Resurrecting Lost Italians – Gettin’ My 52 On in the CBD

FullSizeRender (24)* This is the twenty-sixth in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. What will I learn? Where I will I go next?

“You would make a lousy politician,” my husband said to me once. “Because you don’t like to share the streets and parks with others.”

“That’s not true,” I moaned. “I just like the quiet, so I can experience the city through my own eyes and not while bumping into others.”

So, I rose before dawn on the longest day of the year to walk the Central Business District, the city, downtown. However one referred to it.

I have walked every street and alley in the downtown region, as well as the backways and shortcuts, some out of necessity, others out of curiosity. It would be a challenge to find a way to connect to the city for the purpose of these walks and not diverge into other areas of history, alleys, murals, etc.

But, I would diverge, regardless.

My first effort began with heading towards the east end of downtown and the Theodore M. Berry International Friendship Park. I love the park’s version of the “Bean” which offered a flattering look back at oneself and not the overly distorted one. I also discovered this quote by Mr. Berry and its relevance to what I am personally, if not professionally and certainly not financially, accomplishing through these treks.

Then next challenge arose when I turned back towards Sawyer Point and downtown. Which way would I choose? I wanted the park to be its own neighborhood, for it often felt such in early morning, and because I had too much ground to cover.

The cherry red awning of Montgomery Inn shone brightly that morning and when the restaurant first opened in 1989, my sister, Laura and I took every parent, sibling and guest there over many years’ time.

Moseying along Sawyer Point, the volleyball courts were once the site of an AVP tournament I used to attend, and there were bricks along the point, when the park was renovated, which my sister and I donated to its fundraiser, but I had yet to determine our brick’s exact location. 

I bypassed the rest of Yeatman’s Cove (named for a well-patronized tavern on the river back in 1793) and Serpentine Wall because both spaces were iconic and ubiquitous. I turned up through parking lots to pass by the Anne Louise Inn, now owned by Western-Southern after a nasty ownership battle. Renovations were coming along on the proposed economic development, but I was there for another reason.

Behind the Inn, at Third and Lytle, in the late 1800’s, two Italian nuns had formed the Santa Maria Institute to support the assimilation of Italian immigrants in Cincinnati. At the end of the 19th century, there had been 8,000 Italians living in Cincinnati. (Italians of Greater Cincinnati). Now, that number of descendants was closer to 44,000.

And what I was learning and witnessing was that an entire subculture or ethnic group had been easily erased from Cincinnati’s history. For instance, one can read this brochure, which was handed out during the last Woman’s City Club meeting when Maria Hinojosa spoke, and see there were no reference to Italians, who contributed greatly to this city.

Further up Pike Street is the American Book Company Building, which is where William McGuffey (of the famed McGuffey readers) got his start through Winthrop Smith who tapped him to create “eclectic” readers, textbooks that espoused the values of honesty and hard work. The books were used often in Cincinnati Public Schools. According to legend, no McGuffey ever made money off those readers, but a few publishers did. I can totally relate. (Literary Cincinnati is worth a read for those wanting to know more).

I have referenced this fact before, but the annex of Proctor and Gamble was built over a demolished Church of the Sacred Heart at 527 Broadway. Sacred Heart was THE church for the Italians and had been built in 1890. It was another nod to corporate interests in a move that is now all too familiar in cases such as the Dennison Hotel.

I traveled along Fourth Street to where Mark was a patron of the Salzano Brothers barbershop, carrying on the tradition of Italians in Cincinnati. Mark always comes home speaking in a Italian. Like that’s gonna make him one.

The apartments at Fourth and Plum used to advertise, If you lived here, you’d be home. My first husband, Devin, lived at Fourth & Plum in his twenties, and until now, I never thought of him as an urban dweller. Perhaps at the time, we didn’t have the many distinctive labels that separate us all now.

In the spot where the Duke Convention Center sprawls, Peter and Stella Cetrulo opened another barbershop. It was known Peter sang arias as he cut his customer’s hair. I wondered if the Salzano Brothers had brought back that tradition.

Barbershops had been all the rage in the Italian set. Villari’s was opened on Central Avenue, and Angelo Bruno opened a barbershop at 5 Garfield Place and owned it for 36 years before selling to Fausto Ferrari in 1967. I’m not sure if Fausto is still there, since that’s not my thing, but the latest Yelp reviews had not been kind.

Passing along City Hall, I was trying to locate an area on W. 8th Street. I had read that along the 600 block of W. 8th, many Italians had once made their home. There was also a nursery, a welfare center and St. Vincent Apts. That stretch too was gone, replaced by parking. Though I had found plenty of connections to Italians in Camp Washington and also South Fairmont, where I had yet to walk, from my vantage point, Italians disappeared from the collective memory of many historians of Cincinnati, other than reference guides such as this: http://globalcincinnati.org/resources-2/cultural-guides/italian/

Produce had also been a mainstay for Italians hoping to start a new life. The Sansone family hosted a market at Vine and Walnut on Court, after the Canal Market was torn down. The city once had Joe Lasita & Sons produce wholesalers, and today, still is home to the Castellini Company. Further north, a passerby might also notice Catanzaro trucks, started in Springfield, Ohio.

Finally, Italians were and are excellent tailors, and the DiPilla Family was well-known in town, during the early 1900’s for their work on W. 8th Street.

Several dining establishments in the business district, Scotti’s and Campanello’s, still carried the Italian traditions, and some, like Via Vite, upgraded the experience. But my husband knows I don’t patronize establishments that can’t compete with my mother’s cooking. That’s just a hallmark of good Italian, to disdain anything that Mamma didn’t make.

The book, Italians of Greater Cincinnati, kept me occupied for days. While Cincinnati was once comprised of 60% of Germans, I informed Mark, the rest had to come from somewhere and they did. There had been multitudes of participants at Columbus Day parades over the years. I know, Columbus is no longer P.C., but tradition is worth holding on to. And am thankful to be in a city where Italians have held on (we always have a hard time letting go), even if the city, in many ways, has let go of them.

I conceded to time, on my tour of Italians in the downtown region, but resolved to keep pushing to learn more, join one of the Italian societies, find the deli that made the sausage at the Cincinnati Italian Festival and push for a sister city in the future. Afterall, Italians were all about la famiglia.

