*This is the twentieth in my series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods during the year of the city’s elections to find what makes each community relevant to me. What have I learned? How far do I have to go?
Just east of Eighth Street’s entrance into Lower Price Hill, I discovered a plaque designating the High Water Mark of 1937 when the Ohio River flooded. The plaque was my first find, as my husband and I traversed over Eighth Street to enter what was once called Eighth & State.
I had one day left before my leave of the city for the week and had been pushing myself, walking four neighborhoods within the span of one week to makeup for my absence. I pressed on not because I had a timetable, but was beginning to feel the rush in the midst of the journey.
My trusty sidekick had looked at me odd when I suggested we walk to Lower Price Hill. He knew I wasn’t feeling well, my head aching from a cold, so we did something unusual, that is, we drove somewhere we could have easily walked, parking at the Big Boy near Queensgate, with breakfast as enticement later.
From atop the bridge, we gazed out over the Cincinnati Police Academy and ballfields. Below us, the lowlands of the Mill Creek Valley, nearly intersecting with the Ohio River, revealed why industrial development here was hard to sustain.
We found a community playground and immediately headed towards Oyler Elementary, made better-known from the PBS documentary, “Oyler”. The school and the documentary would later play a role in the most pivotal interaction I had thus far in the city.
We continued along Burns to St. Michael Street, and came across the former church now supporting several non-profits in the area – Education Matters, where a writing friend of mine worked, Community Matters, an arts campus and studios, and a community school. Their community garden was the lone place for healthy food options for families. Read more here.
Steps from the church was the Washing Well, also part of Community Matters. I was a member of Impact 100, when we awarded the Washing Well a portion of the funds to move this worthwhile project forward. I would love to see this in many of the other neighborhoods I have or will walked. But the effort required community organization to step up, create the plan, and fund it.
As I was mentioning that fact to Mark, we were stopped by a rather thin male in his late fifties. I’ll call him Al.
“The neighborhood is really coming along,” I stammered, not meaning it as I did. “I mean, there seems to be a lot happening beneath the surface.”
He pointed out the after school club across the street, BLOC Sports Performance.
“Annette’s writing about the city neighborhoods she’s walking,” my husband interjected.
And that’s when Al informed us that his daughter had a part in the Oyler documentary.
“Yeah, I remember the press about that. I need to watch that film,” I said.
“She’s got off to college,” Al shared.
“Well, that’s great.” Mark and I both congratulated him.
I turned back to the Artworks mural because I was having a secret love affair with the Artworks murals. I hoped my readers would research more about Artworks and donate. They kept our young talent busy over the summer and made for interesting times for anyone walking the city.
I was snapping pictures when, out of the corner of my eye, a car approached the intersection. The driver, an older gentleman with a handicap sticker hanging on his rearview mirror, slowed down. Someone wearing a grey sweatshirt moved towards the car. Thinking that was Mark and that he was helping someone who was lost, I rotated and walked towards that same car.
I approached and was so absorbed in and confused by watching money change hands, I didn’t hear my husband call my name.
“Annette,” he called once more. “Over here.”
I looked up, startled to see the person in the grey sweatshirt who I thought was Mark was clearly not. It was Al.
I scurried away, not wanting to acknowledge what I might have witnessed. To clarify, I did not see drugs change hands, but my city senses have been honed over time. I should also clarify Mark was wearing dark blue that day, proving that my other senses were not quite honed enough.
We tarried on (Mark commented that nobody ever told him we tarried) along State Street to take in the heights. Kroger had a processing facility where they made some of their private label dressings and condiments. It was an expansive manufacturing facility that appeared to have in place for a long while. I hoped the neighborhood had benefited from Kroger’s presence and employment. However, I was shocked that here again, Kroger was a predominant employer but not supplier in a neighborhood that clearly needed more.
We trekked higher and higher along State Street, until a dog – clearly not on a leash – encouraged us to turn back.
Then, Mark and I strolled a similar path back down and around, and met up on Warsaw with the Joe Williams Family Center. When the Boys and Girls Club left for “Upper” Price Hill, there was still a need for kids to have access to a safe recreational space. Soon, the Letterpress Museum will also be open to the public. Readers can find updates here.
We circled down below the Eighth Street bridge, past Consolidated Metal Products, a privately-owned company with 150 employees worldwide. The building flew all sorts of international flags, but with no Italian flag flying, my husband had plenty of jokes.
Mark and I wrapped up our time at Big Boy’s, which took me back to my parent’s Sunday breakfasts.
Lower Price Hill had a lively and imaginative beginning through Evans Price, who bridged the Mill Creek. We might laugh at that statement now, but early reports indicated how treacherous that might have been.
Mr. Price built a sawmill and brickyard, near the end of W. Eighth Street. And that attracted enough settlers to call the area, “Prospect”.
Like many of Cincinnati’s inner-ring neighborhoods, Lower Price Hill was first occupied by Welsh and Germans, then Irish, then Appalachians, Hispanics and African-Americans. There had always been room to move up.
Almost 45% of Lower Price Hills residents lived in poverty. Within .57 square miles. Price Hill Will was working towards more comprehensive solutions to the area’s plight. And Krista Ramsey wrote a brilliant series about the Girls of Lower Price Hill. (Also read the followup pieces). But it became obvious from the start of the walk that the neighborhood was occupied by many community organizations trying to to still damn up the waters though the floods left long ago.
A week later, still struggling to put together my narrative for Lower Price Hill that I wanted to be honest and respectful, we were dining at Prima Vista in East Price Hill for my husband’s birthday. My walk to LPH was still on my mind.
“Imagine,” I said to my friends, “you can see the all the majesty of the city from where you live, but you can’t get to it.” Figuratively speaking of course.
I looked down at the open space where the former incline once ran, an incline actually built via private funds (Hint to corporate citizens). In the dark, Eighth Street was lit up like an airport runway, leading all the way into downtown Cincinnati.
And down below, there, in the dark, where Eighth practically slammed into the hillside, where now decrepit steps once rose up and descended, was an area once known as Prospect, but now called Lower Price Hill.
Always in the shadow of the upper reaches of East and West Price Hill, or of the city itself. It simply depended on the angle of the sun.
Later, I watched the “Oyler” documentary. It took an hour. The movie was worth the watch. The day we met Al, he was proud. I can’t speak for the intervening time since. But the film had illuminated the challenges of Oyler’s students and whether they or their parents wanted or not, they were no longer in the shadows. At least not for me.
I wanted to go back in time, rechristened the neighborhood Prospect, a word which means a place with mineral deposits, something that is awaited or expected, a person with the potential to succeed. All those definitions held in them the hope contained in Lower Price Hill now.
(Letterpress Museum update:
The City of Cincinnati has giving us another large donation to expand the building and construction has started this month at the Letterpress Museum. Our goal is to be open sometime in the fall. We have been blessed with some fantastic donations of letterpress equipment and supplies. A really good proofing press and a platen press, lots of large wood type and I stumbled onto a complete letterpress shop just sitting with tarps on all the presses and equipment. God is Good!
If you would like to set down and talk or visit the museum just let me know.