Queensgate once belonged to the West End before the West End was carved up by highways. The neighborhood was home to some of the first hog slaughtering businesses and now stands as one of Cincinnati’s light and heavy industrial centers, originating from a Metropolitan Master Plan developed in 1948.
The area nearest the Ohio River is now riven with gravel companies and train tracks. The area closer to Union Terminal is occupied by smaller warehouse businesses. They are nondescript businesses, with names we may or may not know, but if you have ever walked around this area, you will always see a George Fern truck of some sort, passing by. The George Fern event and exposition company has been in existence for 100 years and now serves 1,000-plus events across the country and Canada. Their parking lot looks like a semi-trucker convention they might already be serving.
Whimping out because of the cold, I walked Queensgate because I wanted a neighborhood in proximity to my own. So, I simply rolled down Central Ave (not Central Parkway), turned right at the UPS and there was Queensgate in all her iron glory.
But I also came to Queensgate for inspiration. I was tired. The dog and I were not at our peak of our relationship, his whimpering waking me at 5 a.m. I had a lot to process that week with a mother battling shingles, and sisters in need of love and care. It might seem odd then that I was drawn here, to a space with its rust and dust floating through the air, and homeless encampments situated beneath towering overpasses. With its lost art behind Longworth Hall or the Cincinnati Police Federal Credit Union, and the conveyor belts that ride high into the sky, Queensgate is a peek behind curtain of a city reported on in newspapers or lauded by industry magazines.
On that day of frigid temperatures, I strolled along what is considered the Port of Cincinnati past an open warehouse where a man, wearing a lesser amount of clothes than myself, was loading rebar onto pallets for the duration of the day. Soon, I stopped for several minutes to watch a front loader (truck name learned from raising the boy) dumping heaps of stone into a rail car for destinations unknown.
According to the Port: Cincinnati, Ohio is strategically located as a transfer point for various bulk, breakbulk, and general cargo. Being located just west of downtown Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bulk Terminals LLC (CBT) is well positioned to handle a variety of products and get these products moving to markets throughout the Midwest. Cincinnati Bulk Terminals operates two modern facilities (Cincinnati Bulk Terminals and Port of Cincinnati) with four (4) docks and over a mile of riverfront on the Ohio River. The terminal’s close location to major interstates I-75, I-71, and I-74 aids in the delivery time to end users.
The work in Queensgate called to mind a certain someone whose work ethic still resonates deep inside. My father. While Dad was not a blue-collar laborer, he labored tirelessly at everything he attempted in his life. A hustler when he was younger, picking apples at orchards, driving before his time, joining the Army, he eventually wound up in the family shoe business. He spent late nights, running the numbers on his adding machine, and early mornings at the UPS facility, picking up shipments for the day’s special orders. And in between those times, he perfected the art of Christmas lights and providing for his family.
Every Christmas, he dutifully gathered his train collection from the crawl space, and spent hours in the basement above and beneath the ping pong table, setting up his bevy of trains. I suspect the time was meditative for him, in the same way writing is for me. But I can’t always share my words in the same way he delighted many youngsters including my kids with his love of trains.
So, I came to Queensgate and walked along tracks that abruptly ended, stood beneath other tracks that don’t, to feel inside of me that desire, that pulse to race to work, to work hard. When the tracks rattled, my heart rattled awake.
And I found just little bit of my father. My father lived in Cincinnati for only the last nine months of his life, and here I could pay homage to him.
Had my father been well, had he not had the added care of my mother, I would have brought him to Queensgate. We would have watched the unloading of barges, the crating and packaging of freight, the movement of goods and wondered where those goods were headed next. We would have marveled together at the work behind the work. I could have marveled at the man behind the work.
There was an actual Fifth Street, with a partially begun road and a sightline leading right into the city. However, my path was stymied by old walls and railroad tracks. I gazed out across the one mile of missing connection, lost over time to railroad and concrete. One mile to connect to the heart of city. One mile to connect to my own.
This is the second in a series of #GettinMy52on. I plan to visit all of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods during the year leading up to Cincinnati’s 2017 election, in search of what makes Cincinnati relevant to me.