31 December 2008

Old St Marys Interior


Misc Links for a Slow Week

Save Our Land Save Our Towns

Free Public Transport

A farmer in Eaton

Local Painter, Greg Storer

Kate's Random Musings

Urban Reinventors

Edward Glaeser Harvard Prof on urbanism

Making things from found objects

Jake Mecklenborg's Cincy Transit Site:

Scans of interesting books

Public Schooling Blog

A place to buy vinyl records online.

Bedbugger article on Cincinnati

A neighbor of mine, of a younger generation, blogging about sneakers etc..

I didn't vote for Obama so that he could spend $960 Million on more highways!!!

More People Want to Live in Cities

A Housing Developer, about the crash:

"Prudence tells you rather than force things onto the market, understand you've got to sit on things longer," he said. "Like the wave crashing over me, I'm not going to fight it, I'm going to relax and let the wave wash over me."

This Zen-like attitude is fostered by one fact that he strives to remind himself of: There aren't enough homes to meet the projected needs of a growing population. Equally important from the perspective of Wilson Meany is that demographic trends, environmental concerns and shifting tastes mean more and more of these people want to live in cities.

30 December 2008

Lego Goes Urban - Cafe Corner Set

Mark never posted this Lego set, but I thought it was so good, that it needed to be posted. It's better than a lot of real construction we see around here. -Mike

This is how a building should command a street corner...like it belongs to both of them.

Here is a picture from Amazon website showing several of these sets added together to make a taller and more substantial building:

The reviews on Amazon for this particular set are extremely positive.

Crash to Touch

From a movie I have never seen, the opening dialogue, in "Crash":
"It's the sense of touch....What?....In a real city you walk....you know....You brush past pople. People bump into you. In LA, nobody touches you....always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other just so that we can feel something."

Skinny Buildings in Japan

A fun collection of photos here. If you read the comments, there are links to a map and interior photos.

Article 16 Charter Lanquage

I cannot believe that the voters would pass such an initiative as this. Who is going to vote to ammmend our City Charter to specifically stop all rail? It would be one thing if the ammendment would mean a tax reduction, but it doesn't. My feeling is that the people leading this are underestimating the intelligence of the voter.
Be it resolved by the people of the City of Cincinnati that a new Article XVI of the Charter is hereby added as follows: The City, and its various Boards and Commissions, may not spend any monies for right-of-way acquisition or construction of improvements for passenger rail transportation (e.g., a trolley or streetcar) within the city limits without first submitting the question of approval of such expenditure to a vote of the electorate of the City and receiving a majority affirmative vote for the same.
Why pick on passenger rail specifically? Why not a Charter Ammendment to stop road widening? Maybe the funding of SORTA should be subject to a popular vote?

Sample Apt 1922

I thought these drawings were interesting, but I am also experimenting with blogging images directly from Google Books.


Floor Plan:

29 December 2008

Newport KY Comeback City

Article in Louisville Courrier Journal here.

...The economic revitalization of Newport has occurred through property value changes in HOPE VI and non-HOPE VI neighborhoods. The HOPE VI areas have experienced a higher appreciation in property value than those in non-historic and non-HOPE VI areas. Historic Preservation districts have had the largest increase in property values.

...Newport received a big assist from Cincinnati by reinvigorating downtown Cincinnati through the development of new museums and professional sports stadiums for the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals.

The Menorah That Started It All

This was the trigger of all those KKK crosses and various protests years ago. An banal metal construction with a ripped green blanket over the bottom. It looks so forlorn between the giant tree and the skating rink.


Not supported with public funds:

Temporary Ramp at Fountain Square

This was not here last year. The skating rink covers the ramp, and this gets you down to Graeters..

27 December 2008

E Squared Portland Broadcast

I had never heard about this TV series that is apparently being broadcast on PBS. The first one aired over a year ago. I just watched a few of them, and they are excellent. However the most recent, and the most relevant to Cincy, is the episode about transit in Portland OR. All the episodes are available as webcasts: Go to this site: http://www.e2-series.com/ and click on Webcast, and watch the Portland episode now, especially if you are a streetcar skeptic.

Some quotes from the episode:
In this city the pedestrian comes first.

...millions of avoided auto miles.

(the streetcar can be installed) a block a week...

