It’s in the mid-20s, and a light snow is falling. My jacket and gloves keep out the cold… barely. But I’m happy. I’m at the observation deck at the top of the Carew Tower, Cincinnati’s second tallest building and, despite the cold and snow, it is clear enough to see for miles. The Ohio River stretches out below me, the buildings of downtown rise up to meet me, and the brick facades of this historic city beckon for an explorer to wander the streets of the Over the Rhine district. I taste a snowflake, and I smile.
Over the Rhine with Cincinnati Music Hall
Over the past few years, Cincinnati has become another home base for me. My father moved to the region several years ago, and I’ve tried to come out regularly to see him. Those visits have given me the chance to explore some of this truly wonderful region, and I’ve written about the city before.
The Ohio River meanders west toward Indiana
Today, I am the guest of Elizabeth Robinson, Communications Coordinator for CincyUSA, the region’s tourism bureau. “Did you know that the Empire State Building was modeled after the Carew Tower?” she asks me, as we gaze out over the vista. Few people know this, nor do they know that Cincinnati was the first city founded after the American Revolution, or that it was one of the most important trading centers and industrial cities of the 19th and early 20th Centuries, or that it was home to the largest German immigrant community (making up half the city in 1900), or that it has more chili restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the world. They might not realize it has bounced back from post-industrial recession to have the fastest growing economy in the Midwest, low housing prices, and a median income well above the national average. They may not be aware that Cincinnati has a thriving cultural scene, incredible breweries, and a wide assortment of craft bourbon distilleries.
Elizabeth is full of facts like this, and recites them as we slowly make our way around the observation deck.
Eden Park, home of the Cincinnati Art Museum
To me, Cincinnati is the definition of the American story: from frontier town to industrial center to modern economic power, feeling the ups and downs of the country, and entering 2018 as a place no longer defined as one that is up and coming, but rather one that has now arrived. Over the next several months, with the help of CincyUSA, I am going to return to Cincinnati to tell that story. We will explore the city’s history, examine the experience of the countless German immigrants who built it, and meet the people who call it home today. We will wander the stalls of Findlay Market, hop a riverboat on the mighty Ohio River, visit the Freedom Center and learn the secrets of the Underground Railroad, and walk the rolling green hills of the region.
And of course, we will eat chili.