Dr. Know: Street Horses, a Baldwin Fire, and Antoinette Avenue

The good doctor explores troubling issues, including equine transportation, what burned when, and flat-topped houses.

Can anybody ride a horse on a Cincinnati street? I don’t mean a horse and buggy or a cop, but any private citizen with a horse and a saddle. If I clopped over to Fountain Square right now, would I get arrested? In what year did this become illegal? I’m just curious; I have no horse. —WITH NO NAME

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

These past months of “uncertain times” and devil’s playground idleness are undoubtedly responsible for the most weirdly random questions in this column’s history. The Doctor will know things have returned to normal when his inbox presents predictable comforts like How can you people call that stuff chili?

The reason you don’t know the year when Cincinnati outlawed horse-riding on public streets is because that year still awaits. Should you ever get around to having a horse, feel free to mosey on over to Fountain Square without fear of arrest. You might want to check with someone before attempting to trot along a surviving section of the Skywalk, though.

Officer Darryl Jones, who once rode in the Cincinnati Police Department’s Mounted Patrol, will give you the answer that you’ll endorse: If a horse is properly trained and if all traffic laws are observed, it is perfectly legal to ride on city streets. As for finding a hitching post that takes credit cards, you’re on your own.

I’m not a Cincinnati native. When someone told me that the original Baldwin Building burned down in the 1960s and was rebuilt, that seemed impossible; such a glorious structure can’t just be replaced. But then someone else said they do remember, as a kid, a huge fire at Baldwin Piano. Did this really happen? —AM I BEING PLAYED

Ah, those pesky mists of time. They blur our memories, making us unsure about things like the exact day of infamy when the Japanese bombed the Hindenburg. Your friend is correct about the Baldwin Piano Company experiencing an enormous fire; it was one of the largest in Cincinnati history. But the magnificent building on, ahem, Gilbert Avenue (see our February 2019 issue) sustained only minor injuries.

Much of Baldwin’s piano manufacturing had moved to other cities by 1964, leaving several empty buildings nearby. They were in the process of being demolished to make way for the new I-71 when, on the night of March 4, an intentional fire of scrap material developed intentions of its own. Two hours later, four buildings were completely in flames. Only some above-and-beyond firefighter heroics kept the main headquarters from joining them.

The Baldwin building, now luxury apartments, has had no southside neighbor since that night. But later this year Cincinnati Ballet will open its new headquarters and dance center next door. We doubt any apartment residents will complain about loud music.

I was house-hunting in Mt. Washington and came upon an unusual street: Antoinette Avenue. Along both sides it’s got petite one-story concrete homes with flat roofs. I’ve never seen houses like these in Cincinnati, much less an entire block of them. This one-story street must have a story; can you find it? —WHAT’S THE STORY

Here’s the story . . . of a lovely lady. She was in the process of selling her home on Antoinette Avenue just as the Doctor was nosing around about the history of her unique street. The lady graciously invited him to the closing of her sale, so that he might further nose around through the infernal pile of documents one must slog through at closings. It’s just another example of the Doctor’s somewhat disturbing commitment to finding answers. Think of this as an episode of NCIS: Mt. Washington.

A Mr. Trapp and Mr. Cobb, prominent Mt. Washington developers, appear to have commissioned the block’s construction in 1946. Tattered blueprints of the home also identified the contractor, a Mr. Frank Bush, whose name the Doctor subsequently discovered in a 1947 newspaper article. It has photos of Antoinette Avenue, showing a quick and inexpensive solution to Cincinnati’s urgent postwar housing shortage: poured concrete homes by Mr. Bush. He was most likely responsible for building the entire pop-up block of houses. That’s the way they all became the Bush Bunch. Sorry.

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