Making My Own Major – Gettin’ My 52 On in The Heights

* This is the twenty-fifth in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. What will I learn? Where I will I go next?

Though nearly halfway through my 52, already I was formulating a new plan in my life. Or at least an imagined plan.

With summer heat hot on my heels , early morning walks were becoming imperative. I met up with Mark, who had been on call the night before and now sported long, hiking pants in the encroaching sizzle.

We trekked up Vine Street where the street meets Taft and began our walk of The Heights. The Heights was its own neighborhood and mostly encompassed the University of Cincinnati. While Mark attended UC for post-graduate work, he was the only one in the family who obtained a degree from UC. Still, we marveled at the impressive campus, while also knowing there was an arms race in dorm building that happened here too, leading to more expenses for students.

We passed the parking garage and The Bubble, where many of the sports teams practice in winter. According to UC, “from November through February, the 100-yard field becomes an indoor practice facility, covered by an air-supported bubble that maintains an interior temperature of 50-60 degrees. This gives the athletic department an additional 72,200 square-feet of space for athletics events and competitions.”

On a Sunday morning, walking Nippert Stadium, which everyone knew by now as the alt-arena for FC Cincinnati, there were countless runners punishing themselves by running the bleachers. Also noted, every sporting arena was named after a well-known somebody, Lindner, Schott, Sheakley, Gettler.

There was no music that day emanating from the Corbett Center for Performing Arts or the Dieterle Vocal Arts Center. (Yes, you would recognize that name as Louise Dieterle Nippert). I encourage readers to learn more about the Nipperts (who came from Gamble money) here.

We passed between the App Lab of the Student Center, the Student Life Center and Baldwin Hall, the site of the Engineering building built in 1908. Baldwin was a guy with no ties to Cincinnati other than “I made money in Cincinnati” and gave close to $700K to make that building happen.

We moseyed on through the Zimmer Roof Garden, who knew we were on the roof of the Zimmer Auditorium? As we proceeded down the steps of Library Square, we looked down over more construction and gave a backward glance at the Engineering research center.

From there, we crossed into Burnet Woods, thankful for the cover of shade. Burnet is a City of Cincinnati park and encompasses 90 acres, with a pond, nature center and bandstand. The bandstand was built in the same style of Washington Park and Eden Park. Burnett also boasts of a little-known outside of Cincinnati from a tourist standpoint Wolff Planetarium, the oldest west of the Allegheny Mountains.

When the parks levy was on the ballot, there had been a proposal to build a concession stand in Burnett Words, but this was place that did not need disturbing, especially for the birds’ sake. The area was named an “important birding site” by the Audubon Society.

We circled back out along Ludlow, to the fountain that greets all park visitors from the northern edge. The neighborhood also included the stretch along Clifton Avenue containing the fraternity and sorority houses and another enclave of homes that I had included in a previous walk, before learning that I had “overstepped” my bounds.

When not hot, when school’s in campus, the area was certainly a more lively walk and Mark and I had enjoyed many of them, just not on the day when the temperature was encroaching upon 90 by nine.

According to Google maps, The Heights included Fries Café (another old haunt) and Cactus Pear, which was the best place for margaritas before Bakersfield of course. But according to various neighborhood signs, some of these areas competed for naming rights.

The University traces it beginnings to a charter in 1918 and now boasts of over 44,000 students. The Bearcat nickname originated from a football player named Baehr and immortalized by the student newspaper cartoonist.

UC has had many PR nightmares, from the University of Cincinnati police officer shooting of Sam DuBose to sexual harassment lawsuits. Recently, the baseball coach left abruptly and the school recruited its crosstown rival coach. And UC football is struggling to be invited to a larger conference.

But many of my friends have attended or worked there. Many children of friends have made their way through the hallowed halls. And the school itself boasts of the world-renowned engineering and co-op programs, business programs and the DAAP school, where once I upon a time, I fashioned myself an architect or planner. These walks have heightened my interest in urban architecture or planning, or just urban connecting through art. Many artists and community engagement individuals now call themselves social artists. I wonder if any of those designations would be considered a major for a degree?

After age 50, shouldn’t we all get to make our own majors?

 

An Origin Story – Gettin’ My 52 On in Oakley

* This is the twenty-fourth in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. What will I learn? Where I will I go next?

One life has many origin stories. This is one of my mine.

Two houses awaited my approach at the end of my walk in Oakley. Mark was on call that Saturday morning, and I parked in the lot of the Hitching Post, the furthest point from those homes and trekked south along Edwards Road, past the Malton Gallery.

Many of the roads into Oakley’s residential neighborhood had been blocked off over time, to eliminate traffic pass-throughs from the Rookwood retail developments into the once quiet streets of Oakley.

In my “youth”, I spend plenty of time running and walking these stretches and found the homes as charming as I recalled. Though I didn’t remember the multitudes of allegiances proudly demonstrated through the various flags hung outside each home along certain streets.

I followed along and turned onto Minot. Once I got my bearings, I realized this area was a potential space for the FC Cincinnati MLS stadium. Ironically, I would be in conversations later in the week with a young couple who lived in proximity, and absolutely did not want a stadium there because they felt it would upend the neighborhood. Anyone who has entered and exited off the Rookwood exchange knows the traffic backup nightmare that already exists. I tended to agree with them.

I passed through the more industrial section to Oakley. And I would learn more of the history later in my research. But, as I walked the curve, I delighted in coming up the Brazee Street Studios where my friend Sara Pearce has a studio. Sara’s Paper with a Past artwork hangs in my home, but she became a closer friend when she and her friends invited me to march with them in Washington.

The stretch of retail shops in front of Brazee along Madison Road is worth checking out and the merchants have their own retail walk. The establishment that was now Maribelle’s, once belonged to a Jean-Robert, French-Vietnemese restaurant. The location was also home to southern-inspired restaurant whose name escaped me.

Most people knew Oakley for one of two establishments. Crossroads and Madtree. Mark and I had recently visited Madtree and understood what the buzz was all about. Also, the parking, was a little harebrained. Being from “the city”, we also wondered how much one could really make this a walkable destination and from where. But it’s a great spot and addition of pizza was a brilliant move.

I rounded the corner down Ridge to Brotherton, past a new favorite, The Wheel, then retraced my steps back up Brotherton to Club View Drive. Another group of charming streets were within sight, many renovated hobbit-like homes that backed up to the Hyde Park Golf Course, which part of Oakley encircles, but did not belong.

