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The Answers Issue

Our reporting staff cracks some of Cincinnati's most head-scratching mysteries

By Staff · August 14th, 2013 · Cover Story
Here at CityBeat, we ask ourselves, each other and complete strangers a whole lot of questions. 

If you ask most journalists why they got into the biz, you’ll usually get an answer containing a couple of key, rather predictable components: some ornery remark about enjoying poverty, the love of a good story, a commitment to finding the truth and some kind of interest in shaping discussions and influencing social change. Most of all, though, you’ll probably hear some form of this every time: “Because I’m curious.” 

That’s kind of a natural self-selection process: If you start out in journalism because you love writing but don’t pay that much attention to the world around you, well, work is going to suck. And you will probably quit. 

Luckily, just like way more successful and renowned journalists all over the world, we at CityBeat are a bunch of really curious nerds who can hash out a topic for hours and hours. And hours. 

For this year’s first-ever Answers Issue, we decided to flip it around — we’re not the only curious ones, and, frankly, we’re so damn curious that we’re curious what you’re curious about. 

That’s why we let you, our readers, submit a dizzying array of your inquiries about life in Cincinnati and picked 21 of your most thought-provoking questions (okay, the pigeon vs. rats question didn’t provoke thought, exactly, but it was too fun to pass up). 

We divvied those up among our reporters and rehashed paragraphs from Wikipedia  rummaged high and low to bring you all the information we could squeeze onto six pages. Inside, you’ll find the results of our investigations. Hopefully you’ll learn a thing or two, or at the very least come away with a greater appreciation for the movie Airborne. 

Really, the only time being curious is a bad thing is if you’re a cat, or maybe a cartoon monkey looking to find success in the illustrated children’s book market. In that case, stick to blissful ignorance and you’ll get along just fine.  

— Project Editor, Hannah McCartney

Did Charles Manson really live in Cincinnati and go to school at Walnut Hills? If so, when (and where) did he live?!

Charles Manson was indeed born in Cincinnati and lived here off and on in between stints in reform schools and prison. Manson’s mother, Kathleen Maddox, moved to Cincinnati in the early 1930s from Ashland, Ky., to escape a strict, religious upbringing. Here, she partied, had a lot of boyfriends and on Nov. 12, 1934, at age 16, gave birth to Charles Milles Manson at Cincinnati General Hospital (known today as University Hospital). One of her boyfriends, William Manson, was listed as the father on the birth certificate, but he is not believed to be Manson’s biological father.

Maddox was arrested in 1939 for robbing a gas station, and a young Manson was sent to live with relatives in McMechen, W.Va., where he says, in an 1986 interview with Charlie Rose, that, “One of my first recollections is walking in Moundsville state penitentiary, West Virginia. … I come to visit my mom. She was doing time there.” Maddox was paroled in 1942 and Manson returned to Cincinnati with her. Manson says during this time, they lived in various apartments and rooming houses. “I was always waiting in a room somewhere for someone to return,” he says in the 1971 book The Garbage People. Also commenting in the aforementioned 1986 Charlie Rose interview that he was also raised in the streets and in prison, “the icebox.”

In 1946, the recently remarried Maddox decided she was overwhelmed with Manson and his predilection for petty crime; he was sent to the Gibault Home for Boys in Terre Haute, Ind. After several months, he escaped the school and went home to his mother, but she wanted nothing to do with him. Around age 12, he was on the streets and on the move. He was then sent to a juvenile center in Indianapolis, escaped, and was transferred to Father Flanagan’s Boys Town in Nebraska, escaped there, and then ended up in the Indiana School for Boys in Plainfield, Ind. He again escaped multiple times and eventually ended up in federal custody in Utah in 1951, 18 years before the Tate murders in L.A.  

And while Manson did live in Cincinnati, there is no record of him attending Walnut Hills High School, according to the WHHS Alumni Foundation. “We have alumni records that date back to 1895 when the school was founded and Charles Manson definitely did not graduate from Walnut Hills,” wrote Debbie Heldman, executive director of the WHHS Alumni Foundation, in a recent email. “He may have attended but we have no record of this and have not found him pictured or listed in any yearbook. I have also been here for almost 20 years and have never heard any alum mention him — I know the classes all the way back to the ’20s. Therefore we cannot substantiate this as a fact.” (Maija Zummo)

Please find any actual proof of the alleged Mark Twain quote that Cincinnati is 20 years behind the times. I’m convinced it’s just an urban legend that Cleveland or St. Louis or some other competitor region created to put us down. 

Mark Twain’s infamous words have lingered in the Queen City much longer than the man who ostensibly uttered them. Supposedly, the quote is based on the five-ish months Twain lived in Cincinnati from fall 1856 into winter 1857. He lived at 76 Walnut St. (now Fort Washington Way) and worked as an assistant in the printing office of Wrightson and Co. But did Twain’s stint in the city — complete with a humorous sketch of City Council and a feud with a local publication — really prompt the quote so frequently attributed to him? 

