Friday, October 1, 2004

Ralph Bolton, planned downtown

Parks among projects

By Rebecca Goodman
Enquirer staff writer

DOWNTOWN - Turn a corner in downtown Cincinnati and you see the legacy of Ralph Bolton.

It's in the promenade at Garfield Place, where workers enjoy a peaceful lunch or quiet conversation.

It's in the park behind Chiquita Center and in the historic renovations along West Fourth Street.

And it's in the city's skyline.

Mr. Bolton, an architect and retired director of downtown projects for Cincinnati's Department of Economic Development, died Thursday morning of brain cancer at Hospice of Cincinnati at Mercy Franciscan Hospital Western Hills. He was 61.

Mr. Bolton began working for the city in 1975 and served as projects director from 1978 until 1990.

During those years he shaped the city by helping plan and develop buildings such as the Westin Hotel, Saks Fifth Avenue, Hyatt Regency, Adams Landing, PNC Center and Scripps Center. He oversaw a 55 percent increase in office space in the Central Business District during his tenure.

He was also an urban pioneer who renovated a brownstone on Broadway Street in the early 1970s when few appreciated the historic value and potential of Over-the-Rhine.

Born in Washington D.C., Mr. Bolton graduated from St. Bernard Preparatory School in Cullman, Ala., where he picked up a deep southern accent, his wife said.

"Ralph was really unpretentious," said April Lucas Bolton. "We can hear his voice telling us to 'take 'er easy.' "

He studied architecture at the University of Kentucky School of Architecture in Lexington. He served an internship for RS Demaine Architects in Australia, working his way there and back on a Swedish freighter.

After graduation, he worked for Frank Schlesinger Architects in Doylestown, Pa., and Mitchell and Giurgola Architects in Philadelphia. He served as a Naval lieutenant in Vietnam from 1967 to 1970.

"They say he was a really good naval officer because he could get anybody to do anything," his wife said

His friend and fellow UK alumni Albert Pyle of the West End said, "I met him on board a U.S. navy destroyer during the Vietnam War. He was a superb officer. As always, (he was) someone people wanted to be around and people were happy to work for him just because he was so much fun."

Mr. Bolton moved to Cincinnati in 1971 and worked for Architekton before joining the Cincinnati Department of Economic Development. He left the department in 1990 to join Bashear Associates, later becoming a partner in Brashear Bolton Architects. In addition to his wife of 37 years, survivors include two sons, Damian Bolton of Hartford, Conn. and Raphael Bolton of downtown;a daughter, Gabrielle Bolton of New York, N.Y.; three sisters, Katherine Byars of Lexington, Mary Doub of San Luis Obispo, Calif., and Therese Class of Reno, Nev.; and two brothers, Daniel Bolton of Brisbane, Australia and Ansel Bolton of Las Vegas, Nev.

Visitation is 5-8 p.m. today at Miller-Busse & Borgmann Funeral Home, 3464 Central Parkway. The funeral is 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, 325 W. Eighth St. downtown. Entombment will be at Spring Grove Cemetery.

Memorials: Catholic Social Services, 100 E. 8th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202, or the Jewish Federation, 4380 Malsbary Road, Cincinnati, OH 45242.


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