Dr. Know: A Lone Home, Mt. Lookout Square, and a Mysterious Sword

The good doctor investigates the last home left standing near Lick Run Greenway, the mystery of Mt. Lookout Square’s zip code, and a mysterious family heirloom.

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

I live near Lick Run Greenway, the South Fairmount project that turned a disgusting sewage swamp into beautiful parks and playgrounds. Dozens of homes were razed for the project, but a single house—just one—is still standing. Everything else is gone. There’s got to be a good story there. —HOME ALONE


It depends on what you mean by “good story.” A 1987 comedy movie, Batteries Not Included, featured an elderly couple who saved their home from the wrecking ball with the help of adorable creatures from outer space. If that qualifies as a “good story,” you may wonder if space aliens also helped to save the lone house in South Fairmount. They did not. 

Dozens of homes on Queen City Avenue were purchased and demolished by the Metropolitan Sewer District in order to build the Lick Run Greenway. They were old and dilapidated, so few tears were shed over their demise. But one house—the one you see remaining, built in 1890—had been kept in relatively good shape. Its owner simply declined the offer, wishing to stay. Happily, there was no years-long legal battle that often happens (see: Rookwood Exchange, Norwood, 2008). 

The home survived, MSD completed its project, and everyone won—especially South Fairmount. The neighborhood today enjoys an area that was literally sewer-infested but that’s now a beautiful and useful treasure. Sorry, space aliens not included. 

Mt. Lookout Square has a new Italian café called VV. The ZIP code on its menu says 45208, which the server said is correct, but isn’t that the ZIP code for Hyde Park? Mt. Lookout is 45226! Is Mt. Lookout Square secretly in Hyde Park? Have we been lied to for generations? —OH, THE HORROR


Brace yourself. Almost every establishment along Mt. Lookout Square is ZIP-coded as Hyde Park—without even one store wearing Prada. Yet the Square itself is squarely within the community of Mt. Lookout. What happened? 

Blame Hitler. Post office workers of the early 20th century just plain knew where everybody lived, but when the U.S. suddenly entered World War II, all that institutional memory got shipped overseas. Replacement workers needed a better way to get that postcard to Aunt Liz (every American back then was assigned an Aunt Liz). Postal Zones, created in 1943, didn’t necessarily match the borders of a neighborhood—hence your confusion. Cincinnati’s Hyde Park station was Zone 8. No Mt. Lookout Post Office existed at the time, just the East End station (Zone 26), so Hyde Park mail carriers had to drag their sacks all the way to Mt. Lookout Square. They still do. Zones 8 and 26 got the 452 prefix slapped on them in 1963, and Aunt Liz is still waiting to hear from you.

Our family has a very old ornate sword inscribed with our grandfather’s name (he died in 1916). It also says “Knights of St. Edward.” We found only a little about that group, and nothing at all about the sword. Can you investigate? Our grandfather lived in Mt. Adams and went to Immaculata Church. —TAKE A STAB


Genealogy is something that’s difficult to research, and worse to spell; the Doctor normally avoids such bother. But since you went to the trouble to send several high-resolution photos of your grandfather’s sword (it does look magnificent), we took the plunge—to a point. We found plenty of information about your grandfather, the sword, and the Knights of St. Edward but, alas, nothing that connected them. 

Theodore Weber and wife Alma moved in 1914 from Fairmount to Mt. Adams near Immaculata Church, but about a year later, Theodore died suddenly at age 24. Two months after that, your father was born. Records show that the family promptly moved back to Fairmount. Neither neighborhood was close to Cincinnati’s Knights of St. Edward, who were based in the East End. Therefore, as the Bible says, “From whence cometh my sword?” Well, it was forged by the Chas. Svendsen Company on Court Street, a nationally famous manufacturer of military regalia. How did your grandfather get it? And God said, “It’s a mystery. You figure it out.” 

Dr. Know is Jay Gilbert, radio personality and advertising prankster. Email him your questions about the city’s peculiarities at drknow@cincinnatimagazine.com.

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