This is my forty-fifth in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. Follow me on Instagram for a hint of where I’ll venture next.
When my trek was over, I breathed a long sigh of relief, bought a bearclaw from a new café, and dragged my feet back towards my car. I had conquered Cincinnati’s largest neighborhood. By my estimation, I had padded across approximately 11 miles of sidewalks, a few cut-throughs, and several driveways I should not have wandered near.
I began near Westwood town hall, since that was the only point of interest I knew. The neighborhood was hosting its annual art fair that day, and the road was blocked off. I turned down Epworth and parked somewhere close by.
In a game of twister, I spun in all directions until I finally decided to walk as far west as my feet or signs would take me.
From Epworth, I took Montana over to Glenmore, passing the Y and a zealous Halloween fan, and followed Glenmore Avenue along the backside of Western Hills Plaza.
But I continued on Glenmore until I came across Pickbury. Then I missed my turn, wound up going north on Coral Park Drive then crossing over to Boudinot for a while. I traipsed up and down a portion of Queen City and Boudinot to hit a few highlights, including Mother of Mercy High School. Sadly, the 100-year-plus old Mother of Mercy will close next year and merge with McAuley High School due to low enrollment numbers.
The problem? If I walked all the down, I would have to hike all the way up. But this was my 45th walk.
I was in this project for long haul whether it was up or down (and there had been plenty of both). The day had brought a particularly fall kind of weather. If I couldn’t do it then, I shouldn’t have been out at all. I had at least learned that.
Once on Harrison, I stood again in indecision. Harrison Ave ran near- parallel to Queen City Avenue. I had driven up its incline, so I had a realistic sense of what it would take on foot to ascend.
“Hey, how are you today?”
I presumed he was waiting for a bus.
I noted his yellow t-shirt and guessed his age to be somewhere in the pre-teens.
“I really don’t. Which one are looking for?”
“I just saw it go past the other way.”
“Yeah, I didn’t want to sit on it for a whole hour.”
“I don’t blame you. Where ya going so early this morning?” Teens didn’t rise that early for nothing.
“I’m in this program.”
“Its called Youth Hope and we do things like sell bags.” I knew of the program through my involvement with Findlay Market.
The young man and I walked towards the designated bus stop. And he proudly chatted some more. “My brother recommended me, after they came and talked to the school. So, I go down there all day. We sell bags.”
“I’m sure the bus will be along soon.”
“Yeah, me too. I just wasn’t sure if I should wait.”
We neared the Judson Care Center, founded on 18 acres in 1946 as the Baptist Home and Center. “I hope I see you again, maybe down at Findlay. My name is Annette. What’s yours?”
“Kershawn. You’re doing great work. Don’t stop.”
So many neighborhoods had endeared themselves to me, not because of architecture or beauty, but because of the people I met.
Westwood had a side that also backed up to the Fairmounts, which I hadn’t walked yet. However, I did know McHenry and I did know it was a corridor where police concerned themselves. Sure enough, there was a security camera at the intersection of Harrison and McHenry.
I am often asked, “Aren’t you afraid?” The truth is, “Yes.” Of getting lost. Of not knowing which direction is home. Of missing a large chuck of a community. Of writing about it later and getting the feel of a neighborhood wrong. Yes, in general. But I try to get out during busy times of the day, or what I perceive to be active. Saturday mornings. Weekday afternoons when buses are running. Evening rush hours.
I did a few more loops on the northern side of Harrison and as I approached the town hall, I strolled past two middle-aged men mowing the yard of a quaint home. I stopped to compliment them on the tidiness of their surrounds.
“Its Mom and Dad’s,” one replied.
One lived in Cheviot. The other lived in White Oak and wasn’t sure if that community was the city of Cincinnati. I had to inform him otherwise.
But I discussed my project with them. The older one reacted. “I’m proud to know you.” I clarified again that I was NOT running for any office, other than the office of curiosity. We agreed to meet again on the west side when fate deemed it so.
The Westwood art show was beginning to open, but I still had a few missed blocks that needed coverage. So I started up on Epworth again to Wardall then circled around, crossed over Montana somewhere along the line and hopped into the vicinity of St. Catherine of Siena (where neighbors of mine have performed in choral concerts) and the Westwood Commons.
Oddly enough, as I strolled by the church, there was a funeral taking place. I fumbled with my camera to snap a photo of the spires and didn’t realize the casket was being carried out at that exact moment. A funny moment if I had been in a sitcom. Horrified, I scrambled away.
While my tour was complete, my walking was not. I returned to the town center, after securing a prized pastry from the recently opened Muse café, a gathering spot that was somewhat nondescript in its décor and name. Eventually, they planned for local art on their walls as their signature, but none were evident that day.
When I had enough and learned that Henke Winery was not open yet, I could not locate my car. I had parked somewhere off Epworth but in my wanderings to get started, I had ventured down an alley or two (those were waay different from OTR alleys), and was convinced my car was near one of the alleys, except that three materialized ahead of me. I pressed a few keys on my Iphone, to see where I snapped the very first photo. There my car would be.
However, my walks were never truly complete. The downside to my utter lack of planning is that I neglected parts of a neighborhood I deemed necessary to include. As such, I did drive back and walk some near Bracken Woods, the backside of Westwood Commons where I once played CRC volleyball at Gamble High School, and around Brodbeck Nature Preserve. As for Mt. Airy Forest, part of which was located in Westwood, I would tackle that green monster later.
Westwood had an active community council and also its own historical society. Westwood will be celebrating sesquicentennial in 2018 and was comprised of seven historical civic buildings. The neighborhood encompassed five square miles (it felt like more that day) and also boasted of a population of 30,000.
In Westwood, CPS runs an “enterprise” school where students are learning about the world of business. It is also a community learning center, with access to many community services. I am beginning to liken our schools to factories, where if you lived in a certain town, you went to work in that town’s factory. It didn’t matter what product was made, only that’s where you worked. I see the logic of setting up special or enterprise type schools, but are we are directing students into one role, when they might be better suited for different role attainable via a separate school? Just some seeds…
My thighs and calves sore, I drove home that sunny, autumn day, absorbing the beautiful weather, and knowing my way from Boudinot to Queen City to Spring Grove to home.
Could I be considered a bona fide west sider now?