MARIEMONT, Ohio -- Editor's Note: Readers may have noticed that our regular feature, "Meet the Mayor," was missing for a few months. We put the series on hiatus, reworked it, and now are pleased to bring you "Living In..." in its place each Wednesday.
Mayor: Dan Policastro
Claim to Fame: A National Historic Landmark Community
"This beautiful one-square mile village just east of Cincinnati is well known for its unequaled charm, historic architecture (especially the English Tudor structures), tree-lined streets, award winning schools, ten parks and hard-working volunteers," said Mayor Dan Policastro.
In 1979 the village was named to the National Register of Historic Places with 180 buildings. By 2007 it was awarded a National Historical Landmark. Additional honors include the village of Mariemont named one of the Top 10 Great Neighborhoods in America by the National Association of Town Planning in 2008 and one of the best hometowns in Ohio by Ohio Magazine.
"Mariemont is like a Norman Rockwell painting," said Claire Kupferle, a resident since 1988 and board member of the Mariemont Preservation Association. She said, "The concept of town is meant to be a model. Mary Emery wanted a place where people could live and enjoy the green spaces." Kupferle cites the walkability of the village. With a village this size, residents can find both retail amenities as well as a richness in history.
"It's like it was in the 1950's," said council member Dennis Wolter, who cites the solid sense of community and a strong council. Owner of Air Mod since 1973 in Batavia, Wolter and his wife Cynthia settled over 30 years ago in a house that Mary Emery had built on East St. in 1927.
Mariemont is one of but a few planned communities in the United States, with a rich and unique history that is the the hallmark of the village, according to its website. It was December of 1788 when the first group of people since the prehistoric Indians settled in the area. They chose a parcel of land now occupied by Lunken airport and named it "Columbia", in honor of Christopher Columbus. The early history of Mariemont (1786 to 1925) centers around the Stites and Ferris families. It was Major Benjamin Stites who first purchased land here. In 1799, part of the land that now constitutes Mariemont was sold to the Ferris brothers.
Built by Eliphalet Ferris c.1802, the house stands next to the Mariemont Preservation Foundation, across from the tennis courts on Plainville Road. It is one of the oldest brick buildings still standing in Hamilton County. The legacy of these early pioneering families existed at least until the 1920's. Established in the 1800's, Pioneer Cemetery on Wooster Pike contains the graves of Stites and Ferris, among other family founders.
Born in New York City in 1844, Mary Hopkins (Emery) lived with her parents and sister Isabella until the family moved to Cincinnati in 1862. After moving here, Mary met Thomas J. Emery, whose family had built a fortune in candles, soap, chemicals, and real estate. Mary was widowed in 1906 when Thomas’s health failed during a recuperative trip to North Africa.
Mary Emery was determined to put the inheritance left to her to good use. She continued several philanthropies begun before her husband’s death and started many new projects. Her biggest undertaking, however, was the creation of the “model town” of Mariemont.
Appalled by the unsanitary housing conditions in downtown Cincinnati, she used her vast fortune to create a “national exemplar”, which would be planned in every detail to provide its residents with a high quality of life at all income levels. Mrs. Emery and Charles Livingood, her business manager, hired John Nolen, an internationally known town planner. He developed the plan for the village of Mariemont, named after Mary Emery’s summer home in Rhode Island. The result of Mary Emery’s vision and John Nolen’s careful planning was a village with a real sense of community.
The Madisonville Site:
The land now known as the Madisonville Site (in Dogwood Park near the Mariemont swimming pool) was the location of a thriving village of Native Americans, one of the last groups to occupy territory in this area. The settlement existed from about 1400-1650, and covered the southwest corner of Mariemont. Estimates place the population at 250-300 people at its peak. The Madisonville Site is considered to be of great importance in the history of indigenous peoples of the Ohio River Valley. Relics are in the Smithsonian Institution, among other museums.
About the Mayor:
A licensed insurance claims adjuster for 35 years, Policastro also supervised the Cincinnati territory for Auto Owners Insurance Company (a Fortune 500 company) for 25 years. A member of the Republican Party, Policastro has been mayor of Mariemont for 14 years. He grew up in Mt. Lookout and has a BA degree with a major in business administration from Thomas More College. His salary as mayor is $8,000 per year. Retired from his day job, he continues as village mayor.
Pictures supplied by village of Mariemont, Best Western Premier Mariemont Inn, and Mariemont Preservation Foundation. Aerial view is c 1924.
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