30 November 2009

Strange Vacant New City in China

Vine and Sixth OMI to Terrace Plaza

I had to visit the old Edgecliff College in Walnut Hills for business last month. It is currently the home of UC's College of Applied Sciences (OCAS). But since OCAS has merged with the College of Engineering, OCAS may move to UC's main campus sometime in the next few years, (at least that is the scuttlebut). The site, overlooking the Ohio River from Victory Parkway is dramatic, but the Edgecliff buildings are pretty blah, and remind me of a 1960 Catholic School (which it was).

Anyway, OCAS has had a notable history in Cincinnati. Starting in 1828 as the Ohio Mechanic's Institute, or OMI, it was a significant place of learning during the industrial revolution. A young Thomas Edison studied in their library, and OMI hosted fabulous Industrial Exhibitions every year during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Some of the old posters from the exhibitions are hanging in the hallway, and I would love to get a full copy of one of them.

The Greenwood Building, named for Miles Greenwood, president of the OMI Board from 1847-1854 was the owner of Eagle Iron Works. This building was the home of OMI from 1850 to 1911. It was originally 4 stories tall. In 1900, 2 stories were added as shown in this crummy model. This stood at the SW corner of Sixth and Vine until 1945 when it was demolished to build the Terrace Plaza.:

SW Cor 6th and Vine when it was OMI:

They also had a model of the Emery Building, which was the OMI/OCAS home from 1911 to

Francis Trollope Bazaar building. Apparently this was the first home of OMI:

26 November 2009

Equality is Our Nation's First Principle

Lincoln quote, from an 1855 letter to Joshua Speed:
"I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor or degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.' When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

25 November 2009

Organic Walking Paths of Brasilia

It is amazing how many people are using Google Maps to make interesting studies or articles, and how many artists are using Google Streetview for photography projects. Here, a blogger notices the footpaths that have evolved in a city designed to have no pedestrians:


previous post on Brasilia.

24 November 2009

More Balluminaria

We went to Balluminaria again this year, and the weather was better, so the crowd was bigger. How do I know this? By the very scientific observation that we arrived sooner this year, and parked farther away.

The event involves the lighting of Hot Air Balloons around Mirror Lake in Eden Park. It lasts from 4 pm to 6 pm with the sun setting around 5:30 pm.

When we arrived not all the balloons were up. The only concession stand I saw was totally slammed (for a veteran move, bring your own food). They also had a brass band playing just north of the lake:

For a while there was a nice Toddler mosh pit around the brass band.

This is the event where I came up with a new term. Photog Widow, this is the spouse of someone who deserts the family to get pictures of an event, and it described my poor wife. She however didn't seem to mind (and I did ask permission first). The event is kind of one big photo opportunity, and they give you a countdown to when all the balloons fire up. Luckily this happens multiple times. Here was my best shot this year:

I really like this event, but getting there is always an exercise in frustration. It's a shame the rails hidden under the median on Gilbert don't still carry streetcars, it would be a great way to get there. I hope they add additional concession stands in the future, though my take-away is to bring your own food or, gosh, go a whole 2 hours without eating!

A local photographer put together a really nice time-lapse video of the event, focused on the balloons. It is a testament to the fabulous visuals that I didn't even mind the way overused soundtrack. I'd even go so far to say it worked really well with the video.

Mumford Quote of the Day

Without fullness of experience, length of days is nothing. When fullness of life has been achieved, shortness of days is nothing. That is perhaps why the young have usually so little fear of death; they live by intensities that the elderly have forgotten.

-Lewis Mumford

21 November 2009


The kids liked this event more than I thought they would:

Totalitarian Modernists

"Le Corbusier wanted to be to the city what pasteurization is to cheese."

-Theodore Dalrymple, The Architect as Totalitarian
Le Corbusier’s baleful influence, The City Journal

Mumford Quote of the Day

Our national flower is the concrete cloverleaf.

-Lewis Mumford

20 November 2009

Evolution of a Block

When I was looking through the Sanford Insurance maps of the Washington Park area, I was struck by the fact that there is a tendency to remove whole blocks of smaller, diverse buildings and replace them with much larger, single use structures. Then it would just so happen that I came across a student who documented the history of a single block in NYC:

I decided to try a more mammoth task, compiling a complete record of the life cycle of a single city block. That's what I've presented here. Beginning in the 1780s with James Delancey's farm, and ending with the present public housing structures, erected in 1985, this is a record of eight generations of buildings on two-thirds of an acre.:
In the Youtube video, it is sped up a bit too much. Better to go to his site and watch it.

