Saturday, November 22, 2014
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Revitalizing Neighborhoods: Over-the-Rhine

Metro Jacksonville visits what is believed to be the largest most intact urban historic district in the United States: Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine

Published June 21, 2012 in Learning From      7 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


About Over-the-Rhine

Over-the-Rhine, sometimes shortened to OTR, is a neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is believed to be the largest, most intact urban historic district in the United States. Over-the-Rhine was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 with 943 contributing buildings. It contains the largest collection of Italianate architecture in the United States, and is an example of an intact 19th-century urban neighborhood. Its architectural significance has been compared to the French Quarter in New Orleans, the historic districts of Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina, and Greenwich Village in New York City. Besides being a historic district, the neighborhood has an arts community that is unparalleled within Cincinnati. Over-the-Rhine is bordered by the neighborhoods of Downtown, CUF, Mount Auburn, Pendleton, and the West End. Over-the-Rhine was voted best Cincinnati neighborhood in CityBeat's Best of Cincinnati 2011 and 2012.

A Brief History of Over-the-Rhine

The Miami-Erie Canal in Over-the-Rhine, before it was drained in 1920.  The canal once connected the Ohio River in Cincinnati with Lake Erie in Toledo.  The canal was drained for a downtown subway project.  When the subway project ran out of money in 1925, the tunnels were covered and replaced with Central Parkway.  The subway is recognized as the largest abandoned subway tunnel in the United States.

The term "Over-the-Rhine" originates from the reference to the Miami-Erie Canal as the Rhine River of Germany. The revolutions of 1848 in the German states brought thousands of German refugees to the United States. In Cincinnati they settled on the outskirts of the city, north of Miami and Erie Canal where there was an abundance of cheap rental units.  Not subject to municipal law, the neighborhood attracted German immigrants, bootleggers, saloons, gambling houses, dance halls, brothels, and others who were not tolerated in the City of Cincinnati.

The Christian Moerlein Brewery around the turn of the 20th century.  Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

German entrepreneurs gradually built up a profitable brewing industry and by 1880 the city was recognized as the "Beer Capital of the World" with Over-the-Rhine its center of brewing.  With over 32,000 residents per square mile and poor sanitation, epidemics of cholera, small pox, and typhoid fever were common.  By 1915, more prosperous residents left the dense city for newer suburbs, while new immigrants were attracted to fast-growing industrial cities in the Great Lakes region.  The largest economic blow came in 1917, when Prohibition abruptly shut down Over-the-Rhine's 30 German-American owned breweries, sending the neighborhood into decades of economic decline.  Ironically, while this decline prevented new development, it helped preserve much of the neighborhood's historic architecture and integrity.

Looking north along Vine Street in 1973. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

In 2001, the neighborhood was home to the Cincinnati Riots, the largest urban disorder in the United States since the Los Angeles riots of 1992.  This event effectively killed the neighborhood's revitalization of the late 1990s.  In 2001 there were an estimated 500 vacant buildings in Over-the-Rhine with 2,500 residential units. Of those residential units 278 were condemned as uninhabitable.  In February 2006 the city reported that Over-the-Rhine had the highest crime rate of the city's neighborhoods.  However, the number of serious crimes plateaued from 2002 to 2005, after which crime began decreasing at a rapid pace.

Recent revitalization efforts in the neighborhood have caused crime to relocate to other pockets of the community.  For example, in July 2009 a rise in prostitution was reported along McMicken Avenue; police said that new development was pushing the women out of other parts of Over-the-Rhine into a smaller area.

 1 2 3 NEXT 



June 19, 2012, 07:10:13 AM
Wow beautiful neighborhood.  I hope it can be saved and fully restored like Milwaukee's 3rd Ward!  Too much beer history there to let it go :)


June 19, 2012, 08:58:44 AM
that picture from the 1970's is amazing.


June 19, 2012, 11:30:49 AM
Lake, if you haven't already moved on, Cincinnati Union Terminal is WELL WORTH A VISIT! Get ready for an ART DECO WOW!


June 19, 2012, 11:33:55 AM
I'm back in Jax now.  That wasn't my first visit to Cincinnati.  I've stopped by the terminal and have even put images of it on this forum over the years.  It's a great building.  It's unfortunate, the majority of the West End was destroyed by the construction of I-75, which now severs it from the rest of Cincinnati's urban core.


June 19, 2012, 11:56:10 AM
It is a Candy Store of Historic Buildings !   

Nice article !


June 28, 2012, 11:49:03 AM

Just wanted give you guys some quick notes-

One crucial part of the story of how OTR got its name seems to always be left out.  When the canal was there, splitting the city in half, the through streets were connected by pedestrian and traffic bridges.  A person had to cross 'over' the canal, into the neighborhood, an almost incluse German one, hence "Over-the-Rhine."  (the name was also derogatory at the time).

The store front "Mica 12/v" pictured on the 3rd page is at the corner of 12th and Vine.  It was once the most  called upon addresses in the city, the state, and nation, but is now one of the safest corners in the city.

And, as gentrification has taken its grip, there is much more development geared toward the poor, the elderly, diversity, and homeless.  OTR and Cincy are truly in a renaissance.  Cheers!


July 12, 2012, 11:01:04 AM
Over the Rhines new expansion of Washington Park opened last week.

Note the playground for kids (soemthing that could be added inexpensively at Hemming) and the new 'concert green' to be used for events like music and movies (something Hemming already has built in near the Skyway station).

Hemming is really an easy fix, and it doesnt even need anywhere close to the investment cities are making in places like Washington Park.
View forum thread
Welcome Guest. You must be logged in to comment on this story.

What are the benefits of having a account?
  • Share your opinion by posting comments on stories that interest you.
  • Stay up to date on all of the latest issues affecting your neighborhood.
  • Create a network of friends working towards a better Jacksonville.
Register now
Already have an account? Login now to comment.