A short, but excellent, poetry lesson

Jeffrey S. Hillard, writer, poet, editor of RED!webzine and professor at the College of Mount St. Joseph
Jeffrey S. Hillard

I’ve mentioned Jeffrey S. Hillard here before. He was one of my professors when I returned to college at Mount St. Joseph University for an English degree in the early 2000s. I took two creative writing classes from him: Short story, and Poetry.

Jeff is a gifted poet. I think you’ll agree when you read it. It is accessible, and it sings. This year he received the honor of being named the Cincinnati Public Library Foundation’s Writer in Residence. You can read all about it here.

He is also an inspiring teacher.

This week Jeff published a blog post on the library site entitled, Anatomy of a Poem (1). If you have any interest in reading good poetry, understanding poetry, or writing poetry, this is a must-read. This is where Jeff really shines.



Springboro, Ohio – on the route to freedom

A Scoot and Shoot event.

Being located on the Ohio River just across the water from Kentucky, Cincinnati in particular, and Ohio in general were heavily engaged in the Underground Railroad and former slaves’ journeys to freedom. A small town just north of Cincinnati called Springboro was founded by a Quaker named Jonathon Wright in  1815. The Quakers abhorred slavery and Springboro became actively involved in the Underground Railroad. Quaker and non-Quaker residents of Springboro risked legal consequences from their illegal activity of aiding slaves on their way to freedom. Many of the homes and businesses of these courageous individuals are still standing on or near Main Street in the small downtown strip of Springboro, Ohio.

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Unfortunately, even though I had a brochure that described the various buildings, I am not able to match the exact buildings to the descriptions I have. We started the tour somewhere in the middle, later crossed the street, and ducked into the Wooly Bully Yarn Company at one point. Which, by the way, had an awesome selection of yarns. On these Scoot and Shoot events my companions are more interested in taking photographs than in writing journalistic reports. And sometimes I am too.

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At 200 South Main Street the Jonah Thomas House has a documented connection to the Underground Railroad.

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Jonah was a Quaker and a conductor on the Springboro leg of the Underground Railroad.

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I think this is the Joseph Stanton House at 250 South Main Street. According to the Springboro Chamber of Commerce brochure, “This building was a stop on the Underground Railroad which may have been known as the ‘Quilt House.’ Quilts hung in back of the house told runaway slaves it was safe to enter. The basement hiding space extended westward under what is now the side walk.”

I’m patting myself on the back that I was able to bring you two buildings that were involved in the Underground Railroad, but instead of trying to read illegible house numbers, or match my photos to small black and white thumbnails on the brochure, I’m just going to throw in a slide show of some of the buildings and details I saw along Main Street in Springboro. Perhaps you’ll take the walking tour someday if you find yourself in the area.

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I don’t know about you, but I have always been enthralled by the idea of an Underground Railroad. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center stands on the riverfront in downtown Cincinnati and teaches about not only the path to freedom through this area, but also about current locations where freedom is still out of reach. It’s worth a visit if you are in town. Maybe I’ll visit there with my camera, and a notebook, sometime soon and share my identified pictures with you.

Do you live where an interesting part of history took place?

Dead Sea Scrolls – the Exhibit

A few weeks ago we spent the afternoon visiting the Cincinnati Museum Center and immersed ourselves in thoughts of the past sparked by the pots, coins, weapons, jewelry and writings from the beginnings of Western civilization. The Israel Antiquities Authority has made a sample of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other historical objects from the “the Holy Land” available for public viewing. Below I try to bring you an abbreviated history of the time period involved along. I hope you’ll bear with me. One thing I became painfully aware of while touring this exhibit was how little I know of world history generally and Middle East history specifically. Something I hope to remedy.

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The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Union Terminal Museum Center in Cincinnati, OH. January 2013

You might know the story. In 1947 a young Bedouin shepherd finds a cave in a crevice of the limestone cliffs lining the rim of the Dead Sea near the site of Qumran, east of the city of Jerusalem. The shepherd tosses a rock into the cave and hears pottery breaking. He investigates further and finds a collection of large clay jars that contain old scrolls. He has no idea of the historic and religious treasure he has discovered.

A clay jar found containing scrolls.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are  the collection of ancient religious writings, documents and letters, found in eleven caves near the site of Qumran. Some scrolls were found intact, but many were in fragments of parchment and papyrus.

