Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cincy Places: Mt. Storm Park

The Mill Creek Valley from the Pavilion (DCL photos) 

Dear George,
Each year we seem to spend more and more time in the city’s parks.  In my mind, they’re Cincinnati’s greatest asset.  Our Clifton neighborhood has two major parks: Burnet Woods, which is four blocks down the street from us on Ludlow Avenue, and Mt. Storm which is about 1.5 miles northwest of our house at the end of Lafayette Avenue.  Mt. Storm is one of our neighborhood destinations for hikes with the sheepdogs, and we take our grandkids there to play whenever they come to town.  When our son J was a kid, it was a frequent spot for family outings.  We’d grill out there on weekend picnics with friends.  On Memorial Day J would ride on an antique fire truck in the Clifton parade, winding up at Mt. Storm for a community gathering.  In the winter time it offered the best spot in the city for sledding, and we’d take our toboggan there as soon as the first big snowfall came. 

The Clifton skyline in the distance

Mt. Storm is at the top of a hill in north Clifton.  It overlooks Clifton’s skyline in the university area to the east, the Mill Creek valley to the south and west, and Cincinnati’s western hills on the horizon.  In the 19th century the current 59-acre park location was the site of a large estate belonging to Robert Bonner Bowler, a wealthy dry goods businessman and a mayor of the village of Clifton.  Bowler bought the land in 1845 to build a summer residence for his family "in the country."  Bowler’s mansion, with its marble floors and wrought iron curved staircases, turned out to be one of the most elegant homes in America.  Edward, Prince of Wales – later the King of England -- was a visitor to Bowler’s estate.  So were Charles Dickens and numerous other celebrities of the era. 

The Temple of Love

On a trip to Austria Bowler met Adolph Strauch, superintendent of the Vienna Imperial Gardens, and invited him to visit Cincinnati.  When Strauch came to the U.S., Bowler persuaded him to develop his estate.  The Temple of Love, the sole landmark from the original estate that still exists today, was designed by Strauch in 1845.  It once covered a reservoir that supplied water to the estate's orchards, seventeen greenhouses, gardens, and the swan lake.  Strauch later designed Spring Grove Cemetery and became superintendent of Cincinnati Parks.  Bowler's heirs sold the estate to the city of Cincinnati in 1911, and it was officially turned into a public park in 1917.  Though Bowler's house was torn down in 1917, the Temple of Love and Adolph Stauch's landscape designs have been maintained in the park to the present day. The Temple of Love was restored by the Clifton Garden Club in 1938, then again in 1985. 

The Pavilion

The stone Pavilion which overlooks the Mill Creek was designed by Samuel Hannaford and Sons in a "Depression Modern" style and was built in 1935. 

Flower beds

The Clifton Garden Club planted and maintains the flower beds near the Pavilion.  

The wine cellar

Other than the Temple of Love, the only other remaining artifact from Bowler’s estate is this cave and former wine cellar, now filled with cement.  

Mt. Storm woods

There’s a walking trail which descends through the woods on Mt. Storm’s western hillside down to Ludlow Avenue near the police station.    

Mt. Storm playground

Mt. Storm Park today includes a playground and a soccer field.  Our grandson L is coming to town in a week or so with his dad.  We’ll definitely spend some time at Mt. Storm.

SOURCES:  www.books.google.com (N. A. Recchie & J T. Darbee, "Cincinnati Parks and Parkways," 2010); www.diggingcincinnati.blogspot.com, "Mount Storm estate and park"; www.dynamic.cinci-parks.org, "Mt. Storm Park"; www.examiner.com, "Mt. Storm Park offers expansive views of the west side"; www.wikipedia.org, "Mount Storm Park"

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