Multiple variations of the statement and little evidence connecting it to Twain indicate that it’s very unlikely. Multiple regions have been targeted by the quip in newspapers, magazines and books throughout late 1800s and early 1900s. The earliest credited version of the quote appeared in an 1886 issue of The Atlantic Monthly in an article about Bavaria’s King Ludwig II:

“It is a common saying in Germany that Bavaria will be the best place to emigrate to at the approaching end of the world, since that event, like everything else, will be sure to come off there 50 years later than in any other country.”

Poet Heinrich Heine and statesman Otto von Bismark have also been attributed to similar statements.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence (or lack thereof) comes straight from the source. Twain’s Autobiography of Mark Twain, the Complete and Authoritative Edition, Volume 1 was published by the University of California Press in 2010, 100 years after the author’s death. The four-pound behemoth mentions next to nothing about the Queen City — no good, no bad, no ugly. Twain simply mentions purchasing a ticket to Cincy and working with Wrightson and Co. 

Next to no evidence exists to indicate Twain truly believed Cincinnati was behind the times. On the contrary, Cincinnati was the pork-packing and machine tool capital of the world at the time of Twain’s residency. The city continued to grow throughout the author’s lifetime; by the late 1880s, it had the densest population of any city in the country. Five hospitals and more than 200 churches were in existence, and Cincinnatians had access to 130 newspapers and more than 80,000 books in the public library.

And if Twain did make the statement somewhere along the line, keep in mind another famous quote firmly attributed to the author: “All generalizations are false, including this one.” (Emily Begley) 

What the shit happened to all the trees on Central Parkway?

Yea, it’s pretty ugly now. Sorry about that, but if it’s part of your morning commute, shit’s only going to get uglier. According to Liz Lyons, public information specialist with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), they chopped down all those trees to make way for two things: a new ramp to westbound I-74 and a new ramp to northbound I-75. They’re both part of the Hopple Street Interchange Project — construction on that’s not supposed to wrap up until December 2016. (Hannah McCartney) 

Is it safe to jump in the Genius of Water fountain?

It is against City Code to enter or place any object in the Genius of Water, aka Tyler Davidson Fountain on Fountain Square. Don’t jump in it! Stand back and let the mist of the fountain cool you off instead.

It is, however, safe to drink from the four statues at the base of the fountain. These child figures, which represent “the pleasures of water,” actually spout non-chlorinated, fresh drinking water. (Jac Kern)

Were there any mass killings in Cincinnati ever? Any serial killer/eccentric person who kept on eliminating people and wreaking havoc? 

Mass murderers aren’t the same as serial killers — they do all of their killings at once, versus over a period of time. On Easter Sunday, 1975, James Ruppert killed 11 family members during an Easter gathering at his mother’s house in Hamilton, Ohio. He’s now 79 and serving two life sentences. Ruppert’s slaying spree is considered the worst mass killing in a single private residence in U.S. history. 

As for serial killings in Cincinnati, unfortunately there have been plenty of high notoriety. But most didn’t have the city in a state of terror, like, say, Son of Sam in New York City. 

In 1987, nurse Donald Harvey confessed to 70 patient murders, which (if all true) would put him in the top 5 of the world’s most prolific serial killers ever. Anna Marie Hahn, a German immigrant who settled in Cincinnati in the early 1930s, was not only a very rare female serial killer — in 1938, she was also the first woman put to death in the electric chair in Ohio, after poisoning what police believed to be at least five men. (Police told the press that when they searched Hahn’s residence, they found “enough poison to kill half of Cincinnati.”) More recently, Anthony Kirkland was sentenced to death after confessing to killing a woman and two local teenage girls over a three-year period. But there was no local panic leading up to his arrest — police worked backward after Kirkland killed 13-year-old Esme Kenney in 2009, linking him to the two other very similar murders (both in 2006).

The “Cincinnati Strangler” did have the city in a panic for 14 months in the mid-’60s. Seven mostly elderly women in Cincinnati were beaten, raped and killed, starting in late 1965. Posteal Laskey, a cab driver, was arrested and convicted of killing one of the victims, Barbara Bowman, who, according to a Cincinnati Post report, was found on a Price Hill sidewalk after being raped, stabbed seven times in the neck, strangled and then run over by a fleeing cab. 

As the pattern was developing, local police reportedly brought in dozens of extra detectives to work the case. Laskey was caught four months after Bowman’s murder, after attempting another assault downtown. A witness saw the assailant’s license plate number and cops traced it back to Laskey. The killings stopped after Laskey’s arrest, a fact (coupled with the similarities in the crimes) that has led most to believe he was responsible for all seven murders. The Post reported that before Laskey’s arrest, residents were so “petrified,” hardware stores and locksmiths couldn’t keep up with the increased demand for locks. (Mike Breen) 

Why do people abbreviate Cincinnati with a “y” (Cincy), when Cinci with an “i” makes so much more sense because the full word already has an “i” in it that makes the same sound as a “y”? In other words, as a Daytonian transplant I’ve always wondered, where the heck did the “y” come from?!

