Charles J. Livingood — Trusted Advisor to Mary Emery

Charles J. Livingood was working as a surveyor in the mountains of Colorado when he received word of the death of his Harvard classmate, Sheldon Emery. His thoughtful condolence letter to Mrs. Emery resulted in his becoming an employee and, eventually, a trusted confidante. Sheldon had died of an illness in October, 1890, and by November, Charles Livingood was ensconced at Thomas Emery’s Sons.

Livingood was born in 1866 and grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, the son of a successful lawyer and real estate developer. His exposure to housing projects that his father developed was to be very useful training for his eventual role as overseer in the construction of the Village of Mariemont. Charles attended public school, and then Shortlidge’s Academy in Media, Pennsylvania. He was accepted to Harvard University, graduating cum laude in 1888.

Charles Livingood had a lively and curious mind, and was interested in a wide variety of topics. He studied art and literature, was good at languages, especially French, and was fascinated by the archaeology and anthropology of early man. He traveled widely in Europe, studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, and only reluctantly returned to the United States to begin a career. He started his surveyor job in the spring of 1890, but left to work for the Emerys later that year. Livingood worked his way up through the company on the real estate side of the business. Thomas and John J. Emery had built a number of large and expensive apartment houses in Cincinnati, which Charles managed. He also traveled to other Emery real estate holdings all over the United States.

When Thomas Emery died in 1906, Mary came to rely even more on her trusted lieutenant. Charles became a surrogate son, and he and his family would vacation with Mary at her Rhode Island estate, the original “Mariemont.” It was to Charles that she turned when she first conceived her ambitious notion of building an entire town for people of all classes and means. He traveled to various garden communities in the US and abroad, gathering ideas, and even buying the 705-year-old roof that now sits atop the community church. It was Charles who hired John Nolen to lay out the plan of the new town. Livingood was responsible for presenting the concept to the leaders of Cincinnati and selling them on it. He selected architects, fretted about rising construction costs, arranged for the Family Statuary Group to be created and sent over from France, and continued to guide the project after the death of Mary Emery. With Mary Emery’s vision and financing, and John Nolen’s plan, Charles Livingood was the driving force behind creating this wonderful village.

Last modified: January 21, 2024

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