Ohio River views make B&B special place continued... Cincinnati Enquirer, Becky Linhardt, March 31, 2002
From its first- and second-floor porches, the view is west across the wide Ohio to the forested hills of Kentucky.
Looking downstream toward Cincinnati, you can see the Ohio loop into a big bend.
During warm months, guests often choose the garden porch in the afternoon. Facing north and shaded by the house, the view over the picket fence is across a vacant lot to "the bend". The town has plans to convert that small open space into a pocket park.
The views are just as wonderful from the guest rooms on the second floor and from the many-windowed first-floor double parlor.
The B&B's choice of furnishings and wall coverings fits the historic period of the house without weighing it down with Victorian authenticity. It helps that there are wonderfully high ceilings and beautiful woodwork. Of special interest are the ornate plaster moldings surrounding the ceilings of the parlor.
Signal House owners Betsy and Vic Billingsley have photo albums chronicling the restoration of the house and garden. The Signal House name comes not from an association with signals given to river traffic but from the home's legendary involvement with the Underground Railroad.
The house has an unusual attic staircase that leads to a skylight opening to the roof. What you see through that skylight is the hilltop home of the Rev. John Rankin, one of Ohio's most active abolitionists and a known conductor on the Underground Railroad.
Without conclusive proof, it is difficult to document the belief of many that the early residents of the home would shine a lantern in that skylight to signal the Rankin House that the waterfront was safe to transport slaves to freedom. It is known that one of the owner's sons was murdered for his abolitionist beliefs.
If you are in good physical shape, you might want to meet the challenge of climbing the 100 steps to the Rankin House. Otherwise, I would suggest traveling by car up the winding road to the top of the hill.
The hilltop house was immortalized in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Maintained by the Ohio Historical Society, the site has a wealth of information about the Underground Railroad. It also has one of the greatest views along the river, and a clear line of sight to the Signal House rooftop skylight.
The Signal House's location within Ripley's 55 acre historical district makes
it easy to walk to the antique shops along U.S. 52.
A three block stroll along Front Street brings visitors to the small Main Street retail area where there are several good restaurants with river views. (Better make that a late lunch - the Billingsleys prepare substantial and wonderful breakfasts.)
Ripley is home to the Ohio Tobacco Museum, with exhibits that explain the historic importance of tobacco as a part of the Ohio River Valley's agricultural history.
The town's history is documented at the Ripley Museum. The library downtown is an original Carnegie library building. And soon to open as a National Historic Landmark is the home of the African-American abolitionist John Parker, who lived in Ripley and was another important conductor on the Underground Railroad.
Ohio Tobacco Festival - Fourth Weekend in August. Contact Ohio Tobacco Museum (937) 392-9410.
River Village Christmas. See www.ripleyohio.net for details.