Archive for MPF

The Barn: Bi-Okoto Drumming Workshop

Mariemont Preservation Presents

“Bi-Okoto Drum Workshop”

10:30am Saturday, May 2 at The Barn

Bi-Okoto is “the only outstanding authentic African Dance Company in the tri-state area”. Their mission is to preserve, promote and share the rich cultural heritage of Africa and Africans using drums, music, dance & languages. They have earned a reputation as one of the country’s finest professional African traditional dance companies & cultural organizations, currently touring in 48 states in the US.
We are proud to offer a hands-on African drumming workshop for families with children in pre-school on up. What a fun, engaging way to learn about another culture with your children!
Admission is only $5, click here to reserve your seats!Bi-Okoto2

Mariemont Preservation Foundation Grants

Mariemont Preservation Foundation grants about $15,000 per year for worthy Mariemont Projects.

Starting in September 2012, the Mariemont Preservation Foundation initiated a program to award about $15,000 a year to projects that better Mariemont. Dick Adams, the Mayor of Mariemont from 1983 to 1991, chairs the MPF Grant Committee. He noted that to date over $21,000 has been awarded for a wide variety of projects with the largest grant of $6,000 went going to the Village of Mariemont for improvements at the Boat House site.

Under the leadership of Mayor Clarence Erickson, MPF came into existence around 1980 and has played an active role in Mariemont civic life and historic preservation. Its endowment has grown to around $1,250,000 and their Mariemont museum at 3919 Plainville Rd is a wonderful destination for all Mariemont residents who wish to understand the rich heritage of our Village.

In 2007, through the dedicated efforts of Millard Rogers and MPF, the Village of Mariemont was designated a National Historic Landmark. Indeed, the Mariemont Preservation Foundation has been so vital in maintaining the rich history of our planned community that it really deserves standing in Village Government. Perhaps a representative designated as an advisor to the Mayor and Council would be appropriate.

In 2011, MPF undertook the Vision 2021 project that carefully outlines a long-term strategic plan for the Village of Mariemont. It is well worth reading and can be accessed in its entirety here

MPF Grants Award Program

MPF Grant Application 

MPF’s Complete Vision 2021 Plan

MPF’s Vision 2021 Plan: A Remarkable Gem of a Document that garnered a resolution of support from the Village Council in 2009 and was published in 2011, but withered primarily due to resistance from the Mayor. The MPF committee members David Zack, Frank Raeon, Millard Rogers and Don Keyes put in endless hours of work compiling creative and constructive ideas from an exhaustive range of sources.  A link to the full document is available here

A Vision Statement for Mariemont: All Parts

A Vision Statement for Mariemont

Vision 2021 Redux

“Dr. Emmett Brown: You’ve got to come back with me!

  Marty McFly: Where?

  Dr. Emmett Brown: Back to the future!”

By Mike Lemon and Richard Wendel

               In November 2008, the Mariemont Preservation Foundation (MPF) undertook crafting a bold plan called Vision 2021 to act as a guide for steering Mariemont into the next decade. MPF methodically collected input from hundreds of interested parties representing the entire spectrum of opinion. This included businesses, social organizations, boards and commissions, school officials, elected officials, Village employees and students

            The MPF Vision 2021 Committee was composed of respected leaders including Richard Adams, Don Keyes, Frank Raeon, Millard Rogers, Jr. and David Zack. Working as a team, they compiled a 50 page document containing their findings. In January 2011, the Vision Plan 2021 was referred by the Mayor to the Economic Development and Planning Committee for a report and recommendation. After no report was made by the committee for months, in September 2011 MPF’s leadership attended a council meeting and recommended that the Village’s elected officials appoint a broad based Vision Commission. Specifically, the Mayor was encouraged to spearhead the effort to assemble a Vision Committee comprised of 15 respected volunteers.

            Council debated elements of the plan. However, neither the Mayor nor Council moved forward on the Vision 2021 Plan proposal, nor did they modify it or develop an alternative plan. After many additional months with no report or action taken by the Economic Development and Planning Committee or the Mayor, the topic was unceremoniously dropped from the Council Agenda after April 2012.

            The potential financial benefits to the Village had the Mariemont Vision 2021 Plan been adopted in 2012 and used as a blueprint for future developments in Mariemont:

Let’s assume that the Mariemont council adopted the MPF Vision 2021 Plan to use as a guideline for the future and that an ad hoc Vision 2021 Commission with 15 members was selected and entrusted with the task of implementation.

