(Editor’s note: Lissa posted this article on her website on Feb. 25, 2010. Like Williams, Lissa was both a gifted writer and artist. Lissa’s original website featured an image of the sketch referenced at the beginning of this article. Unfortunately, technical difficulties have prevented the publication here of the Williams sketch.)
By Lissa Kramer
This sketch by the late Caroline Williams shows the view of Cincinnati from near the top of Sycamore Street. Though she drew many sketches of Cincinnati’s well-loved buildings and streetscapes, she was drawn to the little-known alleys and humble homes, some of which still exist today.
Williams lived in a humble home herself; she moved from North College Hill to a log cabin in Burlington, Ky., where she had her own printing press (Penandhoe Press).
Williams’ love of the city is evident in the way she was able to see past the grit to the soul of a scene.
Many of the street scenes in her sketches no longer exist, and in some cases they are the only record of the changing city. Many of her earlier sketches show homes and streets in the outlying suburbs such as White Oak, Harrison and Milford, but her main subject was, as she wrote in her 1938 book The City on Seven Hills, “a great city” that was “created out of a wilderness.”
Williams knew it well, and her descriptions helped the reader to see the city how she saw it. She was a gifted writer as well as an artist.
Williams was an amazing woman, and worked as a sketch artist at the Cincinnati Enquirer from 1932 until her death in 1988. She was 80 years old.
She had no heirs. Fortunately, she published hundreds of her sketches in her books, Cincinnati Scenes, Cincinnati: Steeples, Streets and Steps, The City on Seven Hills, Mirrored Landmarks of Cincinnati and As Always, Cincinnati, so that future generations will be able to enjoy them.
From 1968 to 1988, she also sold a series of collector plates through a local jewelry store. There are many collectors of her sketches, plates, etc. One man even came across some printing plates. Many of her sketches are available in local antique stores, on eBay or through local owners who have found her sketches in attics, etc.