Bona Fide Westsider – Gettin’ My 52 On in Westwood

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.

Occasionally, I saw political signs that did not look familiar and street signs with references to Cheviot. I was technically trespassing into another neighborhood.

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.

Along Ferguson, I took note of some fine homes, dating back to when the school’s enrollment was healthier.

Finally, I was in trouble. Queen City Avenue stretched below me like a demon in the late dawn. The road twisted and descended where it would land at the base of West Price Hill and South Fairmount.

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.

So, I trekked to the base of Queen City, or at least near what I might have presumed to be near the basin. Then turned around and hiked back up through Lafeuille Terrace.

I ventured off that street onto a few others to the east where I viewed more faint outlines of the city. I enjoyed the sights that carried me to Harrison Ave and of course, a set of steps.

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.

But, I turned that direction and soon encountered young Kershawn. (I’m sure my spelling was off).

“Hey, how are you today?”

I presumed he was waiting for a bus.

“I’m good. But do you know what time the bus comes?” His eyes gazed at me in earnest.

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?”

“The 21.”

“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.

“Findlay Market.”

“What for?”

“I’m in this program.”

“What kind?”

“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.”

IMG_3426“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.

When I had no more land to conquer, I recalled walking a portion of Westwood, along Montana, during my East Westwood walk and wanted to include those photos as well.

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?




Island of Humanity – Gettin’ My 52 On in the Villages of Roll Hill

This is my forty-fourth 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.

The Fay. Everyone knew it as The Fay, a winding stretch of subsidized housing built in the 80’s. However, I didn’t know it as The Fay, with one exception.

A writer friend of mine, Maura Anaya, had been a social worker then, making visits to the community. In one of our writing sessions, Maura penned a piece about The Fay. She painted one of the most startling images of life inside the neighborhood – more than what I could find in Youtube videos and news reels. I included her work at the end of this blog, but in her writings, Maura referred to the area as an island and through her work and words, affirmed the humanity that can be found anywhere.

That was years ago. In 2010, the city of Cincinnati announced plans for a $36 million overhaul of the Fay Apartments, including new kitchens, windows, doors, fences and a new name. The Villages of Roll Hill.

In one of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods, residents and city officials alike agreed. The problem was not with the residents, but oftentimes their associates. The revitalization plan also included installation of security cameras, and automatic camera readers for license plates to identify individuals who perhaps were in the wrong place for the wrong reasons.

In 2012, when the new 703 units on the 79-acre parcel were unveiled, residents hailed the outcome as nothing short of a total makeover and total peace of mind, as one resident called it.

At the time, the city received the “Oscar” of community development awards for its LEED work in the renovations of the Fay Apartments.

But given its history, I of course had trepidations over walking the area.

Mark joined me that day, only because he was off after call. I planned the route during school bus pickup times. Many children waited at bus stops along the streets of the Villages of Roll Hill.

Our entry in the community was met with an empty police cruiser, perhaps stationed there during school pickups. We stopped and talked to a young mom with a very tall toddler. “School today?” I asked. “No, she’s only three,” the mother replied. I couldn’t believe it. The little girl had grown past my waist. The three-year-old had come from good genes.

We kept up our walk, surprised by the airiness of the community. Space. Breath. At several junctions, I waded through the dew-laid grass to snap photos of what appeared to be our city’s medical institutions and those of higher learning.

I tried to imagine if my home overlooked of these institutions. And I had little or no way to access that educational institution via schooling, financial means, even for that matter, the damn highway separated them all, as well as a twisting, winding road, which led down back through South Cumminsville and was not developed at all. How would I wake each morning?

As had become customary, I did discover a pair of lost soles, as we traversed the neighborhood. Many of the townhome clusters had neighborhood laundry rooms (though the hours noted were mostly weekday and weekends, with little consideration for weekday evenings) and neighborhood offices. There were at least three playground areas, and a child care center.

The homes were distinct in siding color and style. Many had been built as multi-units versus townhomes. During the renovation, some 17 buildings had been demolished to open up the setting, as we would learn. Some of those had been built along the property’s fenceline, and knocked down for more breathing room.  Where once old chain link fences had been installed, the newer ones or none at all allowed for more light as well.

We circled around the neighborhood, which didn’t take long. Nearing our car, I stopped to chat with two gentlemen seated on their front stoop.

I sauntered up the walk with Mark trailing me. “Hey, how you are this morning, gentlemen?”

“Just enjoying this weather,” the older one responded.

“My name is Annette, and this my husband Mark.” We all shook hands.

“I’m Ron.”

“Ron, I’m out walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods. (blah, blah, blah). This is quite the change. You’ve been here a while?”

“Yes, since early 2000’s.”

“So, you’ve seen the change.” Ron noted the apartments across from him which had been torn down.

“For the good?”


“Raised any kids here?” The other gentleman, Dave, said he did. Two went to St. Boniface in Northside. The other to West High.

Ron went on. “But we gotta have more for kids to do.” Dave nodded his head. Of course, that was the lament of all parents, but this time the note felt far more imperative and important.

“Boys and Girls Club does operate out of Roll Hill,” I noted, having learned that from my last walk. What about a rec center?” I asked.

“Kids got to go too far for that one down in Millvale.” Later we would drive down to that and it really was far and hilly) and only the fittest had a shot at going back up that hill.

We took our leave, with me asking who the smoker belonged to.

Everyone pointed at Ron.

“Well, Ron. Next time, I’ll be back around dinnertime.” Ron chuckled.

Trudging back to the car, we walked past the basketball courts and cramped community center.

I tried to work the logistics in my head. One neighborhood, the near entirety of it, was managed by an out of town property manager. There was a remaining dozen or so homes that belonged to an older street but were beyond the boundaries of the actual Villages of Roll Hill . They were part of the Villages neighborhood, not part of East Westwood, which seemed to be having its own issues set adrift from any comprehensive neighborhood feel.

Wallick Communities was the operator, based out of Columbus. They operated in nine states and also managed properties for assisted living, senior housing, and student housing. Let’s just say the online brochures and marketing are VERY different.

We’ve come a longs ways from separating ourselves by chain link fences. But I couldn’t help but walk away thinking we still had more distance to travel, in each of our minds, to envision a neighborhood not segmented off from the rest.

