Saturday, May 14, 2016

Clifton Icons

Dear George,
Cincinnati has a lot of great neighborhoods.  Clifton, of course, is our favorite.  That might be due to our having lived here for over forty years.  But, because of its special ambience, it’s lots of other people’s favorite too.   Perched on a hill overlooking downtown Cincinnati, Clifton was one of the city’s first suburbs, a refuge for a select few from the summer heat, pollution, and disease in the city below.  

Lafayette Avenue (the “Avenue of the Barons”) near the northern edge of the neighborhood was home to vast estates in the nineteenth century, while Ludlow Avenue to the south was emerging as Clifton’s business district.  Clifton was incorporated in 1850, and expansion of the Cincinnati streetcar system in the 1880s and 1890s helped the village to grow.  The city annexed Clifton in 1893, and the University of Cincinnati relocated to Clifton’s Burnet Woods Park that same year.  Ludlow Avenue and the side streets to its north are known as the Gaslight District because of their lighting from original gas lamps.  

The neighborhood is largely residential, including mansions still here from the late 1800’s, grand old apartment buildings, and many stately homes built in the early twentieth century.   Slightly over 50% of Clifton homes were built before 1940.  Because of its proximity to the University of Cincinnati, major hospitals, Hebrew Union College, and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.  Cliftonites tend to be well-educated.  Neighborhood residents today include students, university faculty and staff, doctors and lawyers, writers and artists, and many families. According to, about 14% of Clifton residents have doctoral or professional degrees; 55% have bachelor’s degrees or beyond; and 27% are undergraduate or graduate students.   The neighborhood is quite diverse, with about 40% of residents identifying as black, Asian, Hispanic, or multiracial.  Foreign-born residents are more frequent in Clifton (12%) than in the city at large (5%).  36% of Clifton’s households are married couples with children.  In 80% of marriages, with or without kids, both spouses work outside the home.      

Ludlow Avenue’s popular business district is home to numerous restaurants and shops.  Graeters ice cream parlor and Skyline Chili, with multiple branches across the city, are famous throughout the region, and the six-screen Esquire Theater, specializing in foreign and indie films, wins “best of city” awards every year.  Harvest, Ludlow Garage , and Biaggio’s are favorites for a special night out, and there are numerous ethnic bistros (e.g., Indian, Chinese, Latin American, Moroccan, Mediterranean) and coffee shops, as well as other casual dining spots (e.g., J. Gumbo, Deweys Pizza, Brueggers Bagels, Lydia’s on Ludlow).  Arlins and the Fries Cafe are favorite neighborhood bars.  The IGA supermarket, which was the main anchor to the business district, closed several years ago and Clifton Market, a food coop, will open there this fall.  Many of life’s amenities are addressed by our hardware store, barber shop, many hip stores for clothing and sundries, hair stylists, drugstore, florist shop, post office, travel agencies, e-cigarette dispensaries, and most recently a gourmet cookie store.  Several years ago our branch library moved into an elegant mansion once owned by Cincinnati’s early 1900’s political boss, George B. Cox.  Clifton has 14 houses of worship.  Its major parks include Burnet Woods, Mt. Storm Park, and the Rawson Nature Preserve. 

My current photography project is to try to compile a set of images that capture the essence of Clifton.   That’s tricky and could be an endless process.  Just the same, here is how part of my collection looks today.

Ludlow Avenue

The Muse of Clifton statue

Clifton Plaza and Graeter's ice cream parlor

Clifton Branch Library (former Cox mansion)

Probasco Fountain & Clifton Cultural Arts Center (former Clifton School)

Post Office, Clifton Branch

Wayne-Rawson mansion, 1860s

Fairview School

Fire station, Ludlow at Clifton

Temple of Love, Mt. Storm Park

Skyline Chili

Clifton Mosque

Ludlow Garage

Proud Rooster

Mansion, Clifton Ave. (our first apartment)

Bandstand, Burnet Woods Park

Arlin's Bar & Restaurant

Jewish Cemetery

Roanoke apartment house

United Methodist Church

Esquire Theater

Flying Pig statue, Fairview School grounds

Panagea Trading Co. & Sitwell's Coffee House

Habanero Latin American Fare

Mural, Clifton Plaza

Sources:, “Clifton”, “Clifton neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio”, “Clifton”, “Clifton, Cincinnati” 

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