We'll see many times that people will be taking the trolley, and they'll get off at this stop because they see my store.

We are a one car family with kids and we couldn't do that in most other cities.

I hear all the time that people are different in Portland. Look, the only thing different about Portland is that we've put enough of this stuff in place that people have a choice...
Watch the video now while it is free, because the older episodes must be purchased.

Polar Bear Bike Ride

I will NOT be doing this, even with my new bike and all...
Queen City Bike Polar Bear Ride - January 3, 2009 @ 10:30 AM

One loop around the Winton Woods Bike Trail (approximately 2 miles) wearing the minimum amount of clothing that is legally allowed; shorts for guys, shorts and sports bra for gals. Gloves and booties will be permitted, and a helmet is required. Weather will NOT cancel this ride! Meet in the main parking lot by the Harbor...

26 December 2008

Unmuseum Family Sunday

Family Sunday, December 28, 1-4 pm
Winter Arts, Find Your Winter Self
The sights and sounds of winter inspire us to paint glittering landscapes of snow and ice castles, caroling and merrymaking under a warm fire's glow, dancing snow people with bright orange carrot-shaped noses and candy-cane fences around gingerbread houses.

Discover creative winter art activities when you spend Family Sunday exploring winter adventures with the arts.

Family Sunday is where CAC families use current and upcoming exhibitions to inspire learning and creativity through guided artmaking activities. This program is designed for children ages 5-105.

Members: Free. Nonmembers: CAC Admission

25 December 2008

Being Santa

Posts have been minimal here, because Christmas preparations have been grueling.

The only thing my son wanted for Christmas was a tetherball set. At first I said no, because we don't have a yard in which to install it. Then my dear wife thought of a wonderful idea that I could make a portable one with a pole and some concrete in an old tire. This way it would be portable, and we could take it in and out and eventually maybe take it permanently to one of the grandparent's house.

Fortunately old tires are easy to come by in this neighborhood. I found one on the sidewalk a few blocks away. I rolled it home, and put plywood in the bottom. Then I filled it with concrete mix and stuck a pole in it. I drilled put an eye-hook at the top, and presto we had a tether ball pole. Now the problem was that I had put over 120-lbs worth of concrete in this tire, and I could barely move it. Add to this that the concrete was still curing, and at 2am last night, I was starting to picture an extremely disappointed son waking up in five hours to a non-functional tetherball pole.

But, I got it together, and set it up in our vacant first floor storefront. I made it so a 1 1/2" pole was permanently attached to the tire, and 1 1/4" pole slides inside of it to make a tall pole. I brought the longer, skinnier pole up by the Christmas tree with the rope and ball attached. I put a note on the pole from Santa, saying the base was downstairs. The boy loved-it, and later in the day he challenged all his cousins, and even some aunts and uncles.

He is so happy, and I must thank my wife for making me build it.

The best part about Christmas for adults is not the anticipation, but the rest afterwards! I think we all will be hitting the sack extra early tonight. Good night and Merry Christmas!

...what exceptional gift did either you or your child get?

23 December 2008

Can Cities Save the Planet

...the per-capita carbon dioxide emissions of American cities are almost twice as high as those of their European counterparts. ... European cities are denser and more compact, homes are smaller, and people rely to a far greater extent on mass transit.

...technologies have always had unintended consequences. Streetcars, for example, which replaced horse-drawn omnibuses and were not only faster but considerably cleaner, also encouraged suburban growth, enabled commercial strips to develop along rights of way, and created amusement parks (Coney Island in New York, Natatorium Park in Spokane, Wash.) as end-of-line destinations.

...Americans' rapid change in driving habits during the gas-price run-up of summer 2008 suggests that people can quickly alter the ways they behave: driving less, walking more, turning down the thermostat, turning off the lights. Yes, we should eventually change the way we build and plan cities, but it might be more effective in the short run to change the way we live in them...

By Witold Rybczynski


Some random sidewalk iPhone photos:

CAC cracked concrete:

Provident Camera Building:

Cleveland Allows City Chicken Coops

...The new law would change that, requiring just 5 feet of side setback and 18 inches of rear setback for coops and hives. But there are new constraints too: The law would limit the number of chickens to one per 800 square feet of property (that's six chickens for the average 4,800-square-foot lot) and one beehive per 2,400 square feet. Roosters would get the boot completely unless you've got a full acre. ("It's not gender discrimination," says Brown. "They tend to be noisier than their female colleagues.")