Excerpted from Maura Anaya’s work on The Fay apartments…

Having worked off and on with people who live in the Fay as a caseworker and in various other capacities for 20 years, I found myself visiting that island on top of the hill surrounded by trees, often, sometimes every day for weeks at a time. I once stood in the middle of a parking lot with a different domestic disturbance going on like stereo sound on both sides and in front of me. I knew 4 children who had witnessed their mother murdered in front of them on a street there and saw for the last time a teenager I cared about as he got out of the car telling me he knew what he was doing. 24 hours later he was found shot in the back, gone. I have called the police on that hill more than a few times. Yet, what struck me most about the Fay or the newly dubbed village of Roll Hill was the humanity. The humans all living behind cinderblocks with concrete floors, all isolated with one entrance and one exit. The people trying to beat the odds, the ones that despite one set back after another persevere and keep moving forward. The crime and poverty maybe more obvious, but the kindness, the hard-working men and women, the moral choices, and deep empathy that exists despite or perhaps because of the poverty stayed with me in equal measure.

If you think you are thrifty or strong or kind, try being those things when you are poor or scared for the safety of yourself or love ones at every moment.

Things that others do not see or are scared to look at you can see up close at the Fay but that up-close view reveals more than the stereotype or reputation of the neighborhood.

There was a vibrant economy that did not exist with money but rather bartering, favors and keeping track of who you owed and who owed you. There are vegetable trucks, sock and underwear guys and phone card sellers that came on the same day of the week that were not exactly official. It takes 5 dollars for you and your child to take the bus out of there. The store, the doctor a job interview or buying groceries means a significant undertaking if you are poor. Everyone knows the guy who can fix cars or a washing machine or the bootleg cab drivers. More than a few times, I have walked with families to buy some chips at the only store at the entrance. I have waved at the guys on the corner and counted pennies. I met all the definitions of families you could imagine that live there. What separated them from my urban neighborhood was diversity of income not diversity of being. No sea of humanity is one thing and despite the poverty and a concentration of all the urban problems you can name, I witnessed amazing spirit and creativity, time and again. No matter how desperate or poor, love has the same definition everywhere. The people I met at the Fay taught me that there are many ways to live under the same circumstances. American entrepreneurship and ingenuity is not just about drugs or exploitation it is about sharing and depending on others. It is about figuring out a way to live that meets your needs. I learned how working mothers of multiple children cook big meals with very little and was taught recipes for feeding a crowd that I still use.

I knew families that stuck to themselves and were very selective about who they associated with and others who knew everything and everyone. I knew criminals and law-abiding Christians, Muslims, even a Buddhist. I talked for hours with many families: a single mother so depressed and alone fearful to leave her apartment, an elderly foster mother who just did not know how to help the children she was caring for, a drug dealer who wanted to get out of hustling, an immigrant who built a computer for his studies. I met more loving parents than drug dealers and people with skills and jobs more than not. As a community, there are ebbs and flows and norms and unspoken rules just like anywhere else.

The Fay was an intense microcosm of humanity. Joy, suffering with some living and others just surviving, perhaps like every neighborhood. Or perhaps due to its isolation, it’s location or its existence up on the hill with empty tunnels underneath the dynamics whether they be dangerous, desperate or amazing examples of human spirit, I never left the Fay without thinking of the extremes of a remarkable place.

Maura Kennedy Anaya


Like Home – Gettin’ My 52 On in Mt. Washington

This is my forty-third 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.

Mt. Washington felt like home. Not the community where I currently lived. Not even one where I felt comfortable. But the neighborhood had the look and feel of my childhood hometown.

I started my walk in the corner of Mt. Washington, on Beechmont, near the Anthenaeum of Ohio where local men and women fulfilled their vocation to the Catholic Church. The morning was brisk. I could see my breath painted on the air. I chuckled to myself, recalling my previous walk through Kennedy Heights when I wasn’t prepared for the weather and regretted the subsequent cold. The day would eventually heat up, but for a bit, I puffed out my hot air as I chugged up the hillside to the center.

Off in the distance, I detected the silhouette of vineyards and skipped ahead to find a few grapes still hanging stubbornly on the vine. My next effort would be met with consternation, as I could not turn up the street I wanted because there were no sidewalks on the narrow two-lane Berkshire off Beechmont. So, I kept going, passing my niece’s school, Guardian Angels, and Archbishop McNicholas High School. The last time I was at McNick had been my only time. Davis had run in a track meet that day, one that lasted too long into the evening.

When I had the chance, I turned up Honeysuckle Lane, disappointed that I would eventually have to turn around. But, at the top of the hill, I found a path that cut through to Sands Montessori , a magnet CPS school, and landed me on Corbly Road. Perfect.

I meandered along Corbly, turning up Trailwood Drive. If I hadn’t know better, these homes reminded me of a stretch in Loveland and few others runs in my hometown of Amherst. Then, I crossed Corbly again, and trekked up Coffey and along that way for a while. There were newer model homes, small scale homes built perhaps in a manufactured home-style, and others that I would definitely have coveted.

It was this mix of a town laid out in 1846 that reminded me so much of Amherst. For the rest of the walk, I amused myself by comparing streets I knew in Amherst to streets I came upon here.

I circled around to Beechmont Avenue and walked along the thoroughfare for a while until I spotted the sign for Stanbery Park. I hopscotched across the street to find the entrance. The park was smaller than I anticipated from reading my map, until I recalled how I had zoomed in on the printout. The “boy reading book” statue was erected after World War I in 1938. The park boasts 125 acres of walking trails of which for certain will be on my list of parks to visit when this neighborhood walking thing is complete.

I returned to Beechmont to stroll along the main street, salivating when I saw the Creamy Whip sign until I read the posted hours. No opening until noon. And Water Tower Fine Wines was not open either!

As I strolled down Campus Lane, I spotted, of all things, Mt. Washington Cemetery, on land donated by the Order of Oddfellows and containing the grave sites of 169 Civil War veterans. Its original chapel was designed by none other than Cincinnati Sam, Samuel Hannaford that is.

I hopped over to Sutton Avenue, and turned down Wayside. It was here I had to make a decision. My sister, Beth, lived off of Wayside. But it was another mile that stretched out before me, when I had already completed about six.

