November 2006 Issue
This southwest Ohio village is a premier example of a model community.
Charming. Quaint. Scenic. These are just some of the words Mariemont residents use to describe their hometown, a tiny village (pop. 3,000) 10 miles east of Cincinnati.
The word that the townspeople rarely use is "planned," but that's exactly what village founder and Cincinnati philanthropist Mary Emery - the heir to her family's manufacturing fortune - had in mind when she broke ground on the model community in 1923. (The silver spade she employed still rests under glass in the town hall today.)
Emery was the proprietor, owner and only financial backer of Mariemont. She quietly purchased one square mile of orchards and cornfields, and proceeded to name her dream village (pronounced "Mary-Mont") after the family's summer home in Newport, Rhode Island. Emery - seeking to make it a "national exemplar" - hired one of America's best-known urban designers, John Nolen, to map out and build the oasis from scratch.
The entire village is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the Mariemont Preservation Association. One of the first planned communities in America, Mariemont once heated all of its buildings from a central steam plant.
These aren't the only characteristics that distinguish Mariemont from other Ohio hometowns.
"We are the only town, except for one in New England, that elects [its leaders] at a town meeting," observes Mayor Dan Policastro. Names are nominated from the floor and the winner goes on the November ballot unopposed. The village is also one of the few with its own official "town crier," dressed for the part in powdered wig and colonial garb.
The village square is peppered with Tudor-style buildings - the striking Mariemont Inn, Mariemont Theater, the National Exemplar restaurant, a Graeter's ice cream parlor and the Mariemont Strand, an assortment of gift shops and gourmet eateries.
The village's largest company is the Kellogg's plant, employing 500 and located inside an industrial park strategically located on a "peninsula" that ensures industrial and residential sectors are kept far apart. "People don't leave [Kellogg's]," says Policastro. "There's one person who's been working there for 50 years."
The town is framed by the neighborhoods of Indian Hill and Terrace Park, and sits on the bluffs overlooking the Little Miami River. The architecture is far-ranging by intention, with public buildings, private businesses and grand homes sporting influences of Tudor, Greek Revival, Colonial, Norman Revival, Georgian Revival and other styles. Stroll along the tree-lined streets and you'll encounter timber, stucco, red brick and white wooden trim. Steeply pitched slate roofs, striking chimneys, cast-iron street lamps and narrow casement windows also define the town "look," as do grassy medians and public English gardens.
The 100-foot-tall Mary Emery Memorial Carillon offers concerts each Sunday in Dogwood Park. The 7 p.m. summer music programs are ambitious, with more than a dozen songs pulled from the American songbook each evening.
And, the residents of the village have access to all the cultural amenities of a larger city - orchestras, art museums, theaters and the like - as the town is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Cincinnati.
Year founded: 1923 (incorporated 1941)
Location: 10 miles east of Cincinnati along U.S. Rte. 50
Size: 1 square mile
Type of government: Part-time mayor and six part-time city council members
January: The Mariemont Players present the first production in its 2007 season, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." www.mariemontplayers.com.
March: The Dilly Deli spring/summer music series kicks off. Local folk and Celtic acts such as Silver Arm, Raison d'Etre and the Flock are featured in the outdoor area adjoining the restaurant.
April: The Mariemont Preservation Foundation hosts its annual Wine Tasting Fundraiser at the Mariemont Strand, featuring the wines of Argentina. www.mariemontpreservation.org.
May: "A Taste of Mariemont" is held at The Concourse public park. www.mariemont.org.
The Mariemont town crier leads the Memorial Day Parade.
July: Greater Anderson Days in next-door Anderson Township is one of the largest community festivals in the region.
September: The annual Lunken Airfield air show brings stunt shows and historic aircraft to the skies over Mariemont.
October: The Mariemont Library hosts an annual slide show and talk on "Haunted Cincinnati."
At the Mariemont Fire Department's annual Fire Expo, meet the village firefighters and paramedics, see the fire safety house and other displays. www.mariemont.org.