Indianapolis is known as Indy, but would — by this argument — be more appropriately called “Indi,” as the “i” that makes the “y” sound is just four letters in (versus the “i” as “y” sound in Cincinnati, which doesn’t come until the 10th and final letter). Philadelphia is widely called Philly; likewise the “y” sound doesn’t come until the nearly the end of the word … and it’s an “i,” too. 

Many people — local or otherwise — do spell the nickname “Cinci,” which, as a lifelong resident of Cincinnati, I always initially read as the city’s name abruptly cut off mid-second syllable. One might also read it as “Sin-Sigh.” It’s hard to read “Cincy” as anything other than “Sin-See.” 

The “Cincy” spelling fits the “Sin-See” pronunciation better and has gradually won out just by pure usage. The official spelling of any local business (or other entity) using the “Sin-See” nickname is “Cincy.” (See: the apparel-sellers Cincy Shirts and Cincy Apparel, local music website Cincy Music, the band The Cincy Brass, music festival the Cincy Blues Fest, Cincy Tool Rental, used car dealer Cincy Imports, the “business professional” magazine Cincy, etc.)

Not that there aren’t those (especially from outside of the city, but also some of our younger residents) who think it should be “Cinci.” Type “Cinci” into Google, and “Cinci Reds,” “Cinci Zoo” and “Cinci weather” are among the first to pop up in Google’s auto-complete suggestions. 

When it comes to human names, some parents might name their child “Ami,” “Kelli,” “Cindi” or “Candi” (traditional spellings like these might also be altered by the person themself in an act of rebellion). But the vast majority of people with those names use a “y” at the end, making them the more “commonly accepted” spellings. 

Just be thankful we’re not still known as Porkopolis. (Mike Breen)

What is every Cincinnati-based setting, in order, in the 1993 Rollerblading classic Airborne? 

So, for those who are uninitiated into the cult of Airborne, it is indeed a 1993 Rollerblading classic — perhaps even the most classic Rollerblading film of all time (not that there are that many). The movie follows ’90s-style hot California surfer dude Mitchell Goosen as he’s forced to leave behind his beloved waves for a school year in Cincinnati with his aunt and uncle — and eccentric cousin Wiley (played by Seth Green) — after his zoologist parents refuse to let him go to Australia on a grant with them. 

Basically, stylin’ Mitchell has to struggle to find his place in snowy Cincinnati, full of boring Midwesterners and high school hockey players (the film portrays Cincinnati as a weirdly huge hockey town). So he wears cool Baja sweatshirts to school and the popular girls in turtlenecks think he’s hot and the jocks — including Augie (played by a then-unknown Jack Black) — hate him. The jocks prank him a lot and try to fight him, but then Mitchell gets his Rollerblades shipped to him and life changes! 

The film opens as Mitchell meets his aunt, uncle and cousin Wiley at the snow-covered Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport. 

They hop in the car, Mitchell’s surfboard in tow, and head for home. According to the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission via Alan Forbes, who was the film’s locations assistant, the shots of cousin Wiley’s home were filmed in Newport, with exterior shots taken on Linden Avenue and interior shots from a home on Maple Avenue.

The next day, Mitchell heads to school at “Central High,” which is actually Western Hills High School, alma mater of Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day and Pete Rose. 

After the jocks make fun of him at school, Mitchell is convinced to join an outdoor hockey game against rival high school, “the preps.” The game takes place at the now-nonexistent Hamilton Sports Complex in Hamilton, Ohio.

Mitchell scores the winning goal for the wrong team and the jocks hate him even more.

Mitchell gets pranked a lot by the jocks at school (wet toilet paper, clothes stolen while he’s in the shower, etc.) in retribution. He’s miserable but then his Rollerblades come in the mail and he feels great. He starts Rollerblading in Eden Park, where he falls down a hill while checking out a babe from school, Nikki.

Then he and Nikki go to Krohn Conservatory, which she calls her “ocean,” and she shows him flowers. Then he blades around, going behind the waterfall, and gets kicked out. He and Nikki make a plan to go on a date. 

Mitchell heads back toward Newport and starts blading around when kids on BMX bikes and roller skates start following him because he is doing sweet tricks. They follow him to a makeshift skate park and half pipe below I-75 at Longworth Hall and then Mitchell blades down a huge set of stairs between Dorsey and Excelsior streets in Mount Auburn and the kids clap.

Now it’s time for Mitchell’s date with Nikki. He and cousin Wiley go to meet Nikki at her friend Gloria’s house (we tried really hard on this one and have no idea where the fuck Gloria lived). 

During the date, they all go to the old Covington Landing and Mitchell and Nikki kiss with Cincinnati in the background. Then they all go to eat at Pompilios Restaurant in Newport where there’s a confrontation with some “preps” and a jock, who ends up being Nikki’s brother. Mitchell gets pissed. Nikki gets pissed. Everyone is pissed.

Mitchell ends up trying to make amends with Nikki at an outdoor Rollerblading hockey game, where some “preps” and jocks are playing. The game is played in the same Longworth Hall parking lot where the half pipe was. 

