Cincinnati has some amazing views from its hilltops that surround the basin where Over-the-Rhine and downtown are located. On top of the hills are beautiful little parks. Two of my favorites are Fairview Park and Bellevue Park in Clifton Heights, which are within walking distance, with a classic Clifton saloon halfway between… perfect to stop in for a refresher.
I met my friends from BMW Store and Everything Cincy at Fairview Park, which also happens to be my backyard. It was a hazy day, but you could still take in the beautiful view. Fairview is located between Warner and Klotter St, and Ravine Street to the east. There is a one-way mile-long, tree-lined road that winds through the park with the entrance at 501 McMillian Street and ends at Ravine Street just below Warner.The land where Fairview sits was once called Brighton Hill when it was owned by Col. John Riddle. He was the blacksmith at Ft. Washington and at one time one of the largest landowners in the city. After his death, the southwest part of the hill was used as a quarry, and the meadow on the east side was a large vegetable garden. The produce was hauled down the hill to be sold in the downtown markets. By the 1850s, the land was subdivided into lots to be sold. Isaac J. Miller, who was a prominent lawyer and politician, purchased three lots on the newly built Fairview Ave. His house is still there! Miller helped build up the community of Fairview Heights. He, along with other prominent men of the city, helped to have the Fairview incline built at the end of Fairview Ave from McMicken Street and connected to a crosstown streetcar by way of McMillian. This connected the Millcreek valley to Clifton. The Fairview incline was the last incline to be built out of all five inclines in the city. It was built in 1894 with second-hand machinery salvaged from the rebuilding of the Bellevue incline.Almost all of the inclines had some kind of entertainment house at the top of the hills. Mt. Adams had the Highland House, Mt. Auburn had The Lookout House, the Elm Street incline had Bellevue House, and Price Hill had The Price Hill House. Fairview, however, didn’t have a big entertainment house, but it did have a small saloon and wine garden located on the Miller property on the hillside. You can still see the entrance to the wine cellar that supplied the saloon from the road in the park.
After taking in the views at Fairview, make your way east down Warner St. When you hit Clifton Ave, slip on into Murphy’s Pub for a cold one. Chances are, if you went to the University of Cincinnati, you’ve had a drink at Murphy’s. Originally, in 1938, the building that Murphy’s is in was a place called Virgil Hann’s Cafe. In 1958, Charles Mahoney opened Mahoney’s Pub until 1969 when two local men by the name of Mr. Bailey and an Irish man named Mr. Murphy took it over. Apparently, Mr. Murphy went back to Ireland and was never heard from again, so they named the bar after him. Murphy’s has always had cold beer and great music on their little stage in the back room. I remember when I was 17 in 1989, seeing the band Nirvana at Murphy’s. This was before they became big, and the show was like 2 or 3 bucks to get in. It was freakin’ EPIC!!! My friends and I all had fake IDs from the photo place on the corner of McMillan and Ohio, IYKYK. Today, students still flock down to Murphy’s, and on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s absolutely insane there!After having a drink and reminiscing about the good old days, we make our way down Warner to Ohio St and make a right. A little way down is the entrance to Bellevue Park and another beautiful view of Downtown Cincinnati.
In the early 1830s, the place near where Bellevue Hill is was a little village called Jerusalem. In 1876, an incline was built from the end of Elm Street up to the summit of Bellevue, which connected Downtown to Clifton, Burnet Woods, and the zoo. Along with the incline, the Bellevue House was built. The Bellevue House was a large entertainment venue with a dance hall, billiard rooms and ballrooms, a beer hall, and a beer garden. They only served Moerlein beer, which made sense seeing that the Brewery was down the hill from the incline on Elm and Christian Morelein himself lived on Ohio Street at the top. It featured a huge octagon tower with wrap-around verandas to take in the view. The whole structure seemed to float over the cliffside. The building was designed by famous architect James W. McLaughlin. Going up to the Bellevue House was special. Families would dress in their Sunday best, men would bring their best girl, they would eat German food, and sing and dance to nostalgic German songs. The best orchestras would play at the Bellevue. They would go through at least 100 kegs of beer a day! The Bellevue was a Sunday playground of gorgeousness to break up the monotony of the workweek in German-American lives. It must have been so much fun. Unfortunately, the Bellevue House, along with other hilltop entertainment venues, closed in the late 1880s, mostly due to blue laws prohibiting the selling of alcohol on Sundays. The building was turned into a car house for streetcars until 1901 when the whole structure burned to the ground. The Elm Street incline lasted until 1927 and then closed. In the 1940s, the Cincinnati Park Board purchased the land from the Cincinnati Railway Company for a city park. Irwin M. Krohn was the parks chairman at the time and proposed maybe building another beer hall on the site, but that fell through. In the 1950s, the beautiful modern canopy structures were built by Carl Freund. We still get to enjoy them today along with the magnificent view! We are so lucky to live in such a jewel of a city with such a rich history that can be admired from the hilltops!
Written by: Molly Wellmann