It is fascinating, and unfortunately the end result is this:

The location in Google Maps.

18 November 2009

Balluminaria This Saturday

This year's Balluminaria is scheduled for this Saturday at Eden Park. The event runs from 4 to 6 pm and includes the hot air balloons and holiday music.

You can see more details at the CincinnatiUSA web site.

Emmert Grains Sign

Still here in OTR, drying spent hops and selliing them as cattle feed:

17 November 2009

Maps from 1904

This is a really cool find, thanks to @GeekJames on Twitter (who also tweets as @TakeTheCakeCafe). It is the two volume set Insurance Maps of Cincinnati, Ohio.

First off, I love the cover design. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County offers both volumes in their Virtual Library. This was printed in 1904. But looks like it was updated through about 1930. They are very high-resolution scans, therefore each page is a separate PDF (2-4 MB in size). Both volumes have indexes, and it is easy to find the correct plate from those.

Here is plate 100 from Volume 2, which is a guide to volume 2:

I also loved the plate that had the old Fountain Square. You can also see the Albee Theatre and the Hotel Gibson. It is Volume 2, plate 115:
I forsee lots of time spent looking through these old maps. Be sure to check out the full-sized PDFs of these plates. I resisted the temptation to link directly to the PDFs, but you can find them easily starting at the link above.

The Poor Must be Included

You cannot have a great city without rich and poor living downtown. This is the first requirement of healthy cities. - Jacquein Robertson, 1995

A 10 minute video, probably too long for general readers, but some of you in the planning field will find it interesting:
The Way We Live - A Modern Architecture Conversation

16 November 2009

White Flight Still Happening

I thought this was the 21st century?! The article in the Enquirer today about new growth in Harrison has generated the typical nonsense commentary, but commentary that nonetheless is telling:

mustbGWBsfault wrote:
i grew up in covedale, moved to delhi. then the metro moved in and now there are shopping carts turned on their sides at the bus stops, trash in the streets, the businesses are getting robbed (krogers, walgreens). is it a coincidence that crime has gone up since the metro came through? i think not. will the metro ever make it to harrison? possibly (i hope harrison fights to keep it out). either way, i know it won't go into indiana! hoosiers, here we come!

nasdadjr wrote:
I have had multiple friends move to Harrison, and you want to know why they do it? They don't allow the Cincinnati metro to go out there which means no section 8 housing. That means less crime and less sorry to say it but ghetto people from going out there. Not trying to be racist or economicist or whatever you call it, but take an honest census of the people who live or have moved out there and that is one of the big reasons why they move or stay there cause the cost of living there isn't as high as Blue Ash, Mason, or other high priced areas, and they don't have those people.

UncleRando wrote:
Harrison is not actually growing. The increase in population is just a relocation of westsiders from communities like Green Township, Delhi Township, Price Hill and Westwood. Overall the population trend for the westside as a whole is probably very small when looked at comprehensively.

dlacey31 wrote:
This is happening because the lower west side has become so nasty and ghetto the middle class as usual have to find different neighborhoods to move to . The housing authority should have never switched to section 8 vouchers they should have kept all the ghetto in one area. now they can live anywhere they want almost for free right next door to hard working middle class families. and trash the neighborhoods and lower property value . Thanks cincinnati housing authority

Camping Out for 48hrs

Parents began a line/campground Sunday evening at Fairview and other CPS schools. Fairview will begin accepting applications Tuesday night at midnight. During dinner with a good friend Sunday he recieved a text message that the line had started to form. He left the supper immediately and is about #40 in line. Unfortunately he must miss 2 days of work to make this happen. There musst be a better way:

City Should Delay the Comprehensive Plan

City Council has shrunk the size of many departments. The new Council has a majority of members that will refuse to cut anything from Police and Fire. Since Police and Fire are the biggest part of the budget, that means that the other departments will suffer devastating cuts.

The existing Planning Department only has a few planners on staff. The Historic Conservation Office is down to one employee and one interim director. These people do not have the resources to continue to develop a New Comprehensive Plan. It is time to put the Comprehensive Plan on hold until the budget crisis is averted. A truly comprehensive Comprehensive Plan will require tons of staff time, and money for planning consultants etc.. I would like to see the plan get more aggressive on wholistic street design and form-based codes. But these are not small easy issues. Quite the opposite. As it is, the staff barely has time to review permit applications and man the office.

The Comprehensive Plan is important, but to be done correctly, it requires more resources. Am I wrong?

