Stepping Past Our Own Boundaries – Gettin’ My 52 On in West Price Hill

This is my thirty-ninth in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. Follow me on Instagram for a hint of where I’ll venture next.

I began my walk at the furthest point west where I had walked previously in East Price Hill, near Seton Avenue, and walked along W. Eighth Street. Mentally, I planned to turn on Trenton, but missed my turn and would up on a side street known as Clanora and then onto Delridge.

There, as a moseyed through the streets, I theorized how many neighborhoods were beginning to resemble one another. Not just East and West Price Hill. Some homes along West Price Hill resembled a stretch where I had walked in Oakley. Some of those in an upcoming walk would later remind me of places in the California neighborhood.

I was also coming to grips that West Price Hill was more than just one hill!

On Pedretti, I came across New St. Joseph Cemetery. There were really two St. Joseph Cemetery’s. One old and one new. One section that had been for the Irish Catholics, and one portion for the German Catholics.

As I made my way towards Rapid Run Road, I found this pub with a clever saying and had to go back and snap a photo.

I continued down Rapid Run to Covedale, and in and out of streets I thought I had already traversed. I would eventually cross Overlook three times.

As I turned up Willnet, I found the “Corporation” line that signified the west side of the west side.

I no sooner crossed Rapid Run and circled around Covedale to find myself on Glenway Avenue. One of my first co-workers in Cincinnati talked about Glenway like it was Hollywood Boulevard, that’s how revered it was to him. As Western Hills High School stretched to my left, the Covedale Theatre beckoned from the right.

The theatre offered a myriad of upcoming shows, and quickly I saw flash, “West Price Hill – The sub URBAN experience”. I reflected on the current political state of the nation and city, and thought one didn’t need to travel far to see how two sides could not be further apart in understanding each other. It was not a knock on either, just that they lived very different lives, in very different surroundings.


Of course, I also past the venerable Price Hill Chili, and wondered if I had been misguided and should have attempted 52 chili parlors and not 52 communities.

I trailed behind school buses down Rapid Run Road, toward Rapid Run park (originally called “Lick Run”) with a rolling hills, and then had to make a call. Continue out until Sunset met Queen City Avenue or circle up through what looked to be more residential housing.

Before choosing the latter, I discovered another cemetery, this one a part of the Jewish Cemeteries of Cincinnati. You can read more here about the rich history of Jewish cemeteries in our region.

I’m telling you, the underlying theme of these walks had truly been cemeteries. If I were a comedian, and if I were from Price Hill, and if I thought I wouldn’t offend anyone, surely I would crack a joke about the connection between citizens of West Price Hill and the number of cemeteries the communities boast. But those are all fairly large ifs.

As I rose up Sunset Avenue, I discovered another section of road where the sidewalk had run out. There was another major disconnect from our park system. There should be a requirement that within a radius of one mile of a parks, a sidewalk must be created and maintained. How we can support/advocate for healthy citizens when we don’t even provide the basics for them to walk safely in an area leading to a park?

Somewhat lost at this point, I just kept pushing uphill, knowing I had just descended one. Sure enough, I came upon Seton High School, having overshot the boundaries of West Price Hill.

My final leg back to the car I was met with danger.

As I strolled down the street, confident of having completed another walk, a German Shepherd bounded out in front of me. I halted in my tracks. He raced towards a nearby front porch and barked at the door. He knew where he was, but I didn’t know exactly where I was. I turned in circles, nearly paralyzed. Was I fearful of dogs? Big ones, yes. I imagined having to leap up into a nearby truck bed to save myself from the mauling. I imagining flagging down the next car, hopping into it with a stranger to avoid the other danger.

While my imagination ran wild, my feet walked me backwards slowly, towards the previous intersection. The dog stayed put as I veered down a parallel side street.

My heart still beating, I located my car, parked along W. Eighth Street and hopped inside. It was the first time I had felt scared on these walks. How funny. There had been no danger at all.

The history of West Price Hill is tied up in that of Lower and East Price Hill. Their economic development engine, Price Hill Will, also covers Price Hill at large.

West Price Hill community council is known for putting on the annual Price Hill Thanksgiving Day parade (together with EPH), of which someday, I’ll attend, though I won’t expect balloons.

