Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Steps to Nowhere

Whenever Elizabeth and I are lingering near the heart of the city, we always make it a point to take an indirect route back home through downtown... an effort to not only delay the work waiting on our metaphorical desks, but to site-see. It may sound strange, being long-time inhabitants of the city and still portraying ourselves as tourists, but Cincinnati's rich architectural blood and provocative landscape almost assures one of finding hints of the past lurking around every corner. 

Berry Park (recent). 
At the foot of Mount Adams.

As an amendment to my last post (about unrealized development in the city), there is a notable rise in construction here, which is steadily altering the environment of every neighborhood (thanks mainly to 3CDC). Of course, you can always just drive down 71, hang out in Kenwood, or make the haul to Mason, but the most exciting developments take place by the river. Every stroll downtown seems cleaner, more modern, more livable than the last. With Cincinnati being such a compact city, meandering through the streets really lends to the urban feel of a much larger city - one that is increasingly becoming contemporary, yet still hints at the old floorboards under the new carpet.

Anyway, we were driving down by the river ("Riverside Drive") because Elizabeth hadn't seen the
Theodore M. Berry International Friendship Park [more info here + here], but on our exit is when we ran into a bit of history:

We found these remnants of once-standing establishments driving up Kemper Lane to Columbia Parkway - a road I had never taken (or needed to take), due to its relative inconspicuous location just past the park. Though, I'm sure this whole area will soon be redeveloped to handle the load from
juggernaut Cincinnati-developer Towne Properties' ever-growing Adams Landing project:

Captain's Watch at Adams Landing, Riverside Drive.
A development by Towne Properties.

Although seeing these pieces of the past is always interesting, finding them anywhere in the downtown vicinity is really no surprise, considering the whole area was once smothered with rooftops (that is, until the
50s highway boom)...

Downtown Cincinnati (1941). 
Source: Cincy Images.

These were not mind-blowing finds, but rather minor historical markers - unfortunately, reminders of the great American tradition: Tear-down and Rebuild. But, as we can see here, and as noted before, the rebuilding part is not always assured. There have been too many unique and culturally significant structures
downtown that have met the wrecking ball over the years and occasionally replaced with parking lots. 

This sentimentality of Cincinnati's historically broad skyline (which could aptly be shared with most of this country's urban landscape) emphasizes the importance of history in everyday life: History is what draws tourists, maintains residency, and builds pride in the populous - and (note to Council) Cincinnati has heaps of it.

To quote Wright (on the near demolition of the Robie House by a Seminary to build a high-rise dorm), "To destroy it would be like destroying a great piece of sculpture or a great work of art. It would never be permitted in Europe. It could only happen in America...".

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