The Prospects Here – Gettin’ My 52 on in Lower Price Hill

*This is the twentieth in my series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods during the year of the city’s elections to find what makes each community relevant to me. What have I learned? How far do I have to go?

Just east of Eighth Street’s entrance into Lower Price Hill, I discovered a plaque designating the High Water Mark of 1937 when the Ohio River flooded. The plaque was my first find, as my husband and I traversed over Eighth Street to enter what was once called Eighth & State.

I had one day left before my leave of the city for the week and had been pushing myself, walking four neighborhoods within the span of one week to makeup for my absence. I pressed on not because I had a timetable, but was beginning to feel the rush in the midst of the journey.

My trusty sidekick had looked at me odd when I suggested we walk to Lower Price Hill. He knew I wasn’t feeling well, my head aching from a cold, so we did something unusual, that is, we drove somewhere we could have easily walked, parking at the Big Boy near Queensgate, with breakfast as enticement later.

From atop the bridge, we gazed out over the Cincinnati Police Academy and ballfields. Below us, the lowlands of the Mill Creek Valley, nearly intersecting with the Ohio River, revealed why industrial development here was hard to sustain.

We found a community playground and immediately headed towards Oyler Elementary, made better-known from the PBS documentary, “Oyler”. The school and the documentary would later play a role in the most pivotal interaction I had thus far in the city.

The school was built during the Art Deco boom, and its worth the opportunity to view all of its architectural details. I could have circled the building in awe all day.

We continued along Burns to St. Michael Street, and came across the former church now supporting several non-profits in the area – Education Matters, where a writing friend of mine worked, Community Matters, an arts campus and studios, and a community school. Their community garden was the lone place for healthy food options for families. Read more here.

Steps from the church was the Washing Well, also part of Community Matters. I was a member of Impact 100, when we awarded the Washing Well a portion of the funds to move this worthwhile project forward. I would love to see this in many of the other neighborhoods I have or will walked. But the effort required community organization to step up, create the plan, and fund it.

As we rounded the corner, I wanted to snap a photo of the street sign, Hatmaker, because there had to have been hatmaker somewhere, right?

We passed the LPH Pizza Company, which I recently found on the Uber Eats app, with its hallmark Cincinnati Chili Pizza. I’m saving that visit for Davis.

As I was mentioning that fact to Mark, we were stopped by a rather thin male in his late fifties. I’ll call him Al.

“The neighborhood is really coming along,” I stammered, not meaning it as I did. “I mean, there seems to be a lot happening beneath the surface.”

He pointed out the after school club across the street, BLOC Sports Performance.

“Annette’s writing about the city neighborhoods she’s walking,” my husband interjected.

And that’s when Al informed us that his daughter had a part in the Oyler documentary.

“Yeah, I remember the press about that. I need to watch that film,” I said.

“She’s got off to college,” Al shared.

“Well, that’s great.” Mark and I both congratulated him.

I turned back to the Artworks mural because I was having a secret love affair with the Artworks murals. I hoped my readers would research more about Artworks and donate. They kept our young talent busy over the summer and made for interesting times for anyone walking the city.

I was snapping pictures when, out of the corner of my eye, a car approached the intersection. The driver, an older gentleman with a handicap sticker hanging on his rearview mirror, slowed down. Someone wearing a grey sweatshirt moved towards the car. Thinking that was Mark and that he was helping someone who was lost, I rotated and walked towards that same car.

I approached and was so absorbed in and confused by watching money change hands, I didn’t hear my husband call my name.

“Annette,” he called once more. “Over here.”

I looked up, startled to see the person in the grey sweatshirt who I thought was Mark was clearly not. It was Al.

I scurried away, not wanting to acknowledge what I might have witnessed. To clarify, I did not see drugs change hands, but my city senses have been honed over time. I should also clarify Mark was wearing dark blue that day, proving that my other senses were not quite honed enough.

We tarried on (Mark commented that nobody ever told him we tarried) along State Street to take in the heights. Kroger had a processing facility where they made some of their private label dressings and condiments. It was an expansive manufacturing facility that appeared to have in place for a long while. I hoped the neighborhood had benefited from Kroger’s presence and employment. However, I was shocked that here again, Kroger was a predominant employer but not supplier in a neighborhood that clearly needed more.

We trekked higher and higher along State Street, until a dog – clearly not on a leash – encouraged us to turn back.IMG_0873

Then, Mark and I strolled a similar path back down and around, and met up on Warsaw with the Joe Williams Family Center. When the Boys and Girls Club left for “Upper” Price Hill, there was still a need for kids to have access to a safe recreational space. Soon, the Letterpress Museum will also be open to the public. Readers can find updates here.

We circled down below the Eighth Street bridge, past Consolidated Metal Products, a privately-owned company with 150 employees worldwide. The building flew all sorts of international flags, but with no Italian flag flying, my husband had plenty of jokes.

Mark and I wrapped up our time at Big Boy’s, which took me back to my parent’s Sunday breakfasts.

Lower Price Hill had a lively and imaginative beginning through Evans Price, who bridged the Mill Creek. We might laugh at that statement now, but early reports indicated how treacherous that might have been.

FullSizeRender_1Mr. Price built a sawmill and brickyard, near the end of W. Eighth Street. And that attracted enough settlers to call the area, “Prospect”.

Like many of Cincinnati’s inner-ring neighborhoods, Lower Price Hill was first occupied by Welsh and Germans, then Irish, then Appalachians, Hispanics and African-Americans. There had always been room to move up.

Almost 45% of Lower Price Hills residents lived in poverty. Within .57 square miles. Price Hill Will was working towards more comprehensive solutions to the area’s plight. And Krista Ramsey wrote a brilliant series about the Girls of Lower Price Hill. (Also read the followup pieces). But it became obvious from the start of the walk that the neighborhood was occupied by many community organizations trying to to still damn up the waters though the floods left long ago.

A week later, still struggling to put together my narrative for Lower Price Hill that I wanted to be honest and respectful, we were dining at Prima Vista in East Price Hill for my husband’s birthday. My walk to LPH was still on my mind.

“Imagine,” I said to my friends, “you can see the all the majesty of the city from where you live, but you can’t get to it.” Figuratively speaking of course.

I looked down at the open space where the former incline once ran, an incline actually built via private funds (Hint to corporate citizens). In the dark, Eighth Street was lit up like an airport runway, leading all the way into downtown Cincinnati.

And down below, there, in the dark, where Eighth practically slammed into the hillside, where now decrepit steps once rose up and descended, was an area once known as Prospect, but now called Lower Price Hill.

Always in the shadow of the upper reaches of East and West Price Hill, or of the city itself. It simply depended on the angle of the sun.

Later, I watched the “Oyler” documentary. It took an hour. The movie was worth the watch. The day we met Al, he was proud. I can’t speak for the intervening time since. But the film had illuminated the challenges of Oyler’s students and whether they or their parents wanted or not, they were no longer in the shadows. At least not for me.IMG_0560

I wanted to go back in time, rechristened the neighborhood Prospect, a word which means a place with mineral deposits, something that is awaited or expected, a person with the potential to succeed. All those definitions held in them the hope contained in Lower Price Hill now.