As a transplant, which helped inspire this project of walking all 52 neighborhoods, I had heard about the eastside – westside debates at my first job in the city. Ironically, I had a job that took me all over the city, so I hadn’t a clue what the debate was actually about. My sister and I were known to drive my parents crazy, by driving them all over the city to new functions or restaurants. My mother would joke, “Isn’t there somewhere nearby?” Laura and I would just laugh, and keep driving.

We make up our own boundaries sometimes, including naming a church St. Teresa of Avila (my mother’s favorite), while only adding male saints in bas relief.

West Price Hill had, for those us who were newer to the city and came to live on the east side, represented those boundaries we made up in our minds.

I have “crossed the borders” many times since my first drive up Elberon into Price Hill area a few years back. Each time, I loved more what the community held on to, family, home, a way of life, not really different from what we all want, but like the incident with the dog, maybe fearful of what could be taken away at a moment’s notice.

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Lost and Found – Gettin’ My 52 On in Northside

This is my thirty-eighth in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. Follow me on Instagram for a hint of where I’ll venture next.

I was lost in Northside.

I could walk my way out of the rain forest, but became befuddled by direction and landmarks of highways and byways in the midst of trying to establish my base in Northside.

Growing up, Lake Erie was always north. If I couldn’t find my way home, I figured out where the lake was, and went from there. The water was my true north.

But after many moves across country and state, I’ve had to use other compasses.

I had parked in Northside, near Visionaries and Voices. I walked only a block until I realized I was in South Cumminsville. So, I turned back around to take a different tack.

I quickly understood the issue was Colerain Avenue started running north and, before I knew it, I was walking west, which wasn’t planned. Strolling past the Weslyan Cemetery, I learned there were veterans of every war who had been buried there. But a more lively account of the cemetery’s history as it related to the city can be found here.

I circled around the area a bit, having been in a rush that morning before leaving. I took a few minutes to settle in and figure out my approach.

Northside was an interesting mix of homes, where I discovered suburbia near midcentury brick, intermingled with Italianate.

I made my way all the way up Kirby Road until I realized I was no longer in Northside, then down Kirby to Innes.

I never saw a set of steps I didn’t like, so I hiked up the hill and found my way to the northern end of Hamilton Avenue and into the Buttercup Valley Preserve. Since my blogging/walking was not about parks, I didn’t wander too far in and retreated south to Pullan.

I returned to familiar surroundings of the school and a dear friend who lives along Fergus Street, though she was probably at work by that time.

I meandered in and around Hamilton Avenue for quite some time. There were simply too many connections in this neighborhood to name them all, but a few cropped up as I traipsed past.

A woman named Janet Kalven, who I met through Women Writing for a Change, once lived at Grailville in Loveland. I used to drive her to writing class in Madisonville. Janet was the most accomplished woman I knew, and she usually started her sentences with “Of course you might know….”, as if not wanting to offend you, if you didn’t already know something. During our commutes, she often bragged about IMG_2709her eventual move to Chase Apartments. Janet died at the age of 99, but she was my first introduction to Northside and its activism.

Recently, another community activist, Maureen Wood, passed away. (This is a great retrospective on her work in Northside). I didn’t know Maureen but I knew Crazy Ladies Bookstore. As members of the board of WWf(a)C Foundation, we purchased the Crazy Ladies building after the bookstore closed to keep the building in the hands of a similar mission. My first task as board member was to clean out what was left of the books. We were encouraged to carry home any of the remainders. And I found, “Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on a Spiritual Quest”, most likely named after Adrienne Rich’s Diving into the Wreck.

And thus, my feminism was born. Or better said, my awareness of my womanism was birthed between those pages, in that building, amongst those friends and writers.

“And now: it is easy to forget/ what I came for/ among so many who have always / lived here
swaying their crenellated fans / between the reefs / and besides / you breathe differently down here.” – Rich.

In another a long line of connections, WordPlay was also doing great work in the literacy and writing world with students and adults. When the non-profit first opened, the organization sold repaired typewriters as a means of fundraising. They still have a few in their window, though I’m not sure they are still for sale. My sister Jeanne and I had an obsession with typewriters (not like Tom Hanks who owns 700). We swapped photos of typewriters whenever we came upon them. From Jeanne, I recently acquired an old electronic model which weighs more than I do.