I committed to walking Wayside until I no longer wanted to.

Unfortunately, that meant that I didn’t get all the way into Adena Trail, where sis lived. Besides, I still had to walk back up and around some fairly treacherous roads.

I snapped a photo of Red Oaks and later my sister informed her husband had dated a woman whose family once lived there. We were all just few degrees of separation from wealth.

My strides brought me back to Sutton, then Cambridge, as I past Mt. Washington School, a newer Cincinnati Recreation Center, in comparison to some of the others, or those that were missing one like Villages of Roll Hill.  Also, there were other recreation centers that opened four hours later than this particular one. I found plenty of inconsistencies with how the city apparently allocated funding and time in our most needed areas.

That morning, a few friends had joined me, but only for a brief stretch. They tried, but couldn’t  keep up.

I ended the walk along Beechmont again, noting many multi-family units dotting the landscape. This time my legs just gave out. I stumbled the rest of the way towards my car, satisfied in my finds for the day.

Mt. Washington Community Council  has one of the most complete websites for a council. They were hosting a scavenger hunt later in the month. Some of the issues concerning residents involved cleanup, lighting around the McNick stadium, and even, with its Washington Cares effort, the impact of drug use on the community.

The main street reminded me of portions of Amherst (though I think Amherst had more bars). The historic homes that dotted several of the surrounding streets were also reminiscent of those in my northern hometown.  IMG-3364 (1)

A part of me wondered if that’s what drew my sister, Beth, to the area, or was it the home? Their daughter had been young when they moved. They were well into their careers. Maybe the feel of home wasn’t on her radar at all. But it was on mine now.





Trying to Find Answers – Gettin’ My 52 on in East Westwood

This is my forty-second 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.

East Westwood sits on a few hills near Westwood, in between Millvale, South Cumminsville, Mt. Airy, Westwood and North Fairmont. So, where again was that?

That’s just what I wanted to know and found out. But not as soon as I had planned. The fog rolled in that morning, and despite my best efforts, I thought it unwise to walk a community where I usually meandered with little plan, if I couldn’t see a foot in front of me.

So, I returned later in the day, after the sunshine had burned off the fog and I convinced Mark to join me. He cracked a few jokes the entire drive about the location of East Westwood. Is that west of Eastwood, or east of Westwood? He was relentless and also, I didn’t have an answer.

Mark once lived in Westwood. He had never heard of East Westwood back in the 1990’s. To back him up, both books I had been using as reference, WPA Guide to Cincinnati, and Cincinnati Observed, made no mention of East Westwood. Also, in the WPA Guide, which did reference a tour through Westwood, the area encompassing East Westwood appeared as a blank canvas on the page.

We parked at Roll Hill School on Baltimore Avenue, a community learning center of CPS that promoted a technology-based learning program, with a healthy list of partners. With upcoming elections, I would advise readers to learn more about the structure of the CPS system and how some of the schools are independently governed, act as a magnet school, or act as a community learning center. And also, how to get involved in schools where support is necessary.

We trudged up what was probably Roll Hill. In doing so, and because Mark was gearing up for college football season as a beleaguered ND fan, we both uttered “Roll tide” under our breath as we traipsed up the incline.

Down Hawkins Street was the new neighborhood playground, recently completed as part of the city’s neighborhood enhancement programs (NEP). Children were already taking advantage of the sunshine and space.

We turned down McHenry. The McHenry corridor was another main artery traveling through East Westwood. I snapped a few photos and found the lot where the community garden will be planted (see NEP program) once a few lot restrictions had been ironed out. Another component of the NEP programs was for crime reduction.

According to the city’s website, “In 2016 the City launched PIVOT, a data-driven, city-wide violence reduction plan rooted in the place-based policing model. The first PIVOT location was East Westwood/Westwood, with a special focus on the McHenry Corridor between Harrison and Baltimore avenues. Key results included a dramatic reduction in shootings, violent crime and weapons-related calls.”

To effectively walk the rest of East Westwood, we approached Westwood-Northern and walked up to and along Montana, where Mark used to live. Later, I planned give myself credit for walking a part of Westwood, because we did quite a hefty hike through that neighborhood that day.

We circled back near the Panorama Apartments, reentering East Westwood, noting most of the remaining area was comprised of multi-unit housing.

To be fair, I researched East Westwood on the city’s website, and discovered I left off a bit of the neighborhood. I went back for more.

Mark was still with me, later in that day. I parked the car in the lower portion of EWW, near Scarlato’s Pizza which had quite heavy hitter list of hoagies on their menu. We walked down Saffer Road, which revealed a few amazing views from the top of a hill that overlooked the city and the North and South Fairmounts. Most of the homes were built in the 1950’s, though we did find one on the street that appeared to have been built in the Italianate-style architecture.

However, I still had no more of narrative for East Westwood than I had before. I attempted to make contact with an email address associated with the EWW community council. I also sent an email to the Westwood Historical Association and an received a reply with no more clarification, except my contact presumed East Westwood was a newer designated neighborhood. I hoped to update the information as it trickled back to me.

In the end, I was left with a hill, and a few more. But no history. No historical markers. No interactions with residents or any instantaneous connections to others. Only a hill. But maybe that’s all it took to begin a new narrative. Perhaps the only lesson was that East Westwood’s lack of identity had forced me to make reach out and make connections to others where first there had been none.

Spicing Things Up – Gettin’ My 52 On in Carthage

This is my forty-first 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.

“I’m walking Carthage today,” I announced to Mark,

“Is that where Paddock meets Vine?” asked the Cincinnatian to the Clevelander.

I shrugged my shoulders until the phrase set in. That’s where the Indian stood.

I started at 65th and Vine and wondered, did the streets numbered 1-70 something from downtown all the way to Carthage? Wouldn’t that have been something, I thought, imagining how New York City had its numbered streets, if only we could have replicated the same. And apparently, in 1842, according to the WPA Guide to Cincinnati, commissioners were pushed to build a “graded road from Carthage to the head of Vine, in Cincinnati.”

I traipsed all the way up Vine on an early Saturday morning, pleased to be out before the heat and crowds, passing multiple used car lots along the way. And of course, where Paddock meets Vine at the old Indian sign. My official welcome to Carthage. The sign was erected in 1954 by Jake Sweeney and is known as Chief Pontiac, after the car line sold there at the time.