Perhaps the most contentious changes: licensing and building department requirements, lot diagramming and new fees to pay for the added oversight. Brown says, however, that if coops are kept smaller than 8 feet high and 30 feet square, building fees can be waived. But there still would be a permit fee of around $40.

Fast Trains Attract Frequent Fliers

The ...300-mile Milan-Rome route... in three hours and 30 minutes 18 times a day. (speeds up to 186 mph)
...one-way ticket can cost around euro67 ($90.52), while an airline trip is at least euro90 ($121.59) and driving can cost some euro85 ($114.84) in gas and toll charges.

Italian Railway ... aims to snag 60 percent of the 3.7 million passengers who fly the route every year.

...they won't really start taking a bite out of air travelers until the time gets under three hours. Attainment of that goal is expected at the end of 2010 when the track between Florence and Bologna is improved to shorten that leg to 30 minutes.
The Spanish railway's high-speed service from Madrid to Barcelona took off in February, going after a chunk of Europe's busiest air route, which registered 4.7 million passengers in 2006.

The 400-mile trip by rail takes two hours and 38 minutes — well under the three-hour benchmark for attracting frequent fliers...

As a comparison, 300 Miles is the distance from Cincinnati to Chicago. Cinci to DC is 520 miles and driving takes over 8 hrs.

The Acelafrom Washington DC to Boston is the fastest US train line.

22 December 2008

Schwartz Point Website

Ed Moss and Pam Ross now have a website with weekly show information.
If you have never been, you've got to try it. Tomorrow (Tuesday, Dec 23) should be a good show. perfect for showing that holiday guest a hidden gem.

19 December 2008

Dreaming of Baseball

I was just agreeing with Westender that by the time Christmas is over, I am done with winter. I'm pretty warm-blooded, so the cold doesn't bother me too much, but the high heating bills are a real drag.

There just isn't enough sunshine this time of year. So here's to spring time and opening day:

18 December 2008

Santa Claus is coming and the kids are getting greedy...

With a week to go till Christmas, the opening line to one of my favorite Christmas songs comes to mind. "Santa Claus is coming and the kids are getting greedy". It's a song called Christmastime by the late Larry Norman. If you never heard of him, he is considered the father of Christian rock, but don't hold that against him.

The entire song is a lament about Christmas from Larry's perspective, I am sure you are familiar with the "put Christ back in Christmas" theme. But that is not the focus of this post, it would not fit with the theme of this blog. I want to focus on the opening lines. So this post isn't about the religious aspects of Christmas. I value them, and hold them important, but my focus is on the wider cultural Christmas.

As a new father (it's the boy's second Christmas) I am concerned about what he will learn about Christmas from his parents and extended family. I think the holiday season quickly spirals into more of Giftmas than Christmas. At the risk of giving the post TOO much of a soundtrack, local musician Ben Gulley's song I WANT MY PRESENTS is not a bad reflection of what the holiday can spiral down to. (I don't know how to link directly to the song, so you have to click on it in the music window.)

So, I have some ideas of what I will try to do to prevent this, but I am curious what approach and suggestions others have. Again, I am not looking for the religious aspects, I know what I will teach him of the story of Christmas, and many folks will have different approaches depending on their religious views, including Hanukkah, Kwanza, and other winter solstice festivities. The fact is, we are in a culture where Gift-Getting is a big deal. As the second line of Larry's sing laments "They know it's in the store because they seen it on the TV".

Our first strategy is to plea with the grandparents, uncles and aunts to go easy on the gifts. We are not Mr. & Mrs. Scrooge on this, but we are committed. This has been only moderately successful to date, but at the boy's age, it is not a huge issue. Frankly he is still in the stage where a wrapped box of tissue paper would be one of his favorite gifts. And importantly, we are setting the precedent on presents.

My next strategy, when he gets old enough to understand it, is an idea I have stolen from friends in the past. I plan on having him select at least one of his old toys to give away to a charity. I like the idea of him giving away something of his own to people who are more in need. Obviously at 18-months he can't process that yet.

The other idea is an extension of the last. I don't feel giving away his used items is quite enough, so I look forward to when he is old enough to go shopping with us for gifts for needy families. You know, the ornament on a tree program.