The biblical manuscripts contain “books found in today’s Hebrew bible.” The non-biblical texts written during the Second Temple era are related to the texts in the Hebrew Bible. Some describe religious beliefs and practices of a specific religious community. (Exhibit signage)

Scales and weights – A barter system was used in biblical times. Towards the end of the Iron Age, scales, weights, and silver pieces appeared indicating a move to using silver in exchange for goods. Stone weights were used to determine the weight of silver ingots before coins were minted.

Jerusalem, sitting high in the Judan hills and roughly at the center of ancient Israel, was inhabited as early as the 4th millenium BCE. “King David chose the city for his capital, probably because the territory did not belong to any of the tribes, but also because its location on a hill meant it would be difficult to attack. […]”  (Exhibit signage)

Goddesses – Some 2000 goddesses were found in homes in Judah. They likely represent the Canaanite goddess Asherah or her Greek counterpart Astarte.
Evidence indicates that many ancient Israelites believed Asherah was consort to the god of Israel.

“The exact site of David’s Jerusalem remains hotly debated. Under King Solomon a permanent home—the First Temple—was built for the Ark of the Covenant atop Mount Moriah, and the fate of the city as the dwelling place of the Isralite’s god was sealed.” (Exhibit signage)


The First Temple (960 – 586 BCE) period began during the Iron Age while the kingdoms of Judah and Northern Israel were still divided. The first Isralite Kingdom was united under David and Solomon.

The biblical texts found in the Dead Sea Scrolls are believed to have been composed during this time.

Jars from the end of the 8th century are common finds throughout the kingdom of Judah. Many are royal storage jars and may have been used to collect grain or other goods for royal taxes. They have a stamp on one or more handles designating they  belong to the king. The jars are associated with Judan King Hezekiah’s military administration.

Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written between the 2nd Century BCE and 2nd Century CE, during a time when different Judean groups struggled to obtain and maintain political and religious leadership.

Iron arrowheads

The Judean Kingdom came to an end with the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of citizens to Babylon in 586 BCE. The temple was utterly destroyed. “With neither Temple or homeland the exiles began to place their sacred writings at the center of their faith.” (Exhibit signage)

Small household items provide clues to the family’s activities

The Second Temple was built after 539 BCE when the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem. The Persians maintained control of the area until 332 BCE when Alexander the Great conquered Judea. This began the Hellenistic era. Most of the non-biblical texts of the Deep Sea Scrolls from Qumran date to this period.

Roman coins

Enter Rome.

Judea lost its independence to the Romans the first century BCE. After an unsuccessful Jewish revolt, Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE and much of the population was killed or enslaved. After the second revolt failed between 132 and 135 CE, the Roman emporer renamed the region Syria Palestina. He renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina and forbade Jews to enter.

Many of the ceramic jars have pointed bottom. It is believed they were held in holes in the ground.

The  Post Second Temple time period included Roman rule from 73 – 324 CE, followed by the Byzantine from 324 – 638 CE. Palestine came under Islamic rule with the conquest of Jerusalem in 638 CE. Judea was incorporated into the Islamic Empire from  the 7th – 11th centuries, known as the Early Islamic era.


Then the Christians came.

Broken limestone bread stamp –  Bread intended for consecration and communion within the Christian traditions was stamped. This fragment of a bread stamp contains a Greek inscription circling sixteen squares. The center four squares contain a Christogram (abbreviation for the name of Jesus). The other 12 squares represent the twelve apostles.

Christian Crusaders from Europe were the dominant power in “the Holy Land” from the 12th – 13th centuries.

A ceremonial bath

At this point in the exhibit, we were ready to enter the room that housed the Dead Sea Scrolls, and photographs were prohibited. The scrolls were displayed in glass cases in a large ring in the middle of the room that visitors could walk around. Although translations and explanations were displayed beside each fragment of the scrolls, I could only imagine how thrilling it would have been to actually be able to read the writings. You can view images of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library.

The other thing that struck me as I moved slowly around the ring, looking at these writings that were done so many years ago, was the realization that in a time period where communication of the written word was painstakingly done by scribes with ink and parchment and hand-delivered by walking or perhaps riding an animal of one sort or the other, these biblical stories were preserved, transferred, dispersed geographically, and carried on through the ages. It causes one to wonder.


The  Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times will be on display at the Cincinnati Museum Center through April 14. The first set of ten scrolls, including Genesis; Numbers; Samuel and Psalms among others, were on display until Jan. 28. They were rotated out and a brand new set will be on display until the exhibit’s last day on April 14.

“Because of the fragility of the scrolls, they may only be on display for three months at a time before they must “rest” in complete darkness for one year. The new rotation includes scrolls of Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah Commentary, Book of War, Aramaic Levi, Pseudo-Ezekiel, Apocryphal Lamentations, Papyrus Bar, Community Rule and Leviticus/Numbers.

“Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times is created by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) from the collections of the Israel National Treasures and produced by Discovery Times Square and The Franklin Institute. Local community partners include Presenting Sponsor: The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, and Associate Sponsors: the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the Diocese of Southern Ohio, SC Ministry Foundation, Office of the Provost, University of Cincinnati, and Xavier University, among others. Special Exhibit Partner: Hebrew Union College. http://www.cincymuseum.org/press/dead-sea-scrolls-rotation.”  (Cincinnati Museum Center).

Sources of Information:

Signage at the exhibit: The Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times, by the Israel Antiquities Authority, Viewed at the Cincinnati Museum Center, January 2013

The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Libary 

The Cincinnati Museum Center

Of Guardian Angels, Gardens, and Gratitude

Pecan pie (made by my daughter Anna) minus one slice, from Thanksgiving 2011.

‘Tis the time of year to think about gratitude. Gratitude always reminds me of the time I spent volunteering at Our Daily Bread in Over-the-Rhine, downtown Cincinnati, in 2006. Our Daily Bread provides a warm meal, social services and socialization for neighborhood residents.

You know from some of my recent posts about Cincinnati that Over-the-Rhine is making a resurgence and that Mark and I frequently visit the local restaurants or entertainment venues there now. But in 2006, it could still a bit rough in some parts of the neighborhood at times. What follows is a short op-ed I wrote, submitted, and was published in  “Your Voice” in the Cincinnati Enquirer, December 24, 2006.


Guardian Angels in Over the Rhine

Guardian angels come from unexpected places.

This fall I volunteered at Our Daily Bread in Over the Rhine where I met Ted, a well-liked and regular guest.

“I am 75 years old and proud of it,” Ted claims.  He has a limp that he acquired from a war wound in Vietnam and walks slowly with a wooden cane.  A long black rosary hangs around his neck and a royal blue ball cap rests on his head with his wiry gray hair sticking out of the bottom.  Ted’s eyes are brown and his smile is genuine. He has street smarts and is quick to laugh during conversations.

Ted’s financial difficulties come from the fact that he’s an alcoholic and has made bad choices in the past.

As I was leaving Our Daily Bread that day I witnessed a fight.  One man was pressed up against a car yelling, “Help!  Call the police.”   People were standing around on the sidewalks just watching.

When the men separated and I saw the gleam of a knife in one of their hands, I hurried back inside Our Daily Bread to get help.  A few minutes later the situation diffused itself as one of the men left.

The following week I spoke with Ted again.  I asked him why nobody wanted to do anything to help this guy who was taking a beating.  The people, Ted said, “Don’t care.  Don’t want to be involved.”

“If I was in trouble, do you think someone would help me?”  I asked him.

“I would,” he said.

As I was getting ready to leave, Ted asked, “Are you going to be all right?”

“I’ll be fine,” I said.

He stood up and started walking behind me.  He wanted to know where I had parked.  I reassured him that my car was just across the street and a few car-lengths away.  He continued with me as I went outside.  He stood there on the corner on that chilly autumn day and watched me get into my car and drive away.

I smiled as I thought, “What is Ted going to do, at his age and with his disability, if I need help?”  And then I felt my eyes begin to fill with tears at his noble gesture.

Ted returned my wave as I drove past, then he turned around and slowly walked back into the soup kitchen on a corner in Over the Rhine.


I mention Ted’s story today when I want to remind everyone of gratitude, because on any given day you could ask Ted, “How are you?” and without fail, he would answer, “I’m blessed.”

As my American friends are getting ready to celebrate a day of Thanksgiving, and for my international friends for who it is always a good idea to remember and be grateful, I thought I would leave a couple of “Pocket Positives” from another one of my little books:

“I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.” ~ Sir Winston Churchill, British Statesman, Prime Minister and Writer

“I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can’t make it through one door; I’ll go through another door — or I’ll make a door: Something  terrific will come no matter how dark the present.” ~ Joan Rivers, American Comedian

“May I a small house, and large garden have. And a few Friends, and many Books, both true, both wise, and both delightful too.” ~ Abraham Cowley, English Poet

“How to be happy when you are miserable. Plant Japanese poppies with cornflowers and mignonette, and set out the petunias among the sweet-peas so they shall scent each other. See the sweet-peas coming up.”~ Rumer Godden, English Writer

I give thanks for parents who raised me, a husband who loves and supports me, children who enrich my life, a little dog who keeps me company and all of nature that surprises and thrills me, friends who lighten my spirits, and all of you for sharing this time of your life with me. Happy Thanksgiving.

