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Once a vital part of early city life, they now lead only to memories of a simpler time
Stairways To History

         On the east side of Cincinnati, Ohio is a well-traveled thoroughfare named Columbia Parkway. It runs east and west as it follows the path of the adjacent Ohio River, along a historic hillside neighborhood known as Mt. Adams.

         Originally, Columbia Parkway was the main road of access to at least one row of  homes built above it on that hillside. This was evidenced by the fact that a portion of the retaining wall that runs along the north side of the parkway was constructed with staircases built right into it for both residents and visitors to reach those homes. The proof lies in the photos that accompany this narrative.

         These staircases were made obsolete many, many years ago by other roads that were built as Mt. Adams residency grew. With more convenient access now available, the hillside immediately above these staircases was allowed, in fact encouraged to return to its natural state of trees and vegetation, but the staircases were left intact, serving as a testament to an earlier, simpler time.

         Unfortunately that, now, is changing. The handrails are being removed, and the staircases are being filled in with additional concrete to make them solid walls. When I saw that happening (which I had never heard was being done), I quickly enlisted my wife's help in taking the photos you see here to help preserve the idea and history of those staircases. Both because of their historical significance, and because of the interesting construction that built them into the walls, not in addition to or over them.

         The staircases appear to be quite narrow (my guess would be about 18-24 inches wide - hopefully a coming photo can clarify that a little better). The staircases provided quick access to the homes for those just getting off one of the bus lines that used to go by each day. Busses still use this route, but there are no longer any stops along this stretch of the Parkway.

         I would estimate that the wall varies in height from about seven or eight feet to maybe 12 feet. This variation is supported by the fact that some of the staircases are single flights while others are two flights to reach the top of the wall.

         Take a close look at the pictures and see the intriguing construction for yourself. The photo titled "Top of the Stairs" shows the fact that the staircases now lead only to a historical statement, and to awaken wonderful memories for those who are old enough to know why they were there and how they contributed to the founding and development of one of Cincinnati's most cherished historical neighborhoods.

One of a number of staircases built into, not over, a concrete retaining wall.

Single flight staircase

A two-flight staircase built into a concrete wall

Two Flight Staircase

The bottom landing of one of the concrete staircases

The lower landing of one of those staircases

They now lead only to memories of a simpler time

The Top of The Stairs

Until last fall (2015) these historic staircases were still usable, as evidenced by the other photos above. But the natural growth you now see above them in this photo shows that they have not been actively used for decades. Since they are no longer used, Mother Nature was wisely allowed, even encouraged to return the hillside to its natural state to help stabilize it against mudslides. So, last fall, the staircases were filled in with additional concrete, as  you can also see in this shot, hopefully with the intent of strengthening those areas of the wall to the same point as the sections that were originally built without the staircases. The city did, thankfully, have the brains, and the compassion for the history of these landmark staircases, to etch the image of the railings that used to be in place here, into the face of the concrete as a reminder of their once important status in early city life. However, in the case of this particular staircase, since their intent was to strengthen the wall and make its appearance uniform, they sacrificed the second half of this two-story staircase, hiding it behind the new concrete. Notice that the top of the visible staircase does not reach the top of the wall, and that you can see the gap behind it, where the other, second-level staircase is hiding.

A typical section of the wall in which the staircases were built

Another section of the same wall

         Above is a section of the retaining wall just beyond the staircases. The staircases would be on the right if this photo was extended. They were built into wall sections between the pillars

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