Dr. Know: October 2015

Albino squirrels, the ”1884 Room,” and Disney Street

What’s up with the albino squirrel population in Mariemont? I know the tired old jokes—Squirrels in Mariemont are white, just like the people!—but really, why are they there? —SQUIRREL!!

DEAR !!:
Mariemont officials report perhaps three white squirrel sightings per year, so there’s not much “there” there. Your question should actually be posed to nearby Terrace Park, which feels enough white squirrel camaraderie to include one on its village flag.

Neither community, however, can remotely claim to be an American hotbed of white squirrels, nor should they be prodded to do so by provocative questions such as yours. The Doctor strongly urges you to Google this topic before deciding whether you wish the Village of Mariemont to jump into the pit of American villages defending their squirrelness to such a disturbing degree. Several quite unsettling websites devoted to white-squirreled cities show no Ohio locales at all on their inevitable Top Five lists, and this is a blessing.

Scientific footnote: White squirrels are a specific genetic strain and much more common than the albinos you claim to have seen. An albino squirrel could be any Sciuridae rodent occasionally born without pigment. To tell the difference, get very close to the squirrel. If its eyes are red and you hear it humming a song by Johnny or Edgar Winter, it’s albino.

My dad worked at Cincinnati Milacron during its heyday. When I was a kid, he took me to the “1884 Room” inside the main building, a reconstruction of the company’s original storefront. The floor was made from actual cobblestones on Pearl Street, the company’s first machine tools were on display, and large murals depicted the riverfront. Did any of this stuff survive when the building was demolished? —MILACRONY

For those wondering what machine tools are, let’s just say they’re the machines that make other machines that make absolutely everything. Cincinnati Milacron—the name changed over the decades—ruled this industry for about a century.

During the 1950s, as Cincinnati was cheerfully obliterating its riverfront neighborhoods, Milacron saw an opportunity. Workers returned to the company’s original Pearl Street corner, numbered every cobblestone (German efficiency!), and then dug up and re-laid them in the floor leading to their executive dining room. This ultimately became the 1884 Room, enjoyed only by the company’s top brass. Your dad probably took you there during the occasional Family Day, when everyone got to see the company’s exclusive areas.

The Milacron complex was cheerfully obliterated in 2001, but parts of the 1884 Room made it out. Like those who scarfed up seats from Crosley Field and the Albee Theatre, loyal fans grabbed some cobblestones. Those classic machines went to the Cincinnati History Museum at the Museum Center, and plenty of photos were taken before the executioner arrived to cheerfully obliterate yet another piece of our city’s history.

The recently-built Cinemark movie theater in Oakley is on “Disney Street.” Whose cute little decision was that? Did Walt Disney subsidize this, or was it some Mickey Mouse fan at Cincinnati’s street department getting his jollies? —WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STREET

Your assumption is incorrect. Let it go, let it go, and think of a wonderful thought: that Disney Street was silently waiting for a handsome prince to kiss it awake.

The Cinemark Theater sits near a bygone row of factories that was, once upon a road, named North Street. This was part of the mighty Cincinnati Milling Machine complex—yes, the same Cincinnati Milacron discussed above; it’s a small world, after all. But in a tale as old as time, the neighborhood faded into something quite atrocious. The area has since rebounded as Oakley Station, with North Street now named Disney Street. Success stretches to infinity and beyond!

But the new name did not materialize with the spoonful of sugar you smugly assume. It appeared as early as 1918—a decade before Mickey Mouse made Uncle Walt famous and almost 100 years before the Cinemark Theater. Around that time, a prominent Cincinnati socialite named Disney completed her circle of life. Her notoriety stretched back to the beloved 19th-century politician David T. Disney, so it’s as good a guess as any that this is the origin of our cinematic street’s name. This theory can’t be proven, but the voluminous research it required needs to have been worth it, does it not? Did he do enough, or did the Doctor do little?

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