Friday, October 23, 2009

Autumn Rail

 Fall Train (Cincinnati, Ohio) [1/1/03].
Image © Chuck Madden.
Seriously.  How beautiful is that. 
• Check out more of Chuck Madden's work at Flickr.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Kilgour Peace Offering

 Kilgour Fountain at Hyde Park Square [1901].
Image source.

In relation to the last post (and the importance of constructing something tall as a central locator and gathering place for the neighborhood), here's a little more info on the history of the Hyde Park Square fountain & esplanade:
"Appeasement rather than gratitude was one reason for the construction of the fountain... The work, designed by Joseph F. Cronin, was a gift in 1900 from the Kilgour family. The Kilgour brothers were part of the syndicate that developed the triangle of land between Madison Road, Observatory Avenue and Edwards Road around the turn of the century.

"Dubbed 'Genevieve' by generations of residents... The Kilgour Fountain was a gesture of good will to calm furor caused by the extension of the trolley tracks from Delta Avenue to Madison Road, disrupting the tranquility of a few bordering streets. In addition, the farsighted syndicate wanted to beautify the shopping district planned to be in walking distance of their developed property." (Source: Cincinnati Magazine [September 1975].)
Amazing. The fountain was a gift to the neighborhood from the Kilgours because of the disruptive nature of construction of the local public trolley line.  A far cry from today's world.

The Kilgours were a major presence in the area of the time: John Kilgour, a wealthy Cincinnati banker & President of the Cincinnati Street Railway, and his brother, Charles Kilgour, a wealthy real estate investor & street railway engineer. They helped to develop Hyde Park into an area strictly for the wealthy, contributing the land for the Cincinnati Observatory (moved from Mt. Adams, which also gave Mt. Lookout its name), and dedicating the "Kilgour Esplanade" (Hyde Park Public Square) to the village of Hyde Park (July 21, 1900). 
Sources: City of Cincinnati - Parks Dept, Cincinnati Enquirer, and "Cincinnati: A Guide to the Queen City and its Inhabitants" by the Federal Writers' Project (p.306, 307).

Read a short history on the development of Hyde Park by the Hyde Park Neighborhood Council, and Mt. Lookout's history at the Mt. Lookout Community Council & P&G.

• Current info on Hyde Park at soapbox!, and a great photo of "Genevieve" here.

• • • • • • • • • • 

Finally, here a couple more recent photos of the fountain getting its Fall bath before closing down for the colder months...or maybe just a good old fashioned soap tagging by those wild and crazy neighborhood kids:

All photos taken 9/25/9.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Square Re-Envisioned

It's probably pretty obvious by now that I love our great city and its history, which is why I hate to see deterioration and neglect (more often than not, caused by the automobile) in once-thriving spaces - especially locales with original "walking Squares" (something rare anymore in today's world)... like Mt. Lookout Square.

I've been so familiar with the area for so long - passing by almost on a daily basis - which is why it
frequently bothers me. So, in an effort to contrive an outlandish solution, I took a couple minutes to overhaul the place with some pens and markers.

• • • • • • • • • •

One can argue that Mt. Lookout is already a hoppin' spot - and I'd concur, having once lived right on the Square - but in reality, it's just a ring of businesses around heavy traffic, which encloses more traffic & parking... a Square for cars. So, just think how much more attractive it would be to remove the (roughly) 30 parking spots in the middle of the mayhem and replace it with some greenery and human beings - a central gathering point for the local inhabitants.

Well, "the board" beat me to the punch. Check out these renderings of the recently-proposed greenspace from Vivian Llambi & Associates:

This is a great treatment - streamlines the space, adds plant life, and pulls in that incredibly-important central gathering point. Still, what if there was a little more money to throw around...

Two things missing in the above renderings that I think are key: (1) It really begs for a central post - a fountain, a statue, a clock tower... something tall to define the square, the history, to mark the spot, for example...

Hyde Park Square has a historical fountain as its central marker.
The fountain receiving its bath before the winter shutdown.
Photo taken on 9/25/9.