So what have you done for the holiday season?

Oh, and you have to at least click on the Christmastime link to see the album cover. It wasn't a Christmas album, and was released in 1972. Hey, they did the cover without Photoshop.

Building Examples

Some random building photos that I think are worth sharing:

Isfahan. I am really fascinated by this:

A Lutyens house, rear:


Bay Window Detail from old architecture magazine:

Yale. An original Rudolph building on left, with Gwathmey's recent addition on right. Both pretty dismal in my modest opinion:

"Art is a kind of wireless energy, little understood and too often neglected, but free to all and very helpful to those who learn to give or receive its messages. A beautiful home has the power to attract attention, improve conduct, compel respect, bind families and friends, form communities, found states and create nations. Children reared in and among beautiful homes acquire good taste from them and seldom if ever do a very ugly thing."

Henry Holsman, President of AIA Illinois, 1920
Small House Competition Director

LaDefense vs Townhouse, demonstrating scale, from Life Between Buildings:

The Carnegie, a new building in Ft Worth:

New House, overhang detail:

New construction, Hampstead:

1913 Domestic:

Havana Building with arcade:

17 December 2008

Broken Windows and Incremental Repair

[Where: 1810 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202]

Last summer, this building was fully occupied. It was built in the 1880s, occupied as rental housing with a storefront for 80 years, then rehabbed under the project-based Rental Rehab program in the 1970s by Tom Denhart. During the 1970s rehab, it was sandblasted, and gutted. Much of its historic character was removed. The storefront was converted to housing. Smaller aluminum windows were installed in the bigger brick openings.

When I first came to OTR, I thought that the biggest problem was getting the vacant buildings rehabbed. But since I've stuck around long enough, I now see that is not enough. It is not enough because many buildings that were completely rehabbed in the 70s, 80s and 90s are now vacant again...

I think it is worth pondering what the difference is between a building that is continually occupied vs. one that is periodically vacant. It is the difference between incremental repair and major construction, the difference between ownership and absentee landlords, the difference between salvage and gutting.

See, the building above is owned by a corporation, Hart Realty. The owner is old and supposedly bankrupt. But the remnants of the corporation still litter the city. And these windows will stay broken and will attract more stones, probably for years, until someone comes up with a very large mortgage to completely rehab it again. And if it is done by a another corporation, who just sees this building as a way to make money, it will probably be vacant again in 30 years.

(And by the way, I don't know about every one else, but standing there looking at these broken windows, with stones laying at my feet, I was tempted to break some glass too. Now I would never do that, but it is interesting that these tendencies are so strong. )

But, if the building were to be bought by someone who could give it some love and care, it could really blossom. The front still has remnants of its former beauty, and structurally it is solid. Part of the problem in OTR is that many of the buildings are too big for small time owners. It is one thing to buy a single family rowhouse in Newport or Northside and do all the work yourself, but it is quite another to take on a 5-unit building with a commercial space in OTR.

But it is possible...

16 December 2008

Weird Thing on Fountain Square

Some kind of robot toilet paper holder..

15 December 2008


Sometimes I need a newspaper article to explain what is going on around me:

There have been countless times when the corner (liquor) store has come to the rescue, like recently, when I got a call from a gorgeous girl I had been trying to kick it with. "Let's go to the movies," she said. As I was about to walk out the door, I glanced in the mirror. I had been wearing that same black hoodie, flipped back beanie, and old white T for way too long. I needed to step it up, and fast.

A quick walk around the corner elevated my clothing game to a new peak, with enough time to pick up my beautiful date, get my popcorn, and find a seat all the way in the back of the pitch-black theater.

Oscar Niemeyer 101 Today

Today is architect Oscar Niemeyer's 101st birthday. He apparently has some regrets of his modernist planning ideals:

“If I could plan Brasilia all over again,… there’d be extra apartment buildings and schools and shops. And I’d do without all the wide streets with all the cars. People would be able to walk everywhere.”
- in Architectural Record

14 December 2008

It's Time to Raise the Gas Tax

Time makes an argument for raising the gasoline tax:
As unemployment heads toward double digits, we can use this found money to encourage people to create jobs (by lowering the FICA tax), or we can use it to encourage people to use more gasoline. It's a pretty easy choice, don't you think?