I trekked up, down and around some of the hills  of Marburg. I had an agenda. Near Paxton, I landed at the playground.

I stood on the tennis courts, where I once took a few hits, literally, playing with my first husband, Devin, and friends. I stared out at a certain home across the street. My older sister’s friend, Nancy, lived there for a quite a while. She rented the space, and finally, after much contemplation, she bought a quaint home in Madeira. Nancy had a spirit that could lift the dead. She brightened up any room she entered, and was a dedicated social worker at Children’s. I also don’t think Nancy ever slept, worried as she was about all children, and committed as she was, to living a full life.

Shortly after Nancy’s move to Madiera, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Yes, she did smoke, but she was waaayy too young to have developed a habit long enough for such an incidious cancer to take her so soon.

Nancy died the year Devin was scheduled to receive his bone marrow transplant. I had last seen her seated on the porch, with breathing machine nearby, and we waved goodbye before leaving for Seattle. Nancy and I had bonded as individuals do, over a disease that had and would alter the course of our lives.

Nancy’s death hit Devin and me hard, because, like so many others, we had held out hope for our own cause. Her death shocked and shook us in a way numbers and percentages could not.

FullSizeRender (20)Ironically, after Devin’s diagnosis and prior to Nancy’s, she had visited Churchill Downs as an avid, annual participant in Derby festivities. In a show of support and awareness of bone marrow donations, she had sported this sign. The photograph has proudly been displayed in my office ever since (1999).

In an odd twist of Fate, Nancy and Devin and I had also shared a street. Ballard. I turned north and walked up the hill, anxious to see what condition a certain home was still in. Devin owned 4007 Ballard at the time he and I met. I spent countless nights there, before telling my parents I was moving in with him. To save money, of course. We hosted several wild parties, including an oyster bake, when we really didn’t know what that meant, and a few hot tub parties to boot. We were working together at the time, and often drove to our jobs and drove home together, in a weird arrangement that one of us should have stopped long before we started. But, we were young.

We eventually moved from that home to Loveland, but that home stood the test of our early relationship and had stood the test of time. Any neighbors out that day I walked would have witnessed, not a 50-something, but a 20-something, mourning more of who I had been, who I had so wanted be, but was held up temporarily by life forces beyond my control.

I continued at a more brisk pace because I had guests at home. I walked past St. Cecilia, where our former pastor from St. Margaret of York, Fr. Jamie, presided. Also, my father in law, Mark Sr., worked at St. Cecilia’s a few days a week. St. Cecilia’s was built in 1908 in the Gothic style and was a tough booking for weddings, for which my niece will be married there in two years.

The entrance to the public library branch boasts of an arbor and impeccable landscaping, but stood in contrast to some libraries I had seen in other neighborhoods. Another example of the lack of parity, and what might appear to be a more friendly-looking safe space than others I had encountered.

The rest of my time trekking back along Madison Road was spent hopping back and forth across the Madison to shoot fun photos. Oakley has charming square near the Oakley Theatre, site of many great concerts and events, and then back towards my car.

Cincinnati: A Guide to the Queen City and Its Neighbors refers to Oakley as the “nerve center of Cincinnati’s contribution to the war production.” The area was purchased in 1846 and named Oakley supposedly because of the plethora of oak trees, though most residents at the time called this area “Shusterville” after one of its founders.

In 1907, long after the racing track closed, Oakley was known for the Cincinnati Milling Machine Company (most recently known as Milacron or once known as the Cincinnati Tap and Screw) on a 125-acre site called the Oakley Factory Colony.

Oakley has an active community council, hosting a Final Fridays through the summer. And Habits had finally undergone a renovation, from my days at Star Bank, when our boss “took us to lunch” there, meaning we still paid.

When we lived in Oakley, we always wanted to be somewhere else. Someone else. The curse of being young. We also lived in Cincinnati at a time when the riverfront was flourishing, as it is now. And our jobs took us to many far flung locations, including the west side. But always, at the end of night, we had each other.

I had never driven my son, Davis, past the home where his father lived. I’m certain he follows his mother’s blogs devoutly, so now he’ll know. But Oakley, always called Hyde Park near in real estate ads during my years, was our own incubator for a young relationship and lasting friendships.

I wasn’t crazy of the new paint color. If I drove Davis to that home now, surely the first thing he would notice is the paint combination, sporting University of Oregon colors where he now attends.

That home had been backdrop for the first of many origin stories. Twenty-five years later, I would stand in front of the home, envisioning Devin driving his black Nissan Maxima up the driveway, me, trailing behind in my Toyota Cellica, entering a life we couldn’t imagine.

What’s The Point – Gettin’ My 52 On in Pendleton

* This is the twenty-third in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. What will I learn? Where I will I go next?

In my reference book, A Guide to the Queen City and Its Neighbors, (1943), places now called Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton were once simply referred to as areas in the city.

Before spending much time in the city of Cincinnati proper, Pendleton to me had always been considered a part of Over-the-Rhine. If I was near the casino, long before the casino, I was either in downtown, as delineated along Central Parkway, or I was in Over-the-Rhine. Even as we considered move to Over-The-Rhine, it was my husband who once informed me that Pendleton was a neighborhood and the city actually did too.

FullSizeRender (1)The boundaries of Pendleton can be drawn by connecting three points. Central/Reading to Sycamore, Sycamore to Liberty and Liberty back to Central/Reading.

From my home on 14th on Race, I walked each north and south street of Pendleton, a few alleys in between, and walked back home in 45 minutes. Some of the speed factor may have come from the fact that I know the neighborhood well, but some of is attributed to the fact Pendleton is one of Cincinnati’ smallest neighborhood, yet still remains part of Over-the-Rhine Historic district.

FullSizeRender (2)Pendleton was named after George Pendleton, a U.S. Senator, who had a home located in Prospect Hill, now a part of Mt. Auburn, where he drafted the first Federal civil service law. His wife was the daughter of Francis Scott Key of the Star-Spangled Banner fame. However, his family’s first home was in the former rectory location at St. Paul Church, at the SE corner of E. 12th and Spring, a church built in 1850. The church has withstood fire and all the stained glass windows were made in Germany. Its worth a look inside. It should be noted the rectory was torn down brick by brick and reassembled at the rear. The church was eventually deconsecrated and purchased by the Verdin Bell Company. (More photos here)

FullSizeRender (15)The Verdin Bell Company is of course, now a cornerstone of the neighborhood, as is The Bell Event Centre. The furniture at Findlay Market was produced by Verdin Bell. And Mark and I are proud owners of a similar set that I secured via one of the owners, met years ago at Findlay Fundraiser when I asked, how do I get that set in purple? Today, I own that set in purple.