Soon, I came upon the Hamilton County Fairgrounds. I could actually detect a slight odor in the air before coming upon the area. I walked around inside the fairgrounds for while until I realized I might be caught for trespassing.

As I made my way to the north end of Carthage, Vine Street met the Mill Creek. The Mill Creek shimmered that day. One of these days, I was going to kayak through it, I decided, that would be one of my next explorations, a Cincinnati bucket list so to speak.

I circled around the backside of the fairgrounds and landed on Anthony Wayne Blvd, near the original White’s Station, a stockaded settlement in 1790. There is a historical marker that was placed by the National Distillers Association (Think of Jim Beam’s location now).

Mr. Wayne was quite popular, as this was the second time in two weeks I had come upon the use of his name, the first in Northside. There was also a reference to the Wayne trail in a marker along Central Parkway in OTR.

I looped back down North Beth Road, having decided to attack my walk of the neighborhood as if it were a hand, following each finger out and returning in the same direction. Out along North Bend Road was the Caldwell Preserve, as well as the Caldwell Playground, where a pool once existed but now was limited to a sprayground. Carthage no longer had its own elementary school, though Hartwell Elementary was about a mile or so from the center.

Returning back to Vine, I then traveled west on Seymour and found a few tracks, the Mill Creek, and the Seymour Preserve that I had known was present from my walk around Winton Hills but it hadn’t been accessible via signage from that neighborhood.

My final approach took me through a more residential area of Carthage, with smaller homes. I was surprised when I came upon a newer development from 2002 called the Mills of Carthage, with approximately 50 starter homes. There were plenty of alleys with names like Marble and Granite, and in many ways, reminded me of a few alleys in East End and California.

As I ended my walk, I met Julie, through Angel, her border collie who had just had a tumor removed. Julie wasn’t very conversational, even after I explained the purpose of my walks. Of course, I named dropped and mentioned my treks all began after listening to Yvette Simpson campaign for mayor as I tried to understand where all the 52 communities were located.

Julie’s nails were painted purple. Her mailbox was purple. The most I could elicit from Julie was that she really liked purple and Carthage was safe. I wished her well and moved on to my final encounter.

The El Valle Verde restaurant was well-known, as Carthage had a growing Hispanic population, at over 18% of its population, which the neighborhood treasured the diversity as an asset. Outside the restaurant and market, a Hispanic woman sold cut mango, watermelon, and cantaloupe by the cup. I couldn’t resist.

“So, are you all part of the market?” I asked.

A young man spoke up. “This is my wife. Her mother’s son owns the building and market.” The fruit woman was shy and didn’t want her photo taken. However, she was not bashful in her sprinkling of red pepper flakes over my fruit cup. It was the best way to eat a fresh mango. I will never go back to plain honey and lime juice again.

Carthage was quaint, as Julie had noted. I did indeed feel safe. But I wondered, why was it necessary to so often take the temperature of how safe one felt.

Perception. What we read in the media. I walked Over-the-Rhine every day and there was still that perception of whether or not it was safe. Oftentimes, newspapers could hardly wait to print a headline with something bad that happened, despite positive press, or the extraordinary community efforts that many undertook to stand together as a community, when external forces pitted residents against each other.

Carthage was once known for the birth of harness racing which took place at the Carthage Fair. The community, with approximately 2700 residents, had one of the oldest councils, Carthage Civic Club. Out of the Carthage Christian Church, the community was offered a free meal on Fridays. (Check the website for details). And St. Charles (San Carlos) served the Hispanic Community, even supporting a cricket league.

There was certainly potential for young families to grow and be woven into this tight-knit community. Perhaps because of the size of the neighborhood, I felt, at once at home and my interest in connecting piqued. Given the political climate in regards to Hispanic immigrants, I vowed to return and support the efforts of those who were holding their families together and dreaming of life beyond mangoes and hot peppers.

Charmed at Each Turn – Gettin’ My City On in Clifton

This is my fortieth 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.

To me, Clifton had always been the Gaslight District and a few houses sprinkled behind Ludlow Avenue and the Esquire Theatre. I never passed through other streets on my way to somewhere else. It had always been a sort of “get in, get out” neighborhood, not in that I feared for my life, but that there were few other purposes to my visit. I had several friends who lived there, but we mostly met in writing circles where we could all be free from the everyday chaos left behind in our homes.

I began my walk on the east side of Clifton along Ruther. Soon, I was staring at the backside of the zoo and found myself at the base of Vine Street near the City Barn community garden.The City Barn at 3516 Vine was built in 1896 and housed the city’s horses that pulled the trolleys. There is a horse up top. My friend, Ellen, had once invited me to see her garden space, though she had since given up her spot.

I continued along Vine, and met up with two women seated on their front porch. I stopped to chat and ask what their secret was to the astounding collection of thriving impatens and petunias. Mine were clearly dying.

“You gotta water them every day and talk to them.”

“I do talk to them, just in some not so nice Italian,” I joked. I don’t think they understood my humor.

I moved on past Richie’s. My feet came to a screeching halt as I took notice of another cemetery. Vine Street Hill Cemetery. The cemetery website actually boasted of businesspersons who sat and ate their lunch amidst the peaceful setting. I was there past happy hour that day and didn’t encounter a soul.

The climb back up Woolper Avenue was not an easy one, but I was rewarded with a view of the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, where my friends Elaine and Kelly teach writing classes, and the famed Probasco Fountain.

After a disappointing, contentious contract negotiation, the CCAC will be turned back over in 2018 to Cincinnati Public Schools for a neighborhood school. The CCAC continues its search for a new home. According to a letter sent to Elaine, the center would like to remain an “uptown” resource, not necessarily limited to Clifton.

I headed down Clifton Avenue, past several well-known religious institutions. Seventh Day Adventist, Church of the Nazarene, and Calvary Episcopal.

I kept going until met up with the highway and turned around, towards LaFayette. Ironically, three of my writer friends lived along this route. Ellen once hosted a book club meeting after I published, “I’ll Be in the Car.” Jenny held a small writing circle at her little yellow home (hidden below) before she moved.