Last year, Council gave the administration the go-ahead to develop the first comprehensive plan for the city since 1980. The Comprehensive Plan will address a wide range of recommendations relating to land use, transportation, parks, health, environment and open space, community facilities, utilities and infrastructure, institutions, urban design, historic preservation, community character and identity, housing and neighborhoods, and economic development, among others. The plan sets the foundation for all land use decisions over the next 20-30 years from broad policy to detailed site design and development.

15 November 2009

A Crack in the Pavement

The Enquirer had an article about this documentary, and I also happened to see it the following week. It is interesting because it uses two older Cincinnati suburbs as examples of the problem: Elmwood Place and Madeira. Before watching this film, I knew Elmwood Place was down on its' luck, but I wouldn't have thought that Madeira had any real problems. Worth watching.

Watch the film Sunday (tomorrow) at 6pm on WCET, channel 48.
The film looks at the precarious state of many older, first-ring suburbs by profiling two small town officials from Ohio. They take viewers on a tour of the challenges their communities are now facing. The federal and state money that helped establish these communities is gone – redirected toward new development in ever-expanding suburban rings. Like many parts of the Midwest, their hometowns are strapped for cash. Their roads, sewers and bridges built years ago now need to be replaced or repaired. Residents and businesses are leaving, and schools are emptying. Government programs to help these communities maintain and revitalize themselves are virtually nonexistent. Yet just a few miles away, a new ring of suburbs is growing and prospering.

14 November 2009

Lego Advent

This is a calendar with a little perforated doors in the cardboard. Your kid opens one door every day for 24 days, and inside are small Lego assemblies, like an evergreen tree, a sled, a boy with snowballs, a snowman. Great alternative to the traditional chocolates or candy canes:

Index of Cities with Dangerous Streets

In the last 15 years, more than 76,000 Americans have been killed while crossing or walking along a street in their community. More than 43,000 Americans – including 3,906 children under 16 – have been killed this decade alone. This is the equivalent of a jumbo jet going down roughly every month, yet it receives nothing like the kind of attention that would surely follow such a disaster.

... These deaths typically are labeled “accidents,” and attributed to error on the part of motorist or pedestrian. In fact, however, an overwhelming proportion share a similar factor: They occurred along roadways that were dangerous by design, streets that were engineered for speeding cars and made little or no provision for people on foot, in wheelchairs or on a bicycle.

... The forthcoming rewrite of the nation’s transportation policy presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create safer streets that will be critical to keeping our neighborhoods livable, our population more fit and our nation less dependent on foreign oil...

...Congress is currently considering the goals and objectives for a federal transportation bill that will send transportation money to states and cities and guide their spending priorities. The continued high fatality rate shows a clear need for strong leadership and greater resources to end preventable pedestrian deaths and require more accountability from states on how those funds are spent....

13 November 2009

Green Dog Cafe in Columbia Tusculum

I went here in the fall, when it first opened. When we were there, we were just about the only customers. I think it will have a hard time making money. My gut tells me that the overhead is too high here to support this kind of restaurant. The location may be it's savior, as it certainly would never survive on the westside of town. The Yelp reviews concur with me. Quality is high, but the prices are too high for the lunch-type of food offered.


Interior finishes:

Anytime Fitness is next door:

11 November 2009

2 Paramedics and 4 Firemen

2 paramedics in an EMS vehicle and 4 men on a fire truck respond every time someone is reported passed out in the park. Doesn't this seem like overkill? Why not just send the paramedic?

Wall or Connection

For Veteran's day, and 20yrs after the fall of the wall:

Berlin's Bernauer Strasse one with the Berlin Wall in June 1968, and the same view on October 20, 2009 without the wall and with a streetcar track and wires.

Pictures found here (JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

10 November 2009

Mumford Quote of the Day

A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search of truth or perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life.
-Lewis Mumford

09 November 2009

Nature Photos

Indulge me for a few non-urban photos. The bright sunlight made for beautiful pattern photos of rocks, water and leaves:

grass in crack

12" waterfall

wet grass flat rock

algae making bubbles of O2?

leaves in water

oak leaves

Sycamore with Honeysuckle

kids like trees with holes

ripples in water


Small Waterfall

Short nature vid from Hueston Woods this weekend:

08 November 2009

Tax and Road Policies Encourage Sprawl

..No Kidding:
....the tax code encourages Americans to live in big, energy-guzzling homes, ... and Congress seems intent on further unbalancing the federal budget to egg on home buyers. ...A particularly bizarre feature of the proposed extension is that the credit would go not only to new home buyers, but also to current owners who decide to upgrade.