Along the 1100 block of Broadway is a stretch of buildings once used for training the troops for the Civil War. There was also a practice rifle range, many brawls and a few Confederate executions which took place nearby.

FullSizeRender (8)Pendleton is home to a thriving artist enclave, Pendleton Art Center and Annex, which hosts its monthly Final Fridays. Some of my favorite artists have spaces there. CityScapes Tiles, Susie Brand Jewelry and Donna Talerico, to name a few. New, small restaurants and bars have or are sprouting up in was what mostly abandoned buildings. Urbana Café, Boomtown Biscuit (not yet open), Lucius Q with Aaron Sharpe, Nation Burger Bar. And course, Nicola’s and my favorite Italian courtyard. A few others will come online, as well as the new pool associated with Ziegler Park, scheduled to open June 10th.

There are new infill developments and land is becoming more valuable. This neighborhood too will see its share of what everyone has an opinion about – gentrification.  If one is in downtown or OTR, it’s worth a leisurely walk around the neighborhood.

We’ve met long time Pendleton residents and also have met a number of residents who have moved into some lovingly restored homes, as well as few in the process of being restored. Over the Rhine Community Housing owns several properties here, under Cutter, Morgan and Carrie properties. Also, the Model Group, known for their development of affordable housing and retail solutions, has large presence here.

Woodward was one of the first public schools in the country. The school opened in 1826 and offered free education for poor children. The remains of Abigail Cutter and William Woodward, founders, are supposedly buried beneath the school grounds and Abigail’s ghost haunts the building.  In 1910, a third iteration of the building opened and was dedicated by William Howard Taft. The building once housed the School for Performing Arts and now is home to apartment dwellers.

The site is also has ties to the Underground Railroad. Levi Coffin was known as the President of the Underground Railroad, sheltering fugitive slaves each year on their way to Canada. He and his wife lived on this site from 1856 to 1863. This site was also the home to hospitals and principals long before it became a school and now apartments. The building was known for its swimming pools (two) and its Rookwood Pottery drinking fountains.

Across the street in OTR though directly impacting Pendleton, Ziegler Park was once a great community asset and then became a known for prevalence of drugs. And many summer days, I walked past the pool and there were zero, zero patrons there.

When the announcement came that the park and pool would be renovated, there was a lot of angst in the community. How would 3cdc be responsive to all the neighborhood needs? The swim pool membership has been structured like Cincinnati Recreation Center memberships. There is an effort to maintain Ziegler as low programming site, unlike Washington Park which is constantly programmed. The goal is also that it be family oriented and community oriented. In essence, a neighborhood pool. As a member in some community conversations, I look forward to hanging at a pool with my neighbors, listening to the kids squeal and of course, a few cannonballs off the diving board. And I cannot stress the importance of every child learning to swim. Read my previous post here.

I love Pendleton, but its neighborhood designation falls into the category of “why do we need to be duplicating neighborhood efforts, for a small number of blocks?” I attempted to track down the history of how, when or why it become a recognized city neighborhood. One email was acknowledged but not returned. Several requests were made to folks who lived in the area. Through the efforts of my friend, Jon, I was directed to Ohio’s Secretary of State website which lists a St. Paul Community Center, established in 1968, then renamed Pendleton Neighborhood Council in 1971. Throughout the course of time, the group allowed for the relapse and reinstatement of incorporation several times. There is speculation that the area wanted to break away from Over-the-Rhine in its previous rougher state. However, the OTR comprehensive plan, as well as the OTR Community Council still include the area as part of Over-the-Rhine.

Which leads me to ask, not just about Pendleton, but other smaller neighborhoods I have walked, to what end is the city duplicating efforts? There are developments in Loveland and Mason three times the size of Pendleton and Millvale. Are these neighborhoods better or less served in that state as separate? And I wonder if some of the segmentation of our city has led to less cooperation between neighborhoods and the city over the years?

One of my first “morning finds” after we moved, was my discovery of an alley that so closely resembled Europe that I went back to that alley time and again to just absorb in its charm. I look forward to many more morning finds to be discovered in this enclave, and hope to someday discover the real reason Pendleton decided to stand on its own.

Unexpected Catcalling – Gettin’ My City On in Millvale

*This is the twenty-second 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?

I had an afternoon free of manuscript edits and the sun shone brightly onto my map of Millvale.

I knew exactly how to drive to Millvale since I had already visited South Cumminsville and accidentally walked a portion of Millvale, before realizing how often smaller neighborhoods overlapped without any notice.

I had my route plotted out, as well as the estimated time I would commit. The only event I hadn’t planned on was the catcalling I experienced later in my outing.

I parked near the south end of the neighborhood and walked north on Beekman Street, with the Millcreek running along the backside of many abandoned industrial properties. The Lang Ironworks, in business for over 120 years, had a fascinating collection of iron implements out front, of which any iron / steel sculptor would salivate over the remains.

It was a short jaunt really to the northern end of the neighborhood, around the Millvale Recreation Center and pool. The rec center listed ten neighborhoods served, however, a few redundancies were listed. The website referred to itself as a “hub” for these communities but I found that rather inefficient and disingenuous to lump that sprawling web of communities into one center.

My walk took place before the fill.

The Ethel M. Tayler Academy was located in Millvale. Read this story because the reporters did justice to every last detail I could have inserted here and more.

There was another side of Millvale and other neighborhoods that ran along the “tortuous” Mill Creek (as referred to in A Guide to the Queen City and its Neighborhoods) and that was one of industry. So I trekked down a side road and discovered the Cincinnati Firefighters training facility. As I continued further along Mill Road, I came upon Cincinnati’s Neighborhood Operations plant.

In an old abandoned industrial site, plenty of garbage cans had been laid to rest. City trucks moved in and out of the Lego-like town of moving parts.

I approached the bridge over the creek and stopped to shoot a photograph. When I turned back on my path out of the industrial area, I heard the loud, obnoxious whistle.

