This is my fiftieth 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.
Confession. I had procrastinated when it came to walking Hartwell. We have some young friends in Over-the-Rhine, Nick and Emily, who had moved from Hartwell. Months ago, when my “Girl, Walking” project first began, Nick and Emily suggested I include them when I walked Hartwell.
To date, no one other than Mark – and my circular and often irrational thoughts – had accompanied me on my walks. So, I had procrastinated until I only had three remaining walks to complete, one of them being Hartwell.
Finally, on a Friday night, I asked Nick and Em if they would wake up early on a Sunday morning to walk. The walk evolved into eating lunch at a West African restaurant and suddenly we were not walking early. Nor we were there only four of us out for a walk. A text had come across from Eric and Mindy, also newer friends of our in OTR, looking to to enjoy the rare late September sun. I asked them along too.
Now, we were six, squeezed into my car (Mark rode in the way back, curled up on my Browns blanket on a day the team would later lose to the Bengals). I inhaled and exhaled. I didn’t take direction well (instruction ,yes, direction, no). I was accustomed to crossing the street wherever my eyes or feet or head wandered and not at someone else’s suggestion.
Hartwell was small, Nick had informed me. It would take us no time to get around. We strolled down Vine and then onto Compton where we found Luken’s Blacksmith Shop and the Convent of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor and the Centennial Barn, only to learn that neither of those were within the neighborhood or city limits of Hartwell. And neither was a stretch of small homes that we traversed to get to Galbraith Road.
In essence, Hartwell was laid out in a bar bell shape. We had just circled one end of the barbell.
We landed back on Galbraith, perusing the exterior of the Daniel Drake Center for post-acute care and rehabilitation, while Dr. Mark explained “post-acute” to our group. Across the intersection of Vine and Galbraith, Hartwell School, a CPS community learning center and location of several Rookwood pottery drinking fountains, rose in the early morning sun, reminding me of another writing program where I had co-taught.
We neared the recreation center, a center that also served neighborhoods not in Cincinnati city limits. Nick had spent a few of his formative frisbee golf years in the field behind the center. He was now coaching Mark on the nuances of the game.
Nick then led us to the historical signage, and in particular, the neighborhood sign sporting a unique logo.
The logo, bearing resemblance to a stained glass design, was a graphical representation of the layout of a planned neighborhood, which was how Hartwell was originally conceived.
We traversed Vine to walk Parkway and cross the tracks, and landed in the section laid out as a rosette. Several churches were at the epicenter of the layout. There were so many great structures, including one at 233 Parkway Drive that sold a few years back for only 50K. Nick waxed poetically about wanting to buy it and fix it up.
Walking along Anthony Wayne Avenue, my stomach growled and we did have a planned food stop. However, we were not necessarily nearing the end.
Eventually crossing Galbraith again at Woodbine, we still had another side of Hartwell to walk, where we found two Habitat for Humanity homes under development in a section Nick proclaimed had not been the nicest part of the community. However, lawns once left to seed were now manicured.
Soon, we neared Wyoming (the neighborhood) where Nick and Em joked about the not so obvious border. How many times had I crossed over into another neighborhood, only to realize I was off my path because of campaign signs or school signs? How many neighborhoods looked the same one street to the next, Oakley and Madisonville, East Price Hill and West Price Hill, or until finally a house house fell into disrepair or a business shuttered closed?
Back on Vine, we came across the Public Library warehouse, where the Friends of Library held their sales. I was surprised by the smallness of the warehouse. However, I bet I could find about a dozen of my books inside. The store opened for regular hours on Monday, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Other times and sales can be found here.
We lunched at Teranga, a West-African restaurant, (I had the maffe). Oddly enough, I did have two Senegal connections. One of my mother’s caregivers had married into the family of the owner. And one summer, our family had visited Senegal while our daughter Shannon worked for the state department.
Nick worked for GE, and after surveying properties and values near GE Evendale, they settled on Hartwell. Once they discovered Teranga, Country Fresh Market and Cosmic Pizza, they knew they made the right choice.
Soon, we came upon the original Cosmic Pizza, the business now closed after its owner was brutally shot and killed during a robbery, leaving a widow and three children. The community rallied behind the family and the killer is still waiting trial on the death penalty.
As twenty-somethings, Nick and Em told us, eventually they found themselves downtown frequently. Like many others, they saw potential in the bones of the old buildings and was drawn to the new energy the city had begun to emit.
We ended our field trip at Country Fresh Market with a little beer tasting and some of Hartwell / Wyoming to take home with us.
A few days later, I returned to walk the remainder of the neighborhood AFTER I had found out about its bar-bell shape.
The two primary areas I had missed were the Evergreen Retirement Community and the Williamsburg Apartments. I had once considered living at the Williamsburg Apartments, but my older sister’s wise counsel led me to a different part of the city (That blog soon to come).
We have a few other “Nick and Em’s” in our lives. We call them “the kids” because the young friends do honestly remind us of our adult children. Sometimes, those same individuals have more fun hanging out with our kids when they are home. But honestly, Nick and Em and many of young people we have met in the city, in particular those not raised or schooled here, see the potential in communities like Hartwell, in a way that is different. They are willing to leap over eastside-westside borders and biases, and racial ones too. They are less entrenched and consider buying homes in neighborhoods that underdeveloped. We need more of them, we need better policies to attract them and keep them, and we need to sometimes get out of the way and let them run with ideas that are better than our own.
As for me, that day, with five others in tow, my pace had slowed. Our walk was a gentle reminder that it wasn’t always places, things, or events that connected me to the city. And it wasn’t always my husband or kids, family or long lost friends, but something or someone new could come along and likewise make me want more for all of us.
Lawn bowling, anyone?