And, I recalled my last walk through here with Claudia, who had instructed me on my manuscript. Her advice had proved invaluable. She would be surprised at the current state of the manuscript – other than the fact I had not worked on it in a while so I could complete “my walking project”.

Claudia was the one who had shown me the way to Mt. Storm, and so I headed in that direction. The Cincinnati Women’s Club boasted of a beautiful backyard courtyard, but I had never been at an event there, for any reason.

Clifton Meadows Swim Club was down a road not taken, for my legs were beginning to wobble.

I did however hop over a few walls to get to Scarlett Oaks Retirement Center. Its main historic home once belonged to the one of the seven barons of Clifton – George Schoenberger. Built in 1867, it was Cincinnati’s largest home at the time. In 1973, the home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mt. Storm had several unique vistas, looking back towards the University of Cincinnati and also looking across the Mill Creek onto our city’s more industrial business. Lafayette ran down the backside of the park, and I found myself amidst a few Brady family-like homes until I landed at the base of Cincinnati State Technical College.

There, I had to make a decision. Travel back up Ludlow or make my way through campus? I went through campus and discovered DePaul Cristo Rey High School, where my friend, the poet Manuel Iris taught. He was a big fan of Mark’s bourbon creations, and a beautiful poet.

I crossed the boundary into a neighborhood that warned it was not a cut through. Once on the other side, I still had plenty of Clifton yet to walk. It was getting late, having set out for an evening stroll, and my legs still had to carry me up another hill.

I moved in and out of Cornell and Whitfield, my phone running low on power, hoping I would at least make it back to my car before I ran out of battery to take photos.

Alas, I returned two days later for my final leg of Clifton and started back in the center of town. Mark accompanied me that day and we paraded in and out of few streets behind the theatre, before crossing Ludlow into the area behind TriHealth/Good Samaritan Hospital.

There I found the Clifton House – home to Tongue and Groove literary salon. 

We ended at Lydia’s for iced tea and a stroll past the Clifton Market, which as a coop, was not cooperating effectively right now. I had recently returned from a trip to Dayton and Dorothy Lane Market, and though perhaps the DLM folks could take over Clifton Market if things didn’t work out. It would be a great spot for killer brownies.

I loved all the architecture Clifton had to offer. I was overwhelmed in trying to take it all in and decide on a favorite street or home, given the lush estates on every street.

Of course, nowhere I had seen more political signs than in Clifton. It was dizzying at times. The community had always been known for its activism, perhaps because of so many ties to wealth, industry, the hospitals and the University of Cincinnati.

On August 16, a new neighborhood school serving the neighborhoods of CUF, Clifton, and Spring Grove Village launched its inaugural classes. This was not a magnet school, and the website distinguishes it as a neighborhood school that will occupy the former Clifton Arts Center.

Clifton was named after a local farm. The grounds of many villas along Lafayette were designed by the same person who laid out Spring Grove Cemetery. There’s really so much history and interest to the area that its worth reading more.

Like many of the city’s wealthier neighborhoods, with urban living in demand, Clifton’s cost of living has continued to rise. In all, I walked nine miles around the neighborhood, charmed at every turn. I’ll return to Clifton for many more walks, given its proximity, so I can waltz by sprawling villas and dream.





Stepping Past Our Own Boundaries – Gettin’ My 52 On in West Price Hill

This is my thirty-ninth 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.

I began my walk at the furthest point west where I had walked previously in East Price Hill, near Seton Avenue, and walked along W. Eighth Street. Mentally, I planned to turn on Trenton, but missed my turn and would up on a side street known as Clanora and then onto Delridge.

There, as a moseyed through the streets, I theorized how many neighborhoods were beginning to resemble one another. Not just East and West Price Hill. Some homes along West Price Hill resembled a stretch where I had walked in Oakley. Some of those in an upcoming walk would later remind me of places in the California neighborhood.

I was also coming to grips that West Price Hill was more than just one hill!

On Pedretti, I came across New St. Joseph Cemetery. There were really two St. Joseph Cemetery’s. One old and one new. One section that had been for the Irish Catholics, and one portion for the German Catholics.

As I made my way towards Rapid Run Road, I found this pub with a clever saying and had to go back and snap a photo.

I continued down Rapid Run to Covedale, and in and out of streets I thought I had already traversed. I would eventually cross Overlook three times.

As I turned up Willnet, I found the “Corporation” line that signified the west side of the west side.

I no sooner crossed Rapid Run and circled around Covedale to find myself on Glenway Avenue. One of my first co-workers in Cincinnati talked about Glenway like it was Hollywood Boulevard, that’s how revered it was to him. As Western Hills High School stretched to my left, the Covedale Theatre beckoned from the right.

The theatre offered a myriad of upcoming shows, and quickly I saw flash, “West Price Hill – The sub URBAN experience”. I reflected on the current political state of the nation and city, and thought one didn’t need to travel far to see how two sides could not be further apart in understanding each other. It was not a knock on either, just that they lived very different lives, in very different surroundings.

Of course, I also past the venerable Price Hill Chili, and wondered if I had been misguided and should have attempted 52 chili parlors and not 52 communities.

I trailed behind school buses down Rapid Run Road, toward Rapid Run park (originally called “Lick Run”) with a rolling hills, and then had to make a call. Continue out until Sunset met Queen City Avenue or circle up through what looked to be more residential housing.

Before choosing the latter, I discovered another cemetery, this one a part of the Jewish Cemeteries of Cincinnati. You can read more here about the rich history of Jewish cemeteries in our region.

I’m telling you, the underlying theme of these walks had truly been cemeteries. If I were a comedian, and if I were from Price Hill, and if I thought I wouldn’t offend anyone, surely I would crack a joke about the connection between citizens of West Price Hill and the number of cemeteries the communities boast. But those are all fairly large ifs.

As I rose up Sunset Avenue, I discovered another section of road where the sidewalk had run out. There was another major disconnect from our park system. There should be a requirement that within a radius of one mile of a parks, a sidewalk must be created and maintained. How we can support/advocate for healthy citizens when we don’t even provide the basics for them to walk safely in an area leading to a park?

Somewhat lost at this point, I just kept pushing uphill, knowing I had just descended one. Sure enough, I came upon Seton High School, having overshot the boundaries of West Price Hill.

