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.

Of Bikers and Vikings – Gettin’ My 52 on in the East End

This is my thirty-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.

Another walk, another one shut down by rain. Argh.

The East End truly was more bike friendly than foot friendly. My husband even suggested, as we drove out to the neighborhood, “We could have biked.” He was right. But there were plenty of places where I couldn’t take my bike to find the interesting nooks and crannies that draw me in.

We began at Lunken Airport, where according to Google, some of East End encompasses that land. We walked partly around the trail and found a hangar which belonged to Proctor and Gamble. The facility resembled something out of a sci-fi novel, especially with all the warnings posted..

According to its master plan, Lunken Airport now occupies the area on which the early settlers built the town of “Columbia”, later to be called “Cincinnati”. Since this area was subject to flooding, the development of Cincinnati moved to higher ground in succeeding decades, while the original site became grain fields. After World War I, a group of ex-army pilots leveled off one of these grain fields,
and built a small barnstorming airport. With the subsequent interest shown in aviation by Charles Lindbergh’s trans-oceanic solo flight, a prominent Cincinnati industrialist, Mr. Edmund H. Lunken, purchased the property… Lunken Airport became one of the first and largest municipal airports in the United States.

We headed south on Wilmer and along what became Kellogg Avenue once more, where alas, there were no sidewalks. Up ahead, the properties along Kellogg consisted mainly of yards for car parts, the Cameo nightclub, and limited access marinas.

Stymied by the traffic, we turned around. Mark loved to veer and he never minded veering off MY path.

Thus, we took a detour into Peddler’s Mall and then continued along Riverside Drive. There, as we traipsed in and out of “No Outlet” streets, we discovered a few lesser-known marinas and The Viking Club. (Gift yourself the extra ten minutes to watch the video!)

The rain was looming and thus we stopped the walk for the day, bought a few ears of corn at the local farmer’s stand near the Lunken Trail, and headed home. I was dejected. It took a lot of energy for me to fit the walks into my schedule and the weather. I became antsy because of my internal goals.

Three days later, I returned to the East End by 6:30 a.m. It was a gorgeous day to stroll along the river and every chance I had, I followed a “no outlet” sign to cozy up to the water’s edge along Riverside Drive.

Plenty of construction was happening now in the East End. It was hard to believe no one had developed along the tracks or river sooner.

As I passed the Water Works, I discovered tile insets that I had never seen from my car or bike. I circled around the backside of old churches (St. Rose) and the Ohio River Trail (see map. I love the Cleveland reference).

The main small business center of the neighborhood started near Columbia- Tusculum  about where Eastern and Kellogg split off at Delta. Eastern was a quiet walk. (Kellogg was filled with light industrial centers.) The Hi-water mark will soon be bar, brought to you by the famous Eli’s BBQ of the East End, and Pho Lang Thang.

I found the Irish Cultural Center on the site of an old school. (I’ve yet to find an Italian one), a few breweries, and a candle shop where Shannon and her friend had just purchased candles via this store’s setup at City Flea. See? Connections.

As I dropped back down to Kellogg and circled back along Riverside Drive, I traipsed in and out of cutouts in the river’s course.

Then I found Hoff Avenue, thanks to a deer. A deer had bounded down the hill where steps ran alongside. I watched him for a while, as he contemplated crossing the busy street and I contemplated him. He took back up the hill (not the steps). I followed him and crossed a set of tracks that led to Hoff Avenue. There were maybe eight homes along the stretch, but plenty of vacant land. The views were just fine and so were the breezes. I’m sure this area would be developed soon, but could not find information after a cursory glance on the internet. For now, the signs were pretty clear. No trespassing. And a sign I could not see read either GUARD DOG or a BAD DOG. I could only make out the last “D” and then “Dog”. I went with the former, since I didn’t want to experience what a bad dog might do to my legs.

Once west of Collins, more shoring up of land along the tracks to prevents slides was occurring.

The East End council is currently at work, designating the area “that spans from Schmidt Field to Delta Avenue in the east-west direction and from Riverside Dr. to the Ohio River in the north-south direction” the East End Garden District. Districts are the next hot button for neighborhoods. There are few in OTR, the Gateway, the Brewery, and within the brewery, Findlay Market is at work on their own. I suppose its easier to gain funding or develop projects when a community can create landmark areas, but for now, I was not completely convinced of the need to further segment.

The East End has a healthy LeBlond Recreation Center,  Riverview East Academy, a K-12 CPS School of Choice (magnet), which sits on stilts (still waiting on an explanation for building a newer school in a flood plan) and is also home to the famous Verdin Bell companies sites.

FullSizeRender_3After walking nine miles in total, I would bike the next time I was in the East End. It was the most efficient means to see and travel across the community. It’s a great ride from downtown to the airport and eventual connection to other trails. And I might even remember to bring money to stop at Fuel – a cars and coffee shop.

Driving along Riverside and taking in the river’s course was the closest I could come to long jaunts along Lake Erie, eating banana soft-serve from Dairy Isle in the back of Dad’s wagon. I’m still in search of the soft-serve in the East End.

Mansions & Babies – Gettin’ My 52 On in N. Avondale

This is the thirty-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.

I’d begun my walks in corners. SW, NE. Somewhere that signified a location where I could drop a pin on Google maps and remember where I parked my car. However, the strategy didn’t always work if I was in the opposite corner when rains came.

I parked along Reading Road, and hiked down Glenwood Avenue. There were ghosts of homes along the road that gave me a preview of what was to come. Soon enough, I strolled along Victory Parkway, thankfully on the shady side. The humidity was stifling, and I was tempting Mother Nature with my walk. The skies were painted a fuzzy yellow grey. It was only a matter of time before the deluge would descend.

Rain and heat and early, early mornings had been theme for the “summer I walked the city”, which is how I will remember it.

As I walked up Winding Way, I was reminded of my son’s frequent attendance at basketball camps (the scent of young sweat). Then my mouth fell open.

Massive mansions of glory were before me.

