How do you introduce Over-the-Rhine?

Rocco Landesman, Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, visiting OTR. photo via ArtsWave

Yesterday, I had the chance to tweet with Steve Mouzon, who is one of my favorite authors, thinkers, and architects. Steve’s book The Original Green: Unlocking the Mystery of True Sustainability is an absolute must-read. The original green is “’the sustainability all our great-grandparents knew by heart.” Steve is also a principal of the New Urban Guild in Miami.

Anyway, he tweeted about being in Mariemont and the conversation went from there:

So how does someone introduce Over-the-Rhine?

You could start with Kaid Benfield’s four part series on OTR from 2009:

  1. The Legacy and the Challenge
  2. Building on the Neighborhood’s Assets
  3. Making Impressive Progress
  4. Making it Green
Or, you could start with Arthur Frommer, the famed travel writer, who spoke fondly of Over-the-Rhine during a visit in September 1993. Frommer said that, “In all of America, there is no more promising an urban area for revitalization than your own Over-the-Rhine. When I look at that remarkably untouched, expansive section of architecturally uniform structures, unmarred by clashing modern structures, I see in my mind the possibility for a revived district that literally could rival similar prosperous and heavily visited areas.”
Or, you could share what Steve Gordon, Former Survey & National Register Manager of the Ohio Historic Preservation Office, said when he was making the case for Over-the-Rhine’s designation as a National Historic Landmark District: “It is the density coupled with the fact OTR was a port of entry for working class immigrants and transplants that makes it distinctive nationally…the concentration of 3-5 story tenements, many of them common walled, with first floor commercial, coupled withall the churches and cultural/institutional buildings…give OTR much of its identity. The fact that the first American Turnverein, the first German Methodist Church [Nast] and the nation’s oldest large Music Hall are all in OTR and all have Germanic associations adds to national significance. I think a case can be made for NHL (National Historic Landmark status).”
Or, you could talk about Cincinnati’s amazing Over-the-Rhine Brewery District, the underground tunnels and lagering cellars, and its rebirth.
The fact that Sam Adams beer was created by a Cincinnatian with a Cincinnnati brewmaster’s recipe and is actually brewed across Central Parkway from OTR in West End gives credence to the heritage.  Or, more appropriately, Christian Moerlein Brewing Company‘s long and proud tradition in Over-the-Rhine which began in 1853 only to be prohibited by prohibition in 1919 and then was reborn in 1981 and move its headquarters back to OTR in 2010.  The soon to be untapped Moerlein Saengerfest Maibock Lager harkens back to Cincinnati’s Germanic and musical heritage.
And that’s to say nothing of America’s largest Bockfest, an annual celebration of the coming of spring, bock beer and Cincinnati brewing heritage.

Or, you could introduce OTR by talking about Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest continuously operating public market. Findlay Market became 100% occupied in 2010 and continues to expand.  The flurry of development around Findlay Market is heartening to say the least. The annual Findlay Market Opening Day Parade is a tradition that means something special to a city in which the Reds’ Opening Day is basically a holiday.

Or, you could talk about historic Washington Park where an almost $50 million renovation and expansion began with the excavation and re-interment of a pioneer cemetery. Washington Park is across the street from Music Hall, Memorial Hall, the Erich Kunzel Center for Arts and Education which is home to the School for the Creative and Performing Arts (the first public K-12 art school in the nation). The nearby Symphony Hotel and Restaurant recently announce they were expanding and 3CDC-redevelopment is happening on all the other sides of the park. One of the recent 3CDC developments is Saengerhalle:
Speaking of 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation), how could one introduce OTR without mentioning the public-private partnership that has transformed Cincinnati’s urban core? One need only look at their projects to beam with pride. Or, more easily, look to the local headlines where you’ll find news of new businesses and restaurants opening and more people moving to the neighborhood.

Or, you could introduce OTR by starting with its shops and restaurants. Cincinnati’s green general store, Park+Vine, comes to mind. But so does The Little Mahatma, Mica 12/v, Atomic Number 10, Coffee Emporium, 4U Urban Boutique, MOTR Pub, Neons Unplugged, the Drinkery, Joe’s Diner on Sycamore, OTR freshMannequin, Stuffed on Vine, Tucker’s…and that list doesn’t include the businesses and restaurants moving to OTR like A Tavola Pizza, Abigail Street, Taste of Belgium: The Authentic Waffle, Bakersfield taco grillThe Cincy Haus gift shop and heritage tourism headquarters among others. And what’s a list of OTR favs without VisuaLingual, The City Flea, Gray & Pape, the OTR Foundation, the OTR Chamber of Commerce, the nearby Betts House, the Art Academy of Cincinnati, the Know Theatre, the Ensemble Theatre, and oh so many more like the local hardware store and shoe repair, even the neighborhood Kroger.

Or, you could let the buildings speak for themselves.  I think that’s what I’ll do.


"low clouds in OTR" by flickr user prolix21

Iris Book Cafe courtyard

Vine Street looking south

Shoe Repair at 1344 Vine Street, photo by 5chw4r7z

Over-the-Rhines first bike corral

Overlooking Main Street OTR, by Frank Hibrandt

7 Responses to “How do you introduce Over-the-Rhine?”
  1. Barb Cooper says:

    This is a great recap of all that is happening and going to happen in OTR. Gets me excited just reading about it!

  2. Steve Mouzon says:

    Wow, so much to see! I’m definitely coming back! Spent early morning putting up a couple image sets on, but headed to OTR shortly.

  3. What an awesome article. I’m bookmarking this for long-term reading. Thank you for putting it together. Your passion for OTR really shines through. -Blaine

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] the “definitive handbook on the subject” of FBCs, a member of the New Urban Guild (like friend of OTR Steve Mouzon – Mouzon’s photos of OTR are here), and a founder of the Form-Based Codes […]

  2. […] him via his website or tweet him @theurbanologist. This is reminiscent of Steve Mouzon’s visit to OTR in April 2011 that I wrote about in a post titled “How would you introduce OTR?“ Dear […]

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