A beautiful place to rest – Spring Grove Cemetery

“If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.”
  Khalil Gibran ~ On Death

Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati is one of the largest nonprofit cemeteries in the United States.

It is a National Historic Landmark with graves of both revolutionary war and civil war soldiers.

“When the hours of Day are numbered,
And the voices of the Night
Wake the better soul, that slumbered,
To a holy, calm delight. . .”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Footsteps of Angels

Spring Grove is a beautiful cemetery and is famous for its lawn plan, unconventional at the time of its creation, but now a model for many other cemeteries.

The designer, Strauch, “believed in developing the landscape to harmonize with nature. He re-routed roads to follow the natural shapes of Spring Grove’s hills and valleys.

He built lakes, islands, footbridges, protected woodland areas,

and brought hundreds of trees and plants from other parts of the world,” (Spring Grove Cemetery).

“Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy! ”  John Keats ~  Ode to a Nightingale

The varied landscaping transports you from what might be a mysterious Louisiana swampland

to a stately Georgian plantation.

“Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
And Immortality.” Emily Dickenson

Gravemarkers range from the elaborate—

buildings made of marble and stone,

this one boasting flying buttresses—

to the simple.

“Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so . . .”  John Donne

“I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.”   W. B. Yeats ~ An Irish Airman Foresees his Death

“Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.”  Christina Rossetti ~ Remember

A short ride on the Ohio River at dusk

Last night we went on a BB Riverboat cruise on the Ohio River with Scoot and Shoot from the West Chester Photo Club. The minute I stepped on the boat and looked around, I noticed the clouds—they were putting on a show.

It was just before dusk, and to our west, off the back of the boat, the Roebling Bridge and Paul Brown Stadium were becoming silhouettes against the evening sky.

We were on the Newport, Kentucky side of the river looking across at the Great American Ballpark and the Great American Building’s princess tiara in downtown Cincinnati.

Mark made himself comfortable on the third floor deck, while I shot around for a little while.

The sun started to set behind us, over the Roebling Bridge,

casting its rays up to Mount Adams that sparkled back in reply.

We passed stately church of the Immaculata, a beacon of light and hope from its high perch up on Mount Adams.

The sun behind us began to color the sky,

creating a soft pastel backdrop behind the Cincinnati skyline across the river from where we were

on the Belle of Cincinnati.

The nearly full moon rose to light the night sky.

Little lights along the hillside road reflected in streamers out across the water.

The curtain of clouds opened to reveal the hilltop buildings as we passed by.

Ahead turbulent clouds serpentined over our path,

yet behind us the sky remained soft and tranquil.

The lights from a little church begged for my star filter,

as I captured the light that shined in the darkness.

Sending you the wish that you may always find a light in the dark.

Artworks dedicates Charlie Harper mural

While we were downtown for the Underground tour earlier this month, we stopped by the Artworks dedication of the Charlie Harper mural.

You can see a photograph of the wall before the mural as well as a picture of the Charlie Harper painting here.

“Founded in 1996, ArtWorks is a non-profit arts organization that connects artists of all ages with opportunities in the arts through inspiring apprenticeships, community partnerships, and public art,” (Artworks/about us/ organizational information).

Tamara Harkavy, CEO and Artistic Director, has served at the helm of Artworks since its beginning. The Charlie Harper mural is one of ten painted this year. Created in partnership with Charley Harper Art Studio and Court St. Executive Suites, this rendition of Harper’s “Homecoming (Bluebirds)” is the largest Artworks’ mural to date.

Tamara Harkavy with Brett Harper, son of wildlife artist Charley Harper at dedication of Court Street Artworks’ mural, September 2012.

Born in West Virginia in 1922, Charley Harper came to Cincinnati to study and later teach art at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. He became well-known as a wildlife artist. Charley Harper passed away on Sunday, June 10, 2007. (About Charley Harper). His son Brett Harper represented his father’s work at the mural’s dedication. This is the second Harper mural. The only other one is in Dayton near The Green.

Tamara expresses her appreciation to lead artist Jenny Ustick with a bouquet of flowers.

Jenny Ustick, the lead artist, worked with two teaching artists and a group of students to produce this beautiful piece of art on Court Street in downtown, Cincinnati.

What’s Happening Downtown – Artworks 2008

Over the last 16 years, Artworks has produced 46 murals in Cincinnati and three other cities. As we walked the few blocks from our Underground tour to the Charley Harper mural, we passed this 2008 Artworks’ mural, “What’s Happening Downtown,” on Walnut Street,

Kroger Headquarters mural on Vine Street – 2012

and this new mural on Vine Street at the Kroger headquarters.