I thought, “I’ll have to find Marion Hall.” Friends of ours from Over-the-Rhine had renovated that mansion. On several occasions, we had been guests on to their historic mansion. As I pondered this point, I spotted a young man pushing a baby jogger. It was our friend, Ryan Messer! And, as an added bonus, with baby Lillian. Yes, the proud owners of Marion Hall.

“Hey what you are doing the suburbs?” Ryan joked.

I shared with him news about my project.

“That’s a pretty good idea. I could do that for the school board, something like running with / for kids.”

“You’re welcome to use it.”

Mark and I had first met Ryan and his spouse, Jimmy, one night at Zula. They were seated next to us at the pizza bar. One of them say something about living on 14th, and soon enough we were in conversation about our future home. Through Ryan, Jimmy and our streetcar and city advocacy, we had met many great citizens who Believe in Cincinnati, the name of the grass-roots organization advocating for continuation of the streetcar construction. We all saw something more in the city, hence these walks.

Ryan chugged up the hill with his baby jogger. And me, I just trudged wondering what was ahead of me.

Looking down at my phone to “watch” the weather, I crossed paths with another woman on the street, walking up to her home.

“Better get out early,” she warned, not knowing how frequent I had been checking the weather.

“Don’t I know it.”

We then conversed for five minutes about allergies and using Afrin nasal spray. Not kidding. Those were my mornings.

Marion Hall

I continued up Avondale Avenue, along Dakota, and found my way to Marion Hall.

IMG_2556Then, I pointed my feet towards Reading and the second half of my walk.

The skies were still a sunny grey, or a canvas gold. It was hard to tell at that point. I crossed over near the Belvedere. I will let Cincinnati Refined share more about the gorgeous building, which seemed like it came out straight out of New York City.

From there, I caught another glimpse into the past. But I knew how to tell when a storm was coming, the product of a mother watched baseball games and someone who lived to watch the skies along the Oregon coast.

Sure enough, the first sprinkle dripped on me. As I broke into a jaunt, the plop, plop became an all out drenching. I still had a mile to run before reaching my car. Without looking at the Google pin drop, I found my destination.

I sat in my car and laughed for while, wondering why the heck I was putting myself through theses tortuous mornings of finding the weather, finding my way, and finding myself. I did not arrive at an answer.

The next morning, Mark and I were scheduled to attend a brunch with our visiting niece. Mark had been on the call the night before, but he agreed to walk with me, knowing our time was limited. I picked him up at the hospital, and drove back to a familiar spot. The Belvedere.

There was no less humidity that day, but the threat of rain had dissipated some.

We picked up where I left off, with mouth gaping over the sheer wealth that had once occupied this neighborhood. And it wasn’t so much the size of the homes but the scope of the effort involved to care for the homes without hiring help on a daily basis. No one person could do that all.

We circled around a few areas, each home as spectacular and unique as the next, until we neared the Avon cemetery and Avon Fields Golf Course. We stepped a few feet into St. Bernard (not in the city and here’s why).

Then found our way to Wess Park and along a charming gaslight district. Had we turned west on Clinton Springs, we would have come across the Clinton Hills Swim Club. Friends of mine from Clifton, Avondale and Walnut Hills spoke highly of the pool community, so I will have to find out myself on some other walk.

We continued uphill on Clinton Springs until we met with Reading once more. Mark was still lugging his backpack, not wanting to leave it in the car. Despite the sweat, we still had a few miles to go, walking south on Reading and in and out of streets, like the one named after Fred Shutttleworth, a civil rights activist who spent many years in Cincinnati, while also fighting for rights in Birmingham.

The community has an active community council and a recreation center.

The area was settled by an influx of Jews in the late 1800’s. According to WPA Guide to Cincinnati, Reform Jews settled to the north of the suburb and the Orthodox Jews to the south. The grocery store magnate, B H Kroger, lived at 3863 Reading Road. And the Herschede Home (below) is at 3886 Reading Road.

The First German Protestant Cemetery was located where a parking lot was today. But read this fun research of what happened to the cemetery. Apparently, no one liked cholera in their ground soil.

North Avondale, like its southern sister, has plenty to teach us about wealth, diversity and maintaining a balance. (Read Casey Coston’s Soapbox blog here).Still, several worthy historic homes sat vacant, and I wondered if and when Cincinnati would have enough commerce for buyers to bring these back. At the end of Chalfonte Place, I discovered this overgrown property that was purchased in 2011.

The summer was wearing on me. I scanned my list of communities yet to walk and counted up the weeks until the election. That had been my goal. To walk all 52 within a year’s timeframe. Given Cincinnati summers, southern Ohio rains, and four kids living in four states, the odds of me making my goal were lower than I expected, when I first made my calculations months ago.

But I tarried on. The task was not exhaustive knowledge and there was no blue ribbon for finishing. Also there was no money. I did tabulate that if I walked all 52 and if each one took me approximately three hours to drive to, walk, photograph, then another two hours to blog, that would total 5 hours x 52 = 260 X $25-$50 / hour. My earnings would be $6,500.00 – $13,000.00. Perhaps I should have had the foresight find sponsorship, like Totes, or Coppertone, or Nike. Instead, I will have my blog as record and a little bit of wisdom as reward.

More Than Records and Chili – Gettin’ My 52 On in Pleasant Ridge

This is the thirty-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.

I rose that morning at 5 a.m. However, I felt foolish leaving for a walk that early even if I was trying to beat the heat.

However, I did arrive in Pleasant Ridge before 6:30 a.m. and pondered where to park. Meters started ticking at seven. I had been to Pleasant Perk (showing my age), now The Coffee Exchange. That lot would be perfect. I could end there with a bathroom stop and coffee jolt.

I walked north on Montgomery Road to Kincaid and around a few cul-de-sacs in that area. If sidewalks that went nowhere were the bane of my existence, the cul-de-sacs came in a close second. I hated the lack of connections that cul-de-sacs implied (we called them circles in our day).

Several times, I hit a circle and rotated around. I walked Beredith to Ridge and through a few other side streets to get to Losantiville, staying mostly in the shade before the sun had risen high enough to beat down on me.

