The first time I heard of the Bold Face Dairy Bar in the Incline District of East Price Hill, I thought two of my great loves – fonts and ice cream – had finally come together in one perfect but incongruous combination.
I had the ice cream part right. But I was way off on the Bold Face part.
The history of Cincinnati is one of plucky immigrants, hard-working settlers and a whole lot of pork products. But long before that, this area was the home of several Indigenous tribes. And that gets us to Bold Face. Or Boldface. You’ll see it both ways.
But there’s one thing we know for sure. Long before we knew it as Price Hill, the area was called Boldface Hill, named for a great chief in the Miami tribe, according to the Price Hill Historical Society. Much like the spelling of Chief Boldface’s name, his death is up for a bit of a debate as well.
One story goes like this: in 1790, Jacob Wetzel went turkey hunting in the area we now know as Sedamsville, just south of Price Hill. It was just two years after Cincinnati was settled.
Wetzel came upon Chief Boldface during his time hunting, and after a fight, he killed the Miami leader.
Another version is that Chief Boldface was killed in a massacre that same year.
Either way, soon the area came to be known as Boldface Hill. Some, not knowing the legend, assumed it was so named because of the rocky bluff on the edge of the hill. The name held for several more decades.
That’s when it was changed to Price Hill, or Price’s Hill, in honor of Gen. Rees E. Price. He built a sawmill, a brickyard and a subdivision there. The family’s contributions to the area continued, as his sons were the ones who built the famed Price Hill Incline, which further established the area as a desirable suburb of Cincinnati.
Then, after more than a century of obscurity, Chief Boldface’s name returned. In 1918, Sedamsville’s Bold Face Park opened – on the site of a former city dump.
The tiny park remains, though I could find no visible signs touting its namesake. Its claim to fame is that Reds great Pete Rose spent his summers on the baseball fields there. His grandmother lived nearby, and his skills were honed in those Knothole games.
Bold Face Creek still winds through the hills of western Cincinnati, as it has since long before Henry Lovie made it the focus of this painting in 1858.
And that brings us back to Bold Face Dairy Bar, which opened in 2018 and in the summer has a line several people deep to sample its unique – and often Instagrammable – soft serve.
The rest of the history of Chief Boldface is a mystery, but with a quick five-minute drive on the west side, you’ll see what remains of his legacy here: his memory kept alive with lavender creamy whip and youth baseball.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Why Cincinnati's Price Hill used to be called Boldface Hill