As a first step, several full-day retreats with councilmembers, the mayor and commission members were held to condense, prioritize and financially analyze the recommendations in Vision 2021. A mission statement and strategic plan emerged on the final day of the meetings. Basically, the mission statement stated a goal “to sustain and improve upon the quality of life enjoyed by Mariemont residents and engage the community in every phase of the planning and implementation process.”

One recommendation to jump start and sustain the process was the hiring of a full time Village Administrator. Council contracted with a major consulting firm to thoroughly vet qualified candidates for this position and aid in the process of refining and implementing a strategic plan for economic development, improved services and cultural enhancements

Fiscal Sustainability

With the continued loss of revenues from the State of Ohio and inheritance taxes, the long term threat to a balanced budget was quickly recognized and, unfortunately, this downward pressure on revenues was compounded by the shrinkage of the employment base in the Westover industrial park with the closing of a major business.

It was obvious to the Council and Vision 2012 Committee that alternate pathways to fulfill budgetary needs were imperative.

  1. The opportunity to partner in JEDZs (Joint Economic Development Zones) with surrounding communities was seized upon as one available means to fill some of the funding gaps. These partnerships with local townships generated hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly in unfettered revenue. This permitted the Village to move forward on infrastructure improvements and cover the increasing cost of services without increasing taxes to residents and businesses.
  2. After being schooled in available public financing options, the Economic Development and Planning Committee of Council identified types of businesses needed for the community and pursued recruitment strategies. To stimulate economic development, incentives and tools such as the Community Reinvestment Area (CRA), Tax Increment Financing (TIFs) , and Community Investment Corporation (CIC) were considered as pathways to clean up contaminated sites, revitalize the Westover industrial park and attract new businesses. These incentive programs enabled public-private partnerships to attract new businesses and retain and grow existing ones. They had the effect of revitalizing the business community that enabled commercial property owners to improve their rents and maintenance while increasing the number of employees and customers.
  3. Council also realized that additional savings could be achieved by shared services with surrounding communities. This eliminated duplication of expensive equipment and services without compromising safety while reducing costs. A cultural shift in governance from structured independence to an atmosphere of cooperation, sharing and coordination resulted in improved relationships that leveraged mutual interests and directions.

The new financial position from these three initiatives was consistent with no new taxes even as the Village could proceed with needed improvements in infrastructure.

As part of this series, the authors invite you to consider the following questions:

  • Should Council adopt the Vision 2021 Plan or develop and communicate its own Vision Plan?
  • Should Council investigate and make a recommendation on whether to hire a qualified professional Village Administrator and rely on outside Consultants?
  • Should the Economic Development and Planning Committee proactively develop a strategic plan for business development, business retention and recruitment?
  • Would collaboration and shared services with other communities benefit the Village and lower operating costs?
  • Should Village officials reach out to other communities and begin a conversation on topics of mutual interest?


Positive Change and Outcomes

With the Vision 2021 Plan adopted by Council, Village officials initiated a collaborative program with the schools, community groups, businesses and Village service departments. Gaining consensus was a key step in real change that kept Mariemont the best community in which to live in Ohio.

  1. The financial initiatives undertaken by Council increased the pool of operating funds available to maintain quality services. For example, it enabled the Village to keep trash and recyclable collection in the rear or side of residences. This provided convenience to residents and kept the streets and driveways free of bulky containers that detracted from the curb appeal of homes and businesses. Indeed, this single distinguishing feature helped to maintain the Village’s reputation as the most walkable community in Cincinnati and provided a significant talking point for real-estate agents.
  2. The Master Plan for the South 80 developed by the Parks Advisory Board and consultants brought into focus an expanded range of possibilities for this acreage. Safety issues and crowded spaces around the Dogwood Park playfields during baseball and soccer seasons helped to focus the Parks Advisory Board and landscape architects on the potential of the South 80. An exciting schematic of the layout for additional ball fields and walking paths included:
    1. A dog park
    2. Picnic shelter and grounds
    3. A fitness trail/par course
    4. Expanded gardening plots along with a storage shed supplied with a water source and electrical outlets
    5. Expanded and repaved access road and a large convenient graveled parking area.
    6. Two regulation baseball fields
    7. Two soccer fields
    8. A circumferential paved bike path

Although flooding occurred about every three to four years in this flood plain, the structures were built to make clean-up relatively simple. These ambitious plans were made possible through economic development incentives given to new businesses and grants obtained. It became a regional attraction for local sports and recreational activities.