I began to grow ansty with only homes to gaze and gawk at. This was a true bedroom community where plenty of neighbors were on the streets, running, or walking. I had the feeling I was in Hyde Park or Oakley due to the proliferation of baby joggers and runners. But I knew there was more to the community than just its homes.

I was forced to circle around Losantiville Country Club and the shady stretch gave me time to reflect on missing Davis this summer. His mornings had always started when ours did, when he worked at Hyde Park CC.

The Losantiville course was not in Pleasant Ridge, but that path helped move me to my next spot along Langdom Farm Road to Montgomery Road. I passed the Bi-Okoto center, which hosts an African dance company that performs in 48 states, and was reminded of the good work they have done.  Finally, I found Cypress Way and turned back towards the center of town.

I cut through Lawndale to Mapleleaf and partway down Lester until I understood how far out of the way that might take me. I hiked up Ridge to Woodford and recognized Robinson from my previous walk of Kennedy Heights.

I thought, “I’ll just take that back to Montgomery Road,” which just happened to be nearing mile 7 of my trek, in 90 degree temperatures all uphill. I wasn’t sure when exactly I had been trekking downhill, but my last two miles had been all up.

Finally, I coasted back down Montgomery and moseyed around the central business district.

Over the years, I had visited Everybody’s Records plenty of times (maybe even a few Sinatra albums). And who hadn’t been to Pleasant Ridge chili on a late night stop towards home. I approached the sign for Emanu, an image of Kristi King and I came to mind. She and I had dined at Emanu with our husbands years ago. Sadly, the restaurant had closed down in the spring. Had I known, Kristi and I would have shared one last “injera”. 

Dining in Ethiopia is characterized by the ritual of breaking “injera” and sharing food on a common plate, signifying the bonds of loyalty and friendship. Injera is a flat bread made of teff, a fine grain unique to Ethiopia. The traditional way of eating is with your hands. Injera is placed on a common plate and topped with a variety of meat and vegetable dishes. A small portion of injera is torn off and wrapped around a mouthful of the selected dish. – Emanu website.

About five years ago, I had stopped by Pleasant Perk after a meeting at WWf(a)C in Silverton. Mark and I had yet to move to Over-the-Rhine, but had already secured a contract on our home. Back then, the coffee shop displayed photography by local artists on their walls. As I waited for my double, skinny something, a swath of pink in a photo of caught my eye. Moss green paint covered the brick of an Italianate-style home and a piece of plywood, painted pink, covered the actual door of the home.

My home. The one we had yet to inhabit.

Upon closer inspection, I knew the name of photographer. Sue Wilke was a writing sister of mine.

I bubbled with enthusiasm, as I told my story to the coffee clerk, who remained unimpressed. I was reluctant to purchase the photo, as it had artistic merit. Certainly someone else could enjoy the view of which we already had plenty of photos.

After I left, I contacted Sue. She offered that, when I moved, she would gift me that photo. And Sue kept true to our word. She came for coffee and talk, and delivered the photograph which is displayed prominently on one of the few walls in our kitchen.

As any writer might appreciate, Pleasant Ridge was named by readback line. A gentleman named Sam was traveling with John Brewster to bury his wife and child. Sam said, “Here is a pleasant ridge.” Thus, the name.

Around the turn of the century, many residents commuted to Cincinnati by the CL & N railroad on the Highland Route, via one of four stops. The ridge had also been home to nursery and seed houses, and blacksmiths.

Pleasant Ridge now supports a few well-known restaurants and bars, Molly Malone’s, the new Casa Figeroa, Grand Central Deli, Nine Giant brewery and the kitschy in an ironic way, Overlook Lodge. The growth in the business district, mainly food and drink, may be directly attributed to Pleasant Ridge community awarded one of the first community entertainment district designations.

Finally, who could forget this touching story about the local shoe repair shop. They too were not open yet that morning. If they had been, surely I would have stepped inside and been taken back to the time of my grandfather and father’s days, when folks brought their #lostsoles for repair and and entire aisle of Januzzi’s Shoes smelled like glue.

The neighborhood has an active community council and recently celebrated Ridge Days with their annual parade, where plenty of politicians showed up to beat their drums and wave their banners. Based on the yard signs, The Ridge will be a key neighborhood in upcoming elections. After that, Pleasant Ridge can return to being, well, as pleasant as it sounds.

The heat that day could have had me beat, but I returned to the coffee shop, lacking now in local photography, but still had use of the bathroom, a sense of community and lavender lemon soda to quench my thirst for the ride back home. Its too bad I couldn’t have the chili since they didn’t open til 9 a.m. which should tell you what you need to know about Pleasant Ridge.

IMG_2225Pleasant Ridge had walkability, proximity, access to parks and recreation and restaurants and the renowned Pleasant Ridge Montesorri school. For a moment, its main street appeal, drew me back in time. Then, as I drove back to the city proper, the radio offered the news and I was immediately reminded of the present issues at hand.

* Addendum: Share Cheese bar just opened this week in Pleasant Ridge. Read more about this incredible story.

Educating Myself – Gettin’ My 52 On in Evanston

This is the thirty-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.

I walked Evanston because I could easily drive to XU. XU had been the site of my son’s first love affair with college basketball. A young neighbor of ours in Loveland had volunteered as XU’s ball boy, and after Davis’ father died, lots of neighbors pitched in to take Davis to games I didn’t have the heart to go.

I started my walk in the southwest corner of Evanston along Victory Parkway. Passing by the Walnut Hills cemetery, I was alarmed by the number of of graveyards I had “frequented” in the past three neighborhoods. Luckily, I had been walking at dawn! I passed the former Hoffman school. Later, I would walk around its backside and learn more.

I tread along the long winding greenway of Victory Parkway, with a quick exit to Walnut Hills High School. I had honestly never been to Walnut hills, not for a day, until one of my new neighbors in OTR asked me to pick up her daughter. It was an impressive campus. I would have loved access to a school like that, but without the pressure.