Turpin Farms, two minutes away in neighboring Newtown, opens its annual corn maize and Halloween scarefest.
December: The Mariemont Square annual tree lighting and luminaria welcomes the season. www.mariemont.org.
Ongoing Event: The Mary Emery Memorial Carillon concert series is held every Sunday during the summer months in Mariemont's Dogwood Park.
Two-Day Visit Itinerary
Check into the historic Mariemont Inn on Mariemont Square (6880 Wooster Pike, 513/271-2100), and haul out your walking shoes. Make a lunch of the award-winning shrimp & asparagus salad at the Dilly Deli (6818 Wooster Pike, 513/561-5233) and shop the Mariemont Strand shopping center (professional photographs of Mariemont are available at one of the shops, Robert A. Flischel Photography, 513/271-3113).
If you've got the time, hop over to neighboring Mount Lookout, which offers a plethora of shopping opportunities in Mount Lookout Square as well as the Cincinnati Observatory, where the National Weather Service was founded.
For dinner, try the seared foie gras or steamed mussels at The Quarter Bistro (6904 Wooster Pike, 513/271-5400), followed by a movie at the Mariemont Theater next door (6906 Wooster Pike, 513/272-0222). End the evening just a few doors away, with a dish of the famed Raspberry Chocolate Chip ice cream at Graeter's on Mariemont Square (513/272-0859). Or experiment with the Graeter's "Flavor of the Month," which can range from Chocolate Almond Coconut all the way to Pumpkin.
Begin with breakfast at the National Exemplar restaurant (6880 Wooster Pike, in the Mariemont Inn, 513/271-2103), famed for its morning meals. Specialties include The Bacado (bacon, avocado and Monterey jack folded into a light omelet) and Pope John (Polish sausage topped with onions and swiss, and served with two eggs and Bay's English muffin).
Next, hop into the car for a tour of the streets, gardens and parks of Mariemont. Architecture buffs will want to keep an eye out for the Tudor, Greek Revival, Colonial, Norman Revival and Georgian Revival buildings and homes. Drive over to The Concourse public park, overlooking the bluffs of the Little Miami River.
If you've got kids, don't miss a visit to Pete DeLois' Recreation Outlet, where Pete allows children to play on the display models of Rainbow playsets (7605 Wooster Pike, 513/561-8695).
Keep in mind that all the cultural and recreational attractions of downtown Cincinnati are just 15 minutes away (drive west on Wooster Pike, which becomes Columbia Parkway). This includes the Cincinnati Art Museum, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati Museum Center, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Taft Museum of Art, Playhouse in the Park, Ensemble Theatre, Cincinnati Zoo, Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals, American Sign Museum, Aronoff Center for the Arts, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops, Taft Theater, U.S. Bank Arena, Newport Aquarium, Purple People Bridge and Krohn Conservatory.
If you take the Beechmont Avenue exit off Columbia Parkway, you'll quickly find yourself at another trifecta of Cincinnati venues: Riverbend Music Center, the city's outdoor concert amphitheatre, Coney Island Amusement Park and RiverDowns racetrack.
- Mariemont High School is a multiple winner of the U.S. Department of Education's Blue Ribbon award. The Ohio State Report Card lauds the school district as well, for meeting 23 out of 23 indicators, earning it the top "Excellent" status.
- Last year, Mariemont police reported no violent crimes in the bucolic community, and only 67 property crimes within the borders of the community.
- In all of North America, there are only about 14 town criers. This small village is helping to keep this venerable tradition alive in the person of Hank Kleinfeldt, who succeeded the late Ralph Smith several years ago. The town crier is considered an officer of the town meeting. His official duties include opening the town meeting and leading the Memorial Day Parade. Kleinfeldt also dons the uniform to speak to groups about his position, and to preside over a few functions each year.
- More than 50 acres of parkland were created as the village was planned. Chief among these is Dogwood Park, where the Carillon is located in the Bell Tower. Carillon concerts are conducted every Sunday throughout the summer months.
- The unemployment rate in Mariemont is 0.6 percent.