ODOT, meanwhile, had tabled the Eastern Corridor project because of funding issues, public resistance and engineering problems and the Oasis Rail Line project was abandoned because it was not economically viable. Thus, the concern about the Ohio 32 extension coursing through the South 80 became a nonissue. Bike path connectors were completed to the Wasson Way project, Newtown and Lunken Airport.

  1. New flower beds and landscaping highlighted a broader range of Village venues. The Village’s natural environment was compartmentalized into two landscape maintenance categories: Land Management and Landscape Maintenance. By differentiating these areas, financial reserves set aside earlier were released for the high visibility areas in the Village while giving attention to other important tracts of land. The endowment fund established for parks and the Town Center provided additional funds for capital improvements to the parks. The on-going tree planting and replacement program, based on John Nolen’s original plan, drew wide acclaim for protecting the existing urban forest in the Village. The efforts of the Tree Advisory Committee  and the accredited urban forester helped minimize the damage created by insect infestations, helped protect property values, and maintained the beautiful visual ambience of the community.
  2. Concerts in the Park and an amphitheater at the Concourse were planned to satisfy music lovers. Funds to market the Carillon concerts to the surrounding area were set aside to increase the audience for these World Class performances, a unique attraction in Mariemont. The 4th of July fireworks became a Village business sponsored annual event.
  3. Gas and electric aggregation to save on utility bills became available to all residents along with Duke Energy’s Smart Grid for energy efficiency. Aggregation eliminated the need to search for the ‘best provider and rates’ by individual household or business, even as that remained an option.
  4. Fire prevention education and voluntary home and business inspections were performed as part of shared services which helped reduce the risk of fire. Free fire alarms and carbon monoxide monitors made homes safer and lowered home insurance. The CPR training, infant car seat installation and other programs available made the Village a better, safer community.
  5. Although a national historic landmark, the Village adapted to the digital and technological age by becoming a wired community, with free Wi-Fi access throughout the Village business districts.
  6. The Village web site provided electronic filing of taxes, payments for building permits, swim and tennis passes and trash collection fees. The site also provided residents a master community calendar, business directory by category and electronic posting of the TownCryer and Minutes from Council and Council Committees.

After having fallen out of the top 25 in the 50 Greater Cincinnati suburban rankings in Cincy Magazine, Mariemont was once again ranked as a top ten community in Greater Cincinnati and was poised to close in on Number 1.

As part of this series, the authors invite you to consider the following questions:

  • Do trash and recycling containers at the curb detract from the attractiveness of the Village?
  • Do you favor development of the South 80 beyond a walking path/ vegetable garden? If so, should the Village hire a professional consultant to explore and move forward on the possibilities for the South 80?
  • Should the Village retain an urban forester to advise the Village about protecting and maintaining an ongoing tree preservation program?
  • Would you support a Concert in the Park program and other cultural events in our parks?
  • Would you like to see a gas and electric aggregation program sponsored by the Village?
  • Would you favor having Village-wide free Wi-Fi access?
  • Should the Village develop a more integrated, interactive web site with the Village Code of Ordinances, zoning requirements, archives and other pertinent Village information?

Village Gateway

A new landscaped roundabout at the 6-way intersection announced the entrance into the Village while safely guiding motorists through what had been a confusing and difficult intersection. The roundabout created a dynamic threshold between Mariemont and Columbia Township which aided revitalization on the Village’s northern boundary and helped facilitate the connection of the bike path between Fairfax and Newtown Road. The new development projects on the Village’s northern boundary replaced aging and declining properties and spawned new customers and clients for Mariemont businesses which in turn brought new jobs and new revenue to the community.

Historic District

A Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) similar to 3CDC that is revitalizing the Over-the-Rhine community breathed new life into the aging Village historic district apartments and townhouses. New revenues channeled funds into the CIC for purchasing, renovating and rehabbing the aging structures. The CIC was able to preserve the historical integrity of the buildings before selling them to private investors. The improvements and new amenities brought a a strong demand for both owner-occupied and rental living units.

Establishing the Historic District as a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District fostered road, sidewalk and park improvements through tax incentives that dove-tailed into the building improvements undertaken by the CIC.

The result was a revitalized, renovated historic district that was lauded by preservationists and urban planners in the region. The improvements made national news and created excess demand for the living units in the district.