 

 

 

(Letterpress Museum update: 

Annette,

The City of Cincinnati has giving us another large donation to expand the building and construction has started this month at the Letterpress Museum. Our goal is to be open sometime in the fall. We have been blessed with some fantastic donations of letterpress equipment and supplies. A really good proofing press and a platen press, lots of large wood type and I stumbled onto a complete letterpress shop just sitting with tarps on all the presses and equipment. God is Good!

If you would like to set down and talk or visit the museum just let me know.

GW)

 

 

 

 

Of Goose Bumps and Elbow Bumps – Gettin’ My 52 On in Roselawn

* This is the nineteenth in my series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods, leading up to the city’s 2017 election. What have I learned? What makes each one relevant to me?

My week away from the city loomed and I had to squeeze in a few walks around the rainy season which had descended a little late for spring. I knew the general vicinity of most Cincinnati neighborhoods, but some ran together, and it was hard to decipher the dividing line. And some neighborhoods had their own dividing lines.

I took the path I knew best and exited off Ronald Reagan Highway and drove south along Reading Road. I parked at McDonald’s, knowing I could leave my car stationary for however long I planned to trek.

In that spot I would later come to see around the edges of formulating my lesser known or realized learnings from these walks.

There was no driving force propelling me one way or the other around the area. All I recalled of Roselawn from my quick lookup and little map was the Cincinnati Red’s Urban Youth Academy, also known as the P&G Cincinnati MLS Urban Youth Academy. So I turned east, walking along the residences of Roselawn Village. The collection of 160 units was built in 1959, in the colonial-style and contained a mix of apartments and townhomes.

As a mid-20th century suburban garden apartment complex, it is distinguished by its sophisticated triangular plan, remarkable sensitivity to site and high level of integrity. The well preserved apartment buildings are varied yet harmonious in style and include many original features characteristic of the Colonial Revival mode including pediments, parapets and cupolas. Click on the link for an aerial view of the triangle setting.

 

The sun shone bright that day on the ballfields, and I recalled schlepping Davis back and forth to his ball games, never there, but that little kid worshipped baseball, the game, the players, the Reds, and still does. I miss the kid, but not the times.

Funded by the Reds Community Fund, there was a solid set of fields, a playground, and a fitness course. I attempted a few exercises painted on the ground, much to the entertainment of a few bystanders partaking in the course.

Then, on I went, winding up at an intersection near the Cincinnati Gardens. Now, I was unclear about my direction even with the small map I had printed to get a better sense of the borders. I turned up Wiehle and went up and up, with no idea what was on the other side if I were to descend down. My heart raced, and not just from the fact I was pacing uphill. The street was filled with light industrial warehouses where there was little commerce or traffic in the car or on foot. I was definitely “off the path”, unsure where I was going.

FullSizeRenderAfter about a minute, which felt like ten, I came to the top of the rise. Just down below recognized Losantiville Road and breathed out in relief.

To top that off, I found the Big Top. The home of the Cincinnati Circus. Well, there’s no bigtop here, but they offer classes, and I could see the aerial bars from the sidewalk. They are available for team-building events, and probably even family gatherings, which can become circus-like anyhow. I mentioned them here, despite that the business was officially in Golf Manor, which was not a Cincinnati neighborhood.

How odd that a single corner can be geographically carved out of a neighborhood or appropriated by another. Or a triangular-shaped piece of land on the east side of the tracks still belongs to the neighborhood to the west.

Re-entering Roselawn, I plodded up serene, tree-lined Eastlawn Drive and came across the Cincinnati Generation Academy, a charter school. As someone who grew up in public schools, and sent children to public and parochial, I have seen the increase in the city neighborhood charter schools. The chain had been backed by the state. And I was beginning to wonder, that however important public schools are, are they too big to change? Can we break them down to allow for nimbleness? I understand CPS also had magnet schools, but how practical are they, given our city’s inefficient public transit accommodations?

“CGA students will have an extended school day adding up to 40% more learning time. Students will engage in project based learning opportunities during morning STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and Humanities (English Language Arts, Social Studies) courses.  Afternoon courses will provide time for enrichment such as art, music, physical education as well as support services for English language learners and students with diverse learning needs.  In addition to more academic learning time, CGA students will spend time exploring the world outside the classroom during twice annual, three week long Intensive Courses. Intensive Courses  expose students at an early age to some of Cincinnati’s high growth industries as well as provide time to experience some of the city’s most treasured resources.” – from their website.

The former Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church, built in 1941, closed in 2008. The space looked to be repurposed by another congregation of a different faith but I couldn’t discern that at the time.

As a note, if one followed Eastlawn south, towards its terminus, one would find the Liberty Elm Memorial.

The rain was closing in and I discovered that many neighbors were out, mowing and sweeping before the projected deluge. I stopped one neighbor from her sweeping, in order to chat.

She had a mayoral candidate sign out (the street was filled with more of the same signs), so I stopped to talk.

I have the primary on my brain, so what’s important to you about the city priorities, what do you want to see them working on?

Without hesitating, she said, Transportation.

Like buses?

Yeah. Buses. They’re talking about closing Amtrak but thats silly because it only runs once a day anyhow. But lots about transportations, too many traffic tie-ups, too much focus on the highways.

She also named the MSD (sewer) problem.

Well, that’s a city-county relationships, right?

Yeah, I just don’t get why the city can’t work that all out, you had all those people last year around Norwood with flooding, and every time it rains we never know what’s gonna happen with the flooding.

This woman and I could have gone at it all day with “what would you do?” in the city sort of questioning, but I complimented her on the yard – she had lived there twenty years, as had most of her neighbors – and tarried no more.

We ended with quick introductions. I’m Annette. I held out my hand.

Well, she looked down at the garden gloves on her hand. How ’bout an elbow bump?

Even elbow bumps gave me goose bumps as I did this work.

I needed to get moving since I was only halfway around the neighborhood and was starving.

I approached a familiar intersection and stood for a moment to recall why. Davis played the violin and Antonio’s Violin, now located near my mom’s, was once located right down the street here. Davis played the viola for four or five years, and as his arms grew, he traded up. He was almost, almost Vivaldi.

I headed north, crossed Reading, and strolled along the other half of the neighborhood, near the public school, and along a beautiful stretch called Greenlawn. Of course it was. Many residents there maintained incredible gardens.

The Mill Creek ran through the northwest quadrant of this community, and it really was a resource that every Cincinnatian should learn more about, including me. Here’s a quick link to a long history of the watershed.

The intersection where I parked had been near an office tower and that day, I was quite thankful for the high-rise as my compass.

Roselawn, until the early 1940’s, had grown slowly, but soon the nearby Mill Creek factories boomed with war orders. As the values rose, the opportunity to live there became scarce.

As I marched back down Reading Road, I was nearing the parking lot of McDonald’s when I stopped in my tracks. I looked up and saw a familiar sign.

Woods Hardware was located downtown. My husband visited every weekend. And many downtowners had supported them so well over the years, they had the wherewithal to buy and partner with the former Small’s Hardware in Roselawn.

A thought struck me then, about trying to find not just personal connections in each of these neighborhoods, but I was starting to see how each community was linked to one another. And that, that was something every neighborhood could build on.

 

Want to know more about Cincinnati’s community councils and development corporations? Start your search here.

