This is the twelfth in a series about walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to discover what makes each relevant to me.
Like any Italian worth her semolina, I first encountered Camp Washington through the Sacred Heart Ravioli Dinners held on Palm Sundays and again each October. Back then, my sister, Laura, and I, following a long Saturday night, stood in line to take in a dinner that was – almost – like Mom’s.
I next found Camp Washington through the famed chili parlor after returning from a concert, while Laura still lived in Clifton. The actual the artist’s name escapes me, but we rode in the back of a limo ride we had won, and instructed the driver to whisk us away to the closest chili stand.
Now, I used a similar logic to entice my husband out of bed and into another cold, near-rainy weekend.
In my laziness and busyness, I selected Camp Washington because of its proximity and we drove out and parked near Sacred Heart Church, where the raviolis have been rolled and served for over 100 years.
Winding through the back streets near the church, we strolled in awe at buildings that extended for blocks, imagining what manufacturing once looked like in the heart of this neighborhood.
As we turned towards Spring Grove Ave, we noticed several folks coming out of their worn down trailers parked in used car or scrap metal lots and firing up a cup of coffee and their minds for the day.
Once on Spring Grove, we walked parallel to the bike path that runs along Mill Creek towards Spring Grove cemetery. But what I saw on bike was not nearly as detailed and marvelous as what I noted on foot.
Ideas and Ad ventures is a printing company housed in a garage. I shot the photo before knowing what was actually housed there because I just liked the name.
Next, we stumbled upon the John S. Swift Company Printers. Their motto was “Got to print? Get it swift.” The company was founded in St. Louis, and now based in Illinois. Camp Washington was one of its service locations.
Before my next printing discovery, we strolled past the William Powell Company’s Union Brass Works whose claim was having made the first brass faucet in the west, “west” being the Ohio River in 1846. (On a return trip, we also read how Cincinnati manufactured the first glass over door, allowing consumers to ooh and ahhh while peering inside the oven).
Camp Washington installed several history poles along Spring Grove, including one that spoke to the slaughterhouses of the past, and also of the Queen City Sausage Company where pigs really did fly, or did a few other, unmentionable things. The company spruced up their backyard recently, in nod to being good neighbors, and any real estate novice could tell you that space screamed for a beer and brat garden (to serve, not grow).
The Cincinnati Bindery, started in 1964, changed hands from its original founder, Hugo Grummich, to other buyers, while its assets also changed hands. Eventually, Karl, Hugo’s son, brought the bindery back to life after longtime customers pleaded for its return.
Along the northern portion of Spring Grove, past Camp Washington, Artworks painted another fabulous mural, paying homage to Cincinnati Freedom, the cow that escaped and went on the run for 11 days back in 2002. There was also a collection of smaller homes, some in Italianate style, that populated the area.
We arrived too early in the day for the American Sign Museum, but I have attended several events at the center, and even when bored with the event, I am never bored looking with fascination upon the signs from my youth. The center also offers neon sign repair and I had a Red Bird shoe sign repaired there.
For those that might glimpse the old Crosley building from the interstate, plans keep moving closer to a rehab project for CORE resources. The last press release was dated June of 2016, and stated that actual work was still months out.
We walked a good five miles, encircling the entire neighborhood. Camp Washington had a lot to offer for the right entrepreneurs and current residents and I found their park to be one of the most charming, lined with magnolia trees and with the nearby community garden and the salt pile as backdrop.
I liked the Camp, and if there were a bit more housing, or a home for sale and I was a bit younger, it might be a place for me. However, once we circled back to the car, we heard the screech of trains and cranes from the metal scrap yards. I wasn’t opposed to industry, but I was opposed to lack of sleep.
This Sunday, April 9, Sacred Heart will serve their 106th Ravioli Dinner. (Doors open at noon for dinners and ten a.m. for carryout. (Bring your own containers and red wagon to pull the load home.)
The Italian half of the congregation did not begin here in Camp Washington. Originally, the Italians worshipped at Fifth & Broadway until 1992, when the church sold the building to the city, which in turn, sold the strip to P&G for their corporate headquarters. The congregation was in essence taken under by Tide.
The church still offers an Italian Mass on the first Sunday of each month, where unexpectedly the congregants are young. “They’re looking for reverence and beauty, a sense of transcendence, and to be connected to their parents and grandparents, the generations of faith,” according to an old interview with Father Fernandes.
Most exciting of all, I found a complete online listing of Cincinnati-based Italian organizations where I can get my Italian on. My parents had a long history of membership in the IAV and Sons of Italy, social clubs designed to help Italians get on their feet after migrating from Europe. Perhaps it’s my turn.
The community is active in many ways, preserving 52 homes and supporting a growing artist community, through their boards and councils. The executive director of the community board (a development arm), Joe Gorman, reached out to me. In his email, he called Camp Washington an urban Appalachian neighborhood. And yes, those words sum up my experience.
Whether coming to Camp Washington for the pork or the presses, or for the Italian dinners, there’s a grittiness to the neighborhood, including a boxing club, I could feel below the sidewalks, of the desire to work, and the need to feed.