If you’ve never been to Pyramid Hill, you’ve been missing out on one of our region’s often-overlooked treasures.
The best part? It’s open 365 days a year and is an ideal place for kids to run around and learn something at the same time. Dogs are welcome, too, if they’re on a leash.
WHAT YOU’LL SEE, EXPERIENCE
Located just south of Hamilton’s city limits on Route 128 between Hamilton and Ross — also known as Hamilton-Cleves Road — are 335 acres of lovely woodlands, meadows, lakes and gardens.
Nestled into that special landscape is a collection of art that we guarantee you’ll find quite surprising.
“Our mission is bringing people to art in nature,” explains Pyramid Hill’s director, Shaun Higgins. “We’re very hands-on. You can drive or walk or take an Art Cart around the park and see the outdoor museum and also visit the indoor museum of ancient sculpture.”
HOW IT CAME TO BE
Pyramid Hill can be traced back to visionary Harry T. Wilks, who passed away on his 89th birthday. I was fortunate enough to visit with Mr. Wilks before his death. He introduced himself as a small-town Hamilton lawyer who was “lucky and picked the right investments,” enabling him to purchase 40 acres of land in the country in 1987 to build a home. (His home, featured in “Architectural Digest” as one of the country’s most amazing underground homes, is being converted into a special events venue.)
Wilks admitted he didn’t know a thing about sculpture when his fascinating journey began. But he said he was determined to find a way to save his precious land for the future. “I thought when I died, my kids would have to sell the land,” he explained. “So I decided to create a public foundation so that the land would never be subdivided and so the public could enjoy it for many years to come.”
He didn’t want to turn the land into soccer fields, and on his travels had seen monumental outdoor sculptures, primarily in big cities. He eventually decided that type of art would enhance his land and that he would turn it into a non-profit public sculpture park. “I looked for quality, first-class work that had been done since World War II,” explained Wilks, who officially opened the park in the spring of 1996. “What I picked was just instinct and a lot of luck.”
THESE SCULPTURES AREN’T FOR CLIMBING
The ancient pieces in the indoor museum came from his love for Naples, Florence and Pompeii. Eventually, he decided to connect the two worlds at Pyramid Hill.
“We’re very hands-on. You’re allowed to touch — but not climb on — the outdoor sculptures,” Higgins says. “It’s a tactile experience because the materials range from metal to stone.”
Popular favorites include “Cincinnati Story” by George Sugarman, a colorful structure that once stood in front of the Chiquita Building in the Queen City, the “Age of Stone,” a huge work by Jon Isherwood that’s composed of nine pieces of massive granite ranging from 12- to 18-feet-tall and has been compared to Stonehenge, and the park’s dramatic signature piece, “Abracadabra” by Alexander Liberman, who also constructed the welded steel “Laocoon” and Torre II.
There are also remnants of pioneer habitation on the site and the Butler County Master Gardeners have created three public gardens. Other areas showcase native plants and habitats and there are picnic tables throughout the park.
When he’s taking children to see the outdoor art, Higgins says encourages them to use their imaginations. “What do you see when you look at them?” he asks. “Everyone is allowed to have an opinion.” There’s a mobile app that can be downloaded via Otocast that provides a map and description of each sculpture.
The indoor museum is filled with Greek, Roman, Etruscan, Syrian and Egyptian sculpture. A 75-minute DVD at the indoor museum plays continually and relates the story of the antiquities. Docents are on hand to help with more information.
Pyramid Hill is beautiful any time of year. “Even during the day it changes as the sun moves across the sky,” Higgins says. “When the seasons change, the environment changes. It’s beautiful to see in the fall and spring; in winter it has a different feel when a blanket of snow changes the framing of the sculpture.”
BEST TIMES TO GO?
Pyramid Hill hosts various special activities throughout the year ranging from an annual Art Fair in September to a summer series for kids.
There are frequent changing indoor exhibits and often new outdoor sculptures on loan. Higgins always has this advice for visitors: “Just relax, take your time, soak in where you are,” he said. “Let yourself become one with this environment.”
And don’t miss the annual holiday lights display!!!
HOW TO GO
Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum is located at 1763 Hamilton Cleves Rd., Hamilton. Outdoor areas are open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Ancient Sculpture Museum hours are noon to 5 p.m. daily.
More info: www.pyramidhill.org