From Liberty and Linn to Over-The-Rhine
The Short Cincinnati Downtown Story
Located in southern Ohio, bordering the state of Kentucky, is a city that has been given an unfriendly moniker, the Nasty Nati. The large metropolitan area that has been known for numerous urban communities ranging from Downtown to the West Side to Reading Road to the North Side, all meaning that the streets of the Cincinnati ghetto have a story that must be told.
What may be debatable, the heart of the city is in Cincinnati’s Downtown area, which consists of two main communities, the Over the Rhine neighborhood and Liberty and Linn’s West End community.
Either Downtown or Down The Way are names that are quite familiar with the streets and urban communities of the Nasty Nati as one of Cincinnati’s roughest areas that 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 that accounts for the makeup of the Downtown neighborhood.
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 communities of nearby southern 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.
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 was left unattended and many of the former residents failed the need to upkeep the neighborhood, 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.
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 they 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.