You can find more information about this year’s and the previous years’ murals at the Artworks website.

Read my post from last year, Artworks is painting up the town.

Of boasts, bosses, breweries, and beers

American Legacy Tours

Mark and I enjoyed our Iconic Cincinnati tour so much that we decided to take another American Legacy Tour. This time we went underground.

Home of the American Legacy Tours on Vine Street in Cincinnati, Ohio

The  Queen City Underground: Bosses, Breweries, and Burials tour from American Legacy Tours is billed “a stroll through the Gateway District, home to America’s largest set of historical landmarks.”

John Funcheon was our informative and entertaining tour guide. He knew a LOT about Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine area. He also was very good at jumping from a normal speaking voice to a loud projecting voice when a noisy truck rumbled past.

Examples of Italianate architecture in Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine

At our first stop, John pointed out the Italianate architecture on the buildings across the street. This style of architecture is predominant in the OTR district.


When the Germans came to Cincinnati in the 1800s, they settled in Over the Rhine. OTR became a thriving community, boasting a population of up to 48,000 people at its height (the population would later plummet to about 4,000 as people moved to the suburbs). In the 1800s, theaters, breweries, saloons, bars, and beer gardens lined the streets.

Building that housed the theater where the shooting competition between Frank E. Butler and Annie Oakley was held.

The theater in this building hosted a shooting competition sometime around 1875. A well-known marksman, Frank E. Butler, was coming to town. A young Ohioan woman named Phoebe Ann Moses, who learned how to shoot out of the necessity to provide food and money for her family, entered the contest. Much to his surprise, Phoebe beat Frank Butler, and married him later. Phoebe continued to perform under the name Annie Oakley. You can read more details of Annie Oakley’s life at  Women in History or The Dorchester Library.

The Cosmopolitan Theater in Germania Hall at 1313 Vine Street navigated through the changing times in Over the Rhine.  It was built in 1855 as a beer garden and dance hall. In the 1890s, it was renamed Cosmopolitan Hall. “Over the decades, it was used for several different things, including a Prohibition-era speakeasy, an indoor golf complex, insurance offices, a lighting retailer, and a wallpaper store. [… ] In the early 1990s, the second floor dance hall was renovated for scenes in the movie A Rage in Harlem.” (From Creepy Cincinnati.com) More recently the building became The Warehouse, a notorious bar and entertainment venue. It has been empty since the Warehouse closed in 2004.

Henry Holtgrewe, Cincinnati’s ‘strongman’, performed on stage here at the turn of the century. He entertained people by lifting crazy heavy stuff. One of his more famous feats was lifting two baseball teams in a ball park. Eleven players from Cincinnati, and eleven players from the Cubs stood on a platform. Holtgrewe got under it and raised the men in the air with his back. Our well-informed tour guide, John, told us this and other entertaining stories. I subsequently read more about Henry in his obituary posted in The Day, January 4, 1917.

Bosses and Beer Gardens

In 1873 Henry Wielert established a bar in this building. The beer garden, behind the building, sported a glass dome where patrons were entertained with a 40-piece symphony orchestra. Some pretty interesting meetings probably took place in this building. George Barnsdale, known as “Boss” Cox, held some of his meetings here.

John explained to us how Cincinnati fell under the control of “Boss” Cox, “one of the most infamous and powerful political bosses in American history.” (American Heritage pamphlet). But truthfully, I don’t have a good mind for politics and most of what John said just washed right over me. I did later read about Cox’s “drumming up illegal voters” for favored candidates and the way he stopped police raids on his bar by running for city council in Cincinnati in 1879, and serving for two terms.

“While Cox never held political office after his second term as city councilman, he virtually ran the Cincinnati city government by becoming a city boss. Like other city bosses, Cox used gifts and money to build support for himself among the working class in Cincinnati. During elections, Cox would then have his followers vote for the candidate that he supported. [. . .] By the late 1800s, if a person sought a political office in Cincinnati, he had to receive Cox’s endorsement to win the office.” (Ohio History Central)

One thing I do remember about John’s informative and entertaining tour was that the “speak easy” that sprouted up after Prohibition, wasn’t a loud or boisterous place like portrayed in movies. Speak easys were so called because no one wanted to rouse suspicion by being noisy when they were imbibing on the sly.


So far we hadn’t really been underground on this Underground tour, but that was about to change.

