Friday, March 28, 2008

Aladdin's Castle

 Main Atrium Fountain, Beechmont Mall (January 2003).
An oasis in the great 1980s covered-mall desert.

Here's my recollection of the goliath that once stood near my home...

Main Atrium, Beechmont Mall (January 2003).

The mall was constructed as a cross-pattern - four arms extending out from a center atrium, with major retail anchors at each end. The photo above is looking north from the main entrance corridor, with what was once Shillito's/Lazarus/Macy's to the left, Elder Beerman/Parisian to the right, and KMart/Food Court straight ahead. Directly behind that guy in the picture was a 'jewelry' store that my sister would frequent as a kid.  You know, lots of bright-pastel plastic bracelets, cheap perfume, puffy ankle warmers and hair scrunchies. Cheap, synthetic, mass-produced 80s garb.

Elder Beerman/Parisian Corridor, Beechmont Mall (January 2003).

Once notable stores from the picture above: On the right, Waldenbooks (spent hours there), Paperphernalia (various stuff, but lots o' toys), and The Bombay Co. (interesting store with expensive furniture). On the left, Victoria's Secret (eyeballed the hell out of that place... slyly), Suncoast Video (Hollywood-themed toys and a large selection of overpriced videos), and Bizarre Bazaar (narrow walkways with tons of wicker, feathered stuff, and Papa San chairs piled to the ceiling - the store owners didn't like kids meandering through here). At the end of the corridor there were payphones which my friends and I would always check for quarters (to use at the arcade), prank call random people or girls we liked, and eventually use to call for a ride home.

KMart/Food Court Corridor, Beechmont Mall (January 2003).

Once notable stores from the picture above: On the left, B. Dalton Booksellers (spent a lot of time in this bookstore too), Brendamour's Sporting Goods (very popular for my multi-sport habits),
Things Engraved (popular back when..?). On the right, Bankhardt's (cool gifts and gadgets), Lenscrafters (when they first opened back in the day, I thought it was so cool that you could see them make the lenses through those huge windows), and of course, Aladdin's Castle (where I'd sweat like hell going through rolls of quarters). At the end of the hall was the Food Court, where we spent periods of time resting from Aladdin's, chowing down on Gold Star Chili, and scoping out chicks - it was def a hangout for us kids in the 80s.

Arcade, Tron (1982). 
This shot from the opening sequence of the film is representative of the arcade glory that was big part of my youth, though the arcades that I frequented were always much smaller, tighter, and darker: Aladdin's Castle (in Beechmont Mall), PFennies (on Beechmont Avenue, near Eight Mile - dirty as hell, but good games), and Doc Holliday's (on the west side).

The other corridor, anchored by Shilito's/Lazarus/Macy's [not pictured], was also regularly frequented by me and my friends. Notable stores included: The Hobby Store (great for models - miniature trains, car kits, and remote-controlled planes), Musicland (decent store with CDs/tapes, and where my wife worked for a short period of time when younger), and much earlier, Orange Julius (great, great haunt for Orange shakes and monster hotdogs). Actually, that Orange Julius was in an odd location at the end of that corridor, far from any other eateries. It also reminds me of Rem Koolhaas' recent design of the Prada flagship store (in SoHo, NYC) - a lot of curving wood (the counter, the seating, etc.) though, much, much darker inside.

Rem Koolhaas' Prada flagship store, SoHo, NYC (2001). 
Again, the Orange Julius' wood was much darker, which they lacquered the hell out of. Went well with the orange tabletops and metal-canister, dark-yellow lights. Although it really makes me think it was a reflection of early underground skate boarding.

 Other remembrances include Shilito's/Lazarus/Macy's (which everyone in school seemed to shop at, because people would occasionally be seen with identical clothing on), UNO's Pizzeria (great for the Wednesday night special with my dad - medium 2-top pizza & two salads or soups for $14.95), Super X Pharmacy (for various things, but mostly Brach's Pick-A-Mix self-serve candy station as a kid), and the barbershop that was near the front entrance ('Roy' cut my hair from early childhood until HS).
Wow, when you really look back on it, malls were a heck of a destination spot for consumers and loiterers alike (many films have captured this, but none more than Fast Times at Ridgemont High).

In a further effort to induce nostalgia in any Andersonians that may be reading, the following post by bartenational sums up the Beechmont Mall experience well:

Beechmont Mall Memories (12/13/07)

I grew up in Anderson near Beechmont mall.
It was designed in the 70's so it was the height of style for that era. The roof was brown, the walls were tan cement. When I dream I go back there and buy ice cream at the United Dairy Farmers that was located at the entrance. It had sticky cafe tables set up and always smelled of sherbert. I first tasted orange sherbert there. I remember my sister saying. "Let's get some sherbert." "What is that?" I said, "You'll love it." The old logo had colors of sherbert ice cream in it, and the stores had those colors all around. It was like a shrine to sherbert.

