Some of my mother’s family have been in southwestern Ohio since the eighteenth century, while my father’s folks arrived in Cincinnati before the American Civil War. I was born and raised there, and I share the civic love and pride of my people.
Coastal types that never venture to places like the Midwest think that there is nothing there but churches, corn, and factories—you know, where provincial xenophobes fearfully cling to their guns and religion. It is their loss. I love New York City, Seattle, and San Francisco—their denizens may justly boast of their cities’ many fine qualities. However, there is more to America than the wealthy urban metropolites.
Cincinnati lies at the nexus of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, our “Tri-State.” This location puts us on the cultural frontiers of several regions that have enriched the particular Cincy way of life. In the Queen City, you find elements Midwestern, Eastern, and Southern. You sense a mixture of the city and the small town—urbane and cosmopolitan institutions adjacent to the local chili parlor . . . world class venues mixed with the provincial inclinations of the people. The local neighborhood, parish, and high school hold claims of allegiance over Cincinnatians’ hearts. The city and its elements are part of its inhabitants, as Cincinnatians make up, quite obviously, the city.
I believe that it is this localism that has kept the official boundaries of the city so small. While other large cities annexed surrounding communities over time, Cincinnatians have largely resisted becoming part of Cincinnati proper. In Columbus, for instance, the edges of town are corn fields, while Cincinnati has been able to swallow very few of its extra-urban suburbs. Cities, villages, and townships surround and infiltrate the political bounds of Cincinnati, but everyone in the Metropolitan area considers himself to be a Cincinnatian. As such, the city proper now has 332,252 residents (down from 503,998 in 1950), while the metropolitan area has over two million people.
Cincinnati was once the fastest growing urban area in the United States and the fifth largest city, and the neighborhoods and architecture of the nineteenth century beautify our town. The German Catholic presence in the city is palpable in every area of life, from social morés to religion to architectural styles to festivals to diet. The Roman Catholic school system is one of the largest in America. Corporate presence has long been strong in Cincinnati, which is the headquartered home to some of the country’s largest companies, like Procter & Gamble, Kroger, Macy’s / Federated, and Chiquita. Until recently, the city was heavily industrialized, but like the rest of the United States in general and the Midwest in particular, the last forty years have been rough on the city. The medical establishment in Cincinnati is one of the finest in America—something that you take for granted until you see the world beyond the seven hills. Surprising to coastal elites, Cincinnati is also home to great dining; I have heard that only San Francisco has as many fine restaurants per capita.
Politically, Greater Cincinnati has been a bastion of Republican conservatism for generations, but white flight has reduced the white population in Cincinnati proper to just over half its residents. The black population is predominantly poor and has guaranteed Democratic municipal government for decades. Needless to say, such government has been utterly dysfunctional. From Cincinnati to Detroit to New Orleans to Washington, D.C., any city governed by demagogues who have been given blank checks for power and corruption by the large poor uneducated black population has suffered greatly. Aristotle wisely stated long ago that healthy representative government requires a large middle class—otherwise, you get Marion Barry, Kwame Kilpatrick, David Denkins, and the other embarrassments to republicanism. This is mainly an issue of class, education, and intelligence, not race. However, penurious demagoguery in America has had better fortunes in the race hustling business than in class warfare amongst the majority population. When concerned citizens try to resist these demagogues, the black population circles its wagons in tribal reflex, since any attack on one their own is yet another example of the Man’s telling them what to do. Sigh . . .
However, we cannot blame the stupidity of Cincinnati’s local government on the black newcomers. Before the Great Migration, there were few blacks in Cincinnati, but the incompetence of the city council goes way back into the nineteenth century. Local politicians have done their damnedest to choke Cincinnati for many generations. Note that white flight did not cause Cincinnatians’ resistance to annexation, though certainly that has been an influence for the last four decades. Rather, Cincinnatians knew that Cincinnati’s city council would harm their communities even back when everyone was white. It seems that, in Cincinnati, at least, bad local government is color blind.
Despite the foolishness, short-sightedness, and general stupidity of the political establishment, Cincinnati is still a wonderful place to live. We eat Cincinnati style chili (not Texas chili!), we say “Please?” instead of “Excuse me?” or “Pardon” if we do not understand you, and we’re sophisticated enough to read the paper but sensible enough not to believe it.
Space513 (our area code) is a nifty site that highlights some of Cincinnati’s beloved dives, while the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens is one of the best zoos in the world.
Below are links to some Cincinnati and Ohio area fixtures.
City of Cincinnati,
Architecture of Cincinnati,
Camp Washington Chili,
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal,
Cincinnati State College,
Cincinnati Transit History,
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden,
City of Cincinnati Government,
College of Mount Saint Joseph,
Covedale Center for the Performing Arts,
Delhi Flower & Garden Center,
Elder High School,
Macy’s / Federated Department Stores,
Fifth Third Bank,
Gold Star Chili,
Graeter’s Ice Cream,
Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce,
Greater Cincinnati Convention and Vistors Bureau,
Hebrew Union College,
LaSalle High School,
Mount Airy Forest,
Northern Kentucky University,
Ohio Book Store,
Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism,
Ohio Right to Life,
Ohio State Government,
Ohio State University,
Price Hill Chili,
Procter & Gamble,
Putz’s Creamy Whip,
Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati,
Saint Catherine’s Review,
Saint Xavier High School,
Seton High School,
Southwest Ohio Amusement Park Historical Society,
Spring Grove Cemetery,
Supreme Nut & Candy,
Thomas More College,
Treasured Churches Of Cincinnati,
United Dairy Farmers,
United States Playing Card Company,
University of Cincinnati,
Yahoo Local Pages, &
Young’s Dairy Farm