New Richmond, Ohio
Ohio’s Lazy River Town
In the old days, moms and dads would gather up the kids and things into the station wagon and go on a Sunday drive to get out of the city, into open spaces, and spend a lazy day together to shed the stress of the rat race in the rearview mirror.
Driving, it’s interesting to note where urban architecture ends, streetlights disappear, and a state route winds between barns that look like they should be in a painting. In this trip, that state route is 52, and it hugs the Ohio River heading east of Cincinnati, offering some beautiful views.
Entering New Richmond, Ohio, the state route is traded for Front Street. On one side of the road are the town’s buildings. On the other side is the river. Two-story brick buildings line the north side of the street. Each building was painted a different color: red, yellow, pink, beige, and green. One had a balcony with a wrought iron railing overlooking a fantastic view of the snaking river and road. The wide road allows parking on either side of it. Wide sidewalks are a sign that this is a walking town, and the vintage-style street lamps make it so well into the evening.
Although East Fork State Park is a quick jaunt north, there’s not much more on the map other than open country to further off places named Tranquility and Edge of Appalachia. Across the river is California, as in California, KY. No matter, New Richmond is the destination for this leisure day.
It begins with lunch at the Front Street Café. It’s a cheerful oasis with pink brick, green awning, and purple umbrella sidewalk tables. The colorful and spacious interior of the café brings about smiles between strangers. The open floorplan allows natural light to splash off the island fireplace. History and art adorn the walls inviting eyes to take a closer look. The local landscapes on canvas are captivating. And the stories accompanying the framed, historic, yellowing newspaper articles tell why this sleepy town along the river was where the sun shined brightest for so many, many years ago. Before leaving the café, ask for a map of the freedom trail just outside the door.
Across the street are a stone archway and stairs plunging to the riverbank next to a floodwall and park. When arms tire of skipping stones, head back up and notice the Ohio historical marker. It tells of the birth of The Philanthropist in New Richmond. This famed abolitionist newspaper published by James G. Birney later relocated to Cincinnati. Next door is the aptly named Riverview Park nestled at the top of the floodwall. Another sign declares the New Richmond waterfront an Underground Railroad site and part of the Clermont County Freedom Trail. The story here is that it’s the site where slave catchers were marching their captive, LeRoy Lee, in manacles down Front Street. But they had to let him go when they faced a growing crowd of locals demanding his release.
Inside the park is where the description of “Ohio’s Lazy River Town” comes to mind most. Whoever claims the park benches first might be there for the day. On this day, a couple sat on a bench, reading, talking, and taking in the fresh air and view. Next to them was a painted white gazebo with a green roof amidst lush green landscaping. It’s a place where Sundays are meant to be spent.
Before parting with the town, stop by the Cardboard Boat Museum just down the road. It’s an unusual place along the bank of the Ohio River. It’s not a big place, but it’s interesting. Call ahead to make sure they are open because volunteers run everything, so that the hours may vary.
Housed in an old service garage, it acts the part. Big bay doors are often opened wide to create a breezy feel as air travels through from the door leading to the back deck. From the looks of the bar inside, the bar out on the deck, and the garden around the corner, you get the feeling this is a clubhouse. And in a sense, it is. A lot happens here. After all, this is where some of the best sea-worthy vessels made mostly of cardboard, duct tape, and paint are made for competition racing. Each one doubles as a piece of art. If you ask a question, pull up a stool because the folks running this joint are enthusiastic and pleased to share everything you ever wanted to know about racing these crazy watercraft and more.
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun