Industrial Towns

Cincinnati is a city of hills and valleys. Thanks to elevation changes, a small and simple city park can offer a stunning view of the city below.

Columns From: 11/1/2002 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Peter Zelinski

Cincinnati is a city of hills and valleys. Thanks to elevation changes, a small and simple city park can offer a stunning view of the city below. One such park is called Bellevue Hill.

A short walk from there is a used book store, Duttenhofer's, in which it's a joy to lose time, browsing the overcrowded shelves in search of some too-long-neglected volume.

Cincinnati's public library is outstanding. The main library downtown occupies a beautiful, half-million-square-foot building.

Among the other public resources I enjoy are the nature preserves. Within 20 minutes of my home are at least three public wooded areas that make it possible to lose sight of the city altogether for the length of a moderate hike.

The city is rich in trees. In this region, northern evergreens grow alongside flowering trees of the south. When I am away, the trees I miss are the ones along my street. They are taller than the houses by a factor of two, and taller than the daily concerns that tend to fill them by a factor of at least that much.

I travel. And when I tell people in distant parts of the country where I am from, often there is a half-step of hesitation in reply. It is as if I've admitted to some malady, and they are tempted to express their regrets.

The likeness of my city in the popular media has been particularly ugly in recent years. However, I believe I would see a similar reaction if I said I was from Buffalo, Detroit, Pittsburgh or any of a number of other cities in the northeast quarter of the United States that are associated with heavy industry.

The template for characterizing one of these cities goes something like this: The city is dirty and burnt-out—it saw its best days back when manufacturing was in favor. Now the inhabitants creep across a concrete wasteland, enduring a bland existence interrupted only by the occasional riot. The city's brightest and most talented can only yearn for escape to some brighter and more hopeful place.

From the ground, the view is much different. Indeed, from inside, the view of one of these cities resembles that of almost any other American population center. The sky is blue; the land is green; the people are active, optimistic and varied in their backgrounds, ambitions and pursuits; and the city struggles with how to bridge its history to its future—just as it always has.

The city provides an ample setting for a rich and accomplished life. This city, too, is a place that it's possible to love.

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