 

In the words of the immortal Jill Linville, my college roommate, “Where to from now?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admits of Magnificently – Gettin’ My 52 On in Columbia-Tusculum

* This is the eighteenth in my series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods, in the year of the city’s 2017 election. What have I learned. What makes each relevant to me?

Strabo, an early geographer, wrote about Tusculum in Geography, V 3 § 12: But still closer to Rome than the mountainous country where these cities lie, there is another ridg,… on this chain that Tusculum is situated… a fertile and well-watered hill, which in many places rises gently into crests and admits of magnificently.

While every day thousands used Columbia Parkway as a means to enter and leave the city proper, I was coming to despise its construction, how the magnitude of the parkway impeded traversing to and from the river up to Columbia Tusculum and other entities higher up the hillsides of the river.

Also, the East End had this odd finger on the pulse of the neighborhood of Columbia- Tusculum, as if to act as gatekeeper. Mark and I parked in the East End, near Riverview East Academy, and trekked up Delta Ave, past the Precinct. We both commented on how we hadn’t eaten there in years, not since Mark perfected his steak grilling to rival any steakhouse in the city.

We headed past the former Funky’s Blackstone restaurant, and turned up Golden Avenue, because, surprise, my sister lived along here too, for a short period of time.

Why do you think she was always moving? Mark asked.

She was just Laura, Mark. She was always moving.

But Golden Avenue had been built out since Laura last lived there, and we walked along the stretch where the river splayed out below. The Meridian towered over the land here and I had been the lucky guest of a good friend who owned on condominium on the 7th floor. The views (up to 16 floors) took my breath away, they were like New York City views.

Along Golden’s ridge, homes of an interesting mix of architecture dotted the landscape and a small park provided respite for the dogs and my mind.

Back out on Delta, the variety of homes was more fascinating, tiny shotgun homes now probably worth 100K plus, ones built on stilts on the hillsides, and a set of steps, rather hidden that took us up to Grandin Road and the soaring heights of Alms Park.FullSizeRender_3

The Park was uniquely situated so that from one turn, we could watch airplanes land at Lunken field, and from the other, we could watch the river flow (like Stephen foster in the photo).

FullSizeRender_4Contained within 94 acres, the park was first known as Tusculum Heights, after the steamboat-building town of Tusculum formerly on the river banks below. One could view both the Ohio River Valley and Little Miami River valley from that height. The park was once home to many of Nicholas Longworth’s vineyards of Catawba wines and the entrance to an old vineyard tunnel was still apparent.

The Native Americans once clear-cut, yes, they of the environmentally sound practices, to achieve a view from what became known as “Bald Hill”, once they chopped down all the trees.

Before I joined the Manley family, Mark apparently had more time to paint. This is a “Manley original” from his brother, Kevin, and wife, Jen’s, wedding which took place in the Alms Park pavilion. I have it on good authority the painting still hung today, in a prominent spot in their home that is NOT shared with the toilet.

There was a well-built overlook dedicated to Kelsey Comisar, who died in a car accident as a teenager. Her family eventually created the driving clinic where a few of our kids took lessons on how to navigate during bad weather, or what felt like out of control conditions. The clinic was now funded by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

After our walk, I researched the trail marker for the Catawba Trail, and planned to go back and walk more. It appeared there was construction here and I would be happy if it became a trail of real vines again.

Columbia was known as the area’s first white settlement and any early settlers were buried in what is now the Pioneer Cemetery. And to be honest, I had thought was in Linwood, and therefore had covered this in a previous post.

The park circles back around, and as we had made a few errant turns, we never did get past St Ursula Academy up the hill.

As we made our way past the lovely painted ladies, and some not so lovely infill, we rolled down the hill, into the historical district of Columbia-Tusculum, formed in 1989 to protect many of the homes in the neighborhood.

We skipped a bit of the neighborhood center, where we once patronized Allyn’s Café to hear the famed Rumpke Mountain Boys. Stanley’s Pub, Tostados (famous for its karaoke) and Pearl’s rounded out some of the neighborhood establishments.

Though we brushed past, I made a note to attend Mass sometime at St. Stephen Church, which was a laity-led congregation, meaning by you and me. In crunch times for priests, perhaps the Catholic church should offer more of these options. The church also contained a health clinic, in partnership with Mercy-Health, and that seemed like a reasonable partnership worth exploring too. I, like many, found churches a safe space where connection and community could help foster healing.

It was a magnificent walk that day, most of that generated by contemplating life from above. I’m fascinated by the notion that many of our parks were created on high ground, to escape the grime of the city,  but of course, could only be accessible via an automobile, which then created more pollution.

FullSizeRenderI liked the flow in Columbia-Tusculum, of paint colors, of waters, even its name. The trek had calmed me down before heading off to a workshop I would teach later that day. Like for so many, my descent from the crests took me back into the course of my life. Into the currents of creativity I leaped.

 

 

 

 

In the words of the immortal President Barlett, “Mrs. Landingham, “What’s next?”

 

Life-Learning – Gettin’ My 52 On in East Walnut Hills

* This is the seventeenth in my series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to discover what makes each community relevant to me.

My walk through East Walnut Hills started at the sign just north of Eden Park. I love when I find signs – I’m a sign kind of person – so I can absorb the exact boundaries of a neighborhood. As I careened around the corner, the first building to come into my view was the Victory Lane building. My sister lived in that building and I often couch-surfed there despite only living a mile away. Pat Barry, the weatherman, lived above her. In those days, he had a little more weight on his frame, such that when he moved around in his apartment, we heard every creak in the floor.

The apartment’s proximity to Eden Park is what drew us out on weekends with our magazines and LaRosa’s antipasti salad – it was the closest we could come to anything Italian in the neighborhood – and the full sun and rap music of the neighbors grilling out amongst the panoramas and ducks.

Just past that building was UC’s Victory Parkway campus of OLLI, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, where many of my peers (yes, I may be of this age) took classes or taught classes, to keep their minds sharp.

Multiple conversations over family dinners have taken place regarding the Maronite Catholic Church versus the Marianists. Marianists priests look to Mary as a model for their spiritual teachings and run the local Moeller High school. The Maronite Catholic Church was named after St. Maron and was the only Eastern church, originating around Lebanon and Syria, to have closely followed the pope’s teachings since time began. The church hosts a mean Lebanese festival in the fall.

Sometimes, I am struck by individuals who look open for a chat. In this case, a set of colorful sticks tilted up against an oak tree caught my eye. My eyes then landed on a shorter, African-American man who was leaning on another stick of the same ilk.

My father-in-law used to make walking sticks, I called to him on the hill of his apartment complex.

Oh, yeah. What kind of wood he use?

Mostly Oregon wood, some myrtlewood, whatever else he found in the forest, I suppose.

Yeah, he do all that carving and colors? 

Not quite as bright as yours, I shared as I joined him on the hill.

I’m Corneil, he said, once again, another stranger hitting me up first for the handshake. They call me Shorty.

Same, I quipped. We both laughed. Actually, its Annette.

What you doing out today, you live around here?

No, just walking all the neighborhoods of the city?

He tipped his head, perplexed.

It’s a long story, I divulged and changed the topic. Where else you do sell these?

Oh sometimes I get out downtown and just walk around and see if someone is interested.