A catcall.

Originating from inside a city truck. On city property. By a city employee. A part of me wanted to run up and scream at the idiot in his face. The other part of me just yelled, “What a boor!” For the record, I had worn my old jeans and pulled my hair back, to any critic who might have accused me of wearing Lycra that day.

Infuriated, I marched on, coming to an endpoint for the Mill Creek Bike trail.

“Queen City-South Mill Creek Greenway Trail

When all phases are complete, the Mill Creek Trail will extend from the Hamilton County Fairgrounds in Carthage to the Ohio River. From the mouth of the Mill Creek, the trail will extend east to the Cincinnati Riverfront Park, with connections to the Ohio River Trail traveling east and west and to other regional and statewide trails. Currently the trail extends from Winton Road to the Mill Creek Bridge. The hike-and-bike trail is a major component of the City of Cincinnati’s Mill Creek Greenway Program, managed by the nonprofit Groundwork Cincinnati. The program seeks to create opportunities for bike commuting to work, walking and biking for short trips, and outdoor recreation and exercise. Other objectives are to improve the health of the degraded river and its natural resources, to economically revitalize neighborhoods and communities within the river corridor, to create jobs, and to retain and attract residents and businesses. For information about the Mill Creek Trail and other Mill Creek programs, please visit Groundwork Cincinnati.”

FullSizeRender_1In every neighborhood I had visited, I had been treated with respect if not even kindness. But there, where city employees didn’t have to care whose life they were encroaching upon, I had felt less safe.

I circled back south along Beekman Street, past Simmering Tile Co. Check out the website for a fun viewing of tiles you have seen around town.

I veered slightly off Beekman and decided to walk up Moosewood for a short while, a street whose entire length is committed to affordable housing through CMHA. The south end of the Moosewood, where one once accessed Westwood-Northern Boulevard, had been blocked off long ago, so I couldn’t complete my circle.

I felt a certain anguish walking here, seeing a street blocked off, a challenged community sandwiched between other neighborhoods that struggled. These were areas in need of attention and children in need of options.  There were many sprawling, industrial sites, accessible to the interstate, where development could occur.

But I took solace in that fact that even guys hanging out at the Cumminsville Market offered, “Good day,” without the catcalls.

Counting Sheep – Gettin’ My City on in Mt. Lookout

*This is the twenty-first 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?Many connections to my past had been made in Mt. Lookout.

Mark and I began at the base of Kroger Avenue, walking past a myriad of homes accessible only by steps, and trekked up Delta towards Mt. Lookout Square. Ironically, Mt. Lookout was once just an enclave called Delta, and access to Mt. Lookout was made possible from Cincinnati, by two dummy lines owned by Charles Kilgour (of the elementary school).

As we read the historical marker, I wondered how many citizens knew that Delta Avenue was once called Crawfish Road?

From our standpoint, we spotted MLT’s, Millions and the famed Zips, established in 1926 and site of famous hamburgers and train that ran around the top of the restaurant, all hangouts from another time in my life. I had spent more money in the next-door hobby store, buying for Davis, than I would care to admit.

I loved the walks outside of our neighborhood with my husband, because we were spurred on by the new energy we found in each other, as each one’s eyes opened to something new, or newer. And too, as second spouses, the walks had offered each of us permission to reminisce about the persons we once were, before we met.

The last time I chugged up that same hill on Delta was during a Reggae Run for Maria Olberding, a young woman attacked with a knife and killed while training for the Boston Marathon. The Reggae Run was no longer, but the first mile of the Queen Bee Half Marathon, called the One Love Mile, was now dedicated in her honor. I promised to keep her in mind the next time I ran the Bee.

As we turned up Observatory, lucky for us, we found the Cincinnati Observatory. Once based in Mt. Adams, the observatory’s telescope from Bavaria was still in operation and remained the oldest instrument still in use.

Our path took us into Ault Park and through the muddy trails that abound throughout the park, trails that were often overlooked because of the spectacular views of the Ohio and Little Miami Valleys and the lush gardens on the green. The trails also brought to mind hiking with a certain Boy Scout troop years ago, when I was a single Mom. The Boy Scouts then were reeling from their own scandals and I suspect many of the troops were instructed to ensure there was an adult for each child on every outing. Still I tired, as a single mom, of participating in everything, and I suspect that might be why scouting didn’t stick for D.

Ault Park was named in honor of Ida May Ault and her husband, Levi Ault, who was prominent in the development of Cincinnati parks. When the park was first conceived, 97 sheep were employed to trim the lawns and shrubs. The park now boasts of an advisory board, presumably to replace the sheep.

The first flower garden was designed by George Kessler and at the center of the park is a pavilion built in the 1930’s in the Italian Renaissance-style. Many Spring Flings, weddings and parties have been attended here (by myself and others) over the years.

We continued to affirm our assertions that it did indeed rain every weekend in Cincinnati, evidenced by all our walks that had been rained upon. My camera had difficulty capturing all the beauty of Ault Park.

The Cincinnati Flower and Garden Show had been held at Ault Park for many years, until it outgrew its space and welcome. The show moved to Coney, Loveland, and now was hosted at Smale Park. The park gardens were comprised of sponsored lots, as well as the grand lawn there the Concours d’Elegance was hosted every year.

Near the playground, we spotted our first cicada, and ironically, it was near here four-year-old Davis spotted his first. Though the bugs didn’t freak him out as much as the Fourth of July fireworks we attended every year and (left early for, because he couldn’t stand the noise).

Then, we turned down my favorite street of Hershel Avenue, where my sister and her husband once lived. In the days following my husband’s death, this place was an respite and oasis for me (as well as makeshift restaurant since Beth ran her catering business from, much to David’s chagrin), but dogs abounded in and out of the back pond, and there were many a party that David and Beth hosted that Mark was still waiting for the invite.

The number of homes that were unique and breathtaking were too many to count. But its mostly memories in Mt. Lookout that I cherished here.

Within a week, I walked another small neighborhood called Millvale and the contrast between the two was more than just black and white. We cannot treat all our neighborhoods the same, though I do believe we need a way to measure progress in each. But truly Mt. Lookout was a neighborhood that wouldn’t ever struggle. The highlighted event on Mr. Lookout’s community council website was community golf scramble, while the other community’s council was listed as inactive.

