"If you're ever lost, just look for the two steeples and you'll find your way home."

Long before University of Cincinnati amassed Clifton, my great-grandmother lived along the hilltop neighborhood of Scioto Street near Old Saint George Church. A sprawling community of a bygone era, my mother and her siblings explored the urban streets as children. Unsupervised, my great-grandmother always reminded my mother to watch for Old Saint George's iconic two steeples in case she ever wandered far from home.

Fast-forward sixty years and I'm reminded of my mother's story every time I pass through Clifton. My great-grandmother's house was gobbled up by the university campus, but Old Saint George still remained. That is, until the night of February 1, 2008.

A fire broke out in the left steeple and quickly spread to the right, caused by combustible materials stored too closely to a light bulb. Forty-five minutes later, both steeples collapsed. Due to the all-wood and bronze construction of the towers, the steeples were a total loss.

I drove up to Clifton that night to get a look at the blaze, which left me with a feeling like a page had been ripped out of our family storybook. Since abandoned and pending demolition, the property was purchased for $1.6 million by the Clifton Heights Community Urban Redevelopment. Five years later, the organization plans to renovate the historic church to become an 80-room hotel and events center.  Perhaps one day, Old Saint George will also find its way home.



  1. Wow, I remember that night and watching it on TV the hair on the back of my neck standing up. It was dramatic and sad.

  2. Unfortunately, my country is plagued by natural fire (and floods) year after year as well. I remembered an old rectory in the North Shore being burned to the ground. People in area were close knit, but most of us were gutted anyway. Take heart at least you can still admire the church in its grandeur.

  3. My grandmother and her family lived on Classen Street and she was married at Old St. George in 1922. Her home is on the site of the current Edwards Center. Wish I had a picture of the street back then. Great story - thanks!