Nice, I summed up and had to take my leave. I had encountered Shorty too early in my walk and couldn’t stay for fear of getting distracted.

I crossed Madison Road, turned up Lincoln Avenue, past a dear friend’s home with amazing irises in her backyard. I had once thought an East Walnut Hills or Walnut Hills walk would take me to Walnut Hills High School, but according to Google maps, the school was situated in Evanston.

I curved around the backside on DeSales Lane, passing Gilligan Funeral Home, which blended in with all the mansions I later hit upon as I wove in and out of the streets near the Cincinnati Tennis Club. Ironically, later that weekend, I would meet someone who lived in another of these intriguing homes.

On the north side of Madison Road, several small parks dotted the landscape. Annwood Park was donated with the condition it never to be turned into a playground or sold. It is strictly for walking or sitting and contains a waterfall grotto. Owls Nest Park is a Cincinnati Park. The sixteen brick columns, part of the estate of the original owner, are now in Eden Park. The columns and wrought iron fence features were originally copied from those near the Charles River Bridge at Harvard University.

East Walnut Hills stopped just before entering the O’Bryonville Business District, but one can traverse down Torrence Parkway, meet up with Taft Road and trek up, or as I did, circle back around past two specific mansions.

When my sister and I were in twenties (we sure did a lot together back then), we fantasized about these two structures. We would buy one and make it into a restaurant and called it Sorellas (Italian for sisters), or we would make a pact, and if we both hit it lucky, buy the homes and live side by side. Note: We also had this pact about two homes in Wellington, near where we were raised, that we had to pass on Route 58 each time we drove home from Cincinnati.

Neither of us hit it lucky. I stayed rooted to the view for a while, mourning a piece of my past. I am always burying moments like this here in this city.

Soon, alarmed by the sheer speed of cars passing by, I crossed the road and circled through Keys Crescent where a former co-worker of mine now lived, hiked up and behind Seven Hills School, and found my way down Taft and back up McMillan.

Then, I came upon a stretch of homes with a spectacular view of the river and the Manhattan Harbor (the one in Dayton, KY).

About then, my stomach ached. I was hungry. I texted my husband who had been off of work that day.

We met for lunch at Kitchen 452, one of my favorite local establishments because it felt local. There was nothing about 452 that says I want crowds, including their hours. Many of the businesses were like that in E. Walnut Hills during the day. But at night, they got quite the traffic from Woodburn Brewery, Myrtles, Hi-Bred, etc.

Do you want a ride back to your car? My husband asked after I coveted his lunch and not mine.

FullSizeRender-92.jpgNo, I’m not done yet. But you’ve got to see some of this. I directed him around some of the streets I had just walked, and he dropped me close to his original parking spot.

Walnut Hills housed some of our wealthiest population, and always had, as well as some of our most creative business districts. They have an innovative development corporation and active council, but like other neighborhoods, the community butts up against those that are struggling with recovery and crime.

I darted in and out of a few more dead end streets, walking past St. Ursula Academy and the New Thought Unity Church. The hanging banners (signs, again) were a fitting end to my walk that day, to be in peace with my place in the world.

Ironically, one of my learnings has been to pay attention to bus times, or walk times up into these neighborhoods. For instance, when we’re with our kids in NOLA or Boston, we often walked thirty minutes or more to get to a destination. It’s that easy to get around, if you have the wherewithal to do so. In thirty minutes, I could have walked the three miles to EWH, or ridden the bus, which is problem in and of itself that I hope is sorted out during the city’s elections.

Here in Cincinnati, this is where my disappointment with the founding fathers of the city appears, as they situated the towns at the base of so many hills. We citizens were forever disconnected to one another in the physical sense.

I am resolving, through these walks, to be more intentional about traversing the city and the neighborhoods, and traversing the terrain of personal connection.

 

 

Complex Questions – Gettin’ My 52 On in Corryville

* This is the sixteenth in my series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to discover what makes each community relevant to me.

Where are you going next? Do you have a list? Do you have a big map somewhere and you’re just checking them all off?

FullSizeRenderNearly one-third of the way through my pursuit, I wanted to enlighten readers on my process. But the honest truth was, there wasn’t one.

Take for instance my Corryville walk. That morning, I had decided to walk Golf Manor, so named of its proximity to many golf courses, Losantiville, Avon Fields, Maketewah. However, one last check before heading out the door revealed Golf Manor was a village, and NOT located in the city of Cincinnati.

Hence, the reason for these walks. To discover the borders of the city and the boundaries of my mind.

On short notice, I decided upon Corryville instead. Corryville involved a walk through Over-the-Rhine, and up Vine Street. With my husband that morning, we began at the Kroger on Short Vine. We would walk seven miles that day, but only half of those encompassed the neighborhood.

FullSizeRenderThe new Kroger in Corryville had what everyone on social media says it had, awkward parking and a broad selection. The store was conceived as a possible prototype urban store, but on several of my visits, all the self-checkouts were closed, and management had been short-staffed.

We continued up Short Vine, past Bogart’s, having last visited to hear my high school classmate and good friend from Cleveland, Marla Brennan in Wish You Were Here. We also walked past Island Frydays, a Jamaican diner in our own city, that we learned about from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. A sad fact, but a great find.

Short Vine was an odd mix of tattoo parlors, The Niehoff Urban Studio, Taste of Belgium, home to many FC pre and post-game festivities, a Cock and Bull soon to come, a library and empty, vacant buildings. Much of the living space above the retail looked unoccupied, though just a block over, new buildings loomed large with apartments. My favorite was UC Bike Kitchen, a great resource for students on bikes.

We crossed Martin Luther King, and strolled down a path by the Marriott Hotel. The setting is a quiet space surrounded by University Hospital, College of Medicine, Vontz Center for Biomolecular studies, which will undergo a 17M renovation only 20 years after opening. While this portion of the campus surrounded by medical facilities is astounding, the University of Cincinnati holds a lot of debt.

As we marched on, Mark pointed out the home where he lived while attending UC Medical School. I’ll reveal here, that Mark is a hometown boy, an anesthesiologist schooled locally, and one of the most compassionate at that. Though not allowed, if I ever had surgery, I would want no one else.

I went on a long rant after reading the quote carved into stone on the new VA building. “To care for him who shall have borne the battle.” The quote was attributed to Abraham Lincoln, from his second inaugural address in 1965. In 1959, The administrator of the VA, Summer Whittier, had two plaques containing the quote installed at the entrance and thus became the VA motto.

From the history of the Veteran’s Administration: “He (Whittier) worked no employee longer or harder than himself to make his personal credo the mission of the agency. What was that credo? Simply the words of Abraham Lincoln, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan. To indicate the mission of his agency’s employees, Mr. Whittier had plaques installed on either side of the main entrance.”

By 1959, plenty of women had served in the military for these United States. In 2011, women made up 14.5 % of the active duty force. Certainly, the VA could have modified the quote or found a different one.

We circled near the zoo (a later Avondale post), around Erkenbrecker, and discovered many homes certainly slated for demolition for the sake of Children’s Hospital or some zoo parking. To be clear, our own children have been treated at Children’s Hospital. But I found irony in that we, as a society, treat many patients harmed via domestic violence, gunshot, homelessness, veterans, and to do so, tear down homes that could have housed or provided a more stable community for them or the neighborhood to prevent more violence and homelessness in the future.