I used to hang out at the mall while my parents went shopping at Thriftway across the parking lot. They had a hobby store with models in it. And an Aladdin's Castle arcade. It was like a local hang out where kids could congregate. You would go in there and one of your school mates would be in there playin' Pacman. Even if you didn't hang out at school, it was cool to watch them play a game or two. Or even play against each other. It was truly awesome.

They had a Woolworths where I bought a Chia pet for someone for Christmas one year. I don't know what ever happened to that. The Woolworths had a lunch counter in it. It had dark wood panel booths with old men sitting in them drinking coffee, while their wives looked endlessly at Leggs (they came in a plastic chrome egg) nude pantyhose.
You could still smoke in those days, so the place reeked. I never ate there. I am sure it was good at the beginning, but any restaurant inside a poorly ventilated mall will eventually become coated with a fine layer of grease from the fryer, then dirt will lodge itself in the sticky top layer of every thing. What is commonly known as grime. Most people today have no tolerance for grime these days. Things are destroyed as soon as they are out of fashion, so they never have time to accumulate the fine layers of crud like they used to.

But I knew every inch of the mall in detail. I walked it every week on Friday for an hour or two, 52 times a year. Then we piled in the van, drove the groceries home, and ate a frozen pizza and drank pop (once a week).

When I graduated from high school they remodeled it [see photos] and tried to update it, but the whole mall concept had gone out of fashion, and in this infinitely wealthy society we can afford to destroy it.
But alas, it was just a building.

NOTE: All pictures shown are of Beechmont Mall in its final, glorious, pastel aesthetic (the last of several remodels over its lifespan). This was not one that I particularly liked when I was a kid - it was much darker and warmer before the change. Also, the photos are directly prior to it's transition from an enclosed mall to an outdoor, 'open-air' mall, renamed Anderson Towne Center. It's a pretty happenin' spot now, with a soon-to-be movie theater, a range of eateries, dedicated bus terminal, township goverment building, etc... A transformation-deluxe from my years.

• All Beechmont Mall interior photos (and some related comments) from Alpha @ Dead

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Road Map 2008?

Adams Crossing [3/2/8].
Short street behind Adams Place condo tower - East End, downtown Cincinnati.

I spoke a little too soon (with post Road Map 2112)... streetcar update here.
Not totally unfounded - it makes a lot of sense to link the two biggest employment centers in the city - though, weeks turn into years in Cincinnati.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Road Map 2112

 Maps of downtown Cincinnati, Ohio (1815, 1914).

We all know what 2013 will roughly look like, but after Council's preliminary approval of the new streetcar system (in addition to the robust efforts of 3CDC and the start of The Banks), envisioning Cincinnati in 2112 just became a little more pleasurable...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Holy Ground

After reading this in the Enquirer today - as well as the ongoing discussion about the possibility of a new streetcar downtown - I think it seems an appropriate time to start a discussion on Cincinnati mass transit.

Note: I found the following article during research for my thesis + added corresponding imagery from Singer's excellent book, The Cincinnati Subway.

• • • • • • • • • •

TIME magazine (Monday, February 13, 1939)

Fifty-four years ago, during the free-spending administration of handsome U. S. President Chester Alan Arthur, the Cincinnati Graphic proposed for Cincinnati a subway for speedy transportation of the city's workers from the "Basin" business district on the north bank of the Ohio River to the uplands east, north and west where they lived.

 Proposal for Cincinnati, Ohio (1885). Graphic magazine. 
Source: The Cincinnati Subway by Allen J. Singer (2003). 
Concept drawing for Miami-Erie Canal to be converted into a subway/boulevard.

Eighteen years ago, after several decades of lively discussion and legal preparations, Cincinnati went to work on the underground. Seven years later it had the excavations and stations for a subway. Cost: $6,100,000, financed by a bond issue.

Today, and for 18 years past, the subway has been a rat hole into which Cincinnati's tax money has been poured at the rate of more than $1,000 a day in bond interest. By the time its bonds finally fall due, in 1967, the Cincinnati subway will have cost $19,000,000. It has never carried a passenger. Once during a bitter Depression winter, a score of shivering hobos holed up in one of its diggings, until they were driven out by the police. But no tracks were ever laid in its 2.6 miles of underground or 13.9 miles of overground right of way.