There is another writerly connection also established in Northside, that of Chase Public, named after the school, which is space for art and community collaborations.

In Northside in the late 1700’s, treaties with Native Americans were established and settlers hunkered down along what was two Indian trials, St Clair’s Trace and Wayne’s Trace, which became Hamilton Avenue and Spring Grove Avenue respectively. While the land prospered for many years, in the late 1960’s, most industry began to depart, leaving vacancies as residents left for newer suburbs.

Nowadays, there’s hardly a street where renovations are not being undertaken. Prices have remained relatively affordable in the wake of rocketing prices closer into the city.  The community’s most persistent problem is that of pedestrian safety. The owner of The Tickle Pickle was recently killed in a car accident and many politicians stepped up efforts to ensure safety for all.

Northside was an easy bike ride from downtown, but if one was returning home, after a beer at the Northside Yacht Club, the ride was not so easy. My husband and I had done it anyhow, working off whatever calories we gained.

As always, by walk’s end, I asked myself, Could I live here? Would I want to? The answer to both questions was yes. Clearly, there were plenty of writerly connections to keep me engaged. While Northside had its share of crime and struggled with the same issues every city community was challenged by, the gathering of business owners, including a friend whose husband owns the Northside Tavern, and residents like my former neighbor, tended to find new ways to work together.

The beauty of Northside was that the neighborhood had all the right elements to define who they wanted to be as a community: Access to UC and Cincinnati State, located near highways and downtown, no single employer dominating the landscape, and no single social service dominating either.

And while I might get a little turned around within the boundaries of the neighborhood, I was never too far from something that would remind me I was clearly in the grips of a community that knew how to laugh.

 

 

A Pathway to Neighbors – Gettin’ My 52 On in Winton Hills

This is my thirty-seventh in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. Follow me on Instagram for a hint of where I’ll venture next.

What is a neighborhood?

This question persisted throughout my walk of Winton Hills. Winton Hills was one of those neighborhoods that I really didn’t know I had been to, way back when.

I started by familiarizing myself with the actual hill part of Winton Road, and chugged my way north, towards North Bend Road.

I was delighted to find newer sidewalks and design-worthy retaining walls. Surely, I was on my way to somewhere. I strolled past the Habegger Corporation, owned by the father of friends of our in our former neighborhood. The owner also happened to be good friends with my in-laws. The connections had begun. I applauded when I came upon a sign, and recalled Aftab Pureval’s election for Clerk of Courts, capitalizing on the Aflac theme.

Those were the sorts of imaginings I amused myself with as I tread uphill. And I just kept going. And going. Still nothing existed on the land along the newer sidewalks, but wildflowers that reminded me of fields behind my childhood home which once belonged to a sanitarium.

Still, uphill. Still nothing. Finally, I turned on North Bend and along Center Hill Avenue. Finally it struck me. I had been here before.

About 180 times before. In the 90’s, I worked for Cap Gemini, which had a contract with P&G at Winton Hill. There were three of us consultants holed up in a windowless room, running Excel spreadsheet macros (I am dating myself) to process data on the Bounty lines. And while we were sequestered, a young woman my age oversaw our work, while attending Seven Habits of Highly Effective People training during my entire duration there. The joke was the one thing that made P&G employees more effective was their employment of consultants.

Later that same day, I would have dinner with a close friend, who informed me one of her closet friends was now working out Winton Hills. I pulled out the photo and she said, “That’s it’. Fem Care.

The road descended, and ironically, I ran out of sidewalk. So, there was a healthy consumer goods industry with no supporting sidewalks, and along a Winton Road with little industry, sidewalks were laid out as far as the eye could see. On the other side of the road from my descent was Seymour Nature Preserve, but I could find no access from where I was.

When I landed at the bottom, I followed Este Street. I was still miles from my car and had yet to cover another three-quarters of the community. My feet were dampened by the morning dew as I stepped in the grass along Este. There was no access to sidewalks, but one could follow a bike lane that ran from the area down to Spring Grove.