As we looped back around past Shriners Burn Institute for Children, one of only 21 in the country, the former Jewish Hospital (read here for a great history) came into view. Jewish was one of my older sister’s first jobs out of school. Laura was their Public Relations person, and my dad got such a big kick out of Laura rubbing elbows with some of the older Jewish men on the board, the small town Italian Catholic that she was. It was how I first learned what a shofar was.

University Hospital, a premier teaching hospital, is nestled in behind some of the other medical facilities, such as Hoxworth Blood Center. In 1999, I became a stem cell donor via the good nurses at Hoxworth. My first publishing opportunity came in 1999, as an advocate for bone marrow donors. Four years ago, I was called up as a bone marrow match, but I was still taking Advil to recuperate from shoulder surgery, and was declined. At the time, I was devastated. The transplant had not saved Devin, and I could not save another while I was busy saving my shoulder.

Our trek took us past Mecklenburg Gardens, where FC’s fan club, Die Innenstadt hosts their pre-game warm-ups, and on to the Highland Coffee House. Neither of us had patronized Highland in years, and we resolved to come back during the evening hours, when it opened to newspaper readers, coffee drinkers and those who want to get away from the traditional bar scene.

As we headed for home, Mark made a comment that I hadn’t thought about.

“You know how they talk about the military industrial complex, and the building up of jobs around the buildup of the military? The medical field sure looks a lot like that.”

If I didn’t have a complex about the medical industry before, I did now.

The entire neighborhood felt occupied by hospitals. Having recently visited to Cleveland Clinic to see another sister, I saw how a neighborhood became a hospital, and only a hospital, how for the lives inside, though I understand the need for sterility, there was no connection to the outside world. And I wondered, how do we expect patients to transition from their health challenges back into society when they, along with their providers, are in a tower separated from the sidewalks below?

Corryville will certainly grow via the new Martin Luther King exchange, designed to provide easy access to the medical industrial complex and UC, the true purpose of the ramp will result in employees being ushered and out of the neighborhood. North of Martin Luther King will soon be all hospital. I suspect the community will struggle to maintain a sense of neighborhood to the south.

Readers can read more about Corryville through the community council website. They also have several development corporations, designed to access funding for growth. The Short Vine area has many active business owners. They too are caught between the behemoths of the University and the Hospitals, but I hope owners and businesspersons are creative enough to continue to thrive. The Mayerson Academy is also located in Corryville, a think-tank if you will, helping to reshape how Cincinnati’s thinks about learning, working within our schools and community, to help others reach their potential.

The walk through Corryville brought about more questions than I had answers for. They were bigger questions than of the “what is happening in this neighborhood?” variety. They were the questions of society, culture, and where we place our priorities. And how we balance them with the needs of all. They were the same questions pushing the boundaries in my head.

Scaling My Fears – Gettin’ My 52 On in Mt. Auburn

* This is the fifteenth in my series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to discover what makes each community relevant to me.

As I headed towards Mt. Auburn, early, early morning, I was alone.

FullSizeRender-87I hiked up Main Street and eschewed the steps and former incline run, then turned onto Mulberry, which is part OTR, and part Mt. Auburn, veering up Rice Street. The first person I came upon was a man leaving his home, hot coffee in hand. I smiled and waved and walked on, wondering how much of this city I should be walking alone.

FullSizeRender_2But then, two young school boys, perhaps fourth-graders, traipsed down the hill as I chugged up.

“Hey! School today?” I paused to ask.

“Yes, ma’am.” Both boys looked at the sidewalk.

“Where do you go?”

“Rothenberg,” one announced.

“Great. What do you like there, I mean subjects?”

The first boy spoke up, “Math. And science.”

The second hesitated then his face beamed. “I like recess.”

“Ha, those were my kids’ choices too!” I wished them a great day and left them wondering if my kids liked recess or math/science or both.

Every day, children walked that stretch, and other less-inhabited blocks within the city. They might be fearful. Also, they might not have a choice. There was no SUV-driving parent, sitting with them in the rain, waiting for the bus, or driving them to school.

A few yards up, a car slowed to take the turn, and I held back until the driver and car were out of sight. I kicked myself. That was one of my chief complaints – about me. Why would I be fearful of walking somewhere school-age kids tread every day? I have no answer other than I am learning.

I continued along Rice St. and came upon the site where Sam Dubose was shot and killed by a University of Cincinnati policeman. The houses in the enclave appeared lost in the shadows of Christ Hospital’s parking garages. Despite the steps from Gage Street connecting down below to up above, there was an obvious disconnect in the life that seemed reachable.

After hiking up Vine Street towards Inwood Park, I spied the white tower of The Christ Hospital, visible from just about anywhere in the neighborhood. Their old tagline was once The one hospital that stands above the rest.

Inwood Park, home to a monument of the Father of Gymnastics, was one of my favorites because of its views into Clifton, but was also in need of renovation. I fell for bathhouses every time because I was sucker for history, and because we, as a city, once supported pool in every neighborhood, and now that didn’t seem likely.

FullSizeRender_1I wound through another path or two, and landed at Wellington Place where a new housing community was planned north of Christ Hospital, along with renovated apartments and affordable living spaces where a stretch of row houses had been torn down. I hoped there were plans to aid in the renovation of Inwood too.

I strolled along Auburn to capture a photo of my favorite structure here, the one I want someone to buy and turn into a boutique hotel. Someone not me preferably.

FullSizeRender-86Another set of school kids, giggling and teasing each other, were on their way to the bus stop. A short, African-American woman about my age watched them pass me.

I stopped to chat. “Those your kids?”

“Yeah, just watching them walk to the bus stop.”

“Oh where do they go to school?”

“My daughter goes to the Performing Arts.”

From there, we segued into a conversation about her daughter, a singer, and what her plans might be after high school graduation.

Then the petite woman quietly asked, “Do you live up here?”

“No, I live in OTR, but come up here early mornings, get some hills in, then go back down and get to work.”

“What do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

She raised her eyebrows, either impressed or surprised.

“What do you do?”

“Oh, nothing right yet. Just getting this last one through school. I’m almost ready to go back to work, after my husband died three years ago.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. What happened to him?”

“Cancer. Lung cancer. Runs in the family.” She named about a dozen family members whose lives had been touched or lost by cancer.

FullSizeRender_4I nodded as she finished. My first husband’s leukemia diagnosis had led us back to Cincinnati. Devin had selected a Christ Hospital affiliated oncologist as his new provider. We had wanted to be closer and thus, chose Loveland, though Loveland was not close at all! In the later months, we experienced a dozen ER runs and I spent many mornings dreading the cut in the hill, driving to Christ Hospital to “work” with Devin in his cancer treatments.

I knew a little of Sharon’s pain and told her about Devin, on the same hill where he spent some of his last days, and ironically, across the street from Cancer Family Care. Our conversation continued with an in-depth discussion of cancer references in earlier times.FullSizeRender

My favorite walks were those when a ray of light pierced the invisible shield we all carried around, and we opened our souls enough to be touched by another human being.

After the woman and I digested our cancer stories, we stood in silence as buses whooshed by.

The woman extended her hand. I furrowed my brow. Usually, I was the first with my hand out to shake.