My final leg back to the car I was met with danger.

As I strolled down the street, confident of having completed another walk, a German Shepherd bounded out in front of me. I halted in my tracks. He raced towards a nearby front porch and barked at the door. He knew where he was, but I didn’t know exactly where I was. I turned in circles, nearly paralyzed. Was I fearful of dogs? Big ones, yes. I imagined having to leap up into a nearby truck bed to save myself from the mauling. I imagining flagging down the next car, hopping into it with a stranger to avoid the other danger.

While my imagination ran wild, my feet walked me backwards slowly, towards the previous intersection. The dog stayed put as I veered down a parallel side street.

My heart still beating, I located my car, parked along W. Eighth Street and hopped inside. It was the first time I had felt scared on these walks. How funny. There had been no danger at all.

The history of West Price Hill is tied up in that of Lower and East Price Hill. Their economic development engine, Price Hill Will, also covers Price Hill at large.

West Price Hill community council is known for putting on the annual Price Hill Thanksgiving Day parade (together with EPH), of which someday, I’ll attend, though I won’t expect balloons.

As a transplant, which helped inspire this project of walking all 52 neighborhoods, I had heard about the eastside – westside debates at my first job in the city. Ironically, I had a job that took me all over the city, so I hadn’t a clue what the debate was actually about. My sister and I were known to drive my parents crazy, by driving them all over the city to new functions or restaurants. My mother would joke, “Isn’t there somewhere nearby?” Laura and I would just laugh, and keep driving.

We make up our own boundaries sometimes, including naming a church St. Teresa of Avila (my mother’s favorite), while only adding male saints in bas relief.

West Price Hill had, for those us who were newer to the city and came to live on the east side, represented those boundaries we made up in our minds.

I have “crossed the borders” many times since my first drive up Elberon into Price Hill area a few years back. Each time, I loved more what the community held on to, family, home, a way of life, not really different from what we all want, but like the incident with the dog, maybe fearful of what could be taken away at a moment’s notice.

Lost and Found – Gettin’ My 52 On in Northside

This is my thirty-eighth 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.

I was lost in Northside.

I could walk my way out of the rain forest, but became befuddled by direction and landmarks of highways and byways in the midst of trying to establish my base in Northside.

Growing up, Lake Erie was always north. If I couldn’t find my way home, I figured out where the lake was, and went from there. The water was my true north.

But after many moves across country and state, I’ve had to use other compasses.

I had parked in Northside, near Visionaries and Voices. I walked only a block until I realized I was in South Cumminsville. So, I turned back around to take a different tack.

I quickly understood the issue was Colerain Avenue started running north and, before I knew it, I was walking west, which wasn’t planned. Strolling past the Weslyan Cemetery, I learned there were veterans of every war who had been buried there. But a more lively account of the cemetery’s history as it related to the city can be found here.

I circled around the area a bit, having been in a rush that morning before leaving. I took a few minutes to settle in and figure out my approach.

Northside was an interesting mix of homes, where I discovered suburbia near midcentury brick, intermingled with Italianate.

I made my way all the way up Kirby Road until I realized I was no longer in Northside, then down Kirby to Innes.

I never saw a set of steps I didn’t like, so I hiked up the hill and found my way to the northern end of Hamilton Avenue and into the Buttercup Valley Preserve. Since my blogging/walking was not about parks, I didn’t wander too far in and retreated south to Pullan.

I returned to familiar surroundings of the school and a dear friend who lives along Fergus Street, though she was probably at work by that time.

I meandered in and around Hamilton Avenue for quite some time. There were simply too many connections in this neighborhood to name them all, but a few cropped up as I traipsed past.

A woman named Janet Kalven, who I met through Women Writing for a Change, once lived at Grailville in Loveland. I used to drive her to writing class in Madisonville. Janet was the most accomplished woman I knew, and she usually started her sentences with “Of course you might know….”, as if not wanting to offend you, if you didn’t already know something. During our commutes, she often bragged about IMG_2709her eventual move to Chase Apartments. Janet died at the age of 99, but she was my first introduction to Northside and its activism.

Recently, another community activist, Maureen Wood, passed away. (This is a great retrospective on her work in Northside). I didn’t know Maureen but I knew Crazy Ladies Bookstore. As members of the board of WWf(a)C Foundation, we purchased the Crazy Ladies building after the bookstore closed to keep the building in the hands of a similar mission. My first task as board member was to clean out what was left of the books. We were encouraged to carry home any of the remainders. And I found, “Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on a Spiritual Quest”, most likely named after Adrienne Rich’s Diving into the Wreck.

And thus, my feminism was born. Or better said, my awareness of my womanism was birthed between those pages, in that building, amongst those friends and writers.

“And now: it is easy to forget/ what I came for/ among so many who have always / lived here
swaying their crenellated fans / between the reefs / and besides / you breathe differently down here.” – Rich.

In another a long line of connections, WordPlay was also doing great work in the literacy and writing world with students and adults. When the non-profit first opened, the organization sold repaired typewriters as a means of fundraising. They still have a few in their window, though I’m not sure they are still for sale. My sister Jeanne and I had an obsession with typewriters (not like Tom Hanks who owns 700). We swapped photos of typewriters whenever we came upon them. From Jeanne, I recently acquired an old electronic model which weighs more than I do.

There is another writerly connection also established in Northside, that of Chase Public, named after the school, which is space for art and community collaborations.

In Northside in the late 1700’s, treaties with Native Americans were established and settlers hunkered down along what was two Indian trials, St Clair’s Trace and Wayne’s Trace, which became Hamilton Avenue and Spring Grove Avenue respectively. While the land prospered for many years, in the late 1960’s, most industry began to depart, leaving vacancies as residents left for newer suburbs.

Nowadays, there’s hardly a street where renovations are not being undertaken. Prices have remained relatively affordable in the wake of rocketing prices closer into the city.  The community’s most persistent problem is that of pedestrian safety. The owner of The Tickle Pickle was recently killed in a car accident and many politicians stepped up efforts to ensure safety for all.

Northside was an easy bike ride from downtown, but if one was returning home, after a beer at the Northside Yacht Club, the ride was not so easy. My husband and I had done it anyhow, working off whatever calories we gained.

