This is my forty-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.
I appeared like and sounded eerily similar to the scarecrow in Wizard Oz, flopping my arms around, explaining to my husband where North Fairmount was located.
North Fairmount was a fairly accessible neighborhood off the viaduct and Beekman, which made it more ironic, that this neighborhood too, had not thrived as others of a similar size, such as Columbia-Tusculum, that I had visited.
As an extenuation of my walk of English Woods, I included North Fairmount that day and parked my car at St. Leo the Great Parish, which boasted of an international community of congregants, including Burundian, Congolese and Guatemalan immigrants.
I plodded up Baltimore Avenue, the main thread that ran through the community. Across from a school, I encountered an older African-American woman wearing a neon vest and seated on a concrete wall.
“Hot out this morning.”
I quickly turned the conversation to what I perceived as her reason for the vest.
“What time does school start?”
“Not til 9:15 there abouts.”
“I can’t keep them all straight,” I shook my head. “The sign says magnet school but I’m still figuring out all those designations.”
LEAP Academy had just opened one month prior. LEAP was a Cincinnati Public School, and stood for Language Enrichment and Academic Proficiency. As a magnet school, LEAP’s focus was on the Spanish language. Given the make up of the neighborhood, the concentration made complete sense.
“I need a flow chart,” I joked.
“You and me both.”
“So you’ve been at this a while?”
“Bet you know all the kids?”
“Not these young ones since their coming in from all over, but yeah, the high school kids, know some of them.”
“You have the day off?” she quizzed me, like I was one of the kids, possibly skipping!
“I’m a writer, and teach some writing. I’ve got some flexibility. I’m not from Cincinnati, so I’m out walking as a way of getting out and getting to know the city.”
“So, the neighborhoods give you some inspiration, right?”
“You have a great day”, I bid to her and extended my hand for a shake. “I’m Annette.”
“I’ll see you when I come back down the hill.”
Her mouth opened in a slight smirk.
I tread up Baltimore, to Western-Northern, and turned and trekked back down, perusing Yoast and a few other streets which were getting the election-year paving treatment.
I returned again a few days later, parking again at St. Leo. The church was not only a landmark, but as its spires towered over the rest of the buildings in the neighborhood, St. Leo embraced its residents living below.
I started up again, seeking out steps up Denham. I traversed across Seegar, back to Baltimore, and down to where Baltimore met Carll, overlooking the tracks. The engine brakes pierced my ears. I scurried back up Carll, and around to Pulte and Denham. Many of the side streets “faced” into a valley where the playground was located.
The layout was certainly conducive to a neighborhood feel, and yet so many homes had been torn down or were in disrepair. However, I discovered other homes that had remained were kept up or at least neighbors were attempting to do so.
I encountered a rain garden project along Denham, and then hiked back up a set of steps at Beekman and Baltimore, across Liddell, and back to Baltimore again. I had criss-crossed a small portion of the neighborhood like a hopscotching preschooler.
A neighborhood that had once looked daunting because it had been forgotten, had lodged itself in my heart. If one scooped up all the homes in Columbia-Tusculum and situated them on the vacant lands of North Fairmount, no one would be the wiser.
It seemed more arbitrary than fair that C-T’s property values continued to climb and properties were highly sought-after, yet in North Fairmount, that was not the case.
Convinced I had completed my circuit, I glanced at the map. I noticed a small section of streets belonging to the community that was not accessible from near Baltimore. That puzzled me. I was forced to return to my car, DRIVE to the other section, only to discover that those streets belonged to the Baltimore-Pike cemetery, once as known as German Protestant Evangelical Cemetery or Raschig Cemetery. Thus, I could have walked through the cemetery from Baltimore, up into the burial grounds, and to the other side.
“I really want to show you North Fairmount sometime.”
Sure there was no coffee house, bar or restaurant. But I had felt a sense of warmth that did not permeate from the odd and oppressive heat of September.
Perhaps because Italians once lived there, I don’t know. From its easily navigable layout of the community, I could envision attracting developers and homeowners to the neighborhood’s natural undulations. I might be biased because I had become more adept at maneuvering around the community.
Following some research, I discovered this moving article , published this past August, about North Fairmount, naming it as one of our forgotten neighborhoods. Again, I asked. How did that happen? Like having too many children, did the city have too many designated neighborhoods and some just got overlooked and were left to fend for themselves? Wasn’t there someone we could take to task for this neglect?
There were many “missing teeth” along the back stretch of Pulte (see map) where I discovered this trailer. Don’t we have departments for this? And is this legal?
The community council was active, as the president was quoted in the above article. Residents met at St. Leo’s, which by now, I absorbed the fact that the church was everything in this enclave. After visiting St. Leo’s website, and learning the community had raised 25K to repair the stained glass windows, I re-enrolled in my Kroger community rewards and named St. Leo’s as my charitable organization.
I hope to someday read more about North Fairmount, that perhaps the MSD project which took away so many historic homes from South Fairmount (blog coming next), will at least spur more economic activity in North Fairmount.
The city needs gets its hands dirty in some of our forgotten neighborhoods, whacking at the weeds, putting together more comprehensive, innovative plans that don’t involve absent property owners or large developers. Plenty of residents or those who sent their children to LEAP or attended St. Leo’s probably know how to grow a community by weeding and planting roots. We could ask them.