In that space, massive industrial structures rose up from the ground for Sun Chemical and Marathon Oil, as well as mounds of garbage in dumps that were now closed. Many workers turned their heads to see this girl trudging through the grass and staring at these modern marvels.

Then, I sidled up along Winton Terrace. Winton Terrace was a CMHA housing property, holding approximately 600 town homes. The development stretched out before me.

While I understand that Winton Terrace was a spot of high crime activity, the people were kind and each one I greeted, greeted me in return.

I pressed on back up Winneste Avenue and came upon Winton Terrace Elementary, Mother of Christ Church, and another CMHA housing area called Findlater, comprised of another 600-plus homes.

First, let me just state for the record, Findlater is a ridiculous name. Second, the neighborhood of Winton Hills was no longer a puzzle to me, but one put together with pieces made up of P&G, industrial holdings, public housing, a few homes along North Bend and on into connecting Spring Grove.

There was a former school being turned into a site for the Reds Urban Youth Academy. (Seems plenty of room for soccer there too, hint FC).

However, there was no town center, no meeting hall other than the Winton Hills Recreation Center. No coffee shop, no one place that felt like the middle, where one could meet and ground oneself in the feel of the community.

I ended my walk by traveling south again on Wineste, then back through Spring Grove Village.

We are doing neighborhoods wrong if Winton Hills is to be called a true neighborhood. Its the same predicament that Avondale (read about my Avondale walk) is currently undergoing, with the Children’s Hospital expansion (and the Zoo), at the expense of homes and people living in them. What obligation does industry, whether for-profit or non-profit, have in ensuring the success of those who live around them?

I have posed, “what is a neighborhood”, in many of my community writing classes, asking participants to write to the theme. But Merriam-Webster said it best.

a. the people living near one anotherb :  a section lived in by neighbors and usually having distinguishing characteristics lived in a quiet neighborhood

Winton Hills does have a Community Council which recently hosted their own summit to bring their community together.

Walking through Findlater Gardens, children were hopping onto school buses. Adults wished them well. Teachers and custodians were rolling in and out of parking lots near the school. And the someone from “the cloth” had just exited the church and drove away.

Life is being lived here. Just think of how much more of one could be lived, if we rethought our neighborhoods. After all, where two or more are gathered….

 

Apophenia – Gettin’ My 52 On in Over-the-Rhine

This is my thirty-sixth in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. Follow me on Instagram for a hint of where I’ll venture next.

I never walk in the middle of the day, but rain had subverted my plans, and I didn’t want to experience another setback in my schedule. I also didn’t want to get in a car and drive. So, I walked my own neighborhood. Was that cheating? Maybe.

My city walks first started here. It was in Over-the-Rhine I sought discoveries once beyond my reach. As in the term, apophenia, defined as the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data, here I made my first connections to people, places, and things and have come to rely upon the continuation of making connections to guide me in my days. And it was here that I paid homage to Music Hall, every damn day. I couldn’t help myself.

But where would I start, given how well I knew neighborhood? In the corner, like all the rest.

I walked past Music Hall and stopped for a brief moment along 12th to admire the Ophthalmic Hospital. A few years back, the buildings were undergoing stabilization and had been proposed as a boutique hospital. But, no progress has been made to date. I circled back towards Central Parkway, and found the new Cincinnati Shakespeare Theatre, set to open with a production of a Midsummer’s Night Dream. 

As I ambled along the side of the famed School for Creative and Performing Arts, I took in the whole of the school, which I didn’t often do as I rushed past. I’ve taught community workshops there, as well as enjoyed the artistry of a young neighbor of ours who attends school at SCPA. They have a rich set of arts offerings to rival its neighbors.

And in front of Cincinnati’s housing authority, but along a major thoroughfare, I found this for a bus shelter. A cruddy Metro shelter. We need better solutions for our transportation options.

I made it to the other corner of OTR, along Sycamore, where I took a peek inside the treehouse bar that had a run in the media for turning away patrons without having a posted dress code.

I miss the Diner on Syacmore. The last time I visited, I was with my sister, Beth, her hubby, Mark ,and my friend T. Whatever happened to the white chicken chili? It was the perfect foil to my way too late nights. The auditor file for that address was non-existent when I searched the archives, but that has happened often with our auditor’s work. Occasionally, the diner was used for commercials or commercial ventures, but I would like to know that the chili is coming back.