As always, by walk’s end, I asked myself, Could I live here? Would I want to? The answer to both questions was yes. Clearly, there were plenty of writerly connections to keep me engaged. While Northside had its share of crime and struggled with the same issues every city community was challenged by, the gathering of business owners, including a friend whose husband owns the Northside Tavern, and residents like my former neighbor, tended to find new ways to work together.

The beauty of Northside was that the neighborhood had all the right elements to define who they wanted to be as a community: Access to UC and Cincinnati State, located near highways and downtown, no single employer dominating the landscape, and no single social service dominating either.

And while I might get a little turned around within the boundaries of the neighborhood, I was never too far from something that would remind me I was clearly in the grips of a community that knew how to laugh.



A Pathway to Neighbors – Gettin’ My 52 On in Winton Hills

This is my thirty-seventh 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.

What is a neighborhood?

This question persisted throughout my walk of Winton Hills. Winton Hills was one of those neighborhoods that I really didn’t know I had been to, way back when.

I started by familiarizing myself with the actual hill part of Winton Road, and chugged my way north, towards North Bend Road.

I was delighted to find newer sidewalks and design-worthy retaining walls. Surely, I was on my way to somewhere. I strolled past the Habegger Corporation, owned by the father of friends of our in our former neighborhood. The owner also happened to be good friends with my in-laws. The connections had begun. I applauded when I came upon a sign, and recalled Aftab Pureval’s election for Clerk of Courts, capitalizing on the Aflac theme.

Those were the sorts of imaginings I amused myself with as I tread uphill. And I just kept going. And going. Still nothing existed on the land along the newer sidewalks, but wildflowers that reminded me of fields behind my childhood home which once belonged to a sanitarium.

Still, uphill. Still nothing. Finally, I turned on North Bend and along Center Hill Avenue. Finally it struck me. I had been here before.

About 180 times before. In the 90’s, I worked for Cap Gemini, which had a contract with P&G at Winton Hill. There were three of us consultants holed up in a windowless room, running Excel spreadsheet macros (I am dating myself) to process data on the Bounty lines. And while we were sequestered, a young woman my age oversaw our work, while attending Seven Habits of Highly Effective People training during my entire duration there. The joke was the one thing that made P&G employees more effective was their employment of consultants.

Later that same day, I would have dinner with a close friend, who informed me one of her closet friends was now working out Winton Hills. I pulled out the photo and she said, “That’s it’. Fem Care.

The road descended, and ironically, I ran out of sidewalk. So, there was a healthy consumer goods industry with no supporting sidewalks, and along a Winton Road with little industry, sidewalks were laid out as far as the eye could see. On the other side of the road from my descent was Seymour Nature Preserve, but I could find no access from where I was.

When I landed at the bottom, I followed Este Street. I was still miles from my car and had yet to cover another three-quarters of the community. My feet were dampened by the morning dew as I stepped in the grass along Este. There was no access to sidewalks, but one could follow a bike lane that ran from the area down to Spring Grove.

In that space, massive industrial structures rose up from the ground for Sun Chemical and Marathon Oil, as well as mounds of garbage in dumps that were now closed. Many workers turned their heads to see this girl trudging through the grass and staring at these modern marvels.

Then, I sidled up along Winton Terrace. Winton Terrace was a CMHA housing property, holding approximately 600 town homes. The development stretched out before me.

While I understand that Winton Terrace was a spot of high crime activity, the people were kind and each one I greeted, greeted me in return.

I pressed on back up Winneste Avenue and came upon Winton Terrace Elementary, Mother of Christ Church, and another CMHA housing area called Findlater, comprised of another 600-plus homes.

First, let me just state for the record, Findlater is a ridiculous name. Second, the neighborhood of Winton Hills was no longer a puzzle to me, but one put together with pieces made up of P&G, industrial holdings, public housing, a few homes along North Bend and on into connecting Spring Grove.

There was a former school being turned into a site for the Reds Urban Youth Academy. (Seems plenty of room for soccer there too, hint FC).

However, there was no town center, no meeting hall other than the Winton Hills Recreation Center. No coffee shop, no one place that felt like the middle, where one could meet and ground oneself in the feel of the community.

I ended my walk by traveling south again on Wineste, then back through Spring Grove Village.

We are doing neighborhoods wrong if Winton Hills is to be called a true neighborhood. Its the same predicament that Avondale (read about my Avondale walk) is currently undergoing, with the Children’s Hospital expansion (and the Zoo), at the expense of homes and people living in them. What obligation does industry, whether for-profit or non-profit, have in ensuring the success of those who live around them?

I have posed, “what is a neighborhood”, in many of my community writing classes, asking participants to write to the theme. But Merriam-Webster said it best.

a. the people living near one anotherb :  a section lived in by neighbors and usually having distinguishing characteristics lived in a quiet neighborhood

Winton Hills does have a Community Council which recently hosted their own summit to bring their community together.

Walking through Findlater Gardens, children were hopping onto school buses. Adults wished them well. Teachers and custodians were rolling in and out of parking lots near the school. And the someone from “the cloth” had just exited the church and drove away.

Life is being lived here. Just think of how much more of one could be lived, if we rethought our neighborhoods. After all, where two or more are gathered….


Apophenia – Gettin’ My 52 On in Over-the-Rhine

This is my thirty-sixth 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.

I never walk in the middle of the day, but rain had subverted my plans, and I didn’t want to experience another setback in my schedule. I also didn’t want to get in a car and drive. So, I walked my own neighborhood. Was that cheating? Maybe.

My city walks first started here. It was in Over-the-Rhine I sought discoveries once beyond my reach. As in the term, apophenia, defined as the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data, here I made my first connections to people, places, and things and have come to rely upon the continuation of making connections to guide me in my days. And it was here that I paid homage to Music Hall, every damn day. I couldn’t help myself.

But where would I start, given how well I knew neighborhood? In the corner, like all the rest.

I walked past Music Hall and stopped for a brief moment along 12th to admire the Ophthalmic Hospital. A few years back, the buildings were undergoing stabilization and had been proposed as a boutique hospital. But, no progress has been made to date. I circled back towards Central Parkway, and found the new Cincinnati Shakespeare Theatre, set to open with a production of a Midsummer’s Night Dream. 

