In this response from the February 2013 issue, Dr. Know educates a curious reader on the subject of our many hillside stairways.
Behind Elsinore Arch—the castle-like structure on Gilbert Avenue—there are half-hidden steps that lead from the WCPO parking lot to a parking lot in Mt. Adams. Did the steps ever serve a practical purpose? —Curious Winter RamblerDear Rambler: Could you, by chance, be not only Curious but Newly Arrived? It was not so long ago that fiberglass mastodons once gamboled where Important News Personages now park their Escalades and Infinitis. For the site of the present Channel 9 studios was once home of the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, the venerable descendant of the Western Museum now folded into the Cincinnati Museum Center. And at this point the Doctor must drift into one of his interesting Memory Moments as he recalls the wonders of the early 19th-century Western Museum in the days before scientific accuracy took the fun out of museum-going. Back then, it was possible for talented amateurs to take part in museum life. And young, not-yet-world-famous Hiram Powers and his chums—writer and social critic Frances Trollope and artist Auguste Hervieu—did so, creating their hugely popular diorama of the Infernal Regions, complete with eerie smoke and electrified iron grating that gave thrill-seeking Cincinnatians a healthy dose of Early Industrial Age electricity.
But you asked about the Elsinore stairs. They are one of the city’s 400 or so spectacular sets of concrete and stone steps that serve the most practical of purposes: getting residents from Point A (in this case, the former Natural History Museum) to Point B (in this case, Cincinnati Art Museum and the bucolic delights of Eden Park). Some of the hillside steps are in good repair and stand at the ready for all your rambling, running, and Good Friday penitential needs. Others are shamefully neglected. It seems the potted numbskulls at City Hall are years away from grasping the idea that the city belongs to its residents, rather than the huge-hammed motorists who pass through it, and that a good many of those residents would rather walk than drive. Whenever your urban perambulations take you to a set of steps in poor repair, The Doctor urges you to rattle some cages at Eighth and Plum.
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