I continued north to see how efforts were progressing with Ziegler Park and pool. The park recently hosted its grand opening. Due to the afternoon rain, there were few pool patrons, but during my previous pool visits, plenty of neighbors and children were enjoying the surroundings.

Peaslee Neighborhood Center had been a mainstay, serving this neighborhood for many years. I had participated in many community programs here, as advocate and writer.  They did a lot of work with very little fanfare.

I crossed Liberty Street towards some of my favorite alleys and the Teez Café where speculations rains about its original use as a White Castle.

Along Main is an eco- garden where a large-scale Northpointe development project fell through. There was too many objections from the neighborhood. City policy needs to include affordable housing, otherwise, we’re just giving away the farm.FullSizeRender (38).jpg

I continued my walk up Main, past Rothenberg School, down Mulberry and took a little known set of steps back down to Vine. It’s a bit of shady spot, but I’ve been walking those steps for a long, I no longer notice.

I stopped to admire Schwartz Point, a former jazz club, where the owner used to cook the meals on Tuesday nights. I heard the club might come back, but the swale in the roof left me a little concerned. However, there was currently a fundraising project for its restoration.

Along Vine and behind its eastern side, there is a series of alleys that someday will be really cool when they are no longer vacant. But just the intersection of vacancy and alley ways leads to disruption. Even while I snapped photos, there was plenty of activity going that didn’t appear legal. 

Soon, the St. Anthony Center, which will host 6-8 social service organizations will open at the corner of Republic and Liberty. The Center for Respite Care, where my husband serves as a board member, will be one of those services. As part of Impact 100, our organization voted for this project to receive our funds. As I walked past, the contractors wanted to be certain their good work was highlighted.

After walking only a few hundred yards, there was the dichotomy which was so overwhelming.  Vacant buildings to me always signified vacated lives. And the sheer number of vacant buildings that existed in Over-the-Rhine was still astounding, despite how difficult or unaffordable it was to buy a home here.

I had spent a lot of time thinking about our neighborhood. After visiting thirty-five other communities, I could honestly say OTR, more than any other, represented the widest cross-section of what was important to a neighborhood, what made it so hard to live here, what made it so hard to leave. And that cross-section was made up of cultural icons, tourism, hot restaurants, social services, startups, chamber businesses, affordable housing, outrageous housing, and an active and vocal community council.

It’s what made it unique (oh they all are, but how many have a Music Hall & Memorial Hall and three food pantries/free meals within four blocks of each other?) Over-the-Rhine had the tourism dollars because we had the cultural icons. We also had the heroin addicts and panhandlers because we had access to free meals, 7 days / week. We had event spaces that were lightening rods for Lumenocity, CSO, and soon, BLINK, (you will want to learn more) and for activism, from the trial for the murder of Sam Dubose to the Women’s March and every little protest in between.

Those were my thoughts as I kicked up dirt down the alley where no one lived. And that’s where my mind landed. And my photos, too. Because for all the scrutiny that OTR underwent on a daily basis (ok, maybe I take some of it personally), we still had buildings where it was easy to hide out and deal drugs, prostitute, abuse children, sit vacant and allow to crumble because of our historic codes or historic boards not living up to their commitments.

There was really only one-quarter, no, perhaps one-eighth of the neighborhood that the average person who lives or visits Cincinnati really knows.

I continued on towards the end of Race Street, where St. Phillipus church still opens it door. The Bellevue Incline would have run somewhere above. (You can see the plaque along Clifton Ave.)

“In 1890, the incline was rebuilt to accommodate vehicles and streetcars. Unlike Bible-reading English section, Over-the-Rhine’s German burghers like a relaxed Continental Sunday. In the English, everything is quiet, while in the German section, people crowd into beerhalls and coffeehouses on nearby hills…No city in America was more alive on Sunday than Cincinnati.” – Cincinnati Observed, John Clubbe.

The remainder of my walk was through an area that most people didn’t consider Over the Rhine, or should I say didn’t realize was a part of OTR or didn’t even drive through that way to know it was OTR.

