The cover also says "A Traveler's Guide to Ohio's Urban Architecture." This doesn't seem entirely correct. Even though I've lived in Cincinnati for almost a decade, plenty in this book is new to me. Not only have many of the structures Ware includes gone unnoticed by me, almost all of the stories behind them are new, too.
Ware's concise entries leave out the fluff and get right to the good stuff. The brief histories and information included about each building at times verge on insider opinion, and that's refreshing. It's like getting a tour of Cincinnati from Aunt Jane, born and raised on the East side.
About Fountain Square Ware observed: "Cincinnatians pay it lip service, but aren't apt to linger." About Over-the-Rhine she advises after noting last year's riots: "Visitors should by no means avoid Over-the-Rhine, but sample the atmosphere carefully."
Ware credits her editor at Orange Frazer Press with the attitude in the guide as much as herself. "The editor didn't want just descriptions, he wanted reactions, and I tried to include those," Ware says from her home in Columbus.
Credit goes to Ware, too
And although this is an architectural guide, the entries are noticeably light on the Dorics, Gothics and other period words. "The publisher didn't want any jargon in any of this and I was sympathetic with that, but after working on it for years and years and years some of it slipped in and they told me to get it out," Ware said.
The research began eight years ago for Ware when she was contacted by Orange Frazer to write about buildings. Her knowledge of architecture at that point was at an interest level not a schooled level, and she had been in Ohio for only a little more than a decade. She started by reading everything she could find on architecture in Ohio, from local and national guides to searching architecture magazines for references to Ohio.
"Then I went around and I talked to a lot of people, mostly architects and preservationists, about what was interesting in their area," she says. "And then, of course, ordinary people like my hairdresser would tell me about something interesting."
In 1995, she hit the road with notepad and camera to see and photograph all of the buildings referred to her. The final step in choosing the buildings to be included involved Doug Graf, an architect at Ohio State University, who went through Ware's photos with her. "He has a much more sophisticated eye than I and was able to see a lot more possibilities that I wouldn't have recognized at that stage," she says.
This guide is limited to Ohio's eight largest cities: the three C's plus Dayton, Toledo, Youngstown, Akron and Canton. Ware simultaneously researched the rural areas in between for a second volume to be released in the fall.
Leafing through the guide, the black and white photos initially disappoint. Imagine the inside of Union Terminal without the gradients of pink, yellow and orange. Many of the photos are understandably not in color because they were taken when the buildings were originally built and color wasn't an option. The perspective given by these old photos is so interesting that their lack of color is easily forgotten. Imagine City Hall towering over all other structures in the area.
"The editor wanted a diverse selection of pictures," Ware says. "He wanted drawings and photographs, historic and contemporary, and I found a lot of them and he found some too."
There was a second consideration as well: "As for color pictures, I really wanted passionately that this not be a coffee table book and you just can't afford to have color in a book like this," she says. "I wanted a book that most people could buy, and I was glad they put it in this format that's handy to carry around."
The slim shape of the book makes it perfect to slip in a bag or a glove box for the next time you're in Cleveland for an appointment with a few hours to kill. Walking and driving directions are included for all entries -- and not just addresses but clear directions.
The guide might be encouragement for Ohioans to become travelers of their own state and even cities. "I certainly want Ohioans to buy it, because Ohioans are the ones who will hopefully care for the state's buildings," Ware says.
JANE WARE signs and discusses Building Ohio: A Traveler's Guide to Ohio's Urban Architecture Tues. at 7 p.m. at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Norwood.