Best Of 2019

Cincinnati saw two iconic landmarks — The Manse Hotel and the Mt. Airy Water Towers — protected this year with local historic landmark designations. Walnut Hills’ Manse Hotel, first constructed in 1876 as a single-family home, became a vital stopover for black visitors to Cincinnati when a black businessman named Horace Sudduth purchased it in 1931. At the time, accommodations in the city were still segregated, and black residents of Cincinnati had few places where they could celebrate weddings, hold meetings of social and professional groups or put up distinguished out-of-town guests. It’s hard to overstate the cultural significance Sudduth’s new hotel would come to have for Cincinnati’s black community. The Manse was the site of Ezzard Charles’ post-match press conference after his victory over Joe Louis to claim boxing’s world heavyweight title. Cincinnati Reds first baseman Frank Robinson lived in the Manse in 1956, the year he won Major League Baseball’s Rookie of the Year award. James Brown stayed multiple times in the mid-1950s when he came to Cincinnati to record for King Records, and for a time considered it his second home. Some historians believe Hank Ballard wrote “The Twist” in the hotel before recording his version at King. Now, all that history is protected and the building could soon become affordable housing for seniors. Another Cincinnati landmark also got protection this year: Mt. Airy’s iconic water towers. The 90-year-old structures are a big deal for a few reasons. First, the seven six-story tanks and six seven-story towers (one of which houses a staircase) sit 962 feet above sea level on the highest point in Cincinnati. When they were built in 1927, they represented the first municipal water source for a number of West Side Cincinnati communities, including Cheviot, College Hill, Mt. Airy, North Fairmount, Price Hill and other nearby neighborhoods, which had previously gotten water from cisterns. The reliable water supply helped spur development of those areas. Then-Water Works Commissioner J.A. Hiller designed the structure. The towers are said to be a nod to another historic Cincinnati landmark — the Elsinore Arch that welcomes visitors to Eden Park, which was completed in 1883. That arch, built as part of the reservoir that used to occupy the park, was the first project by the city’s Water Works to use the distinctive castle-like architecture. The Mt. Airy Towers were the last. The towers are iconic enough that they’ve become the symbol used by the neighborhood’s community council and other civic bodies to represent Mt. Airy. Last year, it seemed like the water towers could face partial demolition. But Greater Cincinnati Water Works announced they have a plan to keep the towers intact and Cincinnati City Council has given them historic protections. 

City Life


This year, Cincinnati transit activists the Better Bus Coalition took it up a notch, providing free bus benches, pushing successfully for the city’s first bus-only lane during downtown rush hour and introducing a ballot initiative to boost bus funding. The coalition has done tons of social media activism around Metro’s struggles, highlighting aging buses, riders left waiting in the cold and more in daily posts. But the group takes things several steps further, too. They’ve engaged residents to create their own roadmap to a better Metro, for example. It remains to be seen whether voters will approve their proposed Cincinnati payroll tax increase, which the group estimates would cost a person in Cincinnati making $40,000 a year an extra $6.67 a month. Either way, expect the Better Bus Coalition to stay active in pushing for better transit service. Better Bus Coalition, betterbuscoalition.org.

The renovated Ziegler Park Pool is turning into not only a community hot spot, but also a hip place to see and be seen. Partly because of the location (across from Alumni Lofts in the former School for Creative and Performing Arts), partly because of the cost (daily admission is $4 for adults, with a sliding fee scale for season passes) and partly because of the features. Helmed by 3CDC, this former Cincinnati Recreation Commission pool has undergone a significant makeover to encompass three distinct sections: a zero-depth wheelchair-accessible area, an area with lap lanes and another with a diving board and rock-climbing wall. As a community-first pool, the urban swim club also offers lessons, a swim team and activities like water aerobics. But we’re here for the Adult Swim parties. During these 21-and-up nights held monthly during the summer last year, there were DJs, wine, local craft beers (and Bud Light) and food trucks. In addition, Ziegler also hosted a Dog Swim to close out the season, inviting vaccinated and well-behaved canines into the pool for a dip. Ziegler Park Pool, 1322 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine, zieglerpark.org.

2. American Can Lofts

3. The Boulevard at Oakley Station

4. Aqua on the Levee

5. Harper’s Point Apartments

6. Alumni Lofts

7. Newberry Lofts on 6th

8. Woodbrooke Apartments

9. The Waldo Apartments

10. The Gramercy on Garfield

2. Over-the-Rhine Community Housing

3. Model Group

2. Union Terminal

3. Cincinnati Observatory

2. Northside

3. Clifton

Like a mini version of the iconic London Eye, Skystar is a 15-story “observation wheel” that went up at The Banks downtown at the end of August to celebrate the riverfront development’s 10th anniversary. The Ferris wheel features 36 glass-enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas that take up to six riders on a 12-minute spin for a unique view of the river and Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky skylines. The portable — yes, portable — tourist attraction has been traveling across America, setting up shop in cities including Norfolk, Virginia and Louisville, Kentucky to offer elevated views and a novel pop-up experience. At night, the wheel turns into a glowing orb with more than 1 million colored LED lights and casts a pretty cool neon reflection into the waters of the Ohio River. Skystar became so popular that the company extended its original stay from August to December 2018 through mid-June 2019, which means it will be around for Opening Day, the Taste of Cincinnati and Asian Food Fest. More than 100,000 people have ridden the wheel since its arrival. Skystar, 55 E. Freedom Way, Downtown, skystarwheel.com.

2. Brian Garry

3. Pete Rose

4. Molly Wellmann

5. Tamaya Dennard

6. Bob Herzog

7. Anthony Muñoz

8. Nick Lachey

9. Drew Lachey

10. Cam Hardy (TIE)

10. Chris Seelbach (TIE)

2. Xavier University

3. Northern Kentucky University