, designer jeans and accessories unparalleled anywhere else in the city. Khakis displays classic, preppy pieces perfect for a casual afternoon of golfing or strolling the square with toddlers in tow. For posh pooches, Hyde Bark has decorated treats, cutesy chew toys and argyle sweaters. The pet boutique even carries Bengals gear, fit with tail hole, and political-themed gear for your well-informed Fido.

More than just a shopping destination, Hyde Park is  a great place to live, whether you are looking for your dream home or a college apartment. 

"Hyde Park is not an expensive place to live," Wellinghoff explains. “It’s diverse; it can be if you choose to live in an expensive home but there are reasonable places to live, as well. Part of the charm is it’s not an exclusive enclave but an inclusive enclave. It has a great mixture of architecture which makes it so charming and livable."

Wellinghoff defines a Hyde Parker as being physically and psycho-graphically diverse with one common trait: a pride of place. 

As a local resident with a humble abode featuring hardwood floors and rent under $400 a block off the Square, I can attest that Hyde Park is most definitely affordable for any Cincinnatian. It’s not all gold-gilded strollers and couture-only boulevards, as some may mistakenly assume. 

What does Hyde Park offer that you can't find anywhere else in the city?

"Everything!" exudes Wellinghoff. "There is not one chain store, not a duplicated item of merchandise. Hyde Park is one hundred percent unique. We’re a place, not a mall. In addition to the merchant mix, we have on-going events that make us a great place to commune with friends, family and neighbors; having that sense of an extended family is pretty magical considering we live in a big city." 

A neighborhood committed to community engagement, Hyde Park boasts the annual arts show held in early October, the annual Hyde Park Blast 5k run, and the Hyde Park Farmer’s Market, open Sundays 10 a.m.-2 p.m. June through October. Plenty of parking for events on the Square is available behind local businesses.

After years of living in and helping others move to Hyde Park, Wellinghoff is certain of one thing: “Every city there has that one special neighborhood that has an indescribable karma. You just feel it when you’re there and we happen to be that one special place in our city that has no equal."

A pint-sized YP with gallons of energy, Rene` is a Cincinnati native, born and raised in the Land of Love in the Heart of It All, Loveland, Ohio. Rene` is currently finishing her undergraduate degree in Communication with minors in Public Relations and Journalism at the University of Cincinnati.

Photography by Scott Beseler
Kilgour Fountain
Lori Wellinghoff, provided by DIGS
2801 Erie offices and model
Awakenings on Hyde Park Square
The Mushroom House designed by architect Terry Brown

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