“Sharon, my name is Sharon,”

“Sharon, I’m Annette, I’ll see you again. Or look for me at the bottom of the hill.”

We exchanged a gaze I could only call knowing, knowing we had been changed by each other’s willingness to step across the color line, the neighbor line, the stranger line.

FullSizeRender_3Sharon stayed on my mind the rest of the walk. I found myself at the base of a No Outlet hill, and was forced to hike up grass, through a fence, and over to the Mt Auburn International Academy. The area also hosted the Mt. Auburn indoor pool. And a few blocks away, passing through the campus of God’s Bible College, I was back near the outdoor Mt. Auburn pool, where employees hosed down the bowels of the pool that morning. I descended the Main Street steps near Jackson Hill Park to land in Prospect Hill.

FullSizeRender-88Mt. Auburn also included the Prospect Hill Historic District, which could be its own separate post, with its special Italianate style homes, covert courtyards, and many personal connections, including my boss, my dog sitter and Milton’s Prospect Hill Tavern, site of the famous burn a snow man in effigy during Bockfest.

The pieces of pie that made up this neighborhood each offered their own peek into a way of living. Some historic, some battling for economic or physical security, some just battling for life.

Nowadays, my new husband (of ten years), Mark, works at Christ. On occasion, when I popped in to visit during his lunch, I would catch my breath and quiver, feeling the sadness I had deposited at the same hospital 16 years ago.

Mark’s first wife had been treated for her cancer at Christ Hospital. And I wondered how he had persevered, performing his job, while encountering multitudes of patients in the same position as Susan once was. His obstacles had been mountainous compared to mine.

Life had moved me along, though I still stopped when someone I knew was battling cancer, especially my two sisters, and was taken back in time. It’s in those moments when I remember my own strength. And the resilience of love.

I will plan another walk to Mt. Auburn during a school day at the exact same time, so I can meet Sharon and honor her willingness, her vulnerability, the fears we are all trying to conquer each day.

The Mt. Auburn neighborhood was once called Key’s Hill, after a former settler, until 1837, then was named after a cemetery in Boston. The neighborhood technically includes in two historic districts, Prospect Hill and Mt. Auburn Historic.

Mt Auburn has an active community council and community development corporation. Also, William Howard Taft National Historical site is there, along with one of my other IMG_7323.JPGfavorite buildings that we were three years too late in buying at auction. There are too many streets with interesting discoveries to name, Alma, Maplewood, and some just end beneath a canopy of trees, but suffice it to say, I have meandered them all.

And each time I climb up Mt. Auburn’s hills, I scale another round of fears, making them appear rather minuscule from my view at the top.

Arts Start Here – Gettin’ My 52 On in Kennedy Heights

FullSizeRender_1This is the fourteenth in my series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each space relevant to me.

The dawn sky looked to be clear and the sun was rising earlier. From within my courtyard, I felt no wind. Only warmth.

I scrambled around the house, dragging the dog through his morning warm-ups of downward dog, up dog, chow down, pee and poop, and headed out the door, dressed as I was in t-shirt and running tights.

Then, as I drove to Kennedy Heights, I watched the temperature gauge of my car drop from 52 degrees to 43 degrees.

And there I was, parked at Daniel Drake Park,  wondering if I should brave the cold or walk the neighborhood another day. But warmth was near, I reasoned. So I locked the doors, pulled my hands into crossed arms and began my trek.

Daniel Drake Park was named after Daniel Drake, who founded Cincinnati’s first medical college. The views from the ridge were stunning and one could imagine a past, atop this hill, that offered quite the relief from the crowds of the city.

Kennedy Heights is accessible via the I-71 Red Bank Road exit, and from Plainfield Road, Kennedy Ave, and Montgomery Road. As I strolled along Woodford Road and then up Red Bank, (yes, Red Bank is NOT just an exit off I-71), I was the recipient of a few mixed reviews from bus drivers and early morning commuters. Some waved, some stared me down. I marched on.

IMG_0143I twisted and turned through a few neighborhoods to find some bungalow housing, some Tudor style. In this election year, I found more mayoral candidate signs than I had seen in other neighborhoods. Of course, time also inched closer to the primary runoff. If I were to ask a candidate, would he or she tell me that IMG_0140Kennedy Heights is very active, politically?

I meandered up and down streets, some ending in railroad tracks, until I ran up to Montgomery Road. Here, its evident that The Arts were a mainstay in this neighborhood. Artworks was once again present with their mural, and the Kennedy Heights Montessori Center and Lindner Annex were housed in a former Kroger. (Carl, Robert, Richard and Dorothy Lindner all attended the former Kennedy-Silverton school). The center played host to many community events, including a Cincinnati Playhouse program called Off the Hill, with an upcoming appearance on April 22nd. The Linder Annex rental space was an extension/partnership with the Kennedy Heights Arts Center.FullSizeRender_1

The Arts Center loomed tall along Montgomery Road, along with the requisite Flying Pig, and had been the site of many of my employer’s Women Writing for (a) Change functions and programs. The center has a burgeoning offering of summer camps and is hosting the current artist in residence, Joshua Brown, a Cleveland guy.

IMG_0060The community seemed tied into itself. And upon further research, they really were. On their community website, Kennedy Heights promotes themselves as a District A.

District ‘A’ stands for the ARTS & for ALL of US. 

We’re a citizens’ initiative where arts+community meet throughout Kennedy Heights & Pleasant Ridge in order to drive inter-neighborhood collaboration for a stronger future.

Across these two historic neighborhoods that date back to 1795 along the Montgomery Road corridor in Cincinnati, Ohio, we’re a catalyst for collaborations of all sorts, and especially for sharing and multiplying our arts assets.

Today, these neighborhoods are inclusive and vibrant family communities.  Through the contributions of District A, both Kennedy Heights & Pleasant Ridge Community Councils intend to forge an ever more robust future.”

FullSizeRenderThere were several green spaces that rambled through the community. Kennedy Heights Park ,spanning 12,000 acres, had begun as a small space in the 1930’s and been continually added to over the years.

I had just missed KH’s annual Sap run, held on April 8th, which was followed by, or perhaps prefaced by, an all you can eat pancake breakfast. I knew a few runners who would not want to miss out.

Several streets stayed in my mind, far too long if you ask my husband. Orchard, Rogers Park, Davenant, and Robison Road boasted of many unique homes as well as views from atop bluffs. Strolling through Davenant Avenue, along where the infamous Yononte Inn once stood, I so badly wanted to meet someone who would let peek over the ridge. But, alas, it was too early to trust.

IMG_0133The Yonote Inn was built in the late 1800s by Lewis Kennedy as a means of attracting potential landowners to the area. The inn was named for a Native American princess who married nearby. There were approximately 50 rooms to the hotel, and though the structure burned down in 1909, a stone gate remains as a marker to the past.

I found a fascinating read on how the railroad, once touted as a means of traveling to this then-suburban neighborhood, also became its downfall. The criss-cross pattern of the tracks divided streets and families. Today, as I walked along Zinsle Ave, the deserted Cincinnati, Lebanon and Northern line reminded me of the Minuteman hike/bike trail we had walked in Boston, near Somerville. Many neighborhoods, as well as subdivisions, could be reconnected through healthier means, alleviating much of the travel at the usual cut in the hill down below.FullSizeRender

I returned along Robison and crossed the parking lot of the Redwood Carryout, the neighborhood’s only grocery or convenience store. A lovely tribute to the personality of the neighborhood and those who have been its foundation for many years, in particular the owner of the Redwood can be found IMG_0134by reading the community’s newsletter.