In the mid-1800s, it really wasn’t safe to drink the water. And many people didn’t. They drank beer instead. Although the beer that they drank during the daytime was only 2% alcohol.

All this was good for the brewery business. And breweries popped up everywhere in the Over the Rhine district where the Germans knew how to make and drink their beer.

Construction on the building now called the Guildhaus was begun in 1880 by the nephew of a local brewer, John Kauffman.  The brewery expanded to a location across Hamer Street where a bottling plant was established.  Like most others, this brewery produced beer until Prohibition in 1919.

I can’t tell you what happened in this building over the next 80 or 90-some years, but recently someone purchased it to turn it into apartments. The new owner was looking at blueprints of the site and noticed a sub-basement on the drawings. So one day he got a jack-hammer, and cracked through the basement floor creating an entry into a maze of tunnels, and cavernous rooms with arched ceilings, below.

In the 1800s, before refrigeration, beer was made below-ground because the temperatures were cooler. Beer needed to be brewed at 43 degrees. The caverns underground naturally maintained a temperature of about 55 degrees. Ice was brought in from the frozen great lakes in the winter, and cold water was run through pipes lining the ceilings to cool this sub basement from 55 degrees to 43.

Once refrigeration became possible, the brewery moved the production up one floor to the basement because it was better and easier for several reasons. They left a hole open in the basement and refuse, largely composed of coal ash, was simply dumped into the sub-basement creating a large pile over time.

Our tour guide John stands in front of the pile of dirt or refuse.

This is why you pay to go on these tours. There is simply no way I can explain to you how cool it was to be underground, in these rooms, imagining the people who worked here.

When Kaufmann expanded his production facility to include a building across Hamer Street, he built a tunnel going under the street and joining into the sub-basement on the other side. John said there is evidence that a large percentage of the buildings in this area of the city have sub-basements.

The process of beer-making created undesirable gasses like carbon dioxide and monoxide which had to be vented somehow from this enclosed below-ground space. Small openings at the bottom of the walls that look like fireplaces served that purpose. Again, I probably should have been paying closer attention, but I was trying to figure out why the once-stone floor was now covered with dirt. John later explained that the building leaked, and over the years dirt had made its way in with the rain.

“By 1919, Prohibition had driven most of the breweries out of business. Christian Moerlein alone had employed over 500 people. Along with World War I sentiments, this was the beginning of the decline of OTR’s population and cultural homogeneity.” (Cincinnati.com)

The population of Over the Rhine is now growing again for the first time in 90 years. The Guildhaus now contains highly sought-after apartments.  The stately building, making a comeback in the Over the Rhine renaissance, gives off no outward sign of the secrets that lie beneath.

Niehaus family circa – late 1870s or 1880s. Gertrude is probably second from left in back row.

Mark and I would like to find out more about the beer-making families in Over the Rhine. One of Mark’s ancestors is a Gertrude Niehaus.I suspected Gertrude was from a family of beer-makers because of research I had done about the Niehaus families in Cincinnati at the time. When I was doing research for this post I came across the Queen City Chapter.com and found a Captain Henry Niehaus who operated THE HENRY NIEHAUS BREWERY located on Sycamore Street near 13th  from 1861 to 1868, and a Joseph Niehaus who established the  NIEHAUS BREWERY, an ale brewery, on Woodward (now 13th) from 1850 to 1862. It would be fun to make a connection into one of those families.

Our last stop on the Underground tour was St. Francis Church, just across Vine Street from the Guildhaus.

When this church was built a cemetery on the site had to be moved. A mass grave was created in a crypt under the church for those individuals whose families didn’t claim or move their burial site. Cracked tombstones line the walls,

and whole, intact tombstones pave the area above the grave.

Photographs of the tombstones are on display so that visitors can read them.

Like the Guildhaus, the altar of St. Francis shows no sign of the secrets that lie beneath.

We ended our tour and trip to Over the Rhine as any self-respecting German, or Irishman for that matter, would do, and joined our tour guide John at Lackman’s corner bar for a brew to quench our thirst, cool our throats, and lighten our spirits.

Did I mention John was informative and entertaining?

Thanks, John, for a great tour.


Herman Lackman and J. H. Sandman open THE LACKMAN AND SANDMAN BREWERY at Sixth and Stone Streets and operate it from 1860 to 1868. In 1868, Lackman buys out Sandman and renames the brewery HERMAN LACKMAN BREWING CO.,  UNITED STATES BREWERY. THE HERMAN LACKMAN BREWING CO., UNITED STATES BREWERY operates until 1890.” (Queen City Chapter.com)

A reflection on wildflowers

Do you ever have one of those days that your best laid plans keep going astray?