The historic district renovation and economic development plans for the Village led to the recruitment of retail and antique stores in and around the Old Town Square. The Mariemont Preservation Foundation sponsored guided tours and carriage rides to increase tourism in the Village.


Infrastructure improvements including new sidewalks, curbing paving, signage and expanded on-street parking were carried out with the stream of new revenues, long term public financing and reserves from the permanent improvement fund. A new underground parking garage was erected behind the theatre and restaurants doubling the number of parking spaces. This relieved the Village’s intractable parking problems. A business consortium, municipal bonds and tax incentives for businesses financed the project. The project was the keystone to making the Village a true destination. It attracted new businesses, new construction and new customers. Commercial occupancy rates approached 100%.

Village traffic and safety measures were implemented based on scientific and historical data illustrating the need for change rather than perceived threats or danger. Professional analysis and engineering ended the signage proliferation that detracted from the attractiveness of the Village.

The vibrancy and excitement of Mariemont was soaring!

As part of this series, the authors invite you to consider the following questions:

  • Should Council improve safety at the six-way stop and improve the aesthetics of entry into the Village from Plainville Road?
  • Would you like to see new development on the northern boundary of the Village?
  • How should Village government participate in redeveloping the historic district?
  • Should Council undertake responsibility for a long-term parking plan for the community and hire a traffic engineering consultant?
  • Would you like to see a parking garage built for commercial business parking in the Village?
  • Does the Village have too many signs?


Town Meeting

With greater transparency and collaboration within Village Government, the Town Meetings became focused on community engagement and development. The issues facing the Village were candidly communicated and this increased the participation and attendance of residents. Reports from ad hoc committees dealing with specific issues were openly discussed to seek the best solutions and outcomes.

As a part of this new frame, greater attention was give to recruiting and nominating candidates for elected Village positions with a diverse range of skills, knowledge and experience. This added an improved leadership and management quality to Village affairs that took greater advantage of opportunities and provided solutions to any threats facing the Village. Tighter term limits were imposed for the elected positions within Village Government.

Civic Association

Greater emphasis was placed on the activities of the Civic Association. The Civic Association developed bylaws, a legal structure, a membership list and mission statement. Outside experts on various subjects gave presentations that attracted a large membership. A civic association Foundation was formed to permit private tax exempt donation and act as an operating foundation within the community with a goal of preserving the heritage of the Village.

Advisory and Community Organizations

Recognizing that public officials can’t be experts in every facet of governance, council began utilizing advisory groups extensively for fact-finding, research, and council committee recommendations. Aware of the value of advisory groups for decision-making, council found a treasure trove of expertise and community interest from the new pool of engaged citizens.

By working hand-in-hand with organizations like Marielders, Kiwanis, Mariemont Preservation Foundation and Pre-School Parents Group, community needs were better identified and addressed collaboratively.

Symbiosis with the School District

The awareness of the strong symbiotic relationship between a community and a school district led the village government and the school board to establish a joint effort to work together to improve communications and cooperative planning efforts that strengthened the bonds of the two entities for the enrichment and improvement of their common constituents.

As part of this series, the authors invite you to consider the following questions:

  • Should the annual Town Meeting expand its mission?
  • What sort of process could establish criteria to endorse nominees with a wide range of business, professional and talents for elected office?
  • How can the Civic Association become a robust organization and address a wider range of Village issues and needs?
  • Are advisory boards used effectively in the community?
  • Can village government and community organizations work together more effectively?
  • Is there room for better coordination between the Village and the school district?


The first spade of earth for the construction of Mariemont was turned by Mary Emery in 1923. In 2023 the Village celebrated the centennial of the founding of Mariemont. The dream of Mary Emery for a “National Exemplar” had moved a little closer to reality.

This vision of the Village’s future is very realistic and achievable but it will take vision and leadership to accomplish it. Adopting a vision plan, such as MPF’s Vision 2021 is a giant first step in the right direction. It is time to give this planned community a plan for its future.


“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. “—Warren Bennis

MPF’s Vision 2021 Plan

MPF’s Vision 2021 Plan: A Remarkable Gem of a Document that garnered a resolution of support from the Village Council in 2009 and was published in 2011, but withered primarily due to resistance from the Mayor. The MPF committee members David Zack, Frank Raeon, Millard Rogers and Don Keyes put in endless hours of work compiling creative and constructive ideas from an exhaustive range of sources. A brief summary of the process and general recommendations of the plan are posted below as well as on the MPFs web site. Next week, will post the unabridged 50 page electronic version of the Vision 2021 plan. All residents should be acquainted with this Vision Plan as it is a work of love dedicated to the promising future of the fine Community of Mariemont.