...and (2) needs a way for people to access the area safely. The square is the heart of the Linwood/Delta intersection, which makes it crazy busy (via motorists regularly ignoring their speedometer), and thus, sometimes overwhelming for pedestrians...

Crossing the street safely is nearly hit or miss at Mt. Lookout Square.
Photo taken on 9/25/9.

So, in an effort to answer these needs, I thought it'd be fitting to give the square everything listed above... and more!


I first scanned through existing online pics of the Square, which were surprisingly few and far between...

So I decided to go down and take some pictures of the surroundings from the angles I needed...

It was a good thing that I scouted out the area firsthand, because I noticed a conflict with my "central clock tower" idea - one already exists on the corner of Delta & Linwood, near Chase Bank and Mount Lookout Tavern... in deference to that original structure, but still in keeping with my new plan, I decided to nix the clock and just pay homage to the area's name by making a larger tower with an overlook atop.

Anyway, after doing all of this and conjuring up my incredulous proposal (sans paper), I floated the idea to others, who loved the concept, but balked at the assumed expense involved in actually creating it.

Blindly ignoring that, I started on the development, and built up
a reference database from online sources...

...then did some quick sketches of the central tower & fountain...

...and then moved on to some more detailed sketches of the whole park...

To provide more accuracy, I then used Vivian Llambi's "Final Conceptual" overhead plans as a template for my ideas...

...and wrapped up with a quick draft of the final concept:
Concept for Mt. Lookout Square.
Note: Some changes here from the prior sketches.
I also deliberately skewed the perspective to showcase everything clearly.
And... not my best work, by any means - I ignored the ruler and was pretty
loose with the surroundings - but I think it gets the point across.

I originally thought it would be cool to have all of the things seen above: Catwalks above street-level to provide safe access, leading to a stairway through the middle of the tower - up to the top (a small overlook), and down to the bottom park area.

The south side of the park would be greenspace anchored by a fountain, and the north side would have greenspace anchored by a small stage with canopy. Tiered, permanent seating would also abut the tower's north side (kind of reflecting the Serpentine Wall aesthetic, but faced in brick), to aid in viewing stage performances/events or just act as casual seating.

The monumental central tower - also housing restrooms and storage/office space (for the Parks Dept. or community events) - would have an overlook space for casual pedestrian use or to house lighting/cameras for formal stage events.

Pretty ambitious, huh.

In heed of the cost and lack of space, here, in lesser form, are some other quick drafts...

Other ideas for Mt. Lookout Square.
(1) Solo tower without tiered seating, baths, office, and bridges,
and (2) solo catwalk with tiered seating.

I kept the end anchors (stage and fountain) but just reigned in the tower, which would be the most costly part of the project... but in actuality, maybe not, considering the money in Mt. Lookout these days.

And in retrospect, the design probably should've reflected the original shape of the Square, with half-rounds echoing each other throughout. Something like this...

Concept for Mt. Lookout Square (Overhead-edited).
Anything not in color is ground-level.

Lastly, the overarching concern surrounding all of this is, "Where is everyone going to park?".
Answer: I don't care.

It's a square for pedestrians in that neighborhood - people living there should walk to it, not drive. And if people visit, it's not a big deal to park a couple of blocks away and actually use their feet from there - that's pretty common for other current events that take place in the area anyway. I'm assuming the
Mt. Lookout Community Development Corporation (MLCDC)
and Vivian Llambi feel the same way... or maybe they're hoping for the second coming of a streetcar line to one day aid in their efforts.

Anyway, it's just a thought.

• Thanks to the excellent reporter and progressive Cincinnati advocate, Randy Simes, over at UrbanCincy for the news and images. Also check out his corresponding article on soapbox!.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Riverside Rail

 Rail along Riverside Drive
(Pre-Towne Properties development).
Photo source.

It was my son's birthday recently, and a heck of a good day it was. After all of the day's expected rigmarole, we decided to cap it off with a cruise around downtown - something he enjoys immensely, even at this young age. Whether it be kid-size or adult-size, tunnels, towers and trains are his favorites, so when near the core, we always visit the Queen City Square tower construction site, and drive to or fro through the 71/3rd Street tunnels (and usually once back and forth over the Roebling Bridge, aka. the "Buzzing Bridge"). Unfortunately, seeing trains of any kind is unusual... which made this birthday trip extra special.

