The Founding of Mariemont
Mary Emery ("Lady Bountiful")
Mary Emery was a modest woman, whose shy and retiring nature has kept her in the background of history. In fact, she was major player on the world stage, and her good works still benefit thousands every day. Known to her close friends as "Guppy", and to the grateful recipients of her generosity as "Lady Bountiful", Mary Emery was the initiator, benefactor and visionary who founded the Village of Mariemont.
Mary Muhlenberg Hopkins was born in New York City in 1844, where she lived with her parents and sister, Isabella, until the family moved to Cincinnati in 1862. She had a keen mind, and at the age of 16 was accepted to the Packer Collegiate Institute, where she absorbed lessons on mathematics, the sciences, Latin and elocution, courses usually reserved for young men.
After moving to Cincinnati, Mary met Thomas J. Emery, whose family had built a fortune in candles, soap, chemicals, and real estate. Mary and Thomas were married in 1866, and had two sons, Sheldon (1867-1890) and Albert (1868-1884). While the family's holdings thrived, Mary's personal life was marred by the tragic loss of Albert, who died as the result of a sledding accident, and Sheldon, who was carried off by an infection. Mary was then widowed in 1906 when Thomas's health failed during a recuperative trip to North Africa.
Mary Emery was determined to put the fortune left to her to good use. She continued several philanthropies begun before her husband's death, and began many new projects. She generously supported the Cincinnati Zoo, was the impetus behind the creation of Children's Hospital, and donated an entire wing to the Cincinnati Art Museum to house the art she had collected and bequeathed to the museum. 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. 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, which was named after Mary
Emery's summer home in Rhode Island. The result of Mary Emery's amazing vision
and John Nolen's careful planning was a village with a real sense of community.
For further reading:
Rich In Good Works, by Millard F. Rogers, Jr.
Purchase the book Rich in Good
View finding aids for MPF's archival material on Mary Emery
Mary Emery's vision for the new town of Mariemont was for everything to be of the highest quality. This thinking extended to the selection of John Nolen of Cambridge, Massachusetts as town planner. When Charles Livingood, Mary Emery's business manager, first approached him in 1920, Mr. Nolen was firmly established as the top town planner in the United States. His credentials included many successful projects, including improvements to Cohasset, Massachusetts in 1916, the lovely Union Park Gardens near Wilmington, Delaware in 1918, and the planned community of Kingsport, Tennessee in 1919.
John Nolen received his bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1893, and went on to earn a master's degree in the relatively new field of landscape architecture from Harvard University in 1905. Nolen kept busy with his planning projects, as well as a full slate of lectures and essays promoting the principles of solid planning for new towns, existing towns, and parks and green spaces.
Nolen was involved in the creation of Mariemont for five years, from 1920-1925. The intention was to develop Mariemont as an example for more towns like it to be developed across the country. However, neither Mr. Nolen's original blueprint, nor the idea of a "national exemplar" was fully realized. Mary Emery's death in 1927 and the subsequent economic upheaval of the Depression prevented some of the plans from coming to fruition.
A great deal was accomplished, however. John Nolen had Wooster Pike straightened so that it ran through the center of the new village, rather than ducking down towards the Little Miami, as it did prior to construction. His street and landscape plans were followed to the letter, resulting in the lovely village we enjoy today. Running phone and electric wires underground was part of the original, and Mr. Nolen played a key role in the selection of the top-flight architects who were selected to create the look of the town.
For further reading:
John Nolen and Mariemont, by Millard F. Rogers, Jr.
Purchase the book John Nolen
View finding aids for MPF's John Nolen archives
Charles J. Livingood
Charles J. Livingood was working as a surveyor in the mountains of Colorado when he received word of the death of his Harvard classmate, Sheldon Emery. His thoughtful condolence letter to Mrs. Emery resulted in his becoming an employee and, eventually, a trusted confidante. Sheldon had died of an illness in October, 1890, and by November, Charles Livingood was ensconced at Thomas Emery's Sons.
