Nasty Nati: View Into the Real Cincinnati

The Short Cincinnati Ghetto Story

Located in Southern Ohio, bordering the state of Kentucky, is a city that has been given an unfriendly moniker, the Nasty Nati.

A large metropolitan area that has been known for its numerous of urban communities within the surrounding neighborhoods of the city, from Downtown to the West Side to Reading Road to the North Side the streets of the Cincinnati ghetto have a story that must be told.

The black population has been in Cincinnati since the city’s beginning, especially with an influx of freed and runaway slaves from nearby Kentucky and Virginia, making the city to have one of the largest black communities in the United States during the 1800s.

The first main section for the Cincinnati black community was around Liberty and Linn, in an area that is officially called the West End, as the city’s “Black Laws” limited the people’s movement in the city, during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Downtown (Over The Rhine and Linn Street)

Either Downtown or Down Tha Way are names that are quite familiar with the streets and urban communities of the Nasty Nati as one of Cincinnati’s roughest areas is home to a bulk of the city’s lower income housing.

Expanding along Liberty Street from Interstate 75 to Reading Road is the heart of the city’s Downtown urban neighborhoods as Liberty connects the two major neighborhoods of the West End and Over The Rhine.

Small public housing complexes like Lincoln Courts and Park Town or single-family homes and apartment buildings in areas known as Tot Lot and Helltown accounts for the makeup of the Downtown neighborhood.

over the rhine cincinnati ghetto

The heart of the Cincinnati ghetto in Downtown, Linn Street, an area neighboring Over The Rhine Cincinnati

Long before the downtown’s reputation, Cincinnati’s black population began around the intersection of Liberty and Linn, an area officially known as the West End, as freed and runaway slaves from southern communities of nearby states like Kentucky or Virginia relocated into the Queen City.

During the 1800s, surprisingly, the city of Cincinnati had one of the country’s largest concentration of African-Americans as the West End area grew into becoming a stronghold for many of black families as thousands of people lived in the community.

Despite the thought of escaping the racist and often discriminating south, blacks in Cincinnati’s early days faced harsh laws, segregation, and an environment that was quite similar to the southern communities many escaped.

By the 1930s, sections of the community was destroyed replaced with the public housing units of the former Laurel Homes, both for white and black families as one of the country’s first integrated communities.

The Laurel Homes, which were south of Liberty Street around Linn Street, were demolished and rebuilt during the 2000s with the majority of today’s rebuilt gentrified community being finished in by 2007.

The rebuilt Laurel Homes of the Linn Street Cincinnati ghetto.

With the destruction and slum clearance of the West End neighborhood, many black residents were forced to relocate into the nearby neighborhoods of Mt Auburn, Walnut Hills, Avondale, Evanston and Corryville, from the 1930s and 1950s.

While West End was the city’s original black community, the neighboring Over The Rhine neighborhood, which sits east of Central Parkway, did not gain a black population until the 1960s after sections of the West End were destroyed through urban renewal.

A former German immigrant community, Over The Rhine declined after the community left unattended and many of the former residents failed the needed upkeep, which was right before African-Americans entered the area.

For decades this area of Cincinnati has been publicized in the light of negativity, from indictments and mass arrests of the Tot Lot area (around Linn and Findlay) to the constant media attention for the community’s street activities of shootings and other crime.

over the rhine cincinnati ghetto

View of Over The Rhine Cincinnati

One of Ohio’s most active communities is on a verge of changing as gentrification is making its way into the community with the demolishing of the former Tot Lot park, the transformation of the neighborhood once around Washington Park, the former Laurel Homes being rebuilt into a smaller development are all examples.

The community is slowly becoming a memory to many of the former residents, whether one stayed on McMicken, Vine Street or anywhere in the Downtown section the writing is on the wall that in just a few years this area will no longer be part of the Cincinnati’s urban community.

West Side

Just on the other side of town is Cincinnati’s West Side, an area of ‘hoods and communities like Cumminsville and Beekman Street, the Fay Apartments, the old English Woods housing projects, the Mac (McHenry Avenue) and Harrison Avenue of Westwood, and Price Hill.

On the West Side, the urban and African American community began in the neighborhood of Cumminsville as the community is one of the city’s original and first predominantly black areas, dating back to the early 1900s.

A mural in Cumminsville Cincinnati

With the same old story as most cities, Cumminsville was a successful community until urban renewal construction of Interstate 74, followed by construction of two housing complexes of Millvale and Moosewood, destroyed many of the homes and displaced the majority of the residents.

Today, the Beekman Street area is only made up of a few residential streets and the housing complexes of Millvale and Moosewood, known locally as Lava World, in which are in the current process of either being demolished or renovated.

cincinnati ghetto

The Cincinnati ghetto of the Westside’s Moosewood housing complex.

Nicknamed E-Dub, was a large public housing complex of over 700 units that was constructed in the 1940s and became known as English Woods.  Demolished during the late 2000s, this large complex was the heart of the West Side until the community met its demise.

Just south of the former location of English Woods is the North Fairmount community, or just Fairmount for short.  A very isolated and somewhat an impoverished area that is centered around Baltimore and Carll streets, right off Beekman Street, has for long been an ignored community by the city officials and often hidden from the society of Cincinnati.

cincinnati ghetto

Carll Street of the North Fairmount neighborhood.

Maybe not a thriving community at one point, but the community, which is currently mostly vacant, was much more vibrant, as late as the 1960s, than in the area’s recent years with much of the original housing being demolished or just vacant and rotting away.

The largest West Side neighborhood is Westwood, a diverse community with the urban areas being based around Queen City, Harrison Avenue and McHenry Avenue, as well one of Cincinnati’s most notorious neighborhoods, the Fay, which was recently renovated into the Roll Hill apartments.

westwood cincinnati ghetto

Westwood Cincinnati neighborhood of the Fay apartments.

Currently, the Westwood neighborhood is experiencing a trend of a rise in home and property values as gentrification is slowly creeping into the urban communities of Westwood and some of the other West Side neighborhoods.

East Side

Before the move into neighborhoods like Avondale, Corryville or Mount Auburn, European immigrants created homes in these communities, but their exit into the suburbs helped each area grow to expand into the city’s black community.

For Cincinnati’s black population, the establishment of Walnut Hills begun around today’s intersection of Gilbert and Martin Luther King Drive and would later expand into other sections of the neighborhood as white flight left a vacancy and opportunity for African Americans to reside in the area.

Walnut Hills Mural

Following Walnut Hills, other neighboring neighborhoods were followed with an increase of a black presence by the 1950s as large portions of Cincinnati’s original black community of the West End was demolish and replaced by the Laurel Homes housing project.

Mount Auburn, which was once a very wealthy community as one driving through the neighborhood can witness large homes that were once occupied by the city’s elite, changed after the destruction of the West End’s black community and many relocated into Mt. Auburn.

At first, slum clearance of the 1930s led the movement of replacing the West End with the Laurel Homes and forcing a relocation for hundreds of black families, but the construction of Interstate’s 71 and 75 destroyed parts of many neighborhoods, while furthering the decline of Cincinnati’s urban neighborhoods.

avondale cincinnati ghetto

Avondale Cincinnati.

Cincinnati’s most famous urban neighborhood is Avondale, a large community that is equipped with apartment buildings, small housing complexes, and single family homes, while also being divided in some sections between lower income and Cincinnati’s middle class, which can be seen in parts of North Avondale.

The black community of Avondale originated in the South Avondale section near the already existing black population of Corryville.  The black population expanded from Corryville after urban renewal with the expansion of the University of Cincinnati and the medical center led to the displacement of Corryville residents.

As many of the East Side neighborhoods were declining during the 1970s, the urban population expanded further along Reading Road into the sections of Bond Hill and Roselawn.

North Side

Other than Lincoln Heights, which is not officially part of the city of Cincinnati, not until the 1960s and 1970s did the city’s black population began to make its way into the North Side communities. 

As elsewhere, just about all of the North Side neighborhoods were originally home to white families, but in places like Winton Terrace and College Hill, around Lantana and Cedar Avenue, that changed by the 1970s.

Eventually, areas like Mt. Airy, Mt. Healty, FinneyTown, and as far north as Forest Park became home of the city’s black population as the area is currently continuing to grow and expand.

cincinnati ghetto

The historic neighborhood of Lincoln Heights of the Cincinnati ghetto.

The black community came into the North Side during the 1970s, but along Wyoming Avenue in the Lockland neighborhood an African American community has been in the region since the early 1900s.

What began as a small community in Lockland relocated into the Lincoln Heights neighborhood during the 1940s.  Originally constructed for black workers from the nearby factories, Lincoln Heights was prospering community, but with a similar story the area would eventually declined  from its original idea of a successful black owned community.

The Streets

While this breaks down the history of the urban communities in Cincinnati, it will barely touch on the streets of the city as the viewers can click on the Cincinnati Hood Map link for complete info of the streets of Cincy.

A quick breakdown of the streets, regardless of what anybody says there is not a gang problem in the city, even if there is a selected few to claim a specific affiliation within the city, so basically gangbangin’ is a non-factor.

The closest to gangbangin’ is personal rivalries and/or clique and neighborhood rivalries, like the days of conflict and confrontations between Bond Hill and Avondale, as well other beefs throughout the city.

When ‘hoods or sections of the Cincinnati ghetto like Tot Lot of the Liberty and Linn area, officially Downtown’s West End community, make that news after being indicted or suffering from multiple arrests for activity in the streets, it still should not show the city in light of gangs or anything else of sort.

For more City Stories and Articles, click and follow link.

*Note: All information is provided either through people of the community, outside sources, and/or research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.

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