North of Findlay Market, one can walk along McMicken and come across a brewery which has had many name changes. Known once as the Felsenbrau (brewed in the cliffs), there were many underground tunnels to explore and its worth checking out the new Brewery Heritage Trail for their tours and eventual trail markers. Then, moving along, there were other breweries and buildings to marvel at in an area technically called the Mohawk District.

My walk concluded at the Mockbee, a former theatre/church, turned into nightclub performance venue. It was on my list, but I could never stay awake long enough to “go out” at ten, but I’m getting there.

Living in the city required all sorts of changes to one’s routine, including how one routinely thinks. Earlier morning walks to beat the traffic and construction noise, eating out through the weekdays/catching the theatre to beat the tourists or crowds. Someday when I am done with my walks, I’ll delve back into some of those topics, but mostly what is required was apophenia, the ability to see connections where before there were none. That had been at the heart of these walks, at the heart of my living here in OTR and what must be at the heart of every debate on every issue.

Elm Street Senior Housing garden, named for Ettore A. Januzzi, the author’s father.

 

And living in OTR, because I am surrounded and challenged my way of thinking, I really do see things more clearly, and thus issues become murky. I can no longer claim to see things in black and white.

Of Bikers and Vikings – Gettin’ My 52 on in the East End

This is my thirty-fifth in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. Follow me on Instagram for a hint of where I’ll venture next.

Another walk, another one shut down by rain. Argh.

The East End truly was more bike friendly than foot friendly. My husband even suggested, as we drove out to the neighborhood, “We could have biked.” He was right. But there were plenty of places where I couldn’t take my bike to find the interesting nooks and crannies that draw me in.

We began at Lunken Airport, where according to Google, some of East End encompasses that land. We walked partly around the trail and found a hangar which belonged to Proctor and Gamble. The facility resembled something out of a sci-fi novel, especially with all the warnings posted..

According to its master plan, Lunken Airport now occupies the area on which the early settlers built the town of “Columbia”, later to be called “Cincinnati”. Since this area was subject to flooding, the development of Cincinnati moved to higher ground in succeeding decades, while the original site became grain fields. After World War I, a group of ex-army pilots leveled off one of these grain fields,
and built a small barnstorming airport. With the subsequent interest shown in aviation by Charles Lindbergh’s trans-oceanic solo flight, a prominent Cincinnati industrialist, Mr. Edmund H. Lunken, purchased the property… Lunken Airport became one of the first and largest municipal airports in the United States.

We headed south on Wilmer and along what became Kellogg Avenue once more, where alas, there were no sidewalks. Up ahead, the properties along Kellogg consisted mainly of yards for car parts, the Cameo nightclub, and limited access marinas.

Stymied by the traffic, we turned around. Mark loved to veer and he never minded veering off MY path.

Thus, we took a detour into Peddler’s Mall and then continued along Riverside Drive. There, as we traipsed in and out of “No Outlet” streets, we discovered a few lesser-known marinas and The Viking Club. (Gift yourself the extra ten minutes to watch the video!)

The rain was looming and thus we stopped the walk for the day, bought a few ears of corn at the local farmer’s stand near the Lunken Trail, and headed home. I was dejected. It took a lot of energy for me to fit the walks into my schedule and the weather. I became antsy because of my internal goals.

Three days later, I returned to the East End by 6:30 a.m. It was a gorgeous day to stroll along the river and every chance I had, I followed a “no outlet” sign to cozy up to the water’s edge along Riverside Drive.

Plenty of construction was happening now in the East End. It was hard to believe no one had developed along the tracks or river sooner.

As I passed the Water Works, I discovered tile insets that I had never seen from my car or bike. I circled around the backside of old churches (St. Rose) and the Ohio River Trail (see map. I love the Cleveland reference).

The main small business center of the neighborhood started near Columbia- Tusculum  about where Eastern and Kellogg split off at Delta. Eastern was a quiet walk. (Kellogg was filled with light industrial centers.) The Hi-water mark will soon be bar, brought to you by the famous Eli’s BBQ of the East End, and Pho Lang Thang.

I found the Irish Cultural Center on the site of an old school. (I’ve yet to find an Italian one), a few breweries, and a candle shop where Shannon and her friend had just purchased candles via this store’s setup at City Flea. See? Connections.

