The University of Cincinnati’s Archives and Rare Books Library (ARB) maintains numerous collections containing records of historic value for research and scholarly use. These materials are comprised of a variety formats, including printed documents, university records, sound recordings, and photographic prints and negatives.
One of these collections is the Ohio Network collection, comprised of historic local government and public records. The City of Cincinnati Engineer Records is part of this collection, and contains records produced by the engineer’s office from 1851 through 1957, including those of the Rapid Transit Commission for the subway and Central Parkway construction, as well as other street improvements carried out by the city within the same timeframe. And among these records are the negatives and photographic prints that are currently being digitized and that will be made available online via the ARB and Digital Collections web sites.
The subway and street improvements photograph collection is truly a wealth of historic information about the city of Cincinnati in the first half of the 20th century. As with most cities, many of the streets and avenues are named for the founders and prominent families who helped establish the city, as well as important statesmen such as presidents, governors and military heroes. Cincinnati has her fair share of these, with the city directories reading like a “Who’s Who” of Cincinnati’s political, cultural and economic development, with street names such as Ludlow, Symmes, and Patterson, St. Clair, Gamble and Ault, Anderson, Findlay and Wade, among others.
Contained within the subway portion of the photograph collection are images of the interiors of homes along McMicken Avenue taken during the construction of the subway. Originally intended to serve as evidence for claims by homeowners of structural damage to the houses caused by blasting for the subway tunnels, the pictures now serve as a historic reference of domestic life during the 1920s.
The Elliston Project holds over seven hundred recorded readings and lectures given under the auspices of the University of Cincinnati Department of English and Comparative Literature and the U.C. Libraries since 1951. Material includes readings and lectures on poetry by those who have served as George Elliston Poet in Residence, among whom are Robert Frost, Denise Levertov, Louise Glück, Thom Gunn, and C.D. Wright. Other major figures, including Czeslaw Milosz, Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney, and Rita Dove, are also represented, as are many prose writers and a wide range of poets at various stages of their careers. Readings in this ongoing audio archive feature poets’ comments on their work; both complete performances and individual poems are accessible. Continue reading New Digital Collection: The Elliston Project: Poetry Readings and Lectures at the University of Cincinnati
Downtown Cincinnati at the turn of the 20th century was a bustling business and commercial center, but with a dangerous mixture of pedestrians, horse-pulled wagons and carriages, street cars, and unseasoned automobile drivers. Add to this a mess of unpaved or cobblestoned streets, a lack of traffic laws, speed limits, and stop signs at intersections, with streetcar tracks criss-crossing lanes. It was a recipe for disaster.
The story of abandoned subway stations and tracks hidden beneath busy city streets is not unique to Cincinnati. Other large cities, such as New York, London, and Paris have similarly mysterious and intriguing stories to tell. An article I recently read in The New York Times introduced me to this underground world of hidden subway ventilation shafts disguised by false building facades, with doors from which people occasionally exit, but never seem to enter. Some of these subterranean secrets are in use, while others have been abandoned like Cincinnati’s own subway stations beneath Central Parkway.
What’s fascinating is the effort made to disguise these facilities, to blend them in with the neighboring buildings. While it seems a logically aesthetic means of making the utilitarian more appealing, some have argued that the cities in which these structures are located are trying to hide a deep secret. For comparison, consider the Cincinnati subway – when the subway and Central Parkway were first being constructed, the ventilation chimneys and the entrances to the below-ground stations were nicely appointed with decorative stonework.
The University of Cincinnati Libraries have completed a three-year project to digitize the correspondence and photographs of Albert B. Sabin, developer of the oral polio vaccine and distinguished service professor at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Research Foundation from 1939-1969.
Cincinnatians who drive along Columbia Parkway from downtown to the eastern suburbs know the parkway for its breathtaking scenic views of the Ohio River below. But these commuters also know the danger of driving along this parkway after a quick, heavy downpour or a prolonged period of rain-drenched days.
The hillside embankment along the parkway, cut at a steep angle when the road was constructed in 1938, is well known for becoming unstable after heavy rainfalls, causing mudslides that leave debris strew across the roadway as it passes over the low retaining wall at its base. One of three major urban projects undertaken by the city during the 1930s, nearly half the cost of the parkway was paid for by a grant from the Works Project Administration. In 1929, the city of Cincinnati passed an ordinance to upgrade and expand the existing road, which at that time was named Columbia Avenue and was a simple dirt and gravel road that meandered above the Ohio River eastward from downtown. Continue reading Slip, Slide and A Parkway = Adventures in the Subway and Street Improvements Digitization Project
One of the country’s oldest surviving public market houses to operate on a continual basis, Findlay Market is one of the nine original municipal markets that were open for business in downtown Cincinnati at the turn of the 20th century. The major source of goods for Cincinnati’s densely populated urban center, these markets began operating in the early 1800’s and continued to provide fresh produce and other goods to local residents through the mid-1960s, with Findlay Market being the sole survivor in the downtown area.