There was little other commerce to speak of, other than Woodford Paideia school, a Cincinnati Public magnet school dedicated to promoting Arts and Culture. The school is designated as a community learning center (CLC), a hub for treating the whole child, and its lot contains the neighborhood’s community garden.

The neighborhood was once founded on a marketing ploy to entice residents out of the city, stating it was a “moral imperative” to leave because crowds caused crime. Today, Kennedy Heights is a testimony to neighbors reaching across tracks and boundaries.

IMG_0132The actions and investments send a strong message to youth and neighbors in the community, modeling how to cross the divide. While short on commercial resources, this neighborhood found art to be a viable and valuable commodity in creating its sense of identity. In this political climate, where arts funding is threatened, there will be places where art is not only a means of survival, but a means to thrive. Kennedy Heights will be one such place.

I was thankful I hadn’t lugged my warmer gear for the walk that day. Like most artists, I like to be “awake” in the moment, to take in sights with all my being. The crisp air and five mile jaunt certainly left me “woke” and ready to return to my artist self.

 

 

Searching for Stillness – Gettin’ My 52 On in Mt. Adams

* This is the thirteenth in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods, to find what makes each relevant to me.

Some of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods are easily reachable on foot, but more difficult to cover from a writing perspective. Mt. Adams is one such neighborhood, not because it’s filled with so many vistas, or cultural attractions or bars, but because it is fraught with history. Mine.

I first encountered Mt. Adams as a college graduate. My first Easter as a Cincinnatian, I plodded up the steps and prayed the rosary with my sister, Laura. It was a time-honored tradition for any local. In subsequent years, I walked the steps while my first husband played golf. I walked the steps with my parents. I walked the steps with my young son and his aunt (who borrowed a few lilacs from a neighbor’s tree). I walked the steps with Mark.

Now, I walk the steps with ghosts. Devin is gone. Laura in a care home. My father is deceased and my mother unable to join me. My son is off at school during Easter. Mark is challenged to take time off on Good Friday. And my walks have expanded to include my local rendition of Holy Wednesday’s Roman Tradition of Walk of Seven Churches.

But still, I walk the steps. Whether it’s Easter or not, I stand on the steps. I only pray on a few, until an image of a loved one comes to mind. I don’t conjure up the images, an aura simply arrives.

I usually time my walks to Mt. Adams to coincide with sunrise. If I have countless photos of an Oregon sunset, then I have in equal numbers, pictures of the sun rising from high upon the mount.

Steps from the base of Adam’s Landing lead me up to one of the best viewpoints for sunrises and river views. Then it’s just a slight turn towards the Holy Cross Church of the Immaculata and the remainder of the steps that the other faithful, the ones not familiar with the base of steps, stop and pray.

In my younger years, I had plenty of friends living in Mt. Adams, and the bar scene was quite active. It’s where we went. Its what we did. Unless there was a ballgame and then it was Flanagan’s.

Mt. Adams first existed as Mt. Ida, where a washerwoman lived in a tree. The neighborhood was since renamed. Eden Park surrounds the base of the neighborhood, and thus the mount is enveloped in green. The Cincinnati Art Museum, which boasts of FREE attendance, is located there, and there is discussion of making the museum more pedestrian accessible via Gilbert once the Baldwin project is complete. At the end of April, I will be co-teaching a workshop based on a current exhibit, titled Poetry of Place.

A few other cultural institutions are located in Mt. Adams, including the venerable Playhouse in the Park, which just hosted a startling rendition of Jane Eyre. The Playhouse, like the rest of our live theatre venues has plans, sort of, to undergo a major renovation. The plans were announced, with no actual plan shared, but I’m confident the patrons and executives will put forth one to rival the Ensemble, Shakespeare and the rest of those located in the basin.

The second Rookwood pottery building was located here, and the kiln is often a room where one can eat a meal, depending on whatever restaurant is opening in that space. The current one recently closed. The Celestial‘s Incline Lounge hosts astounding jazz vocalists and musicians and is another of the best views in the city. The Pilgrim Chapel underwent its own metamorphosis and lives on as an intersection of faith, community, and arts.

The history of the monastery is quite fascinating. The building sits Cincinnati’s original observatory, which was moved to Mt. Lookout and is now an event center. And, of course, one knows all too well, the demise of the incline, which would have reconnected this neighborhood to the lower neighborhoods in the city. As it stands now, most use several sets of steps and then a few of the pedestrian overpasses to walk to work.

Yet, my love for this neighborhood has nothing to do its charming homes, inspiring infill, or for what could have been and should still be.

Mt. Adams is where I go to find a quietude in the darkness in my life.

In 2001, rioting broke out in Cincinnati, following the killing of Timothy Thomas on April 7th at the hands of a Cincinnati police office. A week later, as Good Friday approached (the 13th). At the time, I still lived in Loveland and had planned to walk the steps. Several neighbors knew of my tradition of walking the steps and encouraged me to stay home.

But I went. It was my own private protest. And, I took my young son.

The Mt. Adams steps always represented to me what was insurmountable. Isn’t that why we climb? Not for the view, but for the struggle for stillness on each step of the way? I went that day in 2001, to be silent in the midst of city filled with unrest.

Finally, whenever I descend Mt. Adams, the light reappears and I find it in my steps to locate a particular street sign. It’s the closest I come to another place where I go to find the calm inside.

Of Printing, Pork and Pasta – Gettin’ My 52 On in Camp Washington

This is the twelfth in a series about walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to discover what makes each relevant to me.

Like any Italian worth her semolina, I first encountered Camp Washington through the Sacred Heart Ravioli Dinners held on Palm Sundays and again each October. Back then, my sister, Laura, and I, following a long Saturday night, stood in line to take in a dinner that was – almost – like Mom’s.

I next found Camp Washington through the famed chili parlor after returning from a concert, while Laura still lived in Clifton. The actual the artist’s name escapes me, but we rode in the back of a limo ride we had won, and instructed the driver to whisk us away to the closest chili stand.

Now, I used a similar logic to entice my husband out of bed and into another cold, near-rainy weekend.

In my laziness and busyness, I selected Camp Washington because of its proximity and we drove out and parked near Sacred Heart Church, where the raviolis have been rolled and served for over 100 years.

Winding through the back streets near the church, we strolled in awe at buildings that extended for blocks, imagining what manufacturing once looked like in the heart of this neighborhood.

As we turned towards Spring Grove Ave, we noticed several folks coming out of their worn down trailers parked in used car or scrap metal lots and firing up a cup of coffee and their minds for the day.

Once on Spring Grove, we walked parallel to the bike path that runs along Mill Creek towards Spring Grove cemetery. But what I saw on bike was not nearly as detailed and marvelous as what I noted on foot.

FullSizeRender-83Ideas and Ad ventures is a printing company housed in a garage. I shot the photo before knowing what was actually housed there because I just liked the name.