Everyone agrees to settle the “preps” versus jocks issue via a Rollerblading race down “Devil’s Backbone.” While there actually is a street named Devil’s Backbone on the West Side, that isn’t the street where the race is filmed. In fact, the race is filmed on many streets. According to Forbes: The start of the race was at Springdale Road just above Harrison Avenue, then continued on to KY-20 between the airport and River Road, then O’Fallon Avenue in Bellevue, Ky., then Elsinore Avenue in Mount Adams, then the Old State Street interchange (now demolished) and into the Riverfront Stadium ramps. Also in there, between KY-20 and Mount Adams, is a stint out of Fairview Park and down Ravine Street in Clifton. And then the race finishes on U.S. Route 52. The jocks win. Mitchell becomes friends with Nikki’s brother, whom he helps to cross the finish line. Everyone is happy. :) (Maija Zummo)

Is there any chance that a bike share could come to Cincinnati soon? 

In short, maybe. Bringing a bike share to the city has long been an idea the City of Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation (DOTE) has been tinkering with, and the metaphorical wheels are turning. The city sent out requests for proposals to a couple of private bike share providers earlier this year, and they’ve zeroed in on the No. 1 pick and are currently working on negotiating a contract. According to Mel McVay, a city planner for the transportation department, the plan was to have a bike share program implemented sometime the spring or summer of 2014, but some business model issues and funding slip-ups might push that back a bit. Last time we checked in with her, summer 2014 was still the goal, and she expects DOTE to have some more definitive news to share by mid-September. (Hannah McCartney) 

I’ve heard a rumor that there is a steam locomotive buried in a collapsed or closed tunnel somewhere in the city. Is there any truth to this rumor, and if so, where is it located? 

Although this rumor has been circulating for years, there isn’t any hard evidence to prove Cincy is home to the buried treasure. Here’s the story: The steam locomotive (purportedly a pre-Civil War engine, according to steamlocomotive.com) was buried in a tunnel collapse in the 1800s. Few details about the locomotive and its builder are known; steamlocomotive.com indicates it was used as a construction engine for an uncompleted line running west out of the city. 

Jim Corbett of Queen City HiRailers, a local train interest club, shared what he’s heard of the rumor: The locomotive was apparently unearthed by a construction worker during excavation for I-74. After dislodging a piece of rock, a piece of the vehicle could be seen in the opening. However, the tunnel caved once again, and the worker was unable to rediscover the spot. The locomotive is supposedly located along I-74 near Montana Avenue. If you watch for an apartment complex on the right side of the street, you will see a piece of railroad that adds intrigue to the rumor. (Emily Begley)

What ever happened to the Cincinnati subway system? Will we ever see it used for anything or was it just a huge mistake?

Cincinnati was once one of the 10 largest cities in America — one of the seven most populous in 1888 — and is now home to the largest abandoned subway in the U.S. 

Starting in 1825, the Miami & Erie Canal, aka “The Rhine,” ran through downtown, transporting people and goods, but by 1877, because of steam railways and the health hazards of stagnant water, the canal was officially abandoned. In 1884, a Cincinnati weekly magazine called The Graphic published an issue suggesting that the city turn the obsolete waterway into a rapid transit subway system to deal with increasing traffic problems in the city and transportation for the growing population. People were really into this idea as a way to keep up with cities like Chicago and New York, and in 1907 a report suggested that the city drain the canal and build a grand parkway — Central Parkway — on top of it to provide wide passage into the heart of the city. Instead of just filling in the canal with dirt, they would build tunnels to create an underground transit system in the hollow bed.  

In 1911, City Council passed a resolution asking the state of Ohio to lease certain portions of the canal to the city — and it did. Surveyors and engineers from cities like Chicago and Boston were hired, budgets were debated and in 1917 citizens voted to build a $6 million rapid transit system. But in 1918 construction was put on hold because America went to war in World War I and no capital issue of bonds were permitted during war. No money, no subway.

After the war, the subway plan was revived and reviewed, and the city discovered that because of post-war inflation construction that would have cost $6 million a couple years ago was now valued at $13 million. With plans to raise more money later, they decided to only build part (up to $6 million) of the original plan. Construction on draining and rebuilding the canal, turning it into a subway system, began in 1920 and took several years. Bond money ran out in 1927, so construction on the subway stopped — seven miles had been dug, but no tracks were laid. By October 1928, Central Parkway was open to traffic, paved over what had been the canal, and subway stations like the Ludlow Avenue station and the Race Street station were complete — all that was missing was the subway. Debates about raising more money came, along with accusations that money was mismanaged by earlier political entities, but when the stock market crashed in 1929, everything was put on hold again. 

In 1936, the Engineers’ Club of Cincinnati reviewed possible ways “Cincinnati’s White Elephant” of subway tunnels could be used. Obviously the city’s transportation needs had changed drastically since the early 1900s — people had cars and lived outside of the city in suburbs. In 1939, they thought maybe they would use the tunnels for cars, but the tunnels’ ventilation and size couldn’t support the traffic. 

Then they thought of running the city’s streetcars and trolleys through the tunnel to take them off the streets. But then came World War II in 1941, and the subway was again put on hold. Ideas came and went to use the tunnels for war storage and air raid shelters. But after the war the city didn’t really care about inner-city transport anymore — they wanted to build highways to connect citizens from the suburbs to downtown and spent their time and money building interstate 75 and the Norwood lateral.

Eventually, in the 1950s, a water main was placed in the northbound subway tunnel by Water Works, where it remains today. But the city did pass an escape clause, Ordinance No. 154-1956, according to Allen Singer from his book The Cincinnati Subway, which states, “In the event said section of the rapid transit subway is, at some future date, needed for rapid transit purposes, the Water Works shall remove said main at its sole cost.”

So, there is a possibility that one day a subway could go down there, but for now you can take tours of the abandoned stations through organizations such as the Cincinnati Heritage Programs Tours (cincymuseum.org/programs/heritage). (Maija Zummo)

What goes on behind the scenes to select bands for festivals such as MPMF and Bunbury? How do the organizers decide which bands to invite? Do bands put their own names forward? For the bigger bands, is it done through their labels? How many bigger bands do they invite in hopes of getting enough to agree to play?

The simple answer is that local booking agents/agencies book both the MidPoint Music Festival and the Bunbury Music Festival. Those local agents work with national artists’ booking agencies (not record companies) to find which acts have itineraries in which the Cincinnati festival fits.  

Bunbury is booked by Nederlander Entertainment, which books a variety of larger shows (from music to comedy) in the region. Bunbury founder Bill Donabedian has said he gives the company a sense of the types of artists he’s looking for and lets Nederlander build the lineup from there. One local act at this year’s Bunbury was chosen via an online voting contest through CincyMusic.com. Bunbury also accepts press kits from local (and beyond) acts for consideration for a slot at the fest. 

MidPoint was originally an “unsigned bands only” event and almost all bookings were done via submissions through the Electronic Press Kit site Sonicbids. Those submissions would be reviewed by a panel of local music experts, who would “grade” each submission. Strictly a numbers game, the highest scores would get offered a slot.

When CityBeat acquired the festival in 2008, to help the fest grow it brought aboard veteran local music booker Dan McCabe, the man responsible for bringing top-name acts to Sudsy Malone’s, Southgate House and, today, his own MOTR Pub, during the past 25 years. McCabe — with his booking acumen and solid relationships with many indie booking agencies — helped transition the festival into its current state, which mixes unsigned and local acts with national touring artists. 

McCabe finds and books the headliners and other national acts, then fleshes the lineups out with artists he finds amongst the many Sonicbids submissions MPMF receives yearly. (A chunk of the local acts that perform at MPMF are pre-chosen; any artists receiving a nomination for Artist of the Year, Album of the Year and New Artist of the Year at the annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards receives an automatic invite to MPMF.)

Both fests have developed good reputations amongst national booking agents, so those agents will sometimes approach the festivals to inquire about getting their acts booked at the events. 

While a wide net is cast when the booking process begins, it’s not necessary to invite a large amount of “bigger bands” in hopes of getting enough to come through. It just takes solid planning to get the right amount signed up. (Mike Breen)

Why isn’t Hudepohl brewed in Cincinnati?

The old Hudepohl building still stands in the Cincinnati skyline, reminiscent of a brewing company born and built up in the early Queen City. In 1885, Ludwig Hudepohl II founded the Hudepohl Brewing Company. At the time of Prohibition, the brewer was among the top five in the city; it stayed alive by selling soft drinks and near beers. The company continued to thrive when prohibition repealed, working its way up to become the dominant brewer in Cincy and saw no need to export beer to other states. In the wake of World War II, national brands like Budweiser were quickly gaining momentum, gradually damaging Hudepohl’s prevalence in the city. Although the company attempted to expand regionally, it experienced limited success. Business was still down when Hudepohl’s 100th anniversary rolled around in 1985; it was sold to Schoenling Brewing Company the following year. The original Hudepohl plant was closed in 1987, when Hudepohl-Schoenling moved all production to the Schoenling facility. Hudepohl officially left Cincinnati in 1999 when the Lichtendahl family (who dominated the brewery’s ownership group) left the beer business for good. Domestic beer brands were sold to Crooked River Brewing Company based in Cleveland. (Emily Begley) 

Why is 3CDC allowed to get away with everything? Who are the 3CDC board members?

The answers to those questions are likely linked. The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, widely known as 3CDC, is led by people who run the region’s biggest companies. It was formed in 2003 and has been credited with revitalizing Over-the-Rhine. But the tax credit-driven revitalization has been criticized by various groups, particularly opponents of gentrification and others who argue the revitalization is simply pushing crime and poverty to other Cincinnati neighborhoods. 

Still, 3CDC has gotten a lot done — a wonder in a city that’s typically mired in petty politics and arguments over really simple investments. 

To understand why, just look at the members of the 3CDC board: John Barrett, CEO of Western & Southern; Neil Bortz, partner at Towne Properties; Margaret Buchanan, president and publisher of The Cincinnati Enquirer; Jack Cassidy, vice chairman of Cincinnati Bell; Calvin Buford, partner at Dinsmore and Shohl; Robert Castellini, chairman of the Castellini Company; Michael Comer, office managing partner of KPMG; Claude Davis, president of First Financial Bancorp; David Dillon, CEO of Kroger; James Ellerhorst; office managing partner of Deloitte and Touche; Michael Fisher, president and CEO of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital; S. Kay Geiger, president of PNC Bank’s Ohio and Northern Kentucky branches; Paul Gelter, COO of Tier 1  Performance Solutions; Todd Gick, general manager of logistics control at Toyota; Brian Hodgett, director of government and community relations at Procter & Gamble; Karen Hoguet, vice president and CFO of Macy’s; J. Phillip Holloman, president and COO of Cintas; Stephen Leeper, president of 3CDC; Kenneth Lowe, president and CEO of Scripps; Rosaleena Marcellus, partner at Global Novations; John Merchant, partner at Peck, Shaffer and Williams; Ralph Michael, president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank, Cincinnati; Dimitri Panayotopoulos, vice chairman of Procter & Gamble; Joseph Pichler, retired chairman and CEO of Kroger; Michael Prescott, Cincinnati president of U.S. Bank; Larry Savage, CEO of the Midwest region for Humana; Ellen van der Horst, president and CEO of Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber; Matt Walz, vice president of Duke Energy Ohio and Kentucky; Yvonne Washington, executive vice president and COO of United Way of Greater Cincinnati; Thomas Williams, president of North American Properties; Shane Wright, vice president and CFO of GE Aviation; and James Zimmerman, retired chairman and CEO of Macy’s.

Pretty impressive list, right? Just imagine the possible repercussions of criticizing that board: You would have an even more difficult time with Cincinnati Bell’s crappy customer service, The Enquirer would write bad things about you and Western & Southern would come to your house, take it over and build a hotel in its place. (German Lopez)

Is The Cincinnati Enquirer biased when covering investment in infrastructure and downtown? It seems that its coverage of things like the streetcar isn’t objective.

It’s hard to tell if The Cincinnati Enquirer is biased against projects like the streetcar, biased in favor of controversy or just bad at math. Our favorite anti-streetcar moment was probably when The Enquirer claimed it’s possible to out-walk the streetcar. They kind of left out an important detail: Walking that fast would land someone in the top 20 percent of the Flying Pig Marathon. Impressive!

What’s not impressive is some of The Enquirer’s misleading headlines. A while ago they put up an article that was titled, “Downtown population growth slows.” The catch: Growth was only slowing because there aren’t enough apartments to meet demand. Man, that’s, like, the total opposite.

Why does a newspaper do this on a daily basis and get away with it? Well, The Enquirer is part of Gannett, a publicly traded company, which means what’s good for the public interest isn’t always good for business; ergo, it’s better to go with a controversial headline that gets clicks than it is to be honest about things that its core audience is sensitive about. (This is something every news outlet, including CityBeat, deals with, but some cope better than others.)

As with many local newspapers around the country, The Enquirer also hasn’t dealt with any serious daily competition ever since The Cincinnati Post shut down in 2009. That means it can get away with publishing nonsense without worrying about stiff competition.

This is all further accentuated by the fact that most mainstream news consumers in Cincinnati are suburban conservatives. Those people, for whatever reason, love to paint City Council and downtown development in a bad light. (Chances are they also think Over-the-Rhine is filled with scary black people who want to shank them.) Given that and The Enquirer’s never-ending desire for clicks, it’s better for headlines to make sensationalist, controversial-sounding claims that make the streetcar, downtown and City Council look bad. It also explains why The Enquirer consistently endorses Republicans (remember Sarah Palin?) in a city that’s now considered a Democratic stronghold. (German Lopez)

What’s the oldest continually operating business in the Greater Cincinnati area?

Bromwell’s, a retailer and installer of luxury fireplaces, is the oldest continually operating business in Cincinnati. 

It actually started when frontier entrepreneur Jacob Bromwell opened the Bromwell Brush and Wire Goods Company in 1819, which outsourced its factory work to convicts at different prisons. In the years following, it also started selling household goods like cheese graters, buckets, animal traps … you know, the family home essentials. 

Bromwell’s didn’t actually start really selling its namesake fireplaces until the early 1900s, when the two entities split; the fireplace store we know today stayed here, and the household goods biz — the Jacob Bromwell Co.  — moved out to Arizona and is still operating today. They sell popcorn poppers, something called a “Wonder Shredder” and other weird home accessories. 

Since its establishment, Bromwell’s has resided in at least 10 different locations all within the city. Its current location (117 W. Fourth St.), under the helm of now-owner Jeff McClorey, recently underwent a grand re-opening and expansion, including a 7,000-square-foot second-floor showroom, an art gallery and a selection of hand-picked furniture for sale.

Bromwell’s has only been owned by three families over its nearly 200 years of continuous operation; after the Bromwells, it was purchased by Joseph B. Gerwe in 1923, who was known for his unique love of bringing his cats, dogs and ducks to work. The tradition is continued to this day; customers are welcome to bring along pets while they shop. Dog biscuits and water are provided in front of the store. 

How has a business selling something like fireplaces thrived for so long, you ask? Well, its reputation and history probably have a lot to do with it. McClorey, who bought the business from the Gerwes in 2005, says people just associate “Bromwell’s” with a high-quality items built to last and attentive customer service; he’s constantly meeting customers who still use the products their parents and grandparents bought at Bromwell’s back in the day.  He attributes Bromwell’s longevity to just that — the name recognition power of a company that’s long been a reliable, family-owned downtown mainstay that continues to evolve with the area around it. Today, they sell several different types of fireplaces and fireplace accouterments, like stone mantels, gas fireplaces and gas logs and cool homey accessories, with styles ranging from contemporary to traditional to rustic. (Emily Begley and Hannah McCartney)

What is the oldest building in the city? What is its history?

It depends on what kind of building you’re talking about. For the sake of brevity, we’ll keep it those that were originally built to be residential. The Betts House (416 Clark St., thebettshouse.org) is the oldest residential structure in downtown Cincinnati — it was built in 1804, when it was part of an 111-acre working farm. 

If we’re looking to scope out all of Cincinnati, it makes sense to first look in Cincinnati’s oldest neighborhood, which is Columbia-Tusculum over on the East Side. That neighborhood was founded in 1788, which means that there was probably a building of some sort there in that same year, although there’s nothing on the books; according to Matt Ackermann, president of the Columbia-Tusculum Community Council, the oldest still-standing continuously inhabited home in the neighborhood was erected in 1804 at 3644 Eastern Ave. Known as the Morris House, it supposedly housed James Morris, a tanner and one of area’s first manufacturers.

As far as we can tell, though, the general consensus is that the oldest still-standing residential building within city limits is the Miller-Leuser Log House in Anderson Township; it has a deed that’s dated all the way back to June 9, 1793, but there’s some uncertainty on when the log home was actually built. The Anderson Township Historical Society sticks to 1796 based on the language of a deed issued that year; it was built by Capt. Matthew Jouitt, who earned 600 acres of land around the house for his services in the Revolutionary War; in 1796, 440 of those acres, including the house, were sold to Ichabod Benton Miller for $220. The property changed hands a couple of times, but was last lived in by Lawrence and Emma Houser, who moved into the log home after getting married in 1910 and lived there for almost 50 years, when the land was finally purchased by the Anderson Township Historical Society. Now, it sits at 6550 Clough Pike (andersontownshiphistoricalsociety.org). 

It’s also worth mentioning the Old Kemper Homestead, built in Walnut Hills on Kemper Lane in 1804 for Reverend James Kemper, where he lived with his family until 1897. It was deconstructed and moved to the Cincinnati Zoo in 1912 and moved again in 1981 to Heritage Village in Sharon Woods, where it still stands today (heritagevillagecincinnati.org). (Hannah McCartney) 

When is Mount Adams scheduled to slide off the slowly eroding hill upon which it’s perched? This is a serious question. I’ve heard it’s an inevitability. 

Although this perceived future for Mount Adams is not necessarily inevitable, erosion is an imminent threat to the community. According to a Mount Adams Neighborhood Strategic Plan from March 2009, clear guidelines for development must be put into place to prevent further erosion and destabilization that could cause the neighborhood’s slow demise. Mount Adams experiences regular landslides because of water between the rock layer and top layer of soil; the soil is unable to adhere to the rock underneath of it, causing it to slide. Areas on the south and east sides of the hill are particularly vulnerable to the phenomena. The plan rightly touts the neighborhood’s hillside positioning as its most valued, preservation-worthy feature — the views are what make it a destination — and notes that the “forested hillsides” of the neighborhood, such as the tree-laden areas in Eden Park, are what hold the hill in place and prevent landslides.

According to the plan, a large portion of Mount Adams is subject to Hillside Overlay District zoning designations, which means that any homes or businesses operating around that area have to follow some pretty strict regulations to make sure they don’t mess up the ground and accidentally cause a massive landslide in which all the Mount Adams nightclubs somehow end up taking over all of downtown. Our efforts to contact the city’s Department of City Planning and Buildings, who worked on creating the plan, about current efforts to preserve the hillsides were unsuccessful but we assume they’re totally on top of it. (Emily Begley)

What is the true dividing line between the East and West sides? 

Vine Street is the true dividing line between the East and West sides of Cincinnati. The partition was established by 1891 Ordinance No. 152, which states “all streets, avenues, or alleys running east and west shall be numbered east from Vine Street…and west from Vine Street…” in order to create a uniform system of numbering houses. Main Street divided the city prior to 1897 when the system came to fruition. Of course, the East Side and West Side as we know them are basically separated by the highways that chop the city into thirds — the West Side is west of I-74 to the Ohio River and the East Side is essentially east of I-71 and covering the northeastern suburbs, again all the way down to the river. Vine Street cuts through a bunch of neighborhoods going north, but their residents aren’t considered to be Eastsiders or Westsiders depending on which side of Vine they live on. (Emily Begley) 

Why does the MPMF mascot dude look like that National Bohemian beer mascot? Which came first? 

National Bohemian was first brewed 1885 and its mascot, Mr. Boh, was introduced in 1936. The MidPoint Music Festival has been rocking since 2002; MidPoint’s Monty mascot came about not long after CityBeat took over the fest in 2008. So Mr. Boh is much older than good ol’ Monty, MidPoint’s cyclops riverboat captain.

In a 2002 interview with Baltimore City Paper about National Bohemian’s original brewer National Brewing, the company’s marketing director Dawson Farber said of Mr. Boh’s look (a black and white line drawing of the mascot and his one eye and large, almost-handlebar mustache), “I have no idea why he only has one eye. I don’t think anybody does.” National sales leader Jerry Di Paolo said he’d tell people the lack of two eyes was because “it only took one eye to pick a good beer.”

MidPoint Monty was designed by MPMF partner Topic Design, a local company that does, according to its website, “brand positioning, graphic design, web programming, mobile application development or public relations.” Usually presented in an orange and white design, he was intended to resemble a riverboat captain (complete with period-appropriate top hat), a nod to Cincinnati and the Ohio River’s long connection and legacy. Introduced in 2010 as part of MPMF’s broadening branding efforts, MPMF explained in 2011 that Monty “[navigates] the music ripples — past, present and future — along his hometown Cincinnati port on the Ohio River.”

Monty and Boh both have round heads, one eye and similar mustaches. But Monty’s eye is centered (it’s the “Midpoint” of the image) and Boh has a black mustache; Monty’s is white. The similarities are there, but they are coincidental. There are several other mascots/logos from throughout time that also look similar (see photo collage). It could be argued that the Pringles’ mascot — Julius Pringles — outside of being born with two eyes, has more in common with Mr. Boh than Mr. Boh does with Monty. Monty, meanwhile, looks more like a mix of Mr. Peanut, the LulzSec logo and the popular clipart featuring a monocle, top hat (or bowler) and ’stache. (Mike Breen) 

Why did pigs and flying pigs become associated with Cincinnati?

Before Cincinnati was associated with sports-related scandals, we were known for our meat. Pork, to be exact, hence the city’s nickname, Porkopolis. In the mid-1800s, Cincinnati was the country’s primary pork packing headquarters. With close proximity to farmland and the Ohio River, the city became the first to commercially slaughter pigs. Herds of pigs are said to have run through the streets, so we killed those oinkers and shipped the meat to other cities. It is said that the dead hog carcasses on barges resembled floating or flying pigs, which might be the first reference of this kind (gross). In 1988, Sawyer Point Bicentennial Commons designer Andrew Leicester included four winged pigs in his park design, paying tribute to the pigs that gave their lives for Cincinnati, causing much debate at the time. So, to many, the flying pigs represent the souls of the deceased pigs flying up to heaven (weird). Others take from the hyperbolic figure of speech, “when pigs fly” — Cincinnati is a place where pigs do fly, where anything is possible. Take your pick! (Jac Kern) 

Why are there so many taco joints in Northside? 

Django Western Taco, Tacocracy and Barrio Tequileria opened their doors within a one-year span, and they’re all within a block and a half. But it was the Hamilton Avenue Taco Bell/KFC hybrid that first gave Northsiders their insatiable appetites for yummy Mexican standby. 

It’s not that uncommon to see business clusters, especially restaurants that cater to a food trend like street food. Just think of how many places now serve upscale hot dogs or Asian gastropubs — Vine Street has two, right across the street from one another! 

Gary Sims, owner of Barrio, is the newest member of the Northside taco party. Sims also owns popular food truck Taco Azul and opened this brick-and-mortar so he could pair his tacos with margaritas and enjoy the authentic Mexican feel of a patio. Barrio opened in April 2013.

“Northside has always been very welcoming to small businesses,” Sims says. “And while there are other taco places [nearby], we felt they each brought a different spin on the taco. And we hoped to add to it. I think we all respect what the other is doing. No taco wars have begun! We hope to start a taco crawl soon and all continue to support and love Northside.”

With Northside being a hotspot for nightlife, the demand for quality portable food is on the rise, making tacos the perfect vessel. They’re easy to transform, and each of the three restaurants has put their own unique stamp on tortilla-wrapped goodness. (Jac Kern)

What would win in a fight, an Over-the-Rhine rat or a Fountain Square pigeon? Each would be able to choose one non-projectile weapon of its choice.

Um, have you had the displeasure of stumbling upon an Over-the-Rhine rat drunkenly in the wee hours of the night? Pretty sure we all know the answer to this already, but I’ll humor you: Consider the non-projectile weapon each would likely choose. Pigeons, generally, have access to garbage and litter. I imagine one entering a warzone might be able to collect a plastic straw, or, if he’s lucky, a shishkabob skewer, from the flotsam on Fountain Square. An Over-the-Rhine rat, however, lives deep in the trenches, where something like, say, a used heroin needle or a rusty nail would be more readily accessible. 

If you don’t believe me, find more empirical evidence by searching “Rat vs. pigeon” on Youtube and click on the one with the description in Russian. (Hannah McCartney) 




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