The old Graphic's original plan was no pipe dream but a solidly considered plan of rapid transit. It suggested that the city utilize the drained Miami & Erie canal for the underground mileage, cover it with a high-speed roadway for surface traffic. Even in the Graphic days the two-square-mile Basin was beginning to be crowded and Cincinnatians, whose town has more hills and valleys than any other in the Union, were putting their homes back on the hilltops to get above and beyond the city's industrial smoke.

 "A Dream of the Graphic" (1884). 
Source: The Cincinnati Subway by Allen J. Singer (2003).
Another sketch of the subway/boulevard concept.

What the Graphic and what leading citizens did not foresee in 1884 was the automobile. Before the motorcar, nine interurban railroad lines fed into the city. Today there is only one. The broad Central Parkway was built atop the subway (at a cost of $3,330,990), and Cincinnatians in cars and buses now zip into the Basin in the morning, zip out at night about as fast as any other form of transport could carry them.

 Proposal by City Engineer C.N. Danenhower for Cincinnati, Ohio (1896).
Source: The Cincinnati Subway by Allen J. Singer (2003).
Concept drawing for Miami-Erie Canal to be drained and converted into a boulevard.

If Cincinnati's subway is ever to be used, it must build a loop through the Basin from its present downtown terminus. This would cost another $6,000,000, and the whole project would be handed to the Cincinnati Street Railway Co. for operation of its cars. The transaction would be without rent, which the company is unable to pay. Face to face with this apparently insoluble situation, a group of leading Cincinnatians resolved last week that something must be done about the city's hole-in-the-ground. Last week they met at the Sinton Hotel, organized as the Metropolitan Transportation and Subway Committee, stoutly resolved to settle the question once and for all.

Chaired by Attorney James L. Magrish, they divided into subcommittees to work out a plan. Since no town feels it is grown-up until it is pierced by a subway (Chicago is finally digging one), the most likely result of their deliberations will probably be an attempt to sell Cincinnati taxpayers on the downtown loop, send good money after bad.

• • • • • • • • • •

Since we partially built ours, does that make Cincinnati an adolescent?

Quoting Susan Tifft ["Mass Transit Makes a Comeback", TIME, 1/16/84]: "...transit, like a football team or a domed stadium, bolsters civic pride."

When will the naysayers understand that even if a streetcar or subway/light rail system was constructed, knowing that it would be partially subsidized, and possibly without profit (though I do believe it could be self-sufficient), that it still would be infrastructure valuable to the growth of the city as a whole - not only in it's utilitarian presence, but as an attraction, as a reflection of our history, and as a symbol of our maturity.

How many train-related attractions have to be built in this area for it to initiate a full-scale response?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Super Station

No, not TBS, or WGN...
The Cincinnati Union Terminal railway station - aka The Hall of Justice!

"Super Friends" intro shot (2nd season).

There has been a lot speculation over the relationship between these cultural icons, with various other sites dedicated to it - from theory, to history, to models and figurines. No one can deny the resemblance of Hanna Barbera's Super Friends structure with ours...

 Hall of Justice v. Cincinnati Union Terminal (exterior).

Hall of Justice v. Cincinnati Union Terminal (interior).

This may seem unimportant, but it was 100% relevant to my Saturday mornings as a kid in Cincy. Still, I should note that not only did I not readily associate the Hall of Justice with the Union Terminal.  All I knew was that Marvin annoyed me.

"Super Friends" intro [1st season - 1973].

Anyway, we all know about the Terminal's purpose and overall significance (including this cultural fame), but I'll hopefully be adding some interesting new insights after attending the "High Steel Tour" at the end of the month (through the Cincinnati Museum Center's Heritage Program). As reported by the Enquirer, "It's a strenuous tour high above the Rotunda in the steel supporting the half-dome. You'll climb more than 200 steps as well as ladders, the lighting's dim, spaces tight, tour guides don't permit cameras or other carried items and they recommend comfortable shoes." Should be interesting.

If you weren't already aware, 2008 marks the building's 75th Anniversary, and the Museum is hosting events through the first half of the year. Better sign up fast, because the seats seem to fill quickly (I missed out on an earlier event, even when calling a month ahead). Info here.

• Post concept credited to the blog, The Lope.

Update: Speculation has turned to fact that the illustrator Al Gmuer did indeed model the Hall of Justice fortress after the CUT. (Source).

Update: More info at (as seen on Boing Boing).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Neyer's Corner

After making another one of our tours through Hyde Park, I spotted yet another remnant of the city's past...

