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UC Faculty Member Designs Coffee-Table Book on Historic Mariemont

A coffee-table book on the Cincinnati’s Mariemont community is just out. The book, rich in architectural plans, maps and historic images was designed by DAAP’s Karen Monzel Hughes, who also spent 20 years as a Mariemont Historic District resident.

Date: 10/15/2011 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Provided by Karen Hughes

UC ingot   Over the past four years, a faculty member in the University of Cincinnati’s internationally ranked School of Design has teamed with a former director of the Cincinnati Art Museum to create an engaging pictorial history that tells the story of how business acumen and utopian ideals merged in the early 1900s to create one of the most important planned communities in America – Mariemont, Ohio.

UC’s Karen Monzel Hughes, associate professor of design in the university’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, and Millard Rogers, Jr., director emeritus of the Cincinnati Art Museum teamed to, respectively, design and write “Mariemont: A Pictorial History of A Model Town.” The book is just out from Ohio University Press and the Mariemont Preservation Foundation.

Though today a suburb of Cincinnati, Mariemont was first laid out as a self-sufficient, planned community along the lines of a Cotswold English village by town planner John Nolen to accomplish the vision of philanthropist Mary Emery. When under construction in the 1920s, it was considered to be an ideal pastoral environment for working-class families at considerable distance from the city center.
Efforts spearheaded by Rogers led to Mariemont earning National Historic Landmark status from the Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior in 2007. Today, it serves as a “National Exemplar” for 21st century developers, including those of the New Urbanist movement.
In “Mariemont: A Pictorial History of A Model Town.,” the range of images date back to the 1870s and 1880s. Other images, including design plans and maps, span the decades and include photographs representing present-day Mariemont taken by noted Cincinnati photographer Robert Flischel.
According to Hughes, the rich trove of materials available for the book was one of the best aspects of working on it. She recalls, “We literally had hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of images and other materials, provided by the Mariemont Preservation Foundation. Some of these images had not been examined for decades. In fact, we believe very few people have ever seen some of these materials.”
While examining these source materials, Hughes and her collaborator Rogers, already the author of two previous books about Mariemont, worked to jointly structure text and images into a larger storyline.
“I had a blast with that,” says Hughes. “I was loving it. There were so many older images, older architectural drawings and construction photos to highlight. It was a great time putting it all together.”
Some of her favorite images related to the marketing advertising from the 1920s used by the developers to sell homes in Mariemont, then a new community. Some of the ads, for instance, trumpeted the brand-new innovation of central heat. Others highlighted the excellent public transit, including the streetcar, that connected to Cincinnati.

Some of the images used in the book were contributed by the university - a portrait of Mary Emery for example - while others relate to the university. For instance, the book includes an image of the team of engineers who worked to survey and to serve as draftsmen on the project, which broke ground in 1923. Most of that engineering team was comprised of 20 UC cooperative education students.
In terms of relating this project to her teaching at DAAP, Hughes states, “I certainly know a lot more about taking a project from nascent concept, through creative design process, to full development. And more about architecture and planning. And that will enrich my classroom teaching which, of course, entails  the design and organization of complex information.”

“Mariemont: A Pictorial History of A Model Town” contains more than 200 images among its 180 pages. The book project was made possible, in part, by $18,000 in grants from the Helen G., Henry F. and Louise Teuchter Dornette Foundation and the Robert H. Reakirt Foundation.