Live Nativity OTR St Francis

Begining this Friday Dec 19th and continuing until Jan 6th, 1-7 pm daily, St. Francis Seraph will have their first annual Live Nativity at the corner of Vine and Liberty.

12 December 2008

Trolly in Snow

A rare event in New Orleans. Photo via an email list:

Ice Skating

We will be ice-skating on Fountain Square this weekend. Anyone want to join us? We'll probably be there early Saturday and maybe sometime Sunday...
Photo found same place as this one.

Home Value Recovery May Take Decades

...As painful as the decline has been, history suggests home values still may have a long way to drop and may take decades to return to the heights of 2½ years ago.

... values nationally have tumbled an average of 19% from their peak. As bad as that is, prices would need to fall as least 17% more to reach their traditional relationship to household income...

...the typical existing home was worth roughly the same in 2000 as it was in 1950, after adjusting for inflation,...From 2002 to 2006, houses went from being a tortoise to a hare in the investment world...

...Home values floated at about three times average household income from 1950 to 2000. In 2006, the average household income was $66,500. Under the traditional model, home prices should have been about $200,000. Instead, the typical home sold for $301,000.
Read the whole article here.

11 December 2008

Classical Color

From a 1922 Architectural Record Magazine: "19 99 1 i lill JIH IU PLATE II CAPITAL AND PILASTER CAPITALS OF THE SAME BUILDING "

Foreclosed Homes Shelter Homeless

Sheriff Jones in Butler County has stopped evictions, and then this interesting article in USA Today:
...a homeless advocate, runs a controversial program in Miami that helps families squat in homes vacated because of bank foreclosures. Using Internet listings and a team of volunteers, Rameau and his Take Back the Land foundation matches homeless families with empty homes.

...he doesn't choose homeless residents with severe problems. Families selected for squatting are required to pay to turn on the electricity and water, he says. The family lives in the house until they save enough to move into another home or until the owners show up with police and force them out — whichever comes first, he says.
Advocates in Cleveland are trying to use city money to buy abandoned homes and rent them to the homeless...

CAC and Caroling Tonight

We may go to City Roots tonight and buy a tree. There is also caroling, and an event at the Contemporary Arts Center which should add to the spirit:

Members of the Cincinnati Men’s Chorus serenade shoppers for Caroling in the Quarter as they go from shop to shop, including Park + Vine, starting at 6 p.m. Dec. 11. Shopping runs until 9 p.m. and then the fun continues into the night ... at Below Zero Lounge.
Contemporary Arts Center: Good Design. Unique Gifts. Fabulous Artists. Great Festivities.

Come and enjoy a festive shopping experience as well as a wine and cheese reception with music and first-hand insights from Good Design artisans who will be on site to talk about their work.

Christian Strike and Matt Distel of Iconoclast Editions will be on hand to discuss editions and new Iconoclast projects including the launch of the CAC's new Iconoclast Kiosk designed by Cincinnati artist Chris Vorhees. Shop limited edition art from local artisans Sandra Gross and Kelli Gleiner who will be available for an open dialogue as well as Maya Drozdz and Micheal Stout of VisualLingual.

Night Lights at the Cincinnati Observatory

We've come full circle. Mike has a great post below about the modern problem of stray light obscuring the night sky. A century and a quarter ago the Cincinnati Observatory had to move from Mt. Ida (now Mt. Adams) to its current location in Mt. Lookout to get away from the basin's ubiquitous coal smoke, which likewise obstructed their view. Read the history here.

The observatory is no longer making cutting-edge discoveries like the old days. It's new mission is to spread the excitement of astronomy to the rest of us, and especially kids. It's not everyday that an ordinary Joe can walk into a research institution and handle a planet-class instrument like theirs. But that's exactly what we all are invited to do this weekend. From the Observatory website:
Night Lights at the Cincinnati Observatory
December 14, from 6:30-9pm

Join us for the 33rd year of this Mount Lookout tradition. As the neighborhood lights up the streets, the Cincinnati Observatory will open its buildings and telescopes for the general public. Cruise from Mount Lookout Square to the Observatory for carolers, stargazing, a gift shop, and hot drinks.

Perfect for all ages.

Cost: Free

No reservations required. For more information call 513-321-5186.