Crossing Dana, I hit the boundaries of Xavier. There was nothing I hated more, hated, than a sidewalk that ended along university property, but alas, it did.

Then the walkway began again along the backside of the campus where the operations department operated.

However constrained Xavier was by their surroundings, the school was attempting to create more green, green space around the campus.

Despite the killer heat, I moved on. Walking Dana, I contemplated how long I really wanted to endure that day. I had, in my sight, a pedestrian bridge over I-71. I had always noticed the bridge from the highway, but never knew where it originated from or led.

So, I moseyed towards the Red Cross Center,  located near the site of a former pool. It was now a recreation area supported by the Bengals through their Hometown Huddle efforts. I would love to see more support by those athletes who make millions. Our recreation centers and pools needed sustainable funds. Every summer, the city always tried to play catch up.

After getting caught in the tangle of security gates around the Red Cross Center, I did find the origin of the pedestrian bridge and followed it like a rainbow.

Traffic that morning snarled. One of these days, I planned to stand near a city center highway exit with a sign that read, “If you lived here, you’d still be sleeping.”

On the other side of I-71, Evanston’s homes were charming. Smaller homes led towards the backside of East Walnut Hills. A mix of historic and well-maintained home ran along Fairfax Avenue as I marched back towards where I thought I left my car.

I soon realized I had cut off a portion of the neighborhood and circled back around Hackberry near several cemeteries. Calvary Cemetery and the Jewish Cemetery. Again, the cemeteries.

One observation I made as of late. Many neighborhoods did not have “for sale” signs in yards. So, I assumed homes were either under auction, in a land bank or moving fast in some of the inner-ring neighborhoods.

An older couple sat on their front porch as I slowly ended my walk. I loved front porches, and had they asked me to sit, I would have jumped at the chance to plop down and join in.

“Hey girl,” the woman called out.

“Hey, good morning.”

“You gonna beat that heat today?”

“Trying.”  I was nearing the end of my walk, so I was clipped on my conversation.

“You gotta take me with you next time?”

Her question made me pause and laugh. Sometimes, the walks had felt like a chore. In particular as I trudged through searing heat or blinding rain.

I wish I had accumulated names of the many faces I had met or chatted with. But on another level, I loved the aspect of possibly meeting again, of me possibly treading on these same walks.

I turned down Woodward and came upon a baseball field where I experienced a not so deja vu. When Davis played baseball, he had coach who had developed a relationship with other coaches with teams nearer to the city center. I knew that field. Hoffman Field. There is no way for me to explain its familiarity other than the orientation of the field and the street conspired to bring back fond memories. As it happened, the field was undergoing repair, in preparation for a big weekend in Evanston.

In two days time, I would read more about the good work in Evanston, around Hoffman park and playground, including a zip line at the Evanston Recreation Center.  It’s a good thing I hadn’t known more then. I might have stayed there to play all day.

Evanston called themselves The Educating Community. They too were getting on the bandwagon of mottos for who they wanted to be, how they wanted outsiders to experience their community. With XU, Walnut Hills, Academy of World Languages, Alliance Academy and Evanston Academy, the moniker was hard to argue.

In 1893, Evanston was incorporated and named after the suburb in Chicago. As an eventual bedroom community, their tax base was faltering and therefore annexation by the city was attractive. In the 1950’s the neighborhood was divided into the black side and white side. According to the community council website, when a black preacher moved to the white side, the community turned as whole and become 95% African American.

And when the interstate cut through the business center, that action effectively removed all remaining aspects of Evanston’s business district.

Currently, the community was implementing a ten-year plan (2013-2023), which I applaud and they probably got some support from a few education neighbors who were very good at urban planning.

In the past, I had considered Evanston one of those nondescript neighborhoods. But the surrounds came to life via my footsteps, my interactions and news of the playground. It was no longer comprised of just sidewalks that ended in the shadows of the university. It was community that shone on it own.

Cultivating Friends & Flowers – Gettin’ My 52 On in Avondale


This is the thirty-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.

FullSizeRenderThe rains the past week were messing with my non-schedule of 52 walks. I stayed closer to home for the sake of time and tempests and drove to Avondale, beginning in the southeast corner of the neighborhood at Burnett Ave. and Taft.

FullSizeRender_2IMG_1982Walking along Burnett, a pedestrian is aware of the medical complexes, hospitals and social services that accompanied one along the sidewalk. A business district that once existed had been eradicated after the riots in the 60’s. (Cincinnati has a long history of rioting). I was also becoming mindful of the sprawl created by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, named number three in the country, and their planned expansion. A larger Ronald McDonald House. More research. More buildings. More parking. More cars. Less neighborhood.

FullSizeRenderThe Cincinnati Herald was housed inside a secondary Children’s Hospital building. Founded in 1955, the African-American newspaper was published every Wednesday and partly owned by Eric Kearney, a former Ohio state senator.IMG_1984

As I approached Rockdale, I saw signs of new townhomes and renovated historic buildings, as well as the Rockdale Academy. I would learn later that this FullSizeRender_1area too was in the sights of the Children’s expansion.

Turning along Erckenbrecher Street, many historic homes had already lost the battle to the hospital giant. As an average bystander, I felt overwhelmed by the takeover and sense of vacancy and depravation.FullSizeRender_2

You can read more about this contentious, yet oddly supported by city council, issue. According to the Avondale community council president, Children’s has purchased over 100 homes in the past years to create their, well, footprint.

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 11.37.53 AMWhat does the cost benefit analysis say about the long-term health of a community versus the long-term health of patients coming in from out of town, state, country?

FullSizeRender_1As I approached the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, a distinct odor filled the air. That of animal stink, emanating from the zoo. The zoo’s growth too had happened at the cost of the neighborhood.

FullSizeRenderI walked down Vine, to Erhman and circled around Forest, and back up Vine. I didn’t often get turned around, but in Avondale I did.

As I pushed my legs up the Vine Street hill, I noticed an older gentleman sitting on his second-story porch. He lived in a home with the garage below street level.

“Morning.”