Livingood was born in 1866 and grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, the son of a successful lawyer and real estate developer. His exposure to housing projects that his father developed was to be very useful training for his eventual role as overseer in the construction of the Village of Mariemont. Charles attended public school, and then Shortlidge's Academy in Media, Pennsylvania. He was accepted to Harvard University, graduating cum laude in 1888.
Charles Livingood had a lively and curious mind, and was interested in a wide variety of topics. He studied art and literature, was good at languages, especially French, and was fascinated by the archaeology and anthropology of early man. He traveled widely in Europe, studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, and only reluctantly returned to the United States to begin a career. He started his surveyor job in the spring of 1890, but left to work for the Emerys later that year. Livingood worked his way up through the company on the real estate side of the business. Thomas and John J. Emery had built a number of large and expensive apartment houses in Cincinnati, which Charles managed. He also traveled to other Emery real estate holdings all over the United States.
When Thomas Emery died in 1906, Mary came to rely even more on her trusted lieutenant. Charles became a surrogate son, and he and his family would vacation with Mary at her Rhode Island estate, the original "Mariemont." It was to Charles that she turned when she first conceived her ambitious notion of building an entire town for people of all classes and means. He traveled to various garden communities in the US and abroad, gathering ideas, and even buying the 705-year-old roof that now sits atop the community church. It was Charles who hired John Nolen to lay out the plan of the new town. Livingood was responsible for presenting the concept to the leaders of Cincinnati and selling them on it. He selected architects, fretted about rising construction costs, arranged for the Family Statuary Group to be created and sent over from France, and continued to guide the project after the death of Mary Emery. With Mary Emery's vision and financing, and John Nolen's plan, Charles Livingood was the driving force behind creating this wonderful village.
Mariemont's Key Architects
The Village of Mariemont enjoys an international reputation as a premier example of town planning. Mariemont was designed and built with the highest standards, and the selection of its architects was no exception.
There was a concerted effort to establish a Town Plan that worked hand in hand with the architecture of each building and the intricate blending of one to another. Often, the variety of architectural styles in Mariemont gives the impression that there was no overall plan. To the contrary, the variety was at the core of the plan for the "new Town." Mary Emery and Charles Livingood, who managed her various projects, had as a guiding principle that Mariemont was to serve the needs of people from all walks of life. This is also seen in the multitude of housing types that range from one-bedroom apartments in the Old Town Square to all sizes and configurations of single-family homes.
The varieties of architectural styles includes: English Half Timber Jacobean, exemplified by the Ripley and LaBoutillier groups around Oak and Chestnut Streets, the English Half Timber Elizabethan of the Atterbury group at Sheldon Close, the Georgian Philadelphia row house at Murray (designed by Gilchrist), the Colonial Elzner and Anderson Dutch gambrel roofed houses of Linden Place, and the colonial "St. Louis" units of the Cellatius units down Beech Street. Cellarius also designed the Boathouse. Additional styles are represented by the Italianate Parish Center building and the English Norman of the "gem of the Village", the community church.
To bring this assemblage of varying styles of architecture together is an amazing feat. Blending all the right elements of town planning, landscaping, architecture, and a rich and controlled palette of materials and textures has resulted in the creation of a beautiful and successful community. Funding provided by Mary Emery and the Thomas J. Emery Memorial made all of this possible. The generous funds allowed the Village to be built to the highest standards. No matter the economic level of the residential unit, the quality of construction was the very best.
The town planning technique of grouping clusters of the same style of units created an order and emphasis for each group's architectural background. These styles were planned and provided each architectural team an opportunity to make its own interpretation of how to provide a sense of historic community.
A 2007 Ohio Humanities Council grant enabled MPF to catalog
significant materials pertaining to town
planner, John Nolen, and Mariemont's benefactor, Mary Emery.
These materials are now available for research at our Archives.
Click on the
link below to view the finding aids.
John Nolen and Town Planning