But the real problem with the credit is that it continues the long-standing federal push toward far-flung McMansions and away from dense, apartment living. In the 1950s, the Interstate Highway System encouraged Americans to flee older urban areas. Nathaniel Baum-Snow of Brown University found that each “new highway passing through a central city reduces its population by about 18 percent.’’ The home mortgage interest deduction further encouraged suburbanization, because rental units are disproportionately in cities while owner-occupied homes are disproportionately distant from city centers...

07 November 2009

The Body Suit Fad

Seen today at Sawyer Point Park:

This suit covers everything, including head: 

The security guard had to talk to them:

06 November 2009

Evolving Urban Attitudes Online

Attitudes towards cities have changed a lot in this past decade. I'm not sure when blogs started, but I know I started reading them in 2001. I know that because I remember I was starting to read Cincinnati Blog and Andrew Sullivan then; the first because of the April 2001 riots, and the latter because of 911 and the Iraq war.

Before that I was a pretty avid newspaper reader. And if you remember then, the back and forth discussion online was mostly in the comment section of the newspapers. And unfortunately the attitude there has not changed much. The comments' section in the Enquirer are overwhelmingly ignorant and bigoted. It is really discouraging to read them, especially if the article has something to do about crime, downtown or the deadly mix of crime downtown.

I didn't feel that there were many like-minded people out there. I never commented on sites as they seemed to be dominated by thoughtless screaming text, and so many people seemed to hate Cincinnati, black people, homeless people, and the most common refrain was "I'm so glad I left Cincinnati and moved to ...".

A few years later, in 2004, I found a site with many like minded souls: Urban Ohio. Not that the contributors there are all of the same political ilk (they aren't) but they all had a love of Midwestern cities. And at first I was a lurker but finally started minor contributions in 2005.

And pretty quickly after this more blogs started to appear that were urban oriented. And through this medium I found the comfort of similarly minded people. Sometimes when lots of bad things are happening in your neighborhood, it is such a relief to find people who are going through the same things.

I feel that the best blogs are micro focused on their city or even their neighborhood, and I love this aspect of the online experience. Today my RSS reader is full of dozens of high quality blogs talking about transit, rehabbing buildings, form-based codes, urbanism etc etc. I never have to resort to reading the Enquirer reader's comments anymore.

But most of this time, I would say that suburban sprawl continued to be seen as desirable and inevitable, especially in the Midwest. Only in the past two years, after some higher gas prices, and the home mortgage/credit crisis did the cracks in the suburban model become visible to a wider audience. And now, if I read an article about how much time or money is wasted on cars, I will find it reposted on many blogs before I even get a chance to write about it. So I kinda feel I am wasting my time focusing on that kind of general anti-sprawl stuff.

So I think it is time to refocus here; refocus on Downtown Cincinnati, and specifically on how families cope and sometimes thrive here. This is still not covered enough by others. Choosing to raise a family in OTR may still seen by many as dumb, but through this blog and through other social networking, I have found that there are hundreds of families like ours; thousands, depending on where you draw the circle. Many are in surrounding neighborhoods like Mt. Adams, Newport, Covington, Clifton, Northside etc.. and they are living their dreams out in this city, supporting the schools, coaching soccer, walking to the library, swimming in the pools, sledding in the parks, skating on Fountain Square, taking kids to the Symphony or to plays, riding bikes around town and generally living an enriching life while raising normal healthy kids.

So I am taking a hiatus from posting here for a little while, maybe until the end of the year or so. I want to take a little time to rethink the purpose here. I have a couple posts that are already written and scheduled to appear later this month. Also, the co-bloggers may post some stuff. I realize that the dominance of Twitter and Facebook have kinda taken the place of one of my original goals here, which was to meet new people. That works better on those social networking sites than in a blog. The blog is better suited to longer essays and more extensive photo postings. I'm not sure if 2 small posts a day is really worth it. It sometimes seems like one well-thought out post per week would be better. But if that is the case, maybe I need more collaborators or it will be too sparse. But either way, I'll be here, at this site, in some form or other.

05 November 2009

Googies or Gypsies are Coming

For some reason, we have two copies of "Where the Sidewalk Ends" at our house. I think one was my wife's and one was mine. But anyway, I just noticed last night that in the newer one, the word Gypsy was changed to Googie. I don't know much about Shel Silverstein, but I am assuming that when he wrote the original in approximately 1974, that he was unaware of the Gypsie/Roma history of discrimination. I am pretty sure that the Googie change came before Silverstien died in 1999.

