the call to place: southern illinois & cincinnati, ohio

I’m called to visit a triangle of towns in Ohio and Kentucky: Cincinnati, Ohio and Louisville and Lexington, KY.  Before I begin what I’ll call my “Midwestern Triangle Road Trip,” I plan to overshoot Louisville and go to Murphysboro, Illinois to visit my sister, who, just before Christmas, sold her house in L.A. and bought a mid-century modern house in Murphysboro, IL for a fraction of the cost of her California home.  Murphysboro is supposedly a very small town that melds into the college town of Carbondale, home to Southern Illinois University.

Since the places I’ll visit on this short road trip are varied, I’ll talk here about Illinois and Cincinnati, Ohio.  In my next Call to Place post, I’ll talk about Kentucky, with a focus on Covington, Louisville and Lexington.


I’m called to southern Illinois simply to spend time with my sister, explore where she lives, and see her new house.  While there, I hope to see Richard Pollard’s Yard Art in Salem, Illinois, The Franklin County Garage and the Garden of the Gods in the Shawnee National Forest. There are quirky places to explore in southern Illinois, but mainly, I’ll just hang out with my sister.

Illinois is often considered a microcosm of the U.S. because of Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities, great agricultural production, and natural resources such as coal, timber and petroleum in the south.  It has a diverse economic base and is a major transportation hub via Chicago and the Great Lakes, as well as by its border rivers: The Mississippi, the Ohio and the Wabash Rivers. It has also had a reputation as a bellwether in social, cultural and political terms.

Illinois is the most populous state in the Midwest region. The capital of Illinois is Springfield in the central part of the state. Chicago, in the north, is the third-most populous city in the United States, containing 65% of the state’s residents.

Three U.S. presidents have been elected while living in Illinois: Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and Barack Obama. Additionally, Ronald Reagan, whose political career was based in California, was born and raised in Illinois. Today, Illinois honors Lincoln with its official state slogan, Land of Lincoln, which has been displayed on its license plates since 1954.  The state is the site of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, located in the state capital of Springfield, and the future home of the Barack Obama Presidential Center in Chicago.

Chicago is at the far north end of the state; I won’t be visiting it this time, but it’s on my radar for another trip.


I’m called to Cincinnati, Ohio, because it is close to Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky and is also close to Centerville, Ohio, where my husband goes once or twice a year to visit his old high school buddies. As he’ll go to his gathering the first weekend in March, I’ll leave the Sunday before that weekend and drive to my sister’s, where I’ll spend several days. Then she and I will go to Louisville, KY and Cincinnati.  I’ll pick up my husband from his friend’s house, and we’ll all three explore Cincinnati. Then my sister will drive home, and my husband and I will spend another day in Cincinnati, continue to Lexington, KY and then home.

Cincinnati has a great food scene, with its famous Cincinnati Chili at Skyline Chili, German food at Mecklenburg Gardens, and Mexican fare at Mazunte.  For culture and history, I’d like to visit the American Sign Museum, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and Harriet Tubman’s house.  I hope to do a lot of walking in Cincinnati, especially to outdoor murals through ArtWorks that enliven neighborhoods across the city, and to stroll across the Ohio River on the Roebling Suspension Bridge. There is the Cincinnati Art Museum, an outdoor sculpture garden, and a Contemporary Arts Center.  Many buildings in the city are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Settled in 1788, Cincinnati sits at the northern side of the confluence of the Licking and Ohio rivers, the latter of which marks the state line with Kentucky. It contains Ohio’s largest metropolitan area, and is the third largest city in Ohio and 65th largest in the U.S.

In the nineteenth century, Cincinnati was an American boomtown in the heart of the country.  As the first city founded after the American Revolution, as well as the first major inland city in the country, it is regarded as the first purely “American” city.

Cincinnati developed with fewer immigrants and less influence from Europe than east coast cities in the same period. However, it received a significant number of German immigrants, who founded many of the city’s cultural institutions. The city’s growth slowed with the development of railroads, which took trade away from steamboats on the Ohio River. Other cities such as Chicago and St. Louis surpassed the city in population.

Cincinnati is home to historic architecture with many structures in the urban core having remained intact for 200 years. It is also the birthplace of William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States.

Cincinnati has many nicknames, including Cincy, “The Queen City,” “The Queen of the West,” “The Blue Chip City,” and “The City of Seven Hills.” For many years it was known as “Porkopolis” because of the large pork interests centered here. Newer nicknames such as the “Nati” are also emerging. The classic name is The Queen City.

I’m also heeding a call to visit Cincinnati from other bloggers.  Robin, from Breezes at Dawn, said:

Southern Ohio, if you travel along the Ohio River, is very pretty. (I lived in southeast Ohio for 13 years, along the river where Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia meet. It’s Ohio Appalachia.) If you’re interested in the Underground Railroad at all, it follows the river in spots (I think along U.S. 52). Also, there are at least seven covered bridges in the same area. … If not, some must-do’s always include Skyline Chili (can’t say I’m a huge fan but it’s worth trying at least once) and Graeter’s ice cream. Covington, Kentucky, which is across the river from Cincinnati, used to be worth exploring, too. I don’t know what’s there now.

Pit, of Pit’s Fritztown News, also recommended the “Nati in a Nutshell” Tour by Urban Adventures.  He also recommended going to Covington, KY.  Pit also sent me a very extensive list of places to see and things to do in “The Queen City.”


“THE CALL TO PLACE” INVITATION: I invite you to write a post on your own blog about what enticed you to choose a particular destination. If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to write in the comments.  If your destination is a place you love and keep returning to, feel free to write about that.  If you want to see the original post about the subject, you can check it out here: imaginings: the call to place.

Include the link in the comments below by Wednesday, February 27 at 1:00 p.m. EST.

My next “call to place” post is scheduled to post on Thursday, February 28.  If you’d like, you can use the hashtag #wanderessence.

This will be an ongoing invitation, on the fourth Thursday of each month. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂

I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!