A Letter from Mt. Adams:

May 22nd, 2013  |  Published in May 2013  |  1 Comment

A Letter from Mt. Adams:  

Far from being out of town, where these “letters from” are supposed to be, Mt. Adams is as close to town as one can be in Cincinnati. And yet for us, it was our way of leaving Cincinnati without leaving Cincinnati.

Mt Adams

Most of my life, excepting 7 years, has been spent knocking around the mean streets of Hyde Park and Mt. Lookout. Our children were raised there, a short walk from Ault Park. Our friends and our children’s friends, in large part, were from the same area. It was nearly perfect. The children played outside, the 4th of July, the fireworks, the neighborly cook-outs, the nights at Zips, ice cream in the square, beers with friends at one or another bar. And, of course, lawn care, trees falling down, fences breached, deer, deer, deer…

So, after both kids are gone and you get restless, there are few options. One is to move out of town, something we didn’t consider too seriously, given the network of friends and relatives in the Cincinnati area. Another option was to move somewhere in the city that made it feel like we had moved out of town—Mt. Adams.

All Cincinnatians have their own history and impressions of Mt. Adams, be it the bar scene or the Good Friday prayerful walk up the stairs to Holy Cross-Immaculata. But, after two years here, I can say Mt. Adams is many things: a close knit neighborhood, a happening night spot, a cultural oasis, a location, an unstopping change in perspective and view, whether the unbeatable city and river views or someone’s quiet garden courtyard or the varying streetscapes of shotgun houses and modern mini-mansions.

I have my own history of Mt. Adams: free concerts, such as the 1969 show with Grand Funk, the James Gang and the greatest of Cincy bands, the Sacred Mushroom, or other shows with the crazy Bitter Blood Street Theater; the first Summer Fairs, underage pitchers of beer on the deck of the City View, the bar scene in the late 1970s and 1980s, lunches at the Mushroom or Pia’s and on and on.

The history of the Hill is, of course, much deeper. We have all seen the images of the Incline chugging up the side of the hill or the original Highland House, or we can at least imagine pottery being fired at the Rookwood. Some of this history is channeled into the new Art Works mural on St. Gregory, from Longworth with his vineyard and the first observatory of any size, to the mysterious Ida and her tree. It is a great example of what these murals can be: rooted in the neighborhood and artistically interesting. This one makes great use of Rookwood Pottery shards, assembled into mosaic and combined with paint to tell a tale of the Hill
The remaining active church, Holy Cross-Immaculata, opened in 1859, boasts a breathtaking setting on the edge the crown of the hill, the Virgin Mary perched precariously at great height on the point of the roof. Its murals were painted by Johann Schmitt, who later taught Duveneck. They are beautiful religious paintings.

The other Mt. Adams church, the inactive Holy Cross, next to the Monastery, is in near perfect state of disrepair. It was the perfect setting for Mike and Doug Starn’s Gravity of Light exhibition last year. The rough, exposed walls and timbers made the work more interesting than it probably was, or at least, the building became a significant part of the exhibition, making it more interesting as a whole.

But, one stumbles on art regularly when afoot on the hill, be it some small sculpture in a yard, an unexpected view, a house repainted in different colors, a view that pops up at a street’s end, or the overgrown green cave of one of the paved city alleys and stairs that connect streets and are unique to Cincinnati.

From the verdant art of Krohn Conservatory to The Cincinnati Art Museum to the Playhouse in the Park to the streets of townhouses to the 300 plus steps that take me to the river, Mt. Adams is, for me, one big messy Derain painting, the colors vivid and overlapping, full of action and incongruity…yet, great.

Kevin Ott


  1. Kevin Anderson says:

    May 22nd, 2014at 12:10 pm(#)

    Just read your post. I am glad that someone else remembers the free show with GFR, The James Gang and the Sacred Mushroom. I cannot find anything printed anywhere about it, even in the bands tour archives.

    Do you know what the ‘event’ was for this?

    Any info is appreciated. My first concert without my parents having to take me. So it is etched permanently in my memory.