Linwood? Was that really a neighborhood, I asked myself, as I studied my map of Cincinnati’s 52? I had been to the area plenty of times, but always thought it was connected to Mt. Lookout or the like. On the map, the neighborhood was nearly contained within a single, narrow band. One could not really circle (or square) around that kind of neighborhood.
The temperatures were still in the teens when I had left home to walk Linwood. Sunrise occurred at 7:48 a.m., and as I parked my car near Lunken Airport, the sun peeked over Cincinnati’s eastern hills.
Rare for me, I wasn’t dressed particularly warm, but I was emboldened by other pedestrians, the Bob Roncker’s runners. If they were running in the frigid air, surely I could too.
My first steps past the airport, along Wilmer Road, led me to the Linwood Cemetery, now signed Columbia. While I wandered past the Soldier’s monument amidst other headstones, my eye was drawn downhill. There, I found a gravestone with a large tree growing out of its side. Insert your own metaphor here.
I continued to my hike along the western edge of the airport property and waited impatiently for someone to board a private flight (was Emilio in town? Again?). When no one appeared, I worked my way past Everything But the House and Sweaty Bands, to the convoluted intersection at Beechmont Ave, Wilmer, Wooster, and Beechmont Circle.
Trying to locate the Rosa Area Equine Center, I found Wooster Road. Alas, no horses were out yet, but found myself smiling at the notion of a horse arena, so close within the city. Just beyond Otto M. Armleder Park, I spotted a familiar sign. Prus Construction.
Joe Prus and family operate this company as part of the fourth generation. It’s not often tears come on these walks, but they trickled as I meditated on Joe and his wife, Thelma, my next-door neighbors in Loveland. Ten years my senior, Joe and Thelma saved me from myself for many, many months. And they loved Davis like a grandson. I’ll never forget Joe, and especially Thelma, playing baseball on the driveway with my kid.
Circling back to the confusing intersection, I chose to walk the railroad tracks to get to where I wanted to go. As I teetered on the rails, I understood how the neighborhood had grown up on either side of the tracks. But I would see later, the area grew in different ways on the north and south end too, and then was divided by Columbia Parkway.
I found a Main Street section of Linwood. A few old municipal buildings and churches had been repurposed. Linwood’s independent town hall, which was now Ark by the River church, had been the subject of a lawsuit with a former Ohio politician.
Along Eastern, the Linwood Baptist church still stood. The Linwood public school had been closed in 2005 and sold at auction.
A few new businesses looked to be taking shape. Bloodline Merchants furnishings and antiques, and an artist studio with a familiar name. Polly Hart had drawn the Going Green magazine feature after Mark and I had moved.
I traversed the soaring railroad pedestrian overpass to get to the other side, circled a little neighborhood within the neighborhood with well-tended homes, and traversed it once more so that I didn’t get lost. Ever one to “find the steps”, I located a short route up to the school parking lot and a few homes, garages, and swings hidden from the street.
The rest of my route took me back down Eastern (parallel to Wilmer), past Terry’s Turf Club and the now closed Bella Luna. The last time I visited Bella Luna, we had celebrated my parents’ eightieth birthdays. Harry was gone. Dad was gone, and Mom too in way. But the strains of Italian music and the stains of Italian sauce lived on in photos.
Feet now frozen, I scurried past homes in less than pristine condition. Yards were littered with rubbish, debris, and old children’s bikes. Here, I saw the contrast of our two America’s. Two sides of the same neighborhood, struggling to find a foothold less they fall into the abyss. There was a certain futility palpable that day in that section of town. I suspect there is some transition about to happen here, though that’s presently not within my realm to investigate other than a quick auditor search which produced several results under “Prospect Hill Properties 2014” as vacant land on the western hillside.
The two major roads through Linwood somewhat bisect if you take a quick turn onto Airport Road. You’ll find yourself by the Blank Slate brewery eventually back at the airport.
I contemplated an omelet at the Sky Galley, but honestly I wanted to be home. I was cold. I had a manuscript that needed tending and all day dedicated to writing it.
I am still working my fingers around the map of 52, trying to understand why Norwood is not in the city. Or why Linwood’s boundaries were drawn in so tightly, as if the townspeople said, Let’s just zip it up and call it a day. I trace old properties now on the site of Columbia Parkway that further tore the area in two.
Linwood represented so many divisions. Those who tended to the properties, those who chose not. Those who would rise up in a private airplane, run around a golf course, and those who could not. Those who rode horses, those who walked dogs. Those in the industry and those without.
Researching after my return home, I learned that Linwood was once home to J.A. DeArmond Hame Factory (formerly Ferris Hame).
What the heck was a hame? Well, it turns out you need two of them to get your horse to pull. Two curved pieces of iron or wood forming or attached to the collar of a draft horse, to which the traces are attached. This forms the collar which allows the horse to pull with full strength.
“Due to many separations,” according the Linwood Community Council, “it is suggested Linwood’s unique identity is slowly disappearing. Hopefully, with hard work and great people like our Community Council, we can work together to preserve our community.”
I love a good word like hame. One I didn’t know. One with a history. And I like the idea of community that once made hames for horse collars has the strength to pull its weight once more.
This is the sixth in a series of #GettinMy52on. I plan to walk Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods during the year leading up to the city’s 2017 election, in search of what has made Cincinnati relevant to me.