“Morning,” he said and waved me back. “You walking around here?

I was forced to explain my presence, on a near rainy morning.

“How many you done?”

“31.”

“Then you got 21 to go.” I didn’t need his help in the math department, but at least he knew how many neighborhoods were in Cincinnati. “I’m hoping for more for encouragement and less math,” I joked back.

We had a short exchange about his growing up in Georgia and me in northern Ohio.

“So why you doing this?”

“To keep my mind young. How old are you?”

“89,” he proudly shared.

“Wow. What’s your secret?”

“Staying away from stupidity and prejudice.”

The gentlemen spoke at great length on the two subjects. On the latter, he referenced a Christian upbringing several times. “You Christian?”

“Yes.”

“Then you know, the church where you go, that’s not really the church. You the church. You out here, walking these streets, talking to this old man. That’s the church.”

I felt blessed that morning, and, in the back of mind, also wondered how many more miles I still had to walk to get to my car before the rain.

“You live alone?” Oops, I didn’t want him to think I was some random stalker.

“No. got my wife whose 78.”

“Oh, so that’s you’re secret to staying young.”

He just smiled, his white teeth brightening the gray mouse morning. “You ever come back, you knock on my door and I’ll introduce you.”

“Deal.”

FullSizeRender_2I ventured back towards Reading Road and encountered what felt like entire blocks boarded up, waiting to be swallowed by the whale.

That seemed to be the theme, other than the portion of the neighborhood where Calvin lived. I wondered how many homes would be left once the zoo and Children’s ate up all the lots.

The new Martin Luther King intersection certainly will add to that process as well as to commerce along Reading, if it hasn’t already done so.

I continued my march down Reading, conscious of the skies while passing in and out of side streets, past the American Cancer Association Lodge, the former Vernon Manor, once considered “the” place to stay for musicians including Bob Dylan, and a few miscellaneous buildings now relegated to time served.

The Cincinnati Civic Garden Center was located at the intersection of Taft and Reading. To the hundreds of passengers in car that drive past each day, the center may only be a grove of trees.

But to a questing pedestrian, it was a wanderland of plants and flowers and secret paths and good work in the community. As I moseyed along the paths, I rapped at the window of a woman working in a nearby office.

It was Karen Kahle, the center’s marketing and development director, and Findlay Market friend.

I sat with Karen for a while, procrastinating from the now certain rain, and we chatted about broad range of personal and professional topics. While the civic garden was known to more of insiders, with Karen helping its transformation, I am certain more citizens will become enthusiastic guests of the lush gardens and trails.

Before I left, Karen wished me luck and pointed me in the direction of the elm couch. Every one needs an elm couch.

I ran through the garden and rain that day exuberant, re-energized from a walk that had emotionally worn me down. People had less and less of a voice regarding their communities and I wasn’t sure what the solution was.

Dancing in the rain amidst the flowers was certainly a start. Perhaps Calvin could join me next time. After all, this, every last inch of the sidewalk, every last breath, was my church.

Hangin’ with the Ancestors – Gettin’ My 52 on in Spring Grove Village

* This is the thirtieth 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.

My father would have loved Spring Grove Village. He lived for driving around to seek out plant and flower nurseries. On Sundays, he was sent forth by Mom to find just the right shade salmon in geraniums. On my walk around Spring Grove Village, I discovered a stretch of three greenhouses, each a reminder of my father.

But before I reached that row, I had to pass through the cemetery. That one. The famous one. Spring Grove Cemetery. Where every goes to be buried. Or, at least, every one did.

Two years ago, I purchased a Segway tour through Spring Grove Cemetery for Mark on Father’s Day.  After many minutes of stops and starts and turns (I truly thought they would kick me off the tour), we were wheeling past the graves of Krogers and Schmidlapps and Corbetts. A veritable Who’s Who in last century. As we whizzed down a short hill, I suddenly pulled off to the side, despite being coached not to.

And there, in plain sight, were the headstones for the Mueller family. Our Mueller family. The one who had built our home at 1419 Race Street and occupied it in various forms over the next 40 years.

If a person was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, one can easily research the name to find the location. That evening, following our ride, I went home to do just that. I discovered Vater Mueller died of a “paralytic stroke”. Mutter Mueller, “fattening of the heart”. Of their six children, four were buried at Spring Grove. Oscar died of a “homicide-gunshot”. Charles, Jr., “suicide gun shot”, Alma, “suicide. William, “St. Vitus Dance” or “chorea” – a disorder characterized by jerky movements.

I had no need to read more about the Muellers. I had learned enough.

I cut through to the back or north gate of the cemetery which led onto Gray Road, and walked along a very sketchy sidewalk, more a worn-path, leading to three greenhouses, A.J. Rahn, Osterbrock and Funke’s.

Since the late 1800’s, the area had been known as Wooden Shoe Hollow and was home to 19 family-run operations which produced vegetables sold at local markets.

I turned back around and crossed over Winton Road. The Winton Place Public School building was now Winton Preparatory Academy, a public charter school. (Readers can learn more about the public schools in Hamilton County that were closed and sold).

IMG_1890I had read that churches of 15 denominations were located within Spring Grove Village. I found four, but I hadn’t tried too hard. The corner at Epworth also included Harmony Lodge, available for rent, which once operated as the town hall.

The actual village area was a quiet, residential quarter section of the neighborhood. There had been more traffic running through the cemetery than through the neighborhood. But the community sprouted a civic garden space, a recreation center and a pool.

Later, I found myself walking along a more industrial quarter as well, until I approached the intersection of Spring Grove Avenue and Mitchell. On the northwest corner, at the intersection of Superior Honda, a horse racing and amusement park, Chester Park, once existed.

Spring Grove Village was formerly known as Mill Creek Township and Spring Grove, as well as Winton Terrace. Several homes were designed by Samuel Hannaford though I hadn’t researched well enough in advance to find them.

Taft Ale House is developing a new tap room nearby, and Salway Park (part of the Cincinnati Recreation Center), across from the Spring Grove entrance, supports the Mill Creek Greenway bike trail which one can take all the way back to the river, while also stopping at the Old Timber Inn for “fish rolls and rubens”.