I’d stated before that I didn’t plan my walks in advance, but a part of me subconsciously plotted out walks so that I bounced around from one side of the city to the other, or from one more impoverished area, to another more affluent one. In this way, I was experiencing the range of emotions and reactions contrasts often provided.

As I continued my walks, many lessons were congealing, such as the fact that one’s birth into a situation, good or bad, is a more than a significant determination of their outcomes in life, and those in tough situations have a harder time making good, than the good going bad.

 

The Prospects Here – Gettin’ My 52 on in Lower Price Hill

*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.

The school was built during the Art Deco boom, and its worth the opportunity to view all of its architectural details. I could have circled the building in awe all day.

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 we rounded the corner, I wanted to snap a photo of the street sign, Hatmaker, because there had to have been hatmaker somewhere, right?

We passed the LPH Pizza Company, which I recently found on the Uber Eats app, with its hallmark Cincinnati Chili Pizza. I’m saving that visit for Davis.

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.IMG_0873

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.

FullSizeRender_1Mr. 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.IMG_0560

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: 

Annette,

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.

GW)

 

 

 

 

Of Goose Bumps and Elbow Bumps – Gettin’ My 52 On in Roselawn

* This is the nineteenth in my series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods, leading up to the city’s 2017 election. What have I learned? What makes each one relevant to me?

My week away from the city loomed and I had to squeeze in a few walks around the rainy season which had descended a little late for spring. I knew the general vicinity of most Cincinnati neighborhoods, but some ran together, and it was hard to decipher the dividing line. And some neighborhoods had their own dividing lines.

I took the path I knew best and exited off Ronald Reagan Highway and drove south along Reading Road. I parked at McDonald’s, knowing I could leave my car stationary for however long I planned to trek.

In that spot I would later come to see around the edges of formulating my lesser known or realized learnings from these walks.

There was no driving force propelling me one way or the other around the area. All I recalled of Roselawn from my quick lookup and little map was the Cincinnati Red’s Urban Youth Academy, also known as the P&G Cincinnati MLS Urban Youth Academy. So I turned east, walking along the residences of Roselawn Village. The collection of 160 units was built in 1959, in the colonial-style and contained a mix of apartments and townhomes.

As a mid-20th century suburban garden apartment complex, it is distinguished by its sophisticated triangular plan, remarkable sensitivity to site and high level of integrity. The well preserved apartment buildings are varied yet harmonious in style and include many original features characteristic of the Colonial Revival mode including pediments, parapets and cupolas. Click on the link for an aerial view of the triangle setting.

 

The sun shone bright that day on the ballfields, and I recalled schlepping Davis back and forth to his ball games, never there, but that little kid worshipped baseball, the game, the players, the Reds, and still does. I miss the kid, but not the times.

Funded by the Reds Community Fund, there was a solid set of fields, a playground, and a fitness course. I attempted a few exercises painted on the ground, much to the entertainment of a few bystanders partaking in the course.

Then, on I went, winding up at an intersection near the Cincinnati Gardens. Now, I was unclear about my direction even with the small map I had printed to get a better sense of the borders. I turned up Wiehle and went up and up, with no idea what was on the other side if I were to descend down. My heart raced, and not just from the fact I was pacing uphill. The street was filled with light industrial warehouses where there was little commerce or traffic in the car or on foot. I was definitely “off the path”, unsure where I was going.

FullSizeRenderAfter about a minute, which felt like ten, I came to the top of the rise. Just down below recognized Losantiville Road and breathed out in relief.

To top that off, I found the Big Top. The home of the Cincinnati Circus. Well, there’s no bigtop here, but they offer classes, and I could see the aerial bars from the sidewalk. They are available for team-building events, and probably even family gatherings, which can become circus-like anyhow. I mentioned them here, despite that the business was officially in Golf Manor, which was not a Cincinnati neighborhood.

How odd that a single corner can be geographically carved out of a neighborhood or appropriated by another. Or a triangular-shaped piece of land on the east side of the tracks still belongs to the neighborhood to the west.

Re-entering Roselawn, I plodded up serene, tree-lined Eastlawn Drive and came across the Cincinnati Generation Academy, a charter school. As someone who grew up in public schools, and sent children to public and parochial, I have seen the increase in the city neighborhood charter schools. The chain had been backed by the state. And I was beginning to wonder, that however important public schools are, are they too big to change? Can we break them down to allow for nimbleness? I understand CPS also had magnet schools, but how practical are they, given our city’s inefficient public transit accommodations?

“CGA students will have an extended school day adding up to 40% more learning time. Students will engage in project based learning opportunities during morning STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and Humanities (English Language Arts, Social Studies) courses.  Afternoon courses will provide time for enrichment such as art, music, physical education as well as support services for English language learners and students with diverse learning needs.  In addition to more academic learning time, CGA students will spend time exploring the world outside the classroom during twice annual, three week long Intensive Courses. Intensive Courses  expose students at an early age to some of Cincinnati’s high growth industries as well as provide time to experience some of the city’s most treasured resources.” – from their website.

The former Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church, built in 1941, closed in 2008. The space looked to be repurposed by another congregation of a different faith but I couldn’t discern that at the time.

As a note, if one followed Eastlawn south, towards its terminus, one would find the Liberty Elm Memorial.

The rain was closing in and I discovered that many neighbors were out, mowing and sweeping before the projected deluge. I stopped one neighbor from her sweeping, in order to chat.

She had a mayoral candidate sign out (the street was filled with more of the same signs), so I stopped to talk.

I have the primary on my brain, so what’s important to you about the city priorities, what do you want to see them working on?

Without hesitating, she said, Transportation.

Like buses?

Yeah. Buses. They’re talking about closing Amtrak but thats silly because it only runs once a day anyhow. But lots about transportations, too many traffic tie-ups, too much focus on the highways.

She also named the MSD (sewer) problem.

Well, that’s a city-county relationships, right?

Yeah, I just don’t get why the city can’t work that all out, you had all those people last year around Norwood with flooding, and every time it rains we never know what’s gonna happen with the flooding.

This woman and I could have gone at it all day with “what would you do?” in the city sort of questioning, but I complimented her on the yard – she had lived there twenty years, as had most of her neighbors – and tarried no more.

We ended with quick introductions. I’m Annette. I held out my hand.