On Friday I wanted to take Arthur for a walk at the VOA after he got a heartworm prevention injection at the vets . He’s been a little neglected of late as we were preparing for, enjoying, and then recovering from a family reunion here at our home with our children and their significant others.

I wasn’t paying attention as I was driving along and missed my turn so I had to go the long way around to get there. Three cars were stopped in a line outside the entrance that was blocked with orange cones, and a young man was directing traffic to a far off soccer field. Bicyclists were pouring out of the park. Unbeknownst to me the VOA was being used for a triathlon practice.

I had already told Arthur we were going on a walk, so there was no going home without one now.

I winded back to the soccer fields, decided the VOA wasn’t going to work that day, turned around, exited and drove on to Sharon Woods Park. I had probably invested about 45 minutes in the car by now.

But Sharon Woods lake was beautiful in it’s summer garb. I spotted a splash of color and decided I could get some shots of wildflowers.

The outer edge of the lake was covered with these small yellow flowers. The pink flower actually looks more like an exotic transplant and I’m wondering if a well-meaning bird has transferred it here. We, all of us, affect nature by our actions.

I took some other shots of wildflowers along the edge of the woods, but I was using trying to use my iPhone camera while a small dog with no manners was tugging on the lead.

The photos were largely a disappointment. I had visions of doing my engineering thing and creating a table of wildflowers that I identify, and that may yet happen, but it wasn’t meant to be on Friday. You’d think I’d learn by now that solo walks with Arthur do not good photos make.

If you’d like to see a beautiful and charming photo of a field of flowers, Maralee at Through my Lens has one there.

I hope you had a relaxing weekend. The intense heat here has broken and we have our windows open today. I can hear the constant hum of the locusts, the occasional chirp or trill of a bird, and the soft rustle of the leaves as the cottonwoods speak to me.

A bird’s eye view of the Queen City from the top of the Carew Tower

At the end of our Iconic Cincinnati tour last Wednesday, we went up to the top of the Carew Tower for a bird’s eye view of Cincinnati and the surrounding hills.

From the top of the Carew Tower if you look south across the Ohio River, and slightly east, you’ll see the mouth of the Licking River. When Cincinnati was founded in 1788, it was originally named Losantiville, or “town opposite the mouth of the Licking River.”  Just two years later, the Governor of the Northwest Territory, General Arthur St. Clair, renamed it Cincinnati after the Society of Cincinnati, an organization of Revolutionary War officers. (WiseGeek.com)

Covington, Kentucky lies to west (or right in this photo) of the Licking River and Newport, Kentucky to the east. The front of a barge, a familiar sight in Cincinnati, can be seen entering the photograph to the right. The structure in the bottom left corner of the photo is the Red’s home stadium, the Great American Ball Park. You can see photos of the inside of the stadium at my Take me out to the ballgame post.

On this side of the river, you can see the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a museum devoted to “the Underground Railroad” and programs that educate the public about modern slavery and human trafficking. On the northern shore of the Ohio River, Cincinnati has a heritage of aiding freedom-seekers as some Cincinnatians played an important role in the Underground Railroad and aided former slaves once they made their way across the river to freedom.

If you shift slightly left in a counter-clockwise direction, you can see Cincinnati’s downtown area across from the Licking River. The Great American Ball Park is partially visible behind the towering office building. Restaurants have started popping up to the right of the ballpark in the area known as The Banks where The Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park has recently opened. If you look closely you can see a spot of green to the right of the ballpark, headed towards the river. I think  that’s part of the Smale Park with its waterfalls and kid-friendly fountains.

The US Bank Arena, where we saw the opening ceremony of the World Choir Games is on the left side of the ballpark.

The Great American Tower, with its tiara, recently bumped the Carew Tower from its place as the tallest building in Cincinnati. The Great American Tower  is 665 feet tall and has 41 floors above ground. The Carew Tower at 623 feet tall, with 49 floors above ground  still provides the highest look-out spot in the city. (Emporis.com)

You can see three bridges across the Ohio River from this vantage point. The small purple one, partially hidden behind the The Great American Tower, is the historic Purple People Bridge,

There used to be walking tours across the top of this bridge. I don’t know if they’re being done anymore.  The Purple People Bridge leads right to Newport on the Levee, a complex of restaurants and entertainment venues.

Back on the Ohio side of the river, you can see one of  the 2011 Artworks‘ murals, The Cobbler’s Apprentice Plays Ball, near the entertainment complex by the Great American Ball Park.