Spring Grove has benefitted from the greenway and its proximity to the burgeoning Northside neighborhood.

With access to a large Kroger’s and the highway (though there is the Brent Spence backup), its an easily approachable area where I can occasionally bike ride, find a muse for my morning finds or commune with the ancestors to see what kind of progress Cincinnati has actually made.IMG_1903

The week after I walked Spring Grove, I noticed the color in my potted plants had waned. Instead of following my usual path towards a garden center near my mother’s home, I went back to Spring Grove and bought plants from all three nurseries. I had my “52” walks and my father to credit, for opening my mind to color and logging the mileage to do so.

 

 

 

 

Echoes of the Future – Gettin’ My 52 On in East Price Hill

* This is the twenty-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.

Part One

The day after Fourth of July started as overcast. I drove across W. Eighth Street and parked my car at Mt. Echo Park. This was not my first visit to the 73-acre park, but certainly only my third or fourth. Early on, after our move to the city, I had driven our son, Davis, to the lookout, to show off my findings. Later, when I needed to think, I drove to this park.

I had been awestruck by the perspective from there. For so long, everyone raved about the view from Mt. Adams or Eden Park, or across the river, or on top of some new hotel bar. But Mt. Echo was in the category of “best kept secret”, or at perhaps one west-siders liked to keep themselves.

Late day, 2015.
Sunrise, 2016.

Lucky for me, I had experienced the inherent beauty of the park several times and was not disturbed by sidewalks strewn with red paper as cast offs from fireworks. In fact, the tattered papers littered the entire city, as I would witness later that day. But if that was how Americans exhibited gratitude for freedom, then maybe American’s needed a new definition of freedom.

A woman cleaning up the debris exited the woman’s bathroom.

“Sorry you have to do this.”

She looked at me and said nothing at first.

“But thank you.” An old manager’s adage hit me. “Never ask someone to do a job you wouldn’t want to do yourself.”

She nodded. “At least I got a job.”

I cringed. I hoped Cincinnati Parks ensured that effort was a minor, minor part of her job.

The park overlooked a less-inhabited part of the Ohio River, where there were less barges and gravel pits, and more green space across the water’s span.

From the park, I walked up Elberon and turned left on W. Eighth (the same one that ran into the side of Lower Price Hill, stopped temporarily and picked back up at the top of the hill).

I had once joined a writing circle with my Starfire mentee at Imago Nature Center. The street and a few surrounding ones now comprised of an entire district and had become Enright Eco-village. Many homes, complete with rooster crowing, lined several No Outlet streets prior to my approach to St. Joseph’s cemetery.

The Enright Ecovillage had 80 buildings with 90 households and acted as “an intentional community leading urban revitalization and sustainability.”

Imago boasted of 36 acres of protected urban forest, 16 as an open preserve. They prided themselves on their ability to help the land, as well as a few souls, heal.

St. Joseph Cemetery was founded in 1843 and was formerly known as the German Catholic Cemetery Society. In the 1940’s, 85,000 internments had already been made.

I turned up Rosemont to St. Lawrence and through to Glenway, waving at the occasional porch sitter, until I hit Warsaw. Again, I was fascinated by the view from the sidewalk. I had driven down Warsaw many times, but usually with sights set on a traffic light or a next turn, and not the actual streetscape itself.

There, I found a Kroger, a yet-to-be finished Artworks project, and the Elder and Seton High Schools. The Moeller alum at home will want to know that I walked to the Pit, well, as far as they would let an outsider venture.

I understood the mystique a little better. Also, they would never let slip that Elder began as a co-ed school and operated that way for its first five years. Seton High School, founded in 1857, was nearby, but I couldn’t get too close, as much of the area was under construction. That high school was begun in 1927 following the separation of genders from Elder.

Along Glenway to Warsaw, I passed by St. Lawrence Church and spotted the St. Lawrence Bakery.

As I entered, my eyes first landed on the cinnamon danish and traveled over to the crème horns.

“Do you know, I’ve worked here 11 years, and never had one,” the clerk confessed.

“Wow, you’re either lucky or smart.”

“Just don’t have a sweet tooth.” She grinned.

“Well, if I hadn’t just walked five miles, I would definitely order one. My step-grandmother made these all the time. It was one of the reasons I looked forward to her visits.”

I said my goodbyes and ambled around the bandstand of an armed forces park with waterfall, proceeded past the historical society and back down Elberon.

I was tired. The Danish and humidity had weighed me down more than I had expected. I would have to carve my walk into two parts. I trudged back to my car via a lower road leading back near the park. Yes, East Price Hill had a lower East Price Hill.

Part Two.

That afternoon, I told Shannon and Mark I needed to finish my walk around East Price Hill. The area wouldn’t take long to cover, so I suggested dinner or drinks afterwards.

That day might be the first time I ended a walk early because of a bakery and completed a walk with a beer or wine. We parked near the Incline Public House and marched along Maryland Ave., the site of a former “toll road” because many carriages stopped there. There was also once a tree, Dead Man’s Tree, where funeral corteges rested in the shade.

East Price Hill houses the surrounding neighborhoods’ recreation center, pool and playground, as well as a library.

Around the corner and across the street was an old firehouse turned music center for the renowned MyCincinnati,

MYCincinnati’s mission is to use ensemble-based instrumental music as a tool for youth development and community engagement by providing urban children with access to free, intense, high-quality music education.

We circled Warsaw to Elberon and turned back into the nearby streets, passing by
The Holy Family compound. The former pastor of Holy Family spent months traveling Europe for the Byzantine design ideas for Holy Family (convenient, right?) Holy Family had been an off-shoot of St. Lawrence Church and in 1884, had been the first Roman Catholic church to do so. The school was the once the site of Library Hall, which acted as an “opry” house and assembly for all of Price Hill.