NW Corner of Delta Avenue & Columbia Parkway [2/17/8].
Zoom in several times to see the stairways at both ends of the wall.

With limited research, I didn't find much on the history of this corner, so those specific foundations' stories remain ambiguous. Though, this research jogged my memory about how long the Neyer Properties' "For Sale" sign (placed to the left of the housing remnants above) has been sitting on this site... way before many of my personal milestones: marriage, children, moving out of town, moving back, etc. - in other words, it's been awhile [articles from 2003, 2004, 2005].

Proposed construction at Delta & Columbia Pkwy (NW lot) [Neyer Props.].
This concept sits where the old foundations I photographed remain currently.

I wasn't even aware of this development in its early stages, but according to an opinion from a 2006 Citybeat letter, it's been a storied one:

My co-workers and I have a pool going right now -- which will be completed first, Columbia Square along Columbia Parkway or The Banks on the riverfront? I'm not sure I'll be living here long enough to find out..." [full letter here].

Columbia Square plans, Columbia Tusculum [Neyer Props.]. Source: Amy.

Anyway, after recently settling back in Cincinnati, it's been nice to see the developments on the south side of Columbia coming along, not to mention The Banks, Fountain Square, OTR, the streetcar initiative... it's an exciting time.

I just wonder on which side that guy placed his bets.

Details on the progress of this development (and all others in the city) are listed at the extremely informative & always interesting Building Cincinnati. Looser dialogue and repostings of recent news articles on Columbia Square can be found at UrbanOhio.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Dregs of Mount Adams

I recently ran across the Cincinnati blog justforview, which included a great post on the evolution of the urban environment - in this case, one where nature has overcome, and revealed, the neglect of once thriving construction. Of course, I was attracted to this perspective because of my own recent infatuation with the historical nature of the ruins that lay scattered throughout the city, though, as justforview points out, there is also a beauty within this integration (as any Ecotecturist would rightly concur).

This has inspired me to post some extraneous photos (minus the historical research/significance), which I took en route to recording the subjects of several of my recent posts...

Oregon Street, Mount Adams [3/3/8].
Heading east on Oregon, I took this (and the following photos) on the way to researching the Incline. I like the dichotomy of the building styles & materials of the different eras, as well as the height in this shot - it could be a metaphor for some of the views on preservation in this city.

Oregon Street, Mount Adams [3/3/8].
This is further east on Oregon (the following photos are details of this wide shot).

Oregon Street, Mount Adams [3/3/8].
Looking down to Oregon from a deserted lot (on the right side of the wide shot).

Oregon Street, Mount Adams [3/3/8].
More details of the above wide shot.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Cincinnati Weather Forecast Accurate!

People thought it was strange that I missed the northern winters when we lived in Savannah, but I thought it was strange that the locals would wear winter coats in 60-degree weather. Now look us... we get hit with a blizzard only three months back in town.

While we didn't get the 20 inches that Columbus got hit with, we received our fair share - about a foot; more than enough to validate the Level 3 Snow Emergency declared by the city. I only wish our son was old enough to take part in the festivities.

Fields behind Loveland High School, Loveland, Ohio [3/9/8].
Looking west from the back door of our temporary hibernation point,
wishing we were downtown.

Speaking of festivities, this site is great for locating the storied snowhills of Cincinnati. If I was the kid I once was, I'd be heading down to the two "Black Diamonds" behind Sherwood Elementary in Anderson... my old stomping ground.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Mount Adams' Reformation

As a continuation of the recent trek through Mt. Adams (reporting on the Incline), I drove by this retaining wall at the northern end of Kilgour Street - one which I've seen a thousand times but failed to research, until now...

Retaining wall, Kilgour Street [3/3/8].
Facing the intersection of Kilgour and Monastery.

I find the wall alone interesting enough (as with any of the historical foundations in the city) because of the building materials, craftmanship, and age - the handmade nature of these remnants really gives a tactile reference to the past. I would associate them with old paintings, where you can see the unique brushstrokes of the artist - the form, motion, and intent; the complete process is apparent in any handbuilding construction.

Anyway, the notable characteristic of the wall lies directly in the center - an old entrance to the long-since demolished Convent of the Good Shepherd.

Retaining wall, Kilgour Street [3/3/8].
Click on the picture for a larger view of the old entrance.

With limited research (via the internet - due to the snowstorm today), I found that this Convent was actually located on Baum Street, with the Kilgour entrance just being an additional stairway leading up to it [map here].

Convent of the Good Shepherd, Baum Street [1896].
These buildings are no longer standing.
Source: Cincinnati Memory.