The staff are down to earth, explain things in layman's terms, and the center is very child-friendly. Everybody takes turns stepping up to the eyepiece and looking through the big tube. Kids who know what planets are and have enough patience to sit through a movie will enjoy the novelty of it. As a parent, the real joy is watching their brains expand as it hits them that they are actually looking at another planet/galaxy/quasar/etc.

10 December 2008

Darkness Appropriate at Night


Good Article in the non-printed Christian Science Monitor a few days ago:

...the National Park Service estimates that two-thirds of Americans cannot see the Milky Way from their homes.

...The cause of this stellar pall? Carelessly designed streetlamp fixtures, signs, and office lighting controls that pointlessly illuminate the sky, blocking our view of the universe.

...It would be one thing if all this light contributed to public safety, that is, if the illumination actually reduced the chances of a nighttime collision or mugging. But many of our light fixtures cast light sideways and upwards, temporarily blinding us and creating dark spots that we could otherwise see into. ... our light fixtures tend to create “glare bombs” that obscure as much as they illuminate.

Lego Goes Urban - Green Grocer Set

(Click Pic for Larger View)

I always found it challenging to create an ornamented building with Legos. New specially themed kits are available to construct buildings that could easily feel at home in OTR!

You construct each story as a stand-alone project and then stack them. They're easy to unstack to play with the furnishings inside.

The first floor has refrigerated shelves, doors that open, and food cartons. Pass the mailbox complete with letters and there’s a stairway to the apartment above. Large windows on the sides make the detail easy to see.

Upstairs curtains adorn the windows, and a fireplace commands the living room. A banister graces the stairs, while a rear fire escape folds down for even more realism. Another banister ascends to the 3rd floor which has a grandfather clock and a radiator. A rooftop balcony with seats, umbrella and a grill round out the perfect urban lifestyle.

This set is recommended for ages 16+, due to the sheer volume of parts and the intricacy of assembly. It'll also set you back about a hundred and a half, so it's not for the faint of heart. But the fun and daydreams are more than worth it.

09 December 2008

Breaking News Liberty Twp Has Kids

The Enquirer had a big story today, with big headlines. The story was an analysis of census numbers showing that Liberty Township has the most kids and least old people of any "community" in the State. Nowhere in the article do they give the census date. Are these numbers for last year, 2005? How can anyone know? Maybe it was in the print edition? Who reads that anymore?

A sampling of their numbers for Liberty Twp:
53.8 % of the households have kids
75.1 % of the households are married couples
4.8% of the residents are over 65 years old

Is it good for kids to grow up not seeing old people or black people or gay people or even single people and poor people?

"It's minivan and SUV central out here,"...she discussed school enrollment trends - a steady increase of 300 to 400 students each year until a drop-off this fall...
Note the "drop-off this fall". Also note the almost complete stop in construction of new homes. Also note the falling value of those homes. None of this is mentioned, because that is new news, not old news, and apparently the Enquirer is only interested in reporting old news...

Degenerate Aristocratic Tatoos

"The modern person who tattoos himself is either a criminal or a degenerate, ...people with tattoos not in prison are either latent criminals or degenerate aristocrats.

...lack of ornamentation is a sign of intellectual strength."

-Adolf Loos, modernism moralist in Ornament and Crime, 1908

08 December 2008

More Park Photos

This time at dusk:

Music Hall with Pool:

07 December 2008

Rat Contractor

This piece of paper was so wet it almost had become part of the sidewalk. I have no idea what the disagreement is about, but the wording is not very persuasive:

Duany Attacks Britain

According to the Guardian:

Sparking anger among architects, Andres Duany flew in from America and yesterday unveiled a 64-point litany of mistakes made by British architects and planners over the last 50 years.
"Only architecture, confusing itself with fashion as a platform for cultural expression, continues to be avant garde, heedless of its cost overruns, social and technical dysfunction and widespread lack of popularity."

And the modernists respond with spittle.

06 December 2008

Washington Park Gazebo

As part of the proposed park re-design, this gazebo has been proposed to be lowered to near grade level. It is sometimes a gathering place for people who drink and or cause trouble. Rarely is it used as a bandstand, which I suppose was the original intention. A new stage area is proposed in the north end of the expanded park.

I think this should remain as is.

General view:

From the inside looking out: