Cincinnati, Ohio sits on the northern bank of the Ohio River, and serves as the southern boundary of Ohio. Across the river to the south sit Newport and Covington, Kentucky. During the Civil War, not only did the Ohio River divide North and South, but it was a major trade route during the 1800s for residents in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. Farmers and manufacturers sent their crops and finished products on barges downstream to the Mississippi River, and then on to New Orleans. To this day, the Ohio River continues to serve as a major artery for transporting bulk items such as coal and grain.
Cincinnati’s downtown area has been under a revitalization project since 2011, following the 2008 recession. Once the epicenter of freight rail for the western U.S.A., it had experienced a slowdown of commercial growth and a population decline. The ongoing investment in commerce and infrastructure was vital to bringing the city to life again.
The Ohio River here is spanned by numerous bridges. Steel plays heavily in construction of bridges, buildings and sports stadiums, with brick also prevalent.
In downtown Cincinnati, I stopped for lunch at Condado Tacos, a lively place to warm up, with its colorful wall murals and funky vibe. While eating my tacos — “Ooey-Gooeys,” with corn hard shells, black beans, queso blanco, roasted chicken, cilantro+onions & dirty sauce — I studied my designated walking route. I threw myself out into the cold and gloomy winter streets to do the walk outlined in Walking Cincinnati: “Ohio River: Bridges, Parks, and Three Cities.”
I poked around briefly at the Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds, baseball’s first professional franchise, with its giant baseball and sculptures of famous Reds players. It opened in 2003 at a cost of $280 million, an assemblage of 10,100 tons of steel. As it wasn’t baseball season and since I’m not a baseball fan, I made my way west down West Freedom Way.
I strolled down West Freedom Way with its bicycles for hire and its lineup of restaurants and shops.
I visited the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, where I learned all about the enslaved people in the world today, sex trafficking, the history of slavery in the Americas, the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, the economic justifications for slavery – generally greed! – and much more, which I’ll write about in another post.
As part of my visit through the dark history of slavery in our country and in the world, I stood on the second-story balcony of the museum and admired the 15-story-tall Skystar Wheel. The Skystar, which was to temporarily call Cincinnati home until June 16, 2019, is the largest portable observation wheel in North America, with 36 climate-controlled gondolas.
I passed through connecting parks along the Ohio River, starting with the 45-acre John G. and Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park, opened in 2012 and meant to be the city’s front yard.
The park straddles the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, originally the Cincinnati-Covington Bridge, which spans the Ohio River. When it opened on December 1, 1866, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, with its main span of 1,057 feet (322 meters). It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1982.
In the park, the Black Brigade Monument is a monument to Cincinnati’s little-known Black Brigade. When Confederate forces in Kentucky threatened Cincinnati in August of 1862, black residents offered their services to defend the city but were told the Civil War wasn’t their war to fight. Instead, they were rounded up by police against their will, treated roughly and often forced to work at gunpoint building defensive fortifications. The Cincinnati Daily Gazette was the only local newspaper to denounce the treatment of the blacks and call for them to be “treated like men.” General Lew Wallace, military commander of Cincinnati, helped to remedy the situation, and organized the men along military lines, christening them the Black Brigade. Under this new organization, the men volunteered to dig rifle pits, clear trees, and build forts, magazines and roads; they were finally paid after the second week of their labors.
I passed the 1923 Showboat Majestic docked along shore of the Ohio River. In 1980, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and has been recently used for stage productions. I walked under the Taylor Southgate Bridge into the 1976 Yeatman’s Cove Park, with its Serpentine Wall, a contoured concrete wall of steps into the Ohio River, much like the ghats on India’s Ganges. I found a flying pig sculpture, “Lucius” (Lucky) Quinctus Pigasus, and a 12-foot statue of Cincinnatus, a Roman soldier (circa 458 B.C.) and farmer after whom Cincinnati is named, honoring the volunteer spirit of the citizen-soldier.
I crossed the Purple People Bridge, officially called the Newport Southbank Bridge, for my interstate walk to Newport, Kentucky. Formerly the L&N Railroad Bridge, it is now designated pedestrian-only. I cringed under huge shark mural on the side of the Newport Aquarium at Newport on the Levee, and then wandered through the bustling area full of restaurants, shops and a movie theater.
Longing for peace and quiet, I made my way to the top of the levee to the 1995 Newport Riverwalk, with views of the Ohio River and the Cincinnati skyline. Strolling west, I crossed the 4th Street Bridge, officially known as Veterans’ Memorial Bridge, over the Licking River into Covington, Kentucky.
By the time I reached Covington, Kentucky, and the Roebling Point Business District, I was cold and tired. I dropped into Roebling Point Books and Coffee, where I bought a couple of new books because I always like to support independent bookstores.
I couldn’t help but notice the tall blue and white building jutting into the clouds in Covington. A residential building called the Ascent at Roebling’s Bridge, it was completed in March 2008 at a cost of approximately $50 million. It is said the design was influenced by the Ohio River and the Roebling Bridge. Its 22 stories house 70 condominiums. Clad in a glass curtain wall, it slopes outward from its base on its eastern face and ends in a sloped spiral roof.
Leaving Covington, I walked across the Roebling Suspension Bridge, as the passing cars hummed a tune. Because of this hum, the bridge is often called ‘The Singing Bridge.” The bridge is famous for its role in opening access between the North and South. When the project began in 1856, it had to overcome hurdles to its construction, including ferryboat and steamboat operators who were concerned about losing their businesses. The South was worried slaves would escape across the bridge, and the North didn’t want Confederate troops to have easy access to Cincinnati. Because of these concerns, the Cincinnati City Council passed an ordinance that the bridge could not line up with existing streets; thus it is placed mid-block between several sets of streets.
After my very long walk, I checked into my Airbnb, the Ashbrook, in Covington. It was very nice!
I went to Molly Malone’s, a three-story Irish pub and restaurant, and sat at the bar. I ordered a chicken pot pie which I sent back because it was lukewarm; instead of simply sticking it in a microwave, they brought me a whole new hot one. They said they didn’t have a microwave. I washed it down with a giant mug of Pilsner Urquell. 🙂
*Saturday, March 2, 2019*
*15,029 steps, or 6.37 miles*
“PROSE” INVITATION: I invite you to write up to a post on your own blog about a recently visited particular destination (not journeys in general). Concentrate on any intention you set for your prose.
In this case my intention was to write a post reflecting on a theme for the day. My theme for today was “bridges and architecture.”
It doesn’t matter whether you write fiction or non-fiction for this invitation. You can either set your own writing intentions, or use one of the prompts I’ve listed on this page: writing prompts: prose. (This page is a work in process.) You can also include photos, of course.
Include the link in the comments below by Monday, August 26 at 1:00 p.m. EST. When I write my post in response to this invitation on Tuesday, August 27, I’ll include your links in that post.
This will be an ongoing invitation. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂
I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!