During a self-proclaimed midlife crisis, Tod Swormstedt became the voice for some silent witnesses to American history: signs. The former editor and publisher of Signs of the Times magazine was more than familiar with the subject, and he wanted to give this particular slice of Americana a permanent tribute. He opened American Sign Museum in 1999 and filled it with nearly 4,000 books, photos, and, of course, lots and lots of signs.
Size: more than 19,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space (with 20,000 more on the way), featuring 28-foot ceilings for larger signs
Eye Catcher: a glowing McDonald's sign from 1963—six years before NASA landed a cheeseburger on the moon
Permanent Mainstay: the neon and hand-painted signs of Main Street, which recreates storefronts from decades past
Hidden Gem: the grizzly-looking sign from bygone supermarket chain Big Bear—which someone discovered while mowing grass
Don't Miss: the neon shop, open weekdays, where workers create new signs and chat with visitors
From the Press: For a glance inside the museum, check out the many video interviews here.
Portrait painting used to require a subject to sit for hours on end, forcing them to first take tedious lessons on not moving from willing ventriloquist dummies. Thankfully, modern technology allows Daniel Dean to take a more practical approach. When a client commissions a portrait, Mr. Dean first snaps hundreds of images of them during a photo shoot, focusing on capturing natural expressions that show their personality. As clients return to their daily lives, he refers to the images to produce works of art. The result is a life-like, yet uniquely stylized, oil painting.
Every stroke of Mr. Dean’s brush is guided by his extensive art background. The artist trained as an oil painter, and earned an undergraduate degree at Bowling Green State University and a master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati. When not painting, he shares his expertise as an adjunct professor at UC and the University of Dayton, and trains younger students during classes held at his studio.
The firefighters of Engine Company #45 Firehouse extinguished their last blaze in 1962 after 56 years of fearless public service. Although the team dissipated, the elegant, 1906 firehouse—with Renaissance Revival details and three doors wide enough to accommodate horse-drawn fire engines—remained, languishing as a city storehouse until 1980, when the Fire Museum of Greater Cincinnati moved in. The building was recognized on the National Register of Historic Places and filled with special exhibits. It was also filled with antique firefighting gear that is in excellent condition in spite of years of smoke inhalation.
The collection reveals early 19th-century firefighting tactics with an alarm drum that once warned of fire from the roof of a carpenter shop and was later used to provide rhythm during disco infernos. In the Safe House exhibit, families diagram their homes and create personalized emergency plans while learning tips about fire prevention.
More than 80 years ago, the Taft family bequeathed their stately home to the people of Cincinnati–and they also gave them plenty to hang on the walls. Home to the Taft's collection of 690 works of art, the Taft Museum welcomes visitors to view paintings by European and American masters, Chinese porcelains, European decorative arts, and captivating rotating exhibitions throughout the year. As they wander the museum, patrons view Rembrandt van Rijn's Portrait of a Man Rising from His Chair, Whistler's At The Piano, and John Singer Sargent's portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson, among other notable works.
The house itself is equally impressive. William Howard Taft accepted his nomination for President of the United States beneath the portico, and the structure, first built in 1820, is considered one of the country's finest examples of Federal architecture in the Palladian style.
Originally from Cartersville, Virginia, Elliott Jordan traveled south to pursue his passion, sojourning in Kentucky, where he received his bachelor’s in art and eventually his master’s in arts education. Experienced in portraiture, Jordan has transformed expressive countenances into works of art for more than 40 years, and his work has been displayed from the East to the Midwest—gracing the walls of the Cincinnati City Hall, Kentucky State University, and the historic Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Connecticut. Following a number of inspiring visits to Ghana, Jordan became a collector and dealer of African art, and today he displays and sells African artifacts at his gallery, as well as his own works and gold-framed pizza-delivery menus. He leads a number of painting classes inside the gallery's studio, where students follow along to create unique and colorful creations.
The 1970s were a transformative time for the Cincinnati Reds. Over that decade, the Reds cast off the lingering shadows of controversy—the team's first NL Pennant and World Series title were overshadowed by the notorious "Black Sox" scandal—to become a dominant force in Major League Baseball. The Reds appeared in four Fall Classics during that stretch and won back-to-back titles in 1975 and 1976—the latter of which forever etched "The Big Red Machine" into baseball lore. Today, the Reds continue to build on their rich history at Great American Ball Park. There, fans can gaze the outfield walls and soak in views of the Ohio River and the hills of Northern Kentucky where Mr. Redlegs buys all of his mustache wax.