Well, she looked down at the garden gloves on her hand. How ’bout an elbow bump?

Even elbow bumps gave me goose bumps as I did this work.

I needed to get moving since I was only halfway around the neighborhood and was starving.

I approached a familiar intersection and stood for a moment to recall why. Davis played the violin and Antonio’s Violin, now located near my mom’s, was once located right down the street here. Davis played the viola for four or five years, and as his arms grew, he traded up. He was almost, almost Vivaldi.

I headed north, crossed Reading, and strolled along the other half of the neighborhood, near the public school, and along a beautiful stretch called Greenlawn. Of course it was. Many residents there maintained incredible gardens.

The Mill Creek ran through the northwest quadrant of this community, and it really was a resource that every Cincinnatian should learn more about, including me. Here’s a quick link to a long history of the watershed.

The intersection where I parked had been near an office tower and that day, I was quite thankful for the high-rise as my compass.

Roselawn, until the early 1940’s, had grown slowly, but soon the nearby Mill Creek factories boomed with war orders. As the values rose, the opportunity to live there became scarce.

As I marched back down Reading Road, I was nearing the parking lot of McDonald’s when I stopped in my tracks. I looked up and saw a familiar sign.

Woods Hardware was located downtown. My husband visited every weekend. And many downtowners had supported them so well over the years, they had the wherewithal to buy and partner with the former Small’s Hardware in Roselawn.

A thought struck me then, about trying to find not just personal connections in each of these neighborhoods, but I was starting to see how each community was linked to one another. And that, that was something every neighborhood could build on.

 

Want to know more about Cincinnati’s community councils and development corporations? Start your search here.

 

In the words of the immortal Jill Linville, my college roommate, “Where to from now?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admits of Magnificently – Gettin’ My 52 On in Columbia-Tusculum

* This is the eighteenth in my series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods, in the year of the city’s 2017 election. What have I learned. What makes each relevant to me?

Strabo, an early geographer, wrote about Tusculum in Geography, V 3 § 12: But still closer to Rome than the mountainous country where these cities lie, there is another ridg,… on this chain that Tusculum is situated… a fertile and well-watered hill, which in many places rises gently into crests and admits of magnificently.

While every day thousands used Columbia Parkway as a means to enter and leave the city proper, I was coming to despise its construction, how the magnitude of the parkway impeded traversing to and from the river up to Columbia Tusculum and other entities higher up the hillsides of the river.

Also, the East End had this odd finger on the pulse of the neighborhood of Columbia- Tusculum, as if to act as gatekeeper. Mark and I parked in the East End, near Riverview East Academy, and trekked up Delta Ave, past the Precinct. We both commented on how we hadn’t eaten there in years, not since Mark perfected his steak grilling to rival any steakhouse in the city.

We headed past the former Funky’s Blackstone restaurant, and turned up Golden Avenue, because, surprise, my sister lived along here too, for a short period of time.

Why do you think she was always moving? Mark asked.

She was just Laura, Mark. She was always moving.

But Golden Avenue had been built out since Laura last lived there, and we walked along the stretch where the river splayed out below. The Meridian towered over the land here and I had been the lucky guest of a good friend who owned on condominium on the 7th floor. The views (up to 16 floors) took my breath away, they were like New York City views.

Along Golden’s ridge, homes of an interesting mix of architecture dotted the landscape and a small park provided respite for the dogs and my mind.

Back out on Delta, the variety of homes was more fascinating, tiny shotgun homes now probably worth 100K plus, ones built on stilts on the hillsides, and a set of steps, rather hidden that took us up to Grandin Road and the soaring heights of Alms Park.FullSizeRender_3

The Park was uniquely situated so that from one turn, we could watch airplanes land at Lunken field, and from the other, we could watch the river flow (like Stephen foster in the photo).

FullSizeRender_4Contained within 94 acres, the park was first known as Tusculum Heights, after the steamboat-building town of Tusculum formerly on the river banks below. One could view both the Ohio River Valley and Little Miami River valley from that height. The park was once home to many of Nicholas Longworth’s vineyards of Catawba wines and the entrance to an old vineyard tunnel was still apparent.

The Native Americans once clear-cut, yes, they of the environmentally sound practices, to achieve a view from what became known as “Bald Hill”, once they chopped down all the trees.

Before I joined the Manley family, Mark apparently had more time to paint. This is a “Manley original” from his brother, Kevin, and wife, Jen’s, wedding which took place in the Alms Park pavilion. I have it on good authority the painting still hung today, in a prominent spot in their home that is NOT shared with the toilet.

There was a well-built overlook dedicated to Kelsey Comisar, who died in a car accident as a teenager. Her family eventually created the driving clinic where a few of our kids took lessons on how to navigate during bad weather, or what felt like out of control conditions. The clinic was now funded by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

After our walk, I researched the trail marker for the Catawba Trail, and planned to go back and walk more. It appeared there was construction here and I would be happy if it became a trail of real vines again.

Columbia was known as the area’s first white settlement and any early settlers were buried in what is now the Pioneer Cemetery. And to be honest, I had thought was in Linwood, and therefore had covered this in a previous post.

The park circles back around, and as we had made a few errant turns, we never did get past St Ursula Academy up the hill.

As we made our way past the lovely painted ladies, and some not so lovely infill, we rolled down the hill, into the historical district of Columbia-Tusculum, formed in 1989 to protect many of the homes in the neighborhood.

We skipped a bit of the neighborhood center, where we once patronized Allyn’s Café to hear the famed Rumpke Mountain Boys. Stanley’s Pub, Tostados (famous for its karaoke) and Pearl’s rounded out some of the neighborhood establishments.

Though we brushed past, I made a note to attend Mass sometime at St. Stephen Church, which was a laity-led congregation, meaning by you and me. In crunch times for priests, perhaps the Catholic church should offer more of these options. The church also contained a health clinic, in partnership with Mercy-Health, and that seemed like a reasonable partnership worth exploring too. I, like many, found churches a safe space where connection and community could help foster healing.

It was a magnificent walk that day, most of that generated by contemplating life from above. I’m fascinated by the notion that many of our parks were created on high ground, to escape the grime of the city,  but of course, could only be accessible via an automobile, which then created more pollution.

FullSizeRenderI liked the flow in Columbia-Tusculum, of paint colors, of waters, even its name. The trek had calmed me down before heading off to a workshop I would teach later that day. Like for so many, my descent from the crests took me back into the course of my life. Into the currents of creativity I leaped.