MPF’s Board of Trustees has a collective eye on Mariemont’s future. We are excited to share with the Village and its administrators our contributions toward a comprehensive ‘Vision Plan’ to guide future Village development and redevelopment. This plan will create a defined roadmap for future projects. It has been nearly 100 years since the original John Nolen plan for Mariemont was released. We think a Vision Plan is a wise investment for Mariemont’s next 100 years and beyond. Vision Plan Committee members David Zack, Frank Raeon, Millard Rogers and Don Keyes worked on this initiative.

Vision 2021 is a good example of what the Mariemont Preservation Foundation has been doing for more than 30 years – providing leadership and resources which have helped Mariemont remain a National Exemplar – a very special place for people to not only live, but to work, learn, and visit.

On September 26, 2011 the Mariemont Preservation Foundation formally introduced our recently published Vision 2021 document to local elected officials. Based upon a collaborative effort lasting more than two years, this important document is intended to act as a “blueprint” for guiding the future of the Village of Mariemont.

Vision 2021 identifies a “basket of ideas” which includes 21 important Themes and 21 Priorities. MPF’s hope is that Village Council will, over a period of time, not only embrace but implement many, if not most, of its recommendations.

Some important items which we think are worthy of becoming “next steps” include (a) hiring a full-time Village Administrator, (b) hiring a part-time Historic District Coordinator, (c) expanding our local tax base, (d) seeking grant monies, (e) updating the Village’s Zoning Code, and (f) the appointment of a representative, action oriented Vision Commission.

Working closely with Village Council as well as with local boards and commissions, the primary responsibility of the 12-15 member Vision Commission will be two-fold: (1) to develop strategies, time frames, cost estimates, and implementation responsibilities, and (2) to periodically update Vision 2021.

If you are interested in learning more about Vision 2021, please visit the Mariemont Preservation office at 3919 Plainville Road. You can also call MPF at (513) 272-1166 and purchase a copy of Vision 2021. The cost for purchasing this informative, handsome, and well illustrated 50 page booklet is only $10.00. (Mariemont Residents may purchase the booklet for $5.00).

Resolution of Support

On January 29, 2009, MPF received a resolution of support from Mariemont Village Council:

“The Council of the Village of Mariemont supports the efforts of the Mariemont Preservation Foundation to create a Vision Plan which involves Village residents, local organizations, local business people, local property owners, local public elected and appointed officials, Village Staff, local school officials, Board of Education members, students attending Mariemont schools, and, persons who live outside the Village but have an interest in being involved in helping create a long term vision for Mariemont.”

What is a Vision Plan?

Definition of Visioning

Visioning is a process for looking into the future in order to define both a community’s desired image and values.

Purpose of Visioning

To create a plan – a “blueprint” or “roadmap” – which can subsequently be used to help guide future public and private investment in the Village during the next 10 years.

Sources of Input

Broad based input includes all of the following “resource” groups:

  • Village residents
  • Local elected officials
  • Local appointed officials
  • Local organizations
  • Local business people
  • Local school officials and Board of Education Members
  • Students enrolled in Mariemont schools
  • People working in the Village
  • Major property owners
  • Non residents who have an interest in the Village’s future

Methods of Input:

  •  Public meetings
  • Community surveys
  • Community workshops
  • Village website
  • Mailed commentary and drawings
  • Vision Plan Components
  • Local tax base
  • Open space
  • Housing
  • Historic preservation
  • Redevelopment
  • Public facilities
  • Tourism
  • Schools
  • Local government
  • Public amenities
  • Community enhancements




Mary Emery’s Theatre

Mary Emery’s Theatre

Joe Stoner
For more Historic information about Mariemont, go to

In 1907, music loving Cincinnatians had a serious problem. Their symphony orchestra, only 12 years old, was on hiatus because of financial problems. The April 8, 1907 Cincinnati Times-Star opined that “… a need of a hall for concert purposes, seating about 2500, in no way impairs the usefulness of Music Hall, which is daily required for large gatherings and for the May festivals … and it is trusted that some public-spirited man may arise and offer a solution of the problem.” The solution came from a public-spirited woman, the 62-year-old recently widowed Mary Emery who loved art and culture. This is the story of how, 16 years prior to her founding Mariemont, she transformed a planned technical school auditorium by the force of will and money into a world-class concert hall in memory of her husband.

