An eighteen-year old from New York city and Brooklyn traveled to
Cincinnati in 1862 with her parents and sister, settling in Mount
Auburn. This young lady, Mary Mulenberg Hopkins, born in New York in
1844, was well-educated, probably beyond the expectations for girls in
the mid-nineteenth century. As a student at the prestigious Packer
Institute in Brooklyn, she matriculated in advanced mathematics,
astronomy, and a full range of courses designed to train eager and
capable minds. Mary was the first of two daughters born to Richard H.
Hopkins and Mary Barr Denny Muhlenberg (she was widowed from her first
husband, Francis S. Muhlenberg.)
In 1866, Mary married Thomas J. Emery(1830-1906), oldest son of
the founder of a soon-to-be developed empire built on candle
manufacturing, real estate, and housing construction. Their earliest
home was a now demolished townhouse on West Fourth Street, Cincinnati.
In 1881, Samuel Hannaford designed their rusticated stone mansion,
called Edgecliffe (now demolished), in East Walnut Hills, overlooking
the Ohio River. The Emery’s oldest son, Sheldon(1867-1890) was
educated at St. Paul’s School, Concord, Massachusetts, and at Harvard
University. They younger son, Albert(1868-1884), was fatally injured in
a sledding accident while attending the same preparatory school. Early
in the 20th century, Thomas Emery purchased an estate near
Newport, Rhode Island, calling it “Mariemont,” and there the Emerys
spent leisurely summers until his death in Cairo, Egypt, while traveling
on an extended trip to the Middle East.
Inheriting a vast fortune, Mary Emery embarked on a new role as
philanthropist and benefactor during her remaining twenty-one years.
Before her death in 1927, and recognizing her “vast responsibility”
as she described it, she endowed or initiated children’s programs,
hospitals and medical institutions, orphanages, colleges and
universities, an art museum, various cultural agencies, and other causes
that benefited humankind. Mary’s nature was retiring, even shy, she
shunned publicity or credit. Her collection of Old Master paintings (
now Cincinnati Art Museum) and the founding of the planned community of
Mariemont, Ohio, gave her great personal pleasure. Mary presided over
the groundbreaking for Mariemont on April 23,1923, launching perhaps her
greatest benefaction that employed America’s pre-eminent town planner,
John Nolen; a host of architects from New York, Boston, Philadelphia,
and Cincinnati; orchestrated by her representative and agent, Charles J.