 

 

 

 

In the words of the immortal President Barlett, “Mrs. Landingham, “What’s next?”

 

Life-Learning – Gettin’ My 52 On in East Walnut Hills

* This is the seventeenth in my series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to discover what makes each community relevant to me.

My walk through East Walnut Hills started at the sign just north of Eden Park. I love when I find signs – I’m a sign kind of person – so I can absorb the exact boundaries of a neighborhood. As I careened around the corner, the first building to come into my view was the Victory Lane building. My sister lived in that building and I often couch-surfed there despite only living a mile away. Pat Barry, the weatherman, lived above her. In those days, he had a little more weight on his frame, such that when he moved around in his apartment, we heard every creak in the floor.

The apartment’s proximity to Eden Park is what drew us out on weekends with our magazines and LaRosa’s antipasti salad – it was the closest we could come to anything Italian in the neighborhood – and the full sun and rap music of the neighbors grilling out amongst the panoramas and ducks.

Just past that building was UC’s Victory Parkway campus of OLLI, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, where many of my peers (yes, I may be of this age) took classes or taught classes, to keep their minds sharp.

Multiple conversations over family dinners have taken place regarding the Maronite Catholic Church versus the Marianists. Marianists priests look to Mary as a model for their spiritual teachings and run the local Moeller High school. The Maronite Catholic Church was named after St. Maron and was the only Eastern church, originating around Lebanon and Syria, to have closely followed the pope’s teachings since time began. The church hosts a mean Lebanese festival in the fall.

Sometimes, I am struck by individuals who look open for a chat. In this case, a set of colorful sticks tilted up against an oak tree caught my eye. My eyes then landed on a shorter, African-American man who was leaning on another stick of the same ilk.

My father-in-law used to make walking sticks, I called to him on the hill of his apartment complex.

Oh, yeah. What kind of wood he use?

Mostly Oregon wood, some myrtlewood, whatever else he found in the forest, I suppose.

Yeah, he do all that carving and colors? 

Not quite as bright as yours, I shared as I joined him on the hill.

I’m Corneil, he said, once again, another stranger hitting me up first for the handshake. They call me Shorty.

Same, I quipped. We both laughed. Actually, its Annette.

What you doing out today, you live around here?

No, just walking all the neighborhoods of the city?

He tipped his head, perplexed.

It’s a long story, I divulged and changed the topic. Where else you do sell these?

Oh sometimes I get out downtown and just walk around and see if someone is interested.

Nice, I summed up and had to take my leave. I had encountered Shorty too early in my walk and couldn’t stay for fear of getting distracted.

I crossed Madison Road, turned up Lincoln Avenue, past a dear friend’s home with amazing irises in her backyard. I had once thought an East Walnut Hills or Walnut Hills walk would take me to Walnut Hills High School, but according to Google maps, the school was situated in Evanston.

I curved around the backside on DeSales Lane, passing Gilligan Funeral Home, which blended in with all the mansions I later hit upon as I wove in and out of the streets near the Cincinnati Tennis Club. Ironically, later that weekend, I would meet someone who lived in another of these intriguing homes.

On the north side of Madison Road, several small parks dotted the landscape. Annwood Park was donated with the condition it never to be turned into a playground or sold. It is strictly for walking or sitting and contains a waterfall grotto. Owls Nest Park is a Cincinnati Park. The sixteen brick columns, part of the estate of the original owner, are now in Eden Park. The columns and wrought iron fence features were originally copied from those near the Charles River Bridge at Harvard University.

East Walnut Hills stopped just before entering the O’Bryonville Business District, but one can traverse down Torrence Parkway, meet up with Taft Road and trek up, or as I did, circle back around past two specific mansions.

When my sister and I were in twenties (we sure did a lot together back then), we fantasized about these two structures. We would buy one and make it into a restaurant and called it Sorellas (Italian for sisters), or we would make a pact, and if we both hit it lucky, buy the homes and live side by side. Note: We also had this pact about two homes in Wellington, near where we were raised, that we had to pass on Route 58 each time we drove home from Cincinnati.

Neither of us hit it lucky. I stayed rooted to the view for a while, mourning a piece of my past. I am always burying moments like this here in this city.

Soon, alarmed by the sheer speed of cars passing by, I crossed the road and circled through Keys Crescent where a former co-worker of mine now lived, hiked up and behind Seven Hills School, and found my way down Taft and back up McMillan.

Then, I came upon a stretch of homes with a spectacular view of the river and the Manhattan Harbor (the one in Dayton, KY).

About then, my stomach ached. I was hungry. I texted my husband who had been off of work that day.

We met for lunch at Kitchen 452, one of my favorite local establishments because it felt local. There was nothing about 452 that says I want crowds, including their hours. Many of the businesses were like that in E. Walnut Hills during the day. But at night, they got quite the traffic from Woodburn Brewery, Myrtles, Hi-Bred, etc.

Do you want a ride back to your car? My husband asked after I coveted his lunch and not mine.

FullSizeRender-92.jpgNo, I’m not done yet. But you’ve got to see some of this. I directed him around some of the streets I had just walked, and he dropped me close to his original parking spot.

Walnut Hills housed some of our wealthiest population, and always had, as well as some of our most creative business districts. They have an innovative development corporation and active council, but like other neighborhoods, the community butts up against those that are struggling with recovery and crime.

I darted in and out of a few more dead end streets, walking past St. Ursula Academy and the New Thought Unity Church. The hanging banners (signs, again) were a fitting end to my walk that day, to be in peace with my place in the world.

Ironically, one of my learnings has been to pay attention to bus times, or walk times up into these neighborhoods. For instance, when we’re with our kids in NOLA or Boston, we often walked thirty minutes or more to get to a destination. It’s that easy to get around, if you have the wherewithal to do so. In thirty minutes, I could have walked the three miles to EWH, or ridden the bus, which is problem in and of itself that I hope is sorted out during the city’s elections.

Here in Cincinnati, this is where my disappointment with the founding fathers of the city appears, as they situated the towns at the base of so many hills. We citizens were forever disconnected to one another in the physical sense.

I am resolving, through these walks, to be more intentional about traversing the city and the neighborhoods, and traversing the terrain of personal connection.