Emery old _CSO with canvas shell

The stories of Emery Auditorium and Music Hall are intertwined. Music Hall was built in 1878 and wasn’t designed for symphonic orchestras. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO), founded by 15 enthusiastic women under the presidency of Helen (Mrs. William Howard) Taft, presented its first concert in January 1895. It was conducted by Frank Van der Stucken. Concerts that season and the next were presented at Pike’s Opera House on Fourth Street because of Music Hall’s acoustic deficiencies. Music Hall’s architect, Samuel Hannaford, was hired to adapt it to accommodate Cincinnati’s diverse musical needs. He shortened its length, brought the audience closer to the performers and used principles of acoustic design to give the sound a full, evenly dispersed presence without echoes. With the better acoustics, the CSO began playing in Music Hall in 1896 but it was never filled to capacity. Deficits were routine and covered at the end of the season by wealthy patrons. This was getting old. New CSO board president, Bettie (Mrs. Christian) Holmes began agitating for a smaller venue for the CSO in 1903. By 1907, the financial hiatus prompted the aforementioned editorial.

In July 1907, Mary Emery offered $100,000 towards the completion of the new Ohio Mechanics Institute (OMI) that had relocated to the northeast corner of Walnut and Canal (now Central Parkway). The building plans (by renowned Cincinnati architects Samuel Hannaford and Sons) originally called for an attached auditorium seating 800. Emery’s offer was contingent upon the OMI raising $400,000 whereupon she would contribute another $50,000. The OMI couldn’t raise the money and prevailed upon Mrs. Emery to contribute the entire amount. She agreed in October 1908 with the provision that the auditorium be “so constructed as to be serviceable for public and private lectures, entertainments, symphony and other concerts …” Although the Cincinnati Symphony was not specifically mentioned, within two days after the OMI accepted the bequest, she offered the “Emery Auditorium” to the CSO as a 1500 seat venue. They thought that was too small and “wouldn’t help them at all.” They wanted 2000 seats but compromised on 1800.

More than a new concert hall was needed to get the orchestra operational again: specifically, a $50,000 revenue guarantee fund and a new conductor. Emery offered to guarantee $5000 per year for five years if a matching amount was raised. It was and the guarantee fund was available. In Paris there was a talented 27-year-old English organist with a Polish name who was studying to be a conductor. The organist, Leopold Stokowski, had a flame who was born in Texas as Lucy Hickenlooper. Deciding that wasn’t the best name for an international concert pianist, she changed it to Olga Samaroff and was much more famous then than he was. In 1908, Samaroff met by chance CSO board president Bettie Holmes and learned they were looking for a conductor for the post hiatus 1909-10 season. Beginning July 1908, Stokowski importuned for the position with six letters over nine months. He was so determined that he traveled from Paris to

Cincinnati in April 1909 for a personal interview. He was not offered the position, probably because he had never conducted a professional orchestra. Once again Samaroff helped him. In May Emery old _exterior1909, she was scheduled to be a soloist with the Colonne Orchestra in a Paris concert and when the conductor fell ill, Samaroff was instrumental in getting Stokowski as a replacement. A CSO board member from the Baldwin Piano Company was vacationing in France at the time and the board asked him to watch Stokowski’s conducting debut. Stokowski’s favorable reviews, charm, and persistence trumped the CSO board’s concern about inexperience and he won the position over other applicants.

