The History of the Heritage, a Historic Landmark since 1827
In 1827, on the land between the Miamis, Edgar Scott built his home. The land he chose was a tract originally purchased from the U.S. Government by John Cleves Symmes in October of 1787. The Wooster Turnpike passed directly in front of the new Scott House and the Little Miami Railroad would shortly thereafter be built paralleling the river and begin carrying riverboat traffic and freight to points surrounding Cincinnati.
The Wooster Turnpike was a busy road, alive with stagecoaches, covered wagons, carts and huge herds of hogs – herds which at times filled the turnpike. Local racehorses were often exercised on the road. At the turn of the century, the home became the area’s most fashionable fine restaurant and its first roadhouse, known throughout the country as the place to go when in Cincinnati.
Sports Celebrites, politicians, newspaper writers – all kinds of famous people – frequented ”Kelly’s Roadhouse.”
”We’re out of paper money”…was the standard explanation give when a customer’s change was returned in coins…which worked just fine in slot machines lining the wall behind the paying patrons.
John Robinson’s winter circus grounds were in nearby Terrace Park, and the Kellys were close to the circus people. Circuses at that time came with a contingent of sophisticated pickpockets, equipped with special tools for cutting diamonds from the jewelry of patrons. At Kelly’s, these traveling hangers-on were offered two dollars or a shot of whiskey for a diamond. In the safe at Kelly’s, quart jars filled with diamonds attested to the popularity of the practice.
The prohibition era was a colorful one and Kelly’s was definitely a part of that colorful era. The Roadhouse operated during these prohibition years, necessitating secret trap doors and other hiding places for the illegal brew. The small frame dwelling behind Kelly’s (still standing), had a cellar filled with Canadian beer, and a barn on the property had more than hogs in it; beneath the straw-covered floor was whisky. Read more
Coincidentally, in the restoration and remodeling of the structure after the Memorial Day fire of 1968, a secret hiding place was discovered in one of the steps leading to the second-floor dining rooms.
In 1937 the new owner, Paul Bowsher, opened ”The Cottage,” a restaurant that flourished and featured steaks, whole Maine lobsters and chicken dinners – items still popular and featured today. In 1959, the property, purchased by the restaurant’s present owners, Howard & Janet Melvin, began operation as ”The Heritage.”
Extensive remodeling followed, but care was taken to preserve and restore wherever possible. The huge wooden beams above the bar and in the Tack Room are original. The cherry handrail leading up the steps to the second floor dining rooms is also original.
The brick wall in the second-floor Scott Room was uncovered following the 1968 fire and dates to 1827. What was a doorway in this wall is now a display case…and in other display cases throughout The Heritage, an extensive collection of Indian artifacts reminds the viewer of yet another era in this area’s rich heritage.