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Hidden Cincinnati: Pinecroft is reflection of local history and genius innovation

Posted at 5:00 AM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 18:34:22-04

CINCINNATI — On acres of land at the top of a hill, under chimney spirals, sits Pinecroft, the former manse of Powel Crosley Jr., who was perhaps the most ingenious of the genius-level figures Cincinnati has ever seen.

Crosley invented the first car radio, the first refrigerator with shelves in the door, the first mass-produced car. He started WLW Radio, owned the Cincinnati Reds and even held the first baseball game played under lights.

He also built Pinecroft, which still sits atop a hill in Mt. Airy.

The mansion and its grounds are currently owned by the Cincinnati Preservation Association, and Funky's Catering manages the property, which has become a space used frequently for weddings or events.

"It's a responsibility; we have to maintain it," said Jerin Dunham, COO and part owner of Funky's Catering. "It's a responsibility. We have to really still share that with the public, right? Because this is part of the Cincinnati history."

The history of the building, built by Crosley in 1928, remains intact in both obvious and subtle ways. Crosley built his own ingenuity into the mansion, like including lights that turn on when a door is opened and an eight-head shower -- decorated with Rookwood tiles, of course.

"The lake out here, that's a five-acre lake, but it's got an arrow pointing, it's shaped like an arrow," said Dunham. "So when he flew his plane, he could see where his property was. He had polo fields out here. There's like seven safes in the house; they're all hidden."

At least one of those safes is so hidden, the only telltale sign it exists is in the form of a tiny keyhole. Otherwise, it simply looks like the wall it was built into. Dunham said it was where Crosley kept his alcohol during the years of Prohibition.

The Haile Foundation provided a grant for the gardens on the property, with the goal of replicating the gardens Crosley created for himself in 1928.

"I think this is the hidden portion of this hidden gem," said Dunham. "That's why we call it the secret garden."

Although today Pinecroft is primarily used as an event space, garden clubs still visit its vast acreage. Cincinnatians who want to check out the mansion and its grounds can give Pinecroft a call -- they would be happy to let people come out and take a look around.