Gypsy first verse:

Googies first verse:

Googie Image. Maybe it was a good idea to change from Gypsy. The image is quite "Gypsy" looking:

The books are exactly the same, except the price on the earlier one was $9.95 and was published by Harper and Row, and the newer one is priced at $14.95 and published by Harper Collins. My earlier book is inscribed and dated Christmas 1980, but the later one has no obvious date.

04 November 2009

Mural at Know Theater

Amateur Boxing

I am pretty excited about the streetcar election results, but really don't have much to say about it. It has all been said ad nauseum. I was against the casino. But casinos are in most states now, and having them in an urban environment is better than having them out in a cornfield, I guess. I worry about raising a family a few blocks from a casino. I hope never to enter.

I want the first streetcar painted with Bengal Stripes.

BTW, has anyone here ever been to one of these ameteur boxing matches? I see these handbills every once in a while, and I'm curious:

03 November 2009

No on Nine Endorsements

Some groups/people endorsing a "Vote no" on issue 9:

1) Former President of the Ohio State Senate Stanley Aronoff
2) Former President of the Ohio State Senate Richard Finan
3) Representative Denise Driehaus
4) Bill Cunningham - Radio Personality
5) Mike McConnell - Radio Personality
6) Cincinnatians for Progress
7) Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission
8 ) City Council Woman and former Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls
9) The League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area
10) St Louis Urban Workshop
11) UC Student Government
12) The Cincinnati Zoo
13) Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council
14) Councilman Chris Bortz
15) Cincinnati Charter Committee
16) Hamilton County Democrats
17) Councilman Jeff Berding
18) The Cincinnati Regional Chamber of Commerce
19) The Cincinnatus Association
20) Councilman Kevin Flynn
21) Councilman Cecil Thomas
22) Mayor Mark Mallory
23) Councilman David Crowley
24) Councilman Greg Harris
25) Councilwoman Leslie Ghiz
26) Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper
27) Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune
28) Former Mayor Arn Bortz
29) Former Mayor Bobbie Sterne
30) Former Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell
31) State senator Eric Kearney
32) Cincinnati Business Courier
33) Cincy PAC
34) Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
35) Mayor's YPKC
36) Over-The-Rhine Chamber of Commerce
37) US Green Building Council - Cincy Chapter
38) Downtown Resident Council
39) Queen City Bike
40) Pendleton Neighborhood Council
41) Cincinnati Planning Commission
42) Cincinnati Enquirer Editorial Board
43) Cincinnati Democratic Party
44) The Sierra Club
45) All Aboard Ohio
46) Agenda 360
47) Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority
48) African American Chamber of Commerce

02 November 2009

Joe Sprengard on Smart City

I've been offline a lot lately, but I haven't seen anyone else note that last week, Joe was on a nationally syndicated show, Smart City with Carol Coletta. He is a great spokesman. If you have time, listen past the first 10 minutes. At the beginning, they review the issue, which by now is probably pretty well-known to anyone who reads the local blogs. But as the interview progresses, they cover the bigger picture of livable cities, coalition building and choosing to live here.

Tomorrow, Please Vote No on Nine.

01 November 2009

David Byrne on Biking

In the NY Times today, David Byrne has a review of a book by Jeff Mapes: "Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities". And he apparently has a book coming out soon called "Bicycle Diaries".

...For decades, Americans have too often seen cycling as a kind of macho extreme sport, which has actually done a lot to damage the cause of winning acceptance for biking as a legitimate form of transportation. If your association with bikes is guys in spandex narrowly missing you on the weekends or YouTube videos of kids flying over ramps on their clown-size bikes, you’re likely to think that bikes are for only the athletic and the risk-prone. Manufacturers in the United States have tended to make bikes that look like the two-wheeled equivalent of Hummers, with fat tires and stocky frames necessitating a hunched-over riding position that is downright unsafe for urban biking and commuting. But that’s been changing for at least a few years now. Whew...

Halloween in Westwood

Westwood Library, 1930 



I talked with a couple of the homeowners who had Democratic signs in their yards, and they all seemed almost apologetic about it! They all knew the candidate personally and said they were good people, but "we usually don't vote that way".

On an election note, I found it very funny the mailer that the Dems mailed out specifically against Winburn to certain neighborhoods like ours. On the front it shows Obama, and says "If Winburn's party had it's way, Obama would not be president", and on the back is a picture of Winburn adjacent to pictures of McCain and Palin. Priceless.