As I ambled along the side of the famed School for Creative and Performing Arts, I took in the whole of the school, which I didn’t often do as I rushed past. I’ve taught community workshops there, as well as enjoyed the artistry of a young neighbor of ours who attends school at SCPA. They have a rich set of arts offerings to rival its neighbors.

And in front of Cincinnati’s housing authority, but along a major thoroughfare, I found this for a bus shelter. A cruddy Metro shelter. We need better solutions for our transportation options.

I made it to the other corner of OTR, along Sycamore, where I took a peek inside the treehouse bar that had a run in the media for turning away patrons without having a posted dress code.

I miss the Diner on Syacmore. The last time I visited, I was with my sister, Beth, her hubby, Mark ,and my friend T. Whatever happened to the white chicken chili? It was the perfect foil to my way too late nights. The auditor file for that address was non-existent when I searched the archives, but that has happened often with our auditor’s work. Occasionally, the diner was used for commercials or commercial ventures, but I would like to know that the chili is coming back.

I continued north to see how efforts were progressing with Ziegler Park and pool. The park recently hosted its grand opening. Due to the afternoon rain, there were few pool patrons, but during my previous pool visits, plenty of neighbors and children were enjoying the surroundings.

Peaslee Neighborhood Center had been a mainstay, serving this neighborhood for many years. I had participated in many community programs here, as advocate and writer.  They did a lot of work with very little fanfare.

I crossed Liberty Street towards some of my favorite alleys and the Teez Café where speculations rains about its original use as a White Castle.

Along Main is an eco- garden where a large-scale Northpointe development project fell through. There was too many objections from the neighborhood. City policy needs to include affordable housing, otherwise, we’re just giving away the farm.FullSizeRender (38).jpg

I continued my walk up Main, past Rothenberg School, down Mulberry and took a little known set of steps back down to Vine. It’s a bit of shady spot, but I’ve been walking those steps for a long, I no longer notice.

I stopped to admire Schwartz Point, a former jazz club, where the owner used to cook the meals on Tuesday nights. I heard the club might come back, but the swale in the roof left me a little concerned. However, there was currently a fundraising project for its restoration.

Along Vine and behind its eastern side, there is a series of alleys that someday will be really cool when they are no longer vacant. But just the intersection of vacancy and alley ways leads to disruption. Even while I snapped photos, there was plenty of activity going that didn’t appear legal. 

Soon, the St. Anthony Center, which will host 6-8 social service organizations will open at the corner of Republic and Liberty. The Center for Respite Care, where my husband serves as a board member, will be one of those services. As part of Impact 100, our organization voted for this project to receive our funds. As I walked past, the contractors wanted to be certain their good work was highlighted.

After walking only a few hundred yards, there was the dichotomy which was so overwhelming.  Vacant buildings to me always signified vacated lives. And the sheer number of vacant buildings that existed in Over-the-Rhine was still astounding, despite how difficult or unaffordable it was to buy a home here.

I had spent a lot of time thinking about our neighborhood. After visiting thirty-five other communities, I could honestly say OTR, more than any other, represented the widest cross-section of what was important to a neighborhood, what made it so hard to live here, what made it so hard to leave. And that cross-section was made up of cultural icons, tourism, hot restaurants, social services, startups, chamber businesses, affordable housing, outrageous housing, and an active and vocal community council.

It’s what made it unique (oh they all are, but how many have a Music Hall & Memorial Hall and three food pantries/free meals within four blocks of each other?) Over-the-Rhine had the tourism dollars because we had the cultural icons. We also had the heroin addicts and panhandlers because we had access to free meals, 7 days / week. We had event spaces that were lightening rods for Lumenocity, CSO, and soon, BLINK, (you will want to learn more) and for activism, from the trial for the murder of Sam Dubose to the Women’s March and every little protest in between.

Those were my thoughts as I kicked up dirt down the alley where no one lived. And that’s where my mind landed. And my photos, too. Because for all the scrutiny that OTR underwent on a daily basis (ok, maybe I take some of it personally), we still had buildings where it was easy to hide out and deal drugs, prostitute, abuse children, sit vacant and allow to crumble because of our historic codes or historic boards not living up to their commitments.

There was really only one-quarter, no, perhaps one-eighth of the neighborhood that the average person who lives or visits Cincinnati really knows.

I continued on towards the end of Race Street, where St. Phillipus church still opens it door. The Bellevue Incline would have run somewhere above. (You can see the plaque along Clifton Ave.)

“In 1890, the incline was rebuilt to accommodate vehicles and streetcars. Unlike Bible-reading English section, Over-the-Rhine’s German burghers like a relaxed Continental Sunday. In the English, everything is quiet, while in the German section, people crowd into beerhalls and coffeehouses on nearby hills…No city in America was more alive on Sunday than Cincinnati.” – Cincinnati Observed, John Clubbe.

The remainder of my walk was through an area that most people didn’t consider Over the Rhine, or should I say didn’t realize was a part of OTR or didn’t even drive through that way to know it was OTR.

North of Findlay Market, one can walk along McMicken and come across a brewery which has had many name changes. Known once as the Felsenbrau (brewed in the cliffs), there were many underground tunnels to explore and its worth checking out the new Brewery Heritage Trail for their tours and eventual trail markers. Then, moving along, there were other breweries and buildings to marvel at in an area technically called the Mohawk District.

My walk concluded at the Mockbee, a former theatre/church, turned into nightclub performance venue. It was on my list, but I could never stay awake long enough to “go out” at ten, but I’m getting there.

Living in the city required all sorts of changes to one’s routine, including how one routinely thinks. Earlier morning walks to beat the traffic and construction noise, eating out through the weekdays/catching the theatre to beat the tourists or crowds. Someday when I am done with my walks, I’ll delve back into some of those topics, but mostly what is required was apophenia, the ability to see connections where before there were none. That had been at the heart of these walks, at the heart of my living here in OTR and what must be at the heart of every debate on every issue.

Elm Street Senior Housing garden, named for Ettore A. Januzzi, the author’s father.


And living in OTR, because I am surrounded and challenged my way of thinking, I really do see things more clearly, and thus issues become murky. I can no longer claim to see things in black and white.