Stokowski considered the CSO to be too Germanic and old fashioned sounding but he was able to work with them to get a sound he liked and a more modern repertoire of contemporary composers. He conducted his first CSO symphony on November 26, 1909 in Music Hall and was an immediate success. They played in Music Hall during the 1909-10 and 1910-11 seasons. The plan was to start in Emery Auditorium at the beginning of the 1911-12 season in November. There was great public interest in the new glamorous young conductor leading the resurrected CSO. This interest led to the record purchase of 2500 season tickets and caused the CSO board to regret they had agreed to only 1800 seats in their soon to be new home. By late 1909, Emery Auditorium construction was starting and the OMI board was informed through Mary Emery that the CSO desired the seating capacity be increased to 2200. The OMI board felt it was losing
There was more change and expense to come. Leopold Stokowski wasn’t happy. He asked for a bigger stage and acoustic modifications. The demands were considered impossible at first. The stage didn’t get enlarged but Harvey Hannaford was able to utilize his firm’s experience modifying the acoustics of Music Hall and made similar changes. Stokowski wasn’t entirely satisfied. It was June 1911, the November starting date was looming, and he still didn’t know how the auditorium would sound. He wanted a hard sound shell installed because it would have known properties and would prevent embarrassment in case the hall was not satisfactory. Hannaford may have felt defensive about his design and didn’t think a shell was necessary. He convinced Stokowski to go with a canvas shell-like backdrop. The canvas’s painted columns and arches would appear impressive behind the orchestra and soak up some reverberation with limited effect on the acoustic design. control. The seating capacity plans had gone from 800 to 1500 to 1800 and now they were asking for 2200! The OMI stated that 1800 auditorium seats were enough for them but they agreed to 2200 because their generous patron had asked for them and had agreed to pay for them. Harvey Hannaford (Samuel’s son) accommodated the request by adding a second balcony. The results were two pillarless balconies that appear to be strung effortlessly between the walls. The Emery was the first concert hall in the United States with no obstructed seats.

Mary Emery wound up paying $656,737.47 in construction costs for the school and auditorium. However, she got an auditorium that was the third in a group of four world-class theatre-style concert halls that were based on Adler and Sullivan’s Auditorium Theatre in Chicago and designed specifically for symphony orchestras. The four halls are Carnegie Hall in New York City (1892), Orchestra Hall in Chicago (1904), Emery Auditorium in Cincinnati (1911), and Orchestra Hall in Detroit (1919). In retrospect, some consider it a bargain.

Most of the money was spent locally to bolster the Cincinnati economy and expedite construction. However, Emery was getting nervous because she felt committed to having the auditorium open when the season started in November. Because of the changes and a refusal to compromise quality it didn’t seem that was going to happen. The CSO board scheduled the Emery inaugural concert for the sixth performance weekend of the season on Saturday, January 6, 1912 with a rehearsal date there on January 3. They also reserved Music Hall through February just in case.

The January 6 concert was a great success. Stokowski performed a program of 19th century French music that was well received. Critics pronounced the acoustics wonderful. Stokowski himself said the acoustics were superb and that the Emery Auditorium was one of the best in the country, only tonally equaled by Carnegie Hall in New York and the Boston Symphony Hall. He left Cincinnati three months later at the end of the season.

Stokowski had asked the board for a longer season and more touring. He complained about their indecision and then asked to get out of the remaining two years of his contract. At first the board refused, but after acrimonious public debates that spilled into the newspapers, they agreed. Thanks again to the influence of Olga Samaroff, now his wife, he became the conductor at the Philadelphia Orchestra, developed an Eastern European accent and went on to 65 more years of fame and fortune. He left Olga for Greta Garbo in 1923.

Stokowski’s successor, Dr. Ernst Kunwald, soon wanted to move back to Music Hall to take advantage of the orchestra’s new popularity. The theory was more tickets at cheaper prices trumped better acoustics. This was only seven years after all the clamor for a smaller venue with better acoustics. The CSO board told Kunwald that they would stay at the Emery at least one more year. In May 1917, Kunwald repeated his request and the board agreed contingent upon Mary Emery’s approval. She was against it and expressed disappointment but did not threaten to withdraw support if the move was made. The CSO board again decided to stay at the Emery.

From 1917 through 1927, the Emery was the stable home of the CSO. Opinion reversed again and the Emery was considered the gold standard against which all other local halls were measured. WSAI and WLW broadcasted many of the concerts but did not record them. In March 1927, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra moved from Music Hall to the Emery.

Mary Emery died on October 11, 1927. Shortly after her death, the OMI honored her and acknowledged her gifts of $1,500,000 made to them during her lifetime. On December 3, the CSO board again considered moving back to Music Hall. The conductor, Fritz Reiner, was in favor of it and even stated that Music Hall’s acoustics were better. Plus, there was more parking. However, because it was calculated to be too expensive to move and Fritz Reiner was planning to leave, the question was tabled again. However for the next few years the question routinely came up but Music Hall restoration costs (not to mention the Depression) were now an issue so the CSO stayed at the Emery. In March 1936, Music Hall made the CSO a financial offer it couldn’t refuse. Their last concert at the Emery was April 25, 1936. No recordings of the CSO at the Emery were ever made.

Mary Emery’s theatre contributed even more to Cincinnati’s cultural life than symphonic music and musical soloists like Gershwin, Rubinstein, and Casals. Ever since the Emery opened in 1912, there were many and varied presentations there. Many plays and Broadway touring productions performed at the Emery. Nijinsky and Pavlova danced there.

