This is the fourteenth in my series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each space relevant to me.
The dawn sky looked to be clear and the sun was rising earlier. From within my courtyard, I felt no wind. Only warmth.
I scrambled around the house, dragging the dog through his morning warm-ups of downward dog, up dog, chow down, pee and poop, and headed out the door, dressed as I was in t-shirt and running tights.
Then, as I drove to Kennedy Heights, I watched the temperature gauge of my car drop from 52 degrees to 43 degrees.
And there I was, parked at Daniel Drake Park, wondering if I should brave the cold or walk the neighborhood another day. But warmth was near, I reasoned. So I locked the doors, pulled my hands into crossed arms and began my trek.
Daniel Drake Park was named after Daniel Drake, who founded Cincinnati’s first medical college. The views from the ridge were stunning and one could imagine a past, atop this hill, that offered quite the relief from the crowds of the city.
Kennedy Heights is accessible via the I-71 Red Bank Road exit, and from Plainfield Road, Kennedy Ave, and Montgomery Road. As I strolled along Woodford Road and then up Red Bank, (yes, Red Bank is NOT just an exit off I-71), I was the recipient of a few mixed reviews from bus drivers and early morning commuters. Some waved, some stared me down. I marched on.
I twisted and turned through a few neighborhoods to find some bungalow housing, some Tudor style. In this election year, I found more mayoral candidate signs than I had seen in other neighborhoods. Of course, time also inched closer to the primary runoff. If I were to ask a candidate, would he or she tell me that Kennedy Heights is very active, politically?
I meandered up and down streets, some ending in railroad tracks, until I ran up to Montgomery Road. Here, its evident that The Arts were a mainstay in this neighborhood. Artworks was once again present with their mural, and the Kennedy Heights Montessori Center and Lindner Annex were housed in a former Kroger. (Carl, Robert, Richard and Dorothy Lindner all attended the former Kennedy-Silverton school). The center played host to many community events, including a Cincinnati Playhouse program called Off the Hill, with an upcoming appearance on April 22nd. The Linder Annex rental space was an extension/partnership with the Kennedy Heights Arts Center.
The Arts Center loomed tall along Montgomery Road, along with the requisite Flying Pig, and had been the site of many of my employer’s Women Writing for (a) Change functions and programs. The center has a burgeoning offering of summer camps and is hosting the current artist in residence, Joshua Brown, a Cleveland guy.
The community seemed tied into itself. And upon further research, they really were. On their community website, Kennedy Heights promotes themselves as a District A.
“District ‘A’ stands for the ARTS & for ALL of US.
We’re a citizens’ initiative where arts+community meet throughout Kennedy Heights & Pleasant Ridge in order to drive inter-neighborhood collaboration for a stronger future.
Across these two historic neighborhoods that date back to 1795 along the Montgomery Road corridor in Cincinnati, Ohio, we’re a catalyst for collaborations of all sorts, and especially for sharing and multiplying our arts assets.
Today, these neighborhoods are inclusive and vibrant family communities. Through the contributions of District A, both Kennedy Heights & Pleasant Ridge Community Councils intend to forge an ever more robust future.”
There were several green spaces that rambled through the community. Kennedy Heights Park ,spanning 12,000 acres, had begun as a small space in the 1930’s and been continually added to over the years.
I had just missed KH’s annual Sap run, held on April 8th, which was followed by, or perhaps prefaced by, an all you can eat pancake breakfast. I knew a few runners who would not want to miss out.
Several streets stayed in my mind, far too long if you ask my husband. Orchard, Rogers Park, Davenant, and Robison Road boasted of many unique homes as well as views from atop bluffs. Strolling through Davenant Avenue, along where the infamous Yononte Inn once stood, I so badly wanted to meet someone who would let peek over the ridge. But, alas, it was too early to trust.
The Yonote Inn was built in the late 1800s by Lewis Kennedy as a means of attracting potential landowners to the area. The inn was named for a Native American princess who married nearby. There were approximately 50 rooms to the hotel, and though the structure burned down in 1909, a stone gate remains as a marker to the past.
I found a fascinating read on how the railroad, once touted as a means of traveling to this then-suburban neighborhood, also became its downfall. The criss-cross pattern of the tracks divided streets and families. Today, as I walked along Zinsle Ave, the deserted Cincinnati, Lebanon and Northern line reminded me of the Minuteman hike/bike trail we had walked in Boston, near Somerville. Many neighborhoods, as well as subdivisions, could be reconnected through healthier means, alleviating much of the travel at the usual cut in the hill down below.
I returned along Robison and crossed the parking lot of the Redwood Carryout, the neighborhood’s only grocery or convenience store. A lovely tribute to the personality of the neighborhood and those who have been its foundation for many years, in particular the owner of the Redwood can be found by reading the community’s newsletter.
There was little other commerce to speak of, other than Woodford Paideia school, a Cincinnati Public magnet school dedicated to promoting Arts and Culture. The school is designated as a community learning center (CLC), a hub for treating the whole child, and its lot contains the neighborhood’s community garden.
The neighborhood was once founded on a marketing ploy to entice residents out of the city, stating it was a “moral imperative” to leave because crowds caused crime. Today, Kennedy Heights is a testimony to neighbors reaching across tracks and boundaries.
The actions and investments send a strong message to youth and neighbors in the community, modeling how to cross the divide. While short on commercial resources, this neighborhood found art to be a viable and valuable commodity in creating its sense of identity. In this political climate, where arts funding is threatened, there will be places where art is not only a means of survival, but a means to thrive. Kennedy Heights will be one such place.
I was thankful I hadn’t lugged my warmer gear for the walk that day. Like most artists, I like to be “awake” in the moment, to take in sights with all my being. The crisp air and five mile jaunt certainly left me “woke” and ready to return to my artist self.