First, the normal routine (with an added bonus)...

The Queen City Square tower, looking NE from 2nd Street...

...and a plane with a flag attached to it!
Planes AND flags = hysteria.

After hitting the business district, we ventured down through beautiful Sawyer Point - an area that seems to be incredibly under-utilized by the population (aside from the formal, scheduled events - from what I've witnessed, anyway). It's surprising, too, considering there's so much to do and see just strolling around the area. No matter how many times I've been down there, it still hits me as a really incredible park...

Looking south from Sawyer Point's "Gateway Sculpture"
toward the "Big Mac Bridge".

Floating sticks down the miniature Ohio River - something I used to love doing
as a kid when it first opened in '88. Can't do it anymore, though,
since they don't keep the water pumping.

Waving flags against a moving sky. Pretty mesmerizing when
you're young...
and they're everywhere at Sawyer Point.

That was our final stop sans car, so after buckling in again for the ride home, I decided to take the scenic route, down Eastern Ave. Riverside Drive, and I'm glad I did because we ended up witnessing a small clip of the past future...

It was obviously a Cincinnati Dinner Train excursion, because there were only a few cars, it was moving pretty slow, there were people lounging around inside and on the rails checking out the view, and it was Saturday night. And as simple as this was, it was damn beautiful, and my son loved it.

A great end to a great day.

This might not be a big deal to some of you, but like most of the rest of the country, passenger trains are extremely scarce around these parts anymore - especially any place other than Union Terminal, so seeing any train wheeling down the east side of town takes me by surprise. Naturally, I stopped to witness the grandeur, and wheeled up onto a small side street, got out and snagged a few, quick shots. This actually was a good experience, because I had never actually noticed how close the tracks were to the backs of some of those houses perched up off of Riverside Drive, and how little noise the train actually made next to them.

While I don't drool over everything Towne does, I do appreciate their local prominence because they've rebuilt a ton of older areas into attractive hot spots. But in regards to Riverside, I really don't know what the heck Arn is complaining about. Not only did the Cincinnati Dinner Train not seem very disruptive (similar, if not heavier and louder than the modern 3-C cars that would travel here), but having passenger trains travel through the area and stop in the heart of all the city's new construction three times a day seems like a no-brainer in terms of creating prosperity and vitality for our city. Isn't that what developers ultimately want?

Arn is obviously protecting those who have already bought from him down there, but if those residents don't like it, I'm sure there'd be a ton of people itching to buy property in their place if it meant being near a rail stop. Wasn't that always the plan???

Concept drawing of the Riverfront Transit Center (1997).
This was obviously constructed some time ago, but where's the rail?
Or the bus traffic for that matter??

Update: Lunken was approved as Cincinnati's "temporary" depot. Seeing that the Union Terminal was nixed from the get-go (no room with the freight traffic there), and the huge 2nd Street structure foolishly ignored (above image), I guess I don't have a problem with this - it's a cool, old stop that already caters to the transient tourist/business passenger dynamic. But if the streetcar is ever constructed and doesn't have a line passing near there, none of it will make any sense... or cents.

• More on the Cincinnati Dinner Train and other unique rail events at
The Cincinnati Railway Company (more info at Discover Ohio, & a nice writeup at Shore Magazine).

• Read an exceptional writeup of the barren Riverfront Transit Center at the always excellent Queen City Discovery

Friday, October 9, 2009

Queen City Printing Ink

 Advertisement [1896].
More info here.

The Queen City Printing Ink Co., founded by George DeGolyer & John Rychen in 1860, was at one time considered to be "the largest printing ink facility in the United States" (source). Housed at 600 W. 5th Street (map), with additional facilities on Court Street and extensive production on South Street (map), the products were of high quality, wide range, mass volume, and great demand:


Additional info here & here.

• More QCPI Co. images: Poster [1903] & Trade Card [undated].
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