Price Hill: A Brief History
Price Hill was once praised as Cincinnati's most popular and distinctive suburb. It was a neighborhood where one could escape the smells of the city and enjoy the comforts, peace, and prosperity of living in a hilltop resort community. To this day, many descendants of those early residents live, worship, work, and play on that same western hill, Price's Hill.
Like all of metropolitan Cincinnati, the neighborhood of Price Hill was originally part of the great Symmes Purchase. Imagine a wilderness of forest and streams, with our many hills and bluffs used as lookout posts for Indians. There is concrete evidence of the early mound builders in the area, as an old Indian mound once stood on the site of the Elberon Heights Country Club, which was established on Overlook Avenue in 1912.
In 1791, William Terry built his log cabin in the midst of a virgin forest that was home to the local Indian tribes. This was probably the first home on Bold Face Hill, named for Chief Bold Face, and the original name of Price Hill.
Many early prominent citizens followed, settling on the hill and carving out huge estates from the surrounding wilderness. You may wonder why the name changed to Price's Hill as the area was populated.
General Rees E. Price, after whom Price Hill was named, was born August 12, 1795, the eldest son of Evan Price, a wealthy Welsh merchant, and his wife Sarah Pierce Price, a woman of remarkable beauty. Rees Price is remembered in history as a thoughtful, handsome, hard-laboring man who possessed great strength. On December 9, 1824, he married Sarah Matson, daughter of Judge Matson, and together they raised eight children. Rees invested in land west of the Mill Creek, as his father had done. He built a brickyard and a sawmill and laid out a subdivision. His sons, John and William Price, continued to develop the Mill Creek valley and built the Incline Plane in 1874 with funds provided by their father.
By the time Rees died on June 20, 1877, Price Hill was becoming a thriving community. The new mode of transportation known as the Incline climbed 350 feet over the top of the hill and brought thousands of newcomers to the area. They were heard chanting "Go west, young man," as many wealthy and prominent families realized that this was truly the place to live. It was away from the pork traffic and away from the overcrowded industrial areas, up where the air was clean. The altitude of these western hills reaches as much as 860 feet above sea level.
When the Eighth Street Viaduct was completed in 1893 and the city's rapid transit system was extended into Price Hill in 1894, the suburb flourished. Four steel water tanks on a tower 120 feet high were erected on a block of beautiful elevated ground surrounded by Considine, Purcell, Glenway, and Brevier Avenues. Houses went up in the platted subdivisions named for their developers, and streets bore the names of many early settlers.
An incredible array of suburban home designs was offered to the discriminating buyer. The architecture of this period, from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, cannot be identified by one or two dominant styles. Many of the local architects borrowed design characteristics from Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, and Second Empire buildings, just to name a few.
Old books, family memories, oral histories, and research of these homes' pasts give us a picture of a community possessed of style, grace, cleanliness, and neighborhood support. Our early residents used their skills well to build our community. Even the simplest Price Hill home often had a rich and varied interior, showing the conscious attempt of the inhabitants to strive for improvement and progress in their lives, or, in the words of Gustav Stickley, "the reality of the worldwide movement in the direction of better things."
We invite you to wander down the streets of our neighborhood. The neatly trimmed houses attract your attention. The first feature of the house that you see is the front porch. The porch was a symbol of wealth and welcome, a connection to the outdoors. As the popularity of porches grew, so did their functions. Houses would boast sleeping porches for hot summer nights, porch pavilions for entertaining, enclosed entries to shelter you from bad weather, and open porches where you could just sit and swing on peaceful days.
There were no paved driveways for motorcars when Price Hill was growing up. In fact, the first automobile didn't appear in Cincinnati until 1901, and one of the biggest reasons for the decline of front porches was the motorcar. It took over the streets, bringing with it noise, speed, and pollution. It is interesting to note that some developers showed genuine concern for protecting their neo-Victorian subdivisions from the invasion of the automobile. Glenway Subdivision, for instance, mandated that each new home have a front porch and that the homes be built closer together to prohibit off-street parking, which would limit cars in the area. Our early planners were seeking to retain the pedestrian lifestyle of the suburb.
We are proud to live in a neighborhood that values its past, present, and future as much as Price Hill does. We appreciate its beauties and advantages as a place of residence, from the streets on the side of the hill overlooking the city, once a part of Storrs Township, out Glenway Avenue through the old communities of Cedar Grove and the Village of Warsaw to the far western reaches of Cincinnati's largest neighborhood. We hope you enjoy your glimpse of Price Hill. Thank you for your visit, and come back soon!