A quick search on the county auditor’s website revealed that 31 properties in and around EPH were owned by Price Hill Will. The development corporation was assisting the neighborhood in its comeback. And the community, whose property values were beginning to rise, was quiet with a mix of newly renovated and maybe never going to be renovated, but displaying a lawn jockey on their front lawn, kind of mix.

We ended our walk at the Incline House, site of the origin of the old Price Hill Incline. The first one was completed in 1874. It is said there existed one day when 30,000 passengers took the incline up the hill, to enjoy the view and imbibe, though William Price, the founder of Price Hill, was anti-liquor and thus the hill was once called Buttermilk Mountain. Hmmm….

We had recently celebrated Mark’s birthday at Primavista and wanted them to work harder to match their menu to the view. But nowadays, Primavista was not the only restaurant in town. Patrons could also enjoy the Incline Public House, Somm Wine Bar, where we met our friends who had recently moved to EPH and noted all the efforts and challenges to bringing three Prices together, which was as hard as bringing three Januzzi’s together. The Veracruz Mexican Grill was expanding and a waffle place would soon join the ranks.

This was a neighborhood with actual squares, real centers of community engagement. According to friends, EPH is gathering with neighbors in LPH and WPH to focus on defining what makes the communities unique and how to stay that way.

When I completed my walk, I went back to my map full of markings and divisions. East Price Hill appeared as a large quilt with squares comprised of distinct districts, sewn together by history and tradition, soaring views and, lucky for the neighbors, crème horns.FullSizeRender (28)

Growing the Soul – Gettin’ My 52 On in Madisonville

* This is the twenty-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.

Logistics determined my walk the day I trekked around Madisonville. I was cramming in tasks before leaving for the weekend. One task included a visit to see Mom, who lived in Kenwood. There were only a few communities I hadn’t walked nearby, so I chose Madisonville. Madisonville had been featured recently as a city neighborhood in the process of branding itself Soul of the City. In a metropolis branded by branding companies, that, of course, made sense.

I parked my car at the intersection of Oaklawn and Madison, an intersection I had known well for over six years. Madisonville was the neighborhood I first called “home” as a writer. The building formerly belonged to the Ironworkers Union, and in the late 90’s, Mary Pierce Brosmer had located Women Writing for (a) Change upstairs from the “Men Working” sign where someone had added the “Wo”.

women_working
Not the original, but close enough.

Every Monday night, I drove Madison Road, to sit in a circle of women who loved words and the world, and found a way to cherish both in the cramped confines of the upstairs space.

I turned north on Madison Road, passing the Children’s Home of Cincinnati, which had a long history or serving Cincinnati’s children and their families. I stared out across the street. The newly-developed site held so many memories for me. Devin and I used to come to the Oakley Drive-in all the time. My mother’s first Cincinnati gerontologist, before we switched to the house doctor, was located in the Christ Hospital Center. I immediately fell in love with a doctor who took away half her medications and gave me back a bit of my mom. And finally, the Red Dog training center was Enzo’s first puppy camp for four weeks. He failed camp, but never me. 

I marched up Madison past the Medpace complex that will eventually hold a new hotel and 200 plus apartments. I am reluctant to say, but fair warning to all who live or pass through, this area is beginning to resemble Fields Ertel, and I hope the onslaught can be slowed or tempered.

As I continued on, I discovered a lovely group of senior housing options and then found myself in the heart of Madisonville, with a variety of homes and businesses strung along my route, some looking like they had just come online, including Mazunte’s MercadoLala’s Bites and Mad Llama coffee. As I ventured up and down various side streets, I noted how many of the homes were well-maintained. I had the distinct notion that residents were determined to live out loud and safely here.

I circled near Camargo, which became Plainville, and the homes began to resemble those of Mariemont. I had viewed a map prior to setting out, but when I sighted the Mariemont tower, I was shocked by the proximity and walkability of this hidden gem of a community.

At the next intersection’s bus stop, I noticed a woman drawing and journaling while she sat on a bench. I nodded towards her paper pad. “Are you a writer?” I could spot them a mile away.

She smirked. “Sort of.”

“Well, don’t say ‘sort of’. I’m a writer too and you need to declare it.”

She and I had a good laugh as I turned the corner to ramble down Bramble.

At this point, I had no idea where I was, but knew I was heading in the general direction towards Red Bank Road. So, I trudged up the hill and back down and around, until I came upon an intersection I had passed millions a times in my twenties, but didn’t recognize it from the sidewalk view. I only knew the perspective if I had been in my car. A clear lesson in how viewpoints change when our feet are firmly on the ground and not on the accelerator.

I turned down the quick cut of Brotherton and sent out text. Soon, I was inside Bella Forza Fitness, taking a break to see my sister, Beth Januzzi Underhill, owner and butt-kicker extraordinaire. Until that day, I had never considered her studio to be located in Madisonville.

I still had miles to go, so I left Beth to kick a few more butts and walked up the rest of Red Bank, past the driver’s license office, a Christ Hospital surgery center where Mark never works out of, but his partners do. The new Tap and Screw brewery was located behind this stretch and planned to open soon. I crossed Red Bank to travel north on Madison again and returned to the block that houses Starfire.

Five years ago, I facilitated a writing group at WWfaC, for participants from WWfaC and Starfire. As a mentor to Michelle, one of the participants, I came to witness firsthand the challenges faced by young adults with developmental disabilities and how their families and those young adults desire to live an ordinary life. An outgrowth of that circle was the free writing group that still met at Roh’s Café every other Tuesday, under the moniker Write Me, I’m Yours, and the friendship that continued to blossom and encompass other writers because of our time at Starfire. And our fearless leaders, Eva and Michelle, still are the heart of our group.

Madisonville was originally named after James Madison when it was founded in 1809. Its first settler was Joseph Ward who had two sons named Israel and Usual. Nothing unusual about that! They settled in nearby Columbia until realizing the area’s potential for flooding and they moved. Though my walks and blogs are about Cincinnati’s neighborhoods, one should read a Wikipedia entry for Columbia Township, to understand of how ridiculous our borders are at times. Columbia Township was really a mash up of islands of land surrounded by the city or other neighboring entities.

