24 Hours in Mt. Adams

What a difference 50 years can make. Cincinnati's hilltop neighborhood, Mt. Adams, was not always the trendy, upscale locale we know it to be today. In fact, prior to the 1960s, it was strictly a working-class neighborhood, dotted with small, inexpensive homes and blue-collar employers such as an iron foundry, wooden shoe and fireworks factories, a pottery manufacturer, a vineyard and limestone quarries. In fact, as high as Mt. Adams sits above the city today, it sat up to 100 feet higher before mining changed its topography.

The area was formerly known as Mt. Ida, after, legend has it, Ida Martin, a laundry woman who lived in one of the huge sycamore trees that formerly dotted the hillside. Its name changed to Mt. Adams in 1843, after John Quincy Adams traveled to the hill to dedicate what was then the world's most powerful observatory.

A Work Out With a View
Mt. Adams is a perfect neighborhood for a walking tour. The captivating and diverse architecture, the steep, narrow streets and the scenic views of Cincinnati and the riverfront make for an interesting, if sometimes strenuous, tour. So lace up your tennis shoes, grab your favorite caffeinated beverage from the KoKo Coffee Lounge and set out.

The residential streets feature brightly painted Victorian homes planted between more modern, stucco dwellings and New Orleans-inspired residences. There's a profusion of wrought iron gates keeping passer's by from trespassing for the views to the rear of many homes, but often you can catch glimpses of the skyline beyond or of quaint, miniscule, urban gardens. In the spring and summer, many of the homes feature window boxes that decorate the streets with a dazzling array of color.

For those interested in the history of Mt. Adams, Walking Cincinnati, by Darcy and Robert Folzenlogen, and Cincinnati Observed, by John Clubbe, map out scenic treks and provide a written history of the area and many of its buildings.

One can't-miss segment of any tour is the trek up the 89 steps to the Holy Cross – Immaculata Church, the limestone, gothic structure that can be seen from up and down the river. The stairway is part of a Good Friday tradition that dates back to 1860. Catholics flock to the base of the stairway on St. Gregory Street and ascend to the church stopping to say a prayer on each step. The spectacularly panoramic view from the top overlooking downtown, the riverfront and the Northern Kentucky cities of Covington, Newport and Bellevue, makes the huffing and puffing of the climb worth the effort. The church itself is listed on the National Register of Historic places. Look up to see the 11-foot, 2,500 pound, cast-iron statue of the Virgin Mary perched high atop the church's pinnacle.

For those not up to the climb, the church and its scenic overlook can also be reached from car off the relatively flat Guido Street. From the church, it's a quick walk to the central business district for lunch.

Two-Wheelin' of a Different Variety
Mt. Adams offers a wide range of choices for lunch, everything from formal dining to casual eating, and in one instance, you can find it all in the same restaurant. The schizophrenic Tavern on the Hill divides itself into two rooms, one of which offers intimate dining, while the other boasts the ambience of a friendly tavern.

The Beer Belly Deli offers a number of sandwiches which can be enjoyed from a bench at one of the areas scenic overlooks or head to Eden Park for a picnic in one of the most scenic parks in Cincinnati.

Afterwards, you can work off those lunch-time calories with a stroll through the park's 184 acres or for a different perspective; take a two-wheeled tour. And we don't mean on a bicycle. Segway of Cincinnati  offers one and a half hour, guided tours of the park on the two-wheeled, self-balancing, transportation devices. Segway tours are offered year round but reservations are required.

Also, while in the park, be sure to check out the 3,500 varieties of plant life in the Krohn Conservatory and the Presidential Grove, where a tree has been planted in honor of each United States president. The George Washington oak, planted in 1882, is still standing.

Hidden on top of the hill, looking over the park, is the Mt. Adams Pool. It's a small pool with depths ranging from just a few inches to five feet in the "deep end". Late afternoon and evenings rarely draw a crowd, making it a peaceful, family respite from the heat.

If the weather drives you inside, take advantage of the free admission and check out the Cincinnati Art Museum.
Drink in the Atmosphere
Dinner options in Mt. Adams are abundant, with some of the best sushi in town available at the Mt. Adams Fish House, Thai food at Teak and steaks at The Celestial, just to name a few. Many of the restaurants feature outdoor dining and spectacular views of the city. But for something really different, try dining in one of the old kilns at The Rookwood Bar and Restaurant. Housed in the former manufacturing facility of the world-famous Rookwood Pottery, the restaurant features a menu, and an atmosphere, befitting the distinction and character of its former occupant.

After dinner, watch downtown come to life as the sun sets from the overlook just outside the restaurant before catching a show at the Tony Award winning, Playhouse in the Park. Then cap off your evening with a drink at one of Mt. Adams' many nightspots such as Crowley's Irish Pub, The Blind Lemon, or The Wine Cellar. Several offer live music, including Longworth's Tavern, a Mt. Adams' institution. Housed in an old firehouse, the club offers something for everyone; live music in the main room, a DJ and dancing upstairs, karaoke in the basement and plenty of room to just sit back and discuss the day's adventures in Mt. Adams.

Photography by Scott Beseler
Mt. Adams, looking up the hill toward the West
Architecture, Victorian mixed with modern
Blind Lemon
Mt. Adams Pool
Eden Park Fountain