Cincinnati sits like a flat platter surrounded by hilly terrain just outside the downtown area. As the city grew, folks started moving up and settling on the surrounding hills. Legend has it that Cincinnati was built on seven hills, like Rome. Exactly which of the many hills surrounding the city are the seven hills has been debated over the years. Cincinnati.com answers that question based on a 1958 Enquirer report and lists the seven hills as Mount Adams, Mount Auburn, Walnut Hills, Fairmount, Fairview Heights, Clifton Heights, and Price Hill. I’ll point out some of these below.

A slight turn to the left and in the foreground you see the Procter and Gamble headquarters partly hidden behind the tall office building. The green park in the center of the picture is a beautiful park in front of the headquarters’ twin towers building. The dense green around the perimeter is not bushes, as you might imagine, but wisteria growing on a pergola.

Further out you see the Ohio River winding its way east. Just before the bend, Mount Adams is visible, although its elevation is not evident from this perspective. Holy Cross-Immaculata Church, discernible if you have excellent eye-sight, sits up on a hill overlooking the river. Anyone who has prayed the steps up from the river on Good Friday can tell you that it is indeed up on a hilltop.

You can see the Immaculata on Mount Adams a little better in this cropped and enlarged photo.  View my night shot of the Immaculata here.

When you turn about 90 degrees counter-clockwise from the river and look down, you get this nice perspective of the Genius of Water on Fountain Square, that I described in great detail on my Iconic Cincinnati post.

Another little turn counter-clockwise and Mount Auburn comes into view rising above the Over the Rhine area in downtown Cincinnati that I wrote about in  The Art Academy of Cincinnati. The big brick building at the top of Mount Auburn is Christ Hospital where three of our four children were born.

At the bottom of the photo the white steeple of St. Mary’s Church is visible.

You can read a short history about the Germans who settled in Cincinnati, the Over the Rhine area, and old St. Mary’s Church at OldStMarys.Org.

Looking off to the left, still within the Over the Rhine community, St. Francis Seraph Church (with its clock tower and circular window) is visible on the spot where the first Catholic Church within Cincinnati, St. Xavier, was originally built and then moved to its downtown location. I photographed St. Xavier while on the Iconic Cincinnati tour.

As you continue on your counter-clockwise viewing of Cincinnati, you’ll see Clifton Heights rise up above Over the Rhine. The oddly shaped concrete building, along with many of the surrounding buildings, is part of the University of Cincinnati.

You’ll be facing mostly north now, and will be able to see The Singing Mural, also done by Artworks in 2011. The  cast of characters on this mural  represent the community coming together in celebration of the arts. You might recognize:  Sesame Street’s Grover, the Phantom from Phantom of the Opera, rock artist Elton John, jazz singer Cab Calloway, legendary composer Johann Sebastian Bach, the Nutcracker, PBS icon Mr. Rogers, and Mr. Redlegs. You can see the complete list of characters at The Singing Mural.

A little turn to the left and Cincinnati City Hall‘s unique architecture stands out surrounded by contemporary buildings.  City Hall’s main building comprises four and a half stories with a nine story clock tower. It is listed in the National Register of historic buildings.

Directly west you will see a tangle of highways. The road at the bottom left corner is the 6th Street viaduct that crosses over I-75 north and takes you to Price Hill, one of the seven initial hills. The 8th Street viaduct runs bottom to top at the center of this photograph, also taking travelers to Price Hill. The far end of the 8th Street viaduct is the location where the Price Hill incline used to be. The inclines that were built to transport travelers from the downtown area up to the surrounding hills are interesting and deserve a post all of their own.

At the top of the hill at the end of the 8th Street viaduct, the Queen’s Tower stands alone. It is a high-rise condominium building with an excellent restaurant, the Prima Vista, on top that affords a terrific view and dining experience.

I-75, the main north-south artery running through Cincinnati, crosses under the 8th Street viaduct in the lower right corner of this photo.

If you follow I-75 north a short distance you will see the Union Terminal that I wrote about in The Cincinnati Museum Center post.

Turn your feet just a bit more counter-clockwise and you’ll see the Ohio River winding its way west towards Indiana.

When you come full circle, you’ll see the historic Roebling Bridge crossing the Ohio River into Covington, Kentucky. This suspension bridge was placed on the National Record of Historic places in 1975. There is an excellent photo history of the bridge at Cincinnati-transit.net.

I lived here in the Cincinnati area for more than 30 years and didn’t know about this lookout point on top of the Carew Tower until I took the Iconic Cincinnati tour.

Did you ever wonder what you don’t know about where you live?


See more posts about Cincinnati.