Further research indicates that this Catholic holding was legally named "School of Reform of the Good Shepherd," and housed women and children faced with unfortunate circumstances. Quoted from GCMP:

"Organized March 31, 1873. This institution is purely charitable as to charges and non-sectarian as to reception of inmates. There are 100 preservation and 50 reformatory children at present in the institution. Mother M. Gertrude is the Superioress."

Also, an article from the New York Times [archives 1851-1980] hints at its past notoriety:

 © The New York Times (Published: July 27,1874)

It's not unusual to find historical markers of a religious nature in the city, but especially in Mount Adams - its history is ripe with these foundations. Referencing Cincinnati: A Guide to the Queen City and Its Neighbors (1943) by Federal Writer's Project, "it is believed that the first road to Mount Adams was built by the Reverend James Kemper, pioneer Presbyterian preacher, in 1793." In addition [from pages 254 & 253]:

 How times change.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Baum Street Association

After further research of the last post [see Inclined to Disagree], I found an old postcard that depicted a few Baum Street residences, the foundations of which were incorporated into one of my photographs of the Incline. Mystery solved.

"Mount Adams Incline Plane", Baum Street [undated].
If you look near the center of the picture (left of the large tree), you'll notice a small doorway, presumably leading to the basement of that residence. Steps to the front door were to the left of the wall (which you can also see in the photo below).
Image source: GCMP.

Baum Street foundations, Mount Adams [3/3/8].
The doorway
(commented on in the last post) was associated with house shown in the above postcard. Similar to today's Mt. Adams building tradition, there were once houses shoulder-to-shoulder here. Behind my car (silver, left), you can see the wall that's pictured in the west-most house in the postcard, and on the very right are the Incline supports.

Interesting to see the effect that time has on specific locations. Additional photos of the foundations (shot March 3, 2008):

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Inclined to Disagree

In early February, various local news outlets told of an interesting new development in East Price Hill [read here & watch video here] - one that will inject much needed capital into the West Side. This project will bring restaurants, condos, a banquet facility, nightclub, an upgraded park and unparalleled view of the city, but most interestingly, will include unearthed Price Hill Incline supports, which will be lit up and used as a focal point for the complex.

"Incline Square" by City Lights Development II. 
Early + revised renderings of the $50m+ development in East Price Hill.
Image Source: Dev.Mgt.Assoc.LLC

This kind of respect for the city's unique historical infrastructure is refreshing, yet not a perspective shared by all developers. Soon after Price Hill story came out, I ran across an interesting article (via Building Cincinnati) on the future development of the Mount Adams Incline - the longest running of the city's five funiculars [pics here]. Looks like the developers of this project place a different value on history:

Mount Adams Incline supports, Baum Street. 
In the process of destroying the supports and retaining wall.

It's not new to see construction on the Mt. Adams hillside, and as a result, the land surrounding the old Incline has reduced considerably over the years. Still, until recently, the city held onto the Incline land for a reason - most likely because of it's historical significance, and possibly plans for some kind of future reawakening.

It's interesting that now - maybe because they would rather have the money (from the land sale and future home taxes) or because they're obsessed with trying increase the city population - they are taking a different stance. And who can blame the developers, the JFP Group, for wanting to profit on their $1m land acquisition? They did a fine job restoring the original facade of the Fourth Street National Bank building downtown when turning it into condos , but building more 'up-scale' housing on Mt. Adams at the expense of our unique history is comparable to desecrating an Indian Burial Ground (in my opinion).

Upon hearing of the upcoming demolition, Elizabeth and I decided to drive around and take a few photos of the remaining structure (shot March 3, 2008):

Mount Adams Incline foundations [direct center], Celestial Street.
Looking down the hill to Oregon St., Baum St., and Monastery Ave. (at the base of the structure). The old Rookwood Pottery building is on the far right, and the Highland Towers on the left (which houses the upscale Celestial Restaurant, Steakhouse & Incline Lounge). Also, from up here, you can really see what highways have done to the city's core.

Mount Adams Incline supports [right side of the hill], Oregon Street.
Highland Towers high-rise is on the right, and the Rookwood Pottery building is peeking up over the top of the hill.

Mount Adams Incline supports, Baum Street.
Don't know where that doorway led to...

Mount Adams Incline supports, Baum Street.
 Looking up to Oregon St. and Celestial St., from the left side.

Mount Adams Incline supports, Baum Street.
Looking up to
Oregon St. and Celestial St., from the right side.

Mount Adams Incline supports, Monastery Street.
At the base of the Incline and hill.