In 1969, the OMI merged with the Ohio College of Applied Science (OCAS). OMI/OCAS then merged with the University of Cincinnati (UC). The theatre was little used by this time. The Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra played there in the late 70’s. In 1977, the refurbished “Mighty Wurlitzer” 1359 pipe organ from the demolished Albee movie palace was installed and for 22 years there were classic films and organ concerts sponsored by the Ohio chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society who managed the theatre during this time. WVXU nationally broadcast the Radio Riders Theater “Riders in the Sky” (a somewhat campy musical cowboy show) in the late 80’s and early 90’s. In 1999, the pipe organ was removed and the theatre went dark except for sporadic events. (The organ was refurbished again and installed in the Music Hall ballroom in 2009.) The attached OMI/OCAS building (vacant since 1988) was turned into Emery Center Apartments in 2001 with 59 market-rate units. Once construction loans begin to be paid off, revenue from the apartments will be used for renovation and operation of the theatre.

There have been many attempts to preserve and renovate Emery Theatre over the years. In 1989, the non-profit Emery Center Corporation (ECC) was created for its restoration and maintains the lease for the auditorium. Stanley Aronoff, Ohio Senate president from Cincinnati, secured $4.5 million for the Emery but UC had other priorities for all but $400,000 that was then allocated for planning the Emery restoration. In 1997 UC partnered with the Cincinnati Preservation Association to plan for the renovation. In 2000, they tried to raise $17.5 million to restore the Emery by 2004. The plan failed because they couldn’t get the initial $5 million from the state. These are only some of the attempts. In 2011, Cincy magazine called the restoration of the Emery Theatre an evergreen story.

Things may be changing. Emery’s neighborhood is different due to the Art Academy moving nearby and the Emery Center Apartments. Vine Street is bustling with new development. In this promising energy field, the ECC gave a long-term lease to the Requiem Project to manage the theatre. It is a not-for-profit arts company whose mission is to restore the theatre and the floors above it into a multifunctional working art space. The Requiem Project was co-founded by Tara Lindsey Gordon and Tina Manchise and named in honor of Manchise’s mother who died unexpectedly. “We agreed to do everything,” says Gordon, “meaning maintain it, book it, promote it — everything.” They’ve made progress. They’ve recruited pro bono architects with experience in reopening abandoned arts venues and an advisory board of movers and shakers. They know accomplishing their goals will take a lot of money but are idealistic and determined, traits shared with Mary Emery.

Taste of Mariemont

Taste Of Mariemont

Photo by Joe Stoner. Visit Joe at

Event: Taste of Mariemont
Host: Mariemont Preservation Foundation
Time: Sunday, August 25, 2013 4:30PM until 7:00PM
Location: The Concourse

2013 Taste of Mariemont – MPF’s Gift to the Village Delicious food from all your favorite local restaurants, Live Entertainment by Jon Aiken, Games and activities for the whole family! Last chance for summer fun before school starts! Bring a lawn chair or blanket.

To view Mariemont Preservation’s event and RSVP, visit:

MPF Awards Grant Money for Village Projects

A wide range of projects have been funded by Mariemont Preservation Foundation’s newly established grants program. MPF has set aside $15,000 to be available to organizations who propose projects which will contribute to the betterment of the Village of Mariemont.

So far, three grants have been awarded to groups who submitted requests: Ken Tankersly received $500 to perform soil tests in the Village’s south 80 acres, to further his research into the Late Fort Ancient tribe which inhabited the area on the bluff. $2000 was granted to an organization for creating signage along the South 80 nature trails. Another $1,500 grant went to the Woman’s Art Club Cultural Center for entertainment and cultural programming.

Individual grant awards can range from as little as $100 to as much as $5,000. Grants can be designated for either full or partial funding. Grant applications may either be downloaded from MPF’s website ( or picked up at MPF’s office at 3919 Plainville Road.

Awards will be made twice yearly, once in mid-March and again in mid- September. Annual application deadlines are February 1 and August 1. One of the conditions of individual grant awards is a written report after the project is complete, detailing how grant monies have been used and the contribution individual grants have made to the Village.

For more information on MPF’s grant awards program, please contact Lisa Woodruff, MPF’s Executive Secretary. She can be reached at 272-1166.The Barn Provides Many Enriching Activities