As I dropped back down to Kellogg and circled back along Riverside Drive, I traipsed in and out of cutouts in the river’s course.

Then I found Hoff Avenue, thanks to a deer. A deer had bounded down the hill where steps ran alongside. I watched him for a while, as he contemplated crossing the busy street and I contemplated him. He took back up the hill (not the steps). I followed him and crossed a set of tracks that led to Hoff Avenue. There were maybe eight homes along the stretch, but plenty of vacant land. The views were just fine and so were the breezes. I’m sure this area would be developed soon, but could not find information after a cursory glance on the internet. For now, the signs were pretty clear. No trespassing. And a sign I could not see read either GUARD DOG or a BAD DOG. I could only make out the last “D” and then “Dog”. I went with the former, since I didn’t want to experience what a bad dog might do to my legs.

Once west of Collins, more shoring up of land along the tracks to prevents slides was occurring.

The East End council is currently at work, designating the area “that spans from Schmidt Field to Delta Avenue in the east-west direction and from Riverside Dr. to the Ohio River in the north-south direction” the East End Garden District. Districts are the next hot button for neighborhoods. There are few in OTR, the Gateway, the Brewery, and within the brewery, Findlay Market is at work on their own. I suppose its easier to gain funding or develop projects when a community can create landmark areas, but for now, I was not completely convinced of the need to further segment.

The East End has a healthy LeBlond Recreation Center,  Riverview East Academy, a K-12 CPS School of Choice (magnet), which sits on stilts (still waiting on an explanation for building a newer school in a flood plan) and is also home to the famous Verdin Bell companies sites.

FullSizeRender_3After walking nine miles in total, I would bike the next time I was in the East End. It was the most efficient means to see and travel across the community. It’s a great ride from downtown to the airport and eventual connection to other trails. And I might even remember to bring money to stop at Fuel – a cars and coffee shop.

Driving along Riverside and taking in the river’s course was the closest I could come to long jaunts along Lake Erie, eating banana soft-serve from Dairy Isle in the back of Dad’s wagon. I’m still in search of the soft-serve in the East End.

Mansions & Babies – Gettin’ My 52 On in N. Avondale

This is the thirty-fourth in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. Follow me on Instagram for a hint of where I’ll venture next.

I’d begun my walks in corners. SW, NE. Somewhere that signified a location where I could drop a pin on Google maps and remember where I parked my car. However, the strategy didn’t always work if I was in the opposite corner when rains came.

I parked along Reading Road, and hiked down Glenwood Avenue. There were ghosts of homes along the road that gave me a preview of what was to come. Soon enough, I strolled along Victory Parkway, thankfully on the shady side. The humidity was stifling, and I was tempting Mother Nature with my walk. The skies were painted a fuzzy yellow grey. It was only a matter of time before the deluge would descend.

Rain and heat and early, early mornings had been theme for the “summer I walked the city”, which is how I will remember it.

As I walked up Winding Way, I was reminded of my son’s frequent attendance at basketball camps (the scent of young sweat). Then my mouth fell open.

Massive mansions of glory were before me.

I thought, “I’ll have to find Marion Hall.” Friends of ours from Over-the-Rhine had renovated that mansion. On several occasions, we had been guests on to their historic mansion. As I pondered this point, I spotted a young man pushing a baby jogger. It was our friend, Ryan Messer! And, as an added bonus, with baby Lillian. Yes, the proud owners of Marion Hall.

“Hey what you are doing the suburbs?” Ryan joked.

I shared with him news about my project.

“That’s a pretty good idea. I could do that for the school board, something like running with / for kids.”

“You’re welcome to use it.”

Mark and I had first met Ryan and his spouse, Jimmy, one night at Zula. They were seated next to us at the pizza bar. One of them say something about living on 14th, and soon enough we were in conversation about our future home. Through Ryan, Jimmy and our streetcar and city advocacy, we had met many great citizens who Believe in Cincinnati, the name of the grass-roots organization advocating for continuation of the streetcar construction. We all saw something more in the city, hence these walks.

Ryan chugged up the hill with his baby jogger. And me, I just trudged wondering what was ahead of me.