Madisonville was also once home to one of Cincinnati’s first all-black neighborhoods called Dunbar, a neighborhood paved over for the sake of the Red Bank Expressway. The community was so tight that former neighbors still gathered and chatted about roosters and horses in the neighbor’s corral.

The neighborhood was also a first in branding itself Soul of the City, a moniker that resonated with me that day. The soul was where callings originated from and wantings were born. As I had once done as a writer, this community was desiring of more.

I researched Madisonville’s community council and development corporation, and discovered a document constructed in 2012, calling for a Quality of Life Plan in six areas: economic development, health and wellness, the built environment, community engagement, arts and culture, and education and youth.

I applauded the community for their forward-looking nature, and recognized the difficulty in comparing to my own neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine. Madisonville had a separate set of complexities, each community does. This neighborhood will flourish without the scrutiny given to OTR because of its encompassing the nearby city center, places of activism, large-scale arts centers and tourism. It’s a neighborhood worth relishing and one that will certainly be of interest to future residents for years to come.

Here I Come – Gettin’ My 52 on in California

* This is the twenty-seventh in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. What will I learn? Where I will I go next?

Mark was off for the week, prior to a wedding invite. I prodded him to join me in California.

While California was the largest U.S. state by population. California was also Cincinnati’s smallest neighborhood, located along the Ohio River, with residents numbering around 500. Some months, the neighborhood also had no reported crime.

“I’m warning you, this one won’t be much fun. There’s interstates, waste treatment sites and a complete lack of sidewalks.”

He accompanied me regardless.

We parked near the Champions Baseball Academy, where I thanked my lucky stars Davis no longer played the game. While baseball was a beautiful game, it was also a painfully long game, and our son’s impatience he obviously inherited from me.

We started with the worst of walk. That is, walking along a narrow path beneath I-275, to circle around a triangle of California that existed on the other side of the highway. That piece consisted primarily of Coney Island. Of course, Coney Island HAD to be in California, to imply fun. Ironically, I had just observed my first Alzheimer’s Association Memories in the Making, where the focus had been on Coney Island and amusement parks. The park was closed, and it was doubtful the attendant would let me pass through just because “I’m walking all 52 neighborhoods.”

Yet, I have fond memories of Moonlight Gardens. More important, they were memories of my parents, who visited my older sister and I, and then my younger sister, so often, they really did consider the notion of moving to Cincinnati. But there was always something holding Dad back from making the move happen.

Copyright WeddingWire.com

But my parents danced beneath the stars to the sounds of the Big Band era at Moonlight Gardens on occasion, compliments of whenever we bought them tickets.

We crossed over Kellogg and started up Sutton. Only one-half of Sutton was located in California, and that half, as well as the other, had no sidewalks. I did fear for my life because of traffic, more so than I had while walking neighborhoods others might not step foot in.

When it became clear our lives were clearly in danger, we turned back around to Kellogg, proceeded beneath I-275 again and paced ourselves along the road where a few historic homes overlooked the road and river. We caught a heavy whiff of the treatment plant and I hoped the residents who lived in California were not subjected to that odor on a daily basis.

A former schoolhouse had once hosted a Cincinnati Rec Center. Now, the building was home to the California Heritage Foundation

Past the Cincinnati Water Works, we marched through grass. (Aside: Cincinnati water has been study as an option to bottle our own.)

The lack of sidewalks along Kellogg made it difficult to “feel” a neighborhood feel here, when I could not even easily access the Nature Preserve or Golf Course on foot. 

Convinced there was another way to circle around, we ducked down the driveway of the Nature Preserve, occupying 113 acres of forest. Near the center, a parking lot created by pavers sat over top of a former pool, and the center had been the pool house. Though the bridge was closed that day, we managed to hit all the stepping stones to cross the creek. There were several well-maintained trails, but here was a hiking suggestion discovered online, written by a CityBeat writer several years ago.

The park also hosts plenty of summer camps, in case one is still looking to get the kids out of the house.

We found comfort in the woods that day, dissecting a contentious OTR Community Council held the night before, where several community organizers had questioned the process used in the voting procedures to elect new board members. It’s a given OTRCC will always be contentious, there were so many factions competing with other for the louder, stronger narrative.

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. – John Muir

Immersed in the forest, I slowed my mind and soul, to take in what nature intended. I had practiced yoga before our walk, and thus, my heart now took in its full complement of oxygen and life, returning me to a restorative state.

We circled around the backside of the golf course where Davis on occasion had played. Mark commented how there would be a little less golf in the household with Davis now gone for the summer. We headed down Apple Hill, crossed over Kellogg and walked through the actual neighborhood portion of California. There were approximately 12 streets along this area that abutted the river. One of those streets included the private yacht Satisfaction Cruise Line.

But the number of homes was insignificant and much of the land sat empty, most likely due to flood plains.

During our walk of the last portion, Califorinia felt more like country than city.

California had been named Grove City, after Coney Island’s original name. According to some old timers where my mother lives, boats once to transported passengers from the landing in downtown out to Coney Island for the day. I would do that, even at night, to miss the traffic generated during Riverbend Concerts. For the record, Riverbend had a Coney Island address, but that too had been unreachable due to the hours of the park.

California had a small business district, and an active council and development corporation, which helped advocate for development around the area.

Further beyond along Kellogg Ave, which we had eschewed on our walk, was Rivertowne Marina. There began more bike/walk access. Reading through the newsletter archives, California was in line for that access to continue.

For someone who spent many summers at Riverbend, and a few summers at Sunlite Pool, I was refreshed to see the “more” to the neighborhood. To position myself in a time and place when rivers flooded land and tears flooded lives.

The cross-section of the Little Miami and Ohio River was a dangerous place to create a settlement. A few of the homes appeared historic, and some had upgraded to a pool. The views back to Bellevue were stunning, which is why I suspect many generations who lived here had grown accustomed to living on the second or third floor when required, and probably liked it that way. And every once in a while, as John Muir says, their spirit and home were washed clean.