Next, we stumbled upon the John S. Swift Company Printers. Their motto was “Got to print? Get it swift.” The company was founded in St. Louis, and now based in Illinois. Camp Washington was one of its service locations.

After a few more snapshots, I finally put it together. Camp Washington was and is a hub for printing.

Before my next printing discovery, we strolled past the William Powell Company’s Union Brass Works whose claim was having made the first brass faucet in the west, “west” being the Ohio River in 1846. (On a return trip, we also read how Cincinnati manufactured the first glass over door, allowing consumers to ooh and ahhh while peering inside the oven).

Camp Washington installed several history poles along Spring Grove, including one that spoke to the slaughterhouses of the past, and also of the Queen City Sausage Company where pigs really did fly, or did a few other, unmentionable things. The company spruced up their backyard recently, in nod to being good neighbors, and any real estate novice could tell you that space screamed for a beer and brat garden (to serve, not grow).

The Cincinnati Bindery, started in 1964, changed hands from its original founder, Hugo Grummich, to other buyers, while its assets also changed hands. Eventually, Karl, Hugo’s son, brought the bindery back to life after longtime customers pleaded for its return.

Along the northern portion of Spring Grove, past Camp Washington, Artworks painted another fabulous mural, paying homage to Cincinnati Freedom, the cow that escaped and went on the run for 11 days back in 2002. There was also a collection of smaller homes, some in Italianate style, that populated the area.

Meyer tool, which supplies precision components to the aerospace industry, had a large facility here, so the past and future of manufacturing was still evident here in Camp Washington.

The neighborhood’s origins were based in the U.S.- Mexican War where Ohio troops gathered to train. There is an odd wall at the far end of Valley Park. And an old workhouse now houses a rehab center.

We arrived too early in the day for the American Sign Museum, but I have attended several events at the center, and even when bored with the event, I am never bored looking with fascination upon the signs from my youth. The center also offers neon sign repair and I had a Red Bird shoe sign repaired there.

For those that might glimpse the old Crosley building from the interstate, plans keep moving closer to a rehab project for CORE resources. The last press release was dated June of 2016, and stated that actual work was still months out.

We walked a good five miles, encircling the entire neighborhood. Camp Washington had a lot to offer for the right entrepreneurs and current residents and I found their park to be one of the most charming, lined with magnolia trees and with the nearby community garden and the salt pile as backdrop.

I liked the Camp, and if there were a bit more housing, or a home for sale and I was a bit younger, it might be a place for me. However, once we circled back to the car, we heard the screech of trains and cranes from the metal scrap yards. I wasn’t opposed to industry, but I was opposed to lack of sleep.

This Sunday, April 9, Sacred Heart will serve their 106th Ravioli Dinner. (Doors open at noon for dinners and ten a.m. for carryout. (Bring your own containers and red wagon to pull the load home.)

The Italian half of the congregation did not begin here in Camp Washington. Originally, the Italians worshipped at Fifth & Broadway until 1992, when the church sold the building to the city, which in turn, sold the strip to P&G for their corporate headquarters. The congregation was in essence taken under by Tide.

The church still offers an Italian Mass on the first Sunday of each month, where unexpectedly the congregants are young. “They’re looking for reverence and beauty, a sense of transcendence, and to be connected to their parents and grandparents, the generations of faith,” according to an old interview with Father Fernandes.

Most exciting of all, I found a complete online listing of Cincinnati-based Italian organizations where I can get my Italian on. My parents had a long history of membership in the IAV and Sons of Italy, social clubs designed to help Italians get on their feet after migrating from Europe. Perhaps it’s my turn.

The community is active in many ways, preserving 52 homes and supporting a growing artist community, through their boards and councils. The executive director of the community board (a development arm), Joe Gorman, reached out to me. In his email, he called Camp Washington an urban Appalachian neighborhood.  And yes, those words sum up my experience.

Whether coming to Camp Washington for the pork or the presses, or for the Italian dinners, there’s a grittiness to the neighborhood, including a boxing club, I could feel below the sidewalks, of the desire to work, and the need to feed.

Sailin’ Away – Gettin’ My 52 On in Sayler Park

Another jaw-dropping mural from Artworks. These murals have become their own beacons for me.

* This is my eleventh in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to discover what makes the city relevant to me.

When finished, I will most assuredly look back on these days and consider how I strolled Cincinnati’s neighborhoods purely for procrastination (manuscript edits await), and a bit of inspiration.

Again, my husband, Mark, joined as we set off with goal of completing the trifecta of western riverside neighborhoods, landing in Sayler Park via a turnoff from River Road.

We parked near St. Aloysius Church where I turned to Mark and said, “I love a good road named Portage. Because you know you are close to water.”

Heading down Gracely Road (named after one of the town’s founders of Sayler Park), we walked parallel to River Road. Along this route the town was founded, beginning with a square and subsequent hardware stores, plus bakery (This is how I enticed Mark).

We strolled along Gracely for several miles, first encountering a bar stool store, then the many historical homes, brushed like painted ladies from the Victorian era of the neighborhood’s origins in 1911. Several boasted of soaring stairways where might imagine the carriage stopped at the base, and guests, including ladies in heels, had to step up to the main entry.

The neighborhood also developed to the north where a majority of houses surrounded several square blocks and the Fernbank Golf Course, with its executive par 3 course.

After a few miles, we looked downward towards the river and noted the entrance to the Hamilton County Park of Fernbank, a park developed from the combination of three parcels of land and city-county relationships. We hiked through the closed car entrance from River Road and found ourselves near the designated spot for riverbank fishing. That was the closest I had come to the river, other than below Smale Park, which is technically off-limits, and being in the river.

Along the bike/hike path in Fernwood Park, a sign tells the story of the Great Stairway. In 1885, the U.S. undertook the effort to construct 54 dams to put the Ohio River to work, beginning in Pittsburgh (Darn, they always beat us). Dam 37 was located near present day sightlines from Sayler Park. Those dams remained usable until 1929 and in the early 1950’s were replaced by modern day structures.

Prior to rejoining the neighborhood above River Road, we stumbled upon the sign for The Cabana bar, opening April 10th, and the old Fore & Aft. Years ago, I spent a few summer nights out on the Fore and Aft. Because of its distance from the city, I could distance myself from concerns of the day. Many would remember the sinking of the Fore & Aft in 2005.

Circling back, we crossed paths with Cincinnati Parks’ smallest park, Thornton Triangle, and eventually with the Parkland Theatre, showing RockDog and Batman.

Sayler Park felt more town-like than an actual neighborhood, which is where I often get confused. What, exactly, constitutes a neighborhood, other than the city, at one point, coveting someone else’s goods many years ago?

If one’s lifestyle included fishing or boating, this neighborhood was perfect. If one’s goal was to own a painted lady, one should monitor the real estate sites closely. As last check, very few homes were for sale.

Several portions of the drive reminded me of a few areas along the Oregon Coast that circled the bay, with homes situated on the hillside. Thus, I was saddened to come to the end of the line, not of just the walk, but in this neighborhood, of the western portion of city along the river.

I wanted to trek on like the intrepid travelers of old, following the whims of the river, motivated by the chance to chart worlds unknown.

 

BREAKING NEWS: Sayler Park to get new 13 Below brewery!