Looking down at my phone to “watch” the weather, I crossed paths with another woman on the street, walking up to her home.

“Better get out early,” she warned, not knowing how frequent I had been checking the weather.

“Don’t I know it.”

We then conversed for five minutes about allergies and using Afrin nasal spray. Not kidding. Those were my mornings.

Marion Hall

I continued up Avondale Avenue, along Dakota, and found my way to Marion Hall.

IMG_2556Then, I pointed my feet towards Reading and the second half of my walk.

The skies were still a sunny grey, or a canvas gold. It was hard to tell at that point. I crossed over near the Belvedere. I will let Cincinnati Refined share more about the gorgeous building, which seemed like it came out straight out of New York City.

From there, I caught another glimpse into the past. But I knew how to tell when a storm was coming, the product of a mother watched baseball games and someone who lived to watch the skies along the Oregon coast.

Sure enough, the first sprinkle dripped on me. As I broke into a jaunt, the plop, plop became an all out drenching. I still had a mile to run before reaching my car. Without looking at the Google pin drop, I found my destination.

I sat in my car and laughed for while, wondering why the heck I was putting myself through theses tortuous mornings of finding the weather, finding my way, and finding myself. I did not arrive at an answer.

The next morning, Mark and I were scheduled to attend a brunch with our visiting niece. Mark had been on the call the night before, but he agreed to walk with me, knowing our time was limited. I picked him up at the hospital, and drove back to a familiar spot. The Belvedere.

There was no less humidity that day, but the threat of rain had dissipated some.

We picked up where I left off, with mouth gaping over the sheer wealth that had once occupied this neighborhood. And it wasn’t so much the size of the homes but the scope of the effort involved to care for the homes without hiring help on a daily basis. No one person could do that all.

We circled around a few areas, each home as spectacular and unique as the next, until we neared the Avon cemetery and Avon Fields Golf Course. We stepped a few feet into St. Bernard (not in the city and here’s why).

Then found our way to Wess Park and along a charming gaslight district. Had we turned west on Clinton Springs, we would have come across the Clinton Hills Swim Club. Friends of mine from Clifton, Avondale and Walnut Hills spoke highly of the pool community, so I will have to find out myself on some other walk.

We continued uphill on Clinton Springs until we met with Reading once more. Mark was still lugging his backpack, not wanting to leave it in the car. Despite the sweat, we still had a few miles to go, walking south on Reading and in and out of streets, like the one named after Fred Shutttleworth, a civil rights activist who spent many years in Cincinnati, while also fighting for rights in Birmingham.

The community has an active community council and a recreation center.

The area was settled by an influx of Jews in the late 1800’s. According to WPA Guide to Cincinnati, Reform Jews settled to the north of the suburb and the Orthodox Jews to the south. The grocery store magnate, B H Kroger, lived at 3863 Reading Road. And the Herschede Home (below) is at 3886 Reading Road.

The First German Protestant Cemetery was located where a parking lot was today. But read this fun research of what happened to the cemetery. Apparently, no one liked cholera in their ground soil.

North Avondale, like its southern sister, has plenty to teach us about wealth, diversity and maintaining a balance. (Read Casey Coston’s Soapbox blog here).Still, several worthy historic homes sat vacant, and I wondered if and when Cincinnati would have enough commerce for buyers to bring these back. At the end of Chalfonte Place, I discovered this overgrown property that was purchased in 2011.

The summer was wearing on me. I scanned my list of communities yet to walk and counted up the weeks until the election. That had been my goal. To walk all 52 within a year’s timeframe. Given Cincinnati summers, southern Ohio rains, and four kids living in four states, the odds of me making my goal were lower than I expected, when I first made my calculations months ago.

But I tarried on. The task was not exhaustive knowledge and there was no blue ribbon for finishing. Also there was no money. I did tabulate that if I walked all 52 and if each one took me approximately three hours to drive to, walk, photograph, then another two hours to blog, that would total 5 hours x 52 = 260 X $25-$50 / hour. My earnings would be $6,500.00 – $13,000.00. Perhaps I should have had the foresight find sponsorship, like Totes, or Coppertone, or Nike. Instead, I will have my blog as record and a little bit of wisdom as reward.