Summer was approaching and I realized I hadn't gone out and explored anything in awhile. I made it one of my goals to get out more during the coming break from class. As I walked out of my art history final, summer officially began for me at 4:43 that afternoon. I hadn't even been five minutes into my vacation when The Boy Scout called me with a plan. With no time to waste I grabbed my gear and met him in Clifton. It was time for our first exploration of the summer: The Clifton Friars Club Building.
We met up with Seicer as we trolled up Ohio Ave., cameras, tripods and gear in hand. The imposing building rose above the overgrowth and pine trees to reveal castle like turrets on its roof. Opened in 1930, the building had been home to the Cincinnati Friars Club. Not to be confused with the New York Friars Club (who perform the "Roasts" broadcast on Comedy Central), the Cincinnati Friars club dated back to 1860 and serves as an organization that provides outreach to disadvantaged children through physical activity. The club relocated and abandoned this structure in 2006. Demolition had just begun earlier that week as "Cincinnati's 8th Precinct" began climbing over the rubble into what remained of the Friars Club.
At first, we had a very limited knowledge of what the building had been used for or who the Friars Club was. So as you can imagine, we were quite surprised when we climbed into what once had been a swimming pool.
Upon seeing this I was reminded of an episode of the popular 1990's Nickelodeon Show; "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" The one entitled: "Tale of the Dead Man's Float." In case you're unfamiliar with the series, that episode, or don't care to watch it; here's a synopsis:
"A young boy who's afraid to swim ends up getting trapped in the abandoned school swimming pool with the girl of his dreams and a monster that makes people drown."Lucky for us there were no "monsters that make people drown," but at the same time there were also no "girls of our dreams." You gotta take the good with the bad I guess. Regardless, that episode scared the hell out of me when I was a kid.
The lower floor had included the pool, sauna and other rec rooms including dance studios. Navigating our way from this floor, we came across a tragic discovery.
A series of murals adorned all four walls of this room. According to some research dug up by Seicer, the murals had been created by Lume Winter, a muralist who had lived at the Friars Club. He began his work in 1941 and completed the murals by 1944. The one of a kind murals depict religion, industry, warfare and other historical events. Tragically, they'll be lost forever aside from the few photographs of them, when demolition is complete.
The other rooms on this floor lacked the unique qualities of the murals. Cubicles, offices and drop ceilings marred the rest of the rooms.
The views from the former Friars Club offices provided a nice perspective of the surrounding neighborhood, however, we assumed better views would come if we could find a way to the roof.
We made our way to what was left of the basketball courts and gym. The wooden floor was covered in puddles and had been ripped to shreds on one end. The opening provided by the demolition of the East wall added a unique view of Christ Hospital.
The next two floors featured hallway upon hallway of single room dormitories. Many of the rooms still included personal belongings and appeared eerily similar to the one room dorm I had lived in my sophomore year at Ohio University before I transferred.
Our quest for the roof lead us to the elevator maintenance room. Still intact with it's 1930's mechanical and electrical equipment, old elevator service papers were laying on a table mixed with paperwork from the Sprint corporation. The papers included details about the cell phone antenna that had been installed atop the building.
We stepped out onto the gravel covered roof as the sun was setting. The surrounding view from the former Friars Club provided a spectacular view of the surrounding neighborhood, downtown and even the Ohio River.
We watched from above as a red van pulled up and parked along the fence which protected the average civilian from getting too close to the dangers of the demolition. Out walked a man who stood up to the fence and gazed in at the mess of concrete and steel that had once been an intact building.
We waited as the man retreated to his van and sped off before we retreated as well, back to the ground floor. We again climbed the mountain of rubble. The Boy Scout and Tonto decided to stick around, they were going to try and find a way to the basement. The conventional stairs had been lost in the subsequent demolition, but that wasn't going to stop them. Seicer and I had places to be though. We said goodbye to our friends and goodbye to the Friars Club.
Summer is off to a good start.