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01/09/20 03:35 AM #4464    


Jerry Ochs

I do not wish to tempt fate by stating I am "dying" to learn about the aborted scheme to turn Cincinnati's canals into a subway system, but I sure would like to know more.  Professor Spiess?

01/09/20 10:28 AM #4465    


Gene Stern

I would like to post the WKRC short clip of myDad from his 102nd Birthday. How do I post a video to our site?

01/09/20 01:36 PM #4466    


David Buchholz

Gene, Richard can probably give you a more complete answer, but here are two possibilities:  one, do you see the little window at the top of the "add response" bar?  Here it is.    At the end of the second row in the little box

with a flag there is an icon of a chain.  If you click on the chain you will be able to paste the URL of the video as a link on the WHHS site.  People can click on the  blue text of the link and go straight to the video. That's how I post additional photographs of China, etc.,  Second, and this is something again that Richard can confirm, you can click on the little window of mountains and sun in the first row in the box adjacent to the word "Source."  That will allow you to upload a photograph, and I'm assuming, a video, too.  If that works then the video will be on the WHHS site.  If not, the link will definitely work.

01/09/20 03:57 PM #4467    


Paul Simons

 Thanks Dave for some items I didn’t know about. Also Gene if it’s on YouTube you can click on the very last icon of the last row which says “YouTube” in red and black. That will open a text box and when you paste the YouTube URL there the YouTube opening still frame will appear in your post. I’d demo this but unfortunately it doesn’t work with my iPhone.

01/09/20 04:03 PM #4468    


Paul Simons

Just pasting the YouTube URL into the text box the icon labeled “Source” opens up - 

Test of Source link.

From a jam last night on a tune probably originally cut a few blocks from WHHS in the late 50’s - early ‘60’s that I put up on YouTube. 




01/09/20 06:26 PM #4469    


Jeff Daum

Nicely done Paul- particularly the runs!  Thanks for sharing.

01/09/20 08:37 PM #4470    


Paul Simons

Thanks Jeff you made my day! 

01/09/20 09:31 PM #4471    


Jeff Daum

Paul, my pleasure indeed!  An excellent way for me unwind after a long day covering CES.

01/10/20 06:51 PM #4472    


Paul Simons

The Consumer Electronics Show Jeff? I bet that was HOT!! Some years ago they’d have computer shows - you probably went to them - great deals on SCSI terminators, ZIP drives, PCI modem cards, and of course 10 different guys selling 168 pin RAM. Remember? But now necessity calls and we have to get Gene Stern’s video onto this site. I had luck using the “Source” icon. Any thoughts?

01/10/20 07:24 PM #4473    


Jeff Daum

Actually Paul, my first adjective would be 'exhausting' followed by 'sensory-overload' laugh rather than 'hot' to describe the modern CES show- over 180,000 people viewing exhibits and demonstrations and sales pitches at 11 venues in Las Vegas!  I covered the show from last Sunday's press opening through today.  Just beginning to edit the images, then I have a bunch of tech interviews to write-up, etc.  Hopefully will get through it all by this weekend, before heading off to the Big Island.

I tried searching on WKRC for Gene's clip on the 4th, but came up empty.  Gene, if you have a link and still can't get it to load here, shoot me an email or pm with it and I'll be glad to see if I can get it working.

01/11/20 11:26 AM #4474    


Gene Stern

Jeff :  Thanks. Send me your email address and I will forward this year's WKRC clip and the clips from WCPO and WLWT from my Dad's 100 th.

01/11/20 01:22 PM #4475    


Jeff Daum

OK Gene, just did.  Cheers,


01/12/20 12:01 AM #4476    


Philip Spiess

Per the request of Jerry Ochs  [Folks, I apologize that this is as long as it is, but I thought you might want to have the entire story]:


The story of the Cincinnati “phantom” subway (the largest abandoned subway system in the United States), more accurately known as the Cincinnati Rapid Transit System, began – perhaps – several centuries ago, when the Native Americans traveling through the area from the Ohio River to the Great Lakes (and vice versa) made, over time, a permanent path along the eastern side of the Mill Creek and thence northward up the Mill Creek Valley.  This well-traveled route between Cincinnati and Lake Erie was augmented centuries later when the relatively new settlers in the Miami country (mostly from New Jersey) decided to build a canal which would connect Ohio River commerce with the Lake Erie waterway.  Thus in 1825 work was begun on the Miami & Erie Canal; it would be completed in 1845.  The canal itself saw its heyday largely before the Civil War (it was unprofitable by 1856); after the war, the railways had become the dominant transportation force (using that same Native American pathway up the Mill Creek Valley), and by 1877 the canal (which was officially controlled by the state of Ohio) was abandoned by the city.  By the 1890s it was a sluggish, infested waterway, clogged in places (such as at Mohawk and Brighton) with sunken canal boats and miscellaneous debris, and in other places drained entirely of its fetid water.

But before the canal closed forever in 1925, just one hundred years after it was begun, it had an Indian-summer resurgence as a hot-weather playground for downtown Cincinnati boys.  As perhaps a precursor of the Walnut Hills High School boys’ swimming classes of our own time, in the hot summer days the (mostly) prepubescent boys of Cincinnati would strip down naked, leaving their clothes on the sidewalk, and plunge into the cooling, if muddy, waters of the Miami & Erie Canal, mostly in the blocks between Sycamore Street, where the Canal turned at the Alms & Doepke department store, and Plum Street, toward which the canal headed, running straight west until blocked by the great Lion Brewery at Plum Street, whence it turned north again to run behind Cincinnati Music Hall (there were Venetian gondolas on this part of the canal during the Centennial of the Ohio Valley & Central States Exposition in 1888), and on toward the hills of Clifton (the other end of the canal ran down to the Ohio River through a series of locks, largely along the line of Eggleston Avenue). Inevitably, young scoundrels would tie their fellow swimmers’ clothing in knots, so that when the local constabulary (or girls) arrived to chase the miscreants out of the water and on home, it would be some time before they could get their clothes undone and back on – or else they went home naked.  (You can read about all that in the 1929 book, Playmates of the Towpath.)

The somnolent, and nearly moribund, canal served other forms of “merriment” as well.  My own father, who spent his early years growing up in the Over-the-Rhine district before moving with his family to Corryville, stated that the family knew when the local dairy had been watering the milk before delivering it to the house if they found a frog from the canal in their milk pail (you can see why folks drank plenty of alcohol in those days).  And in that halcyon period before the horrors of Prohibition struck beer-drinking Cincinnati, a popular song that ran around the many German beer gardens in town was:  “I stood upon the old Canal bridge / At the midnight hour, / And fed the little fishes there below -- / Because the last eleven beers I had were sour.” (You can also see why Prohibition came along.)

But all things, good and bad, must come to an end, and so it was with the Miami & Erie Canal.  Its demise was already predicted as early as 1884, for in that year the Cincinnati Graphic printed a drawing showing trains running underground in the bed of the old canal, which was covered by a street.  (That street would be, after 1928, Central Parkway.)  By the early years of the 20th century, the Miami & Erie Canal, which ran through the heart of the city, was so derelict that it was being used as a garbage dump; the areas which still retained water had become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and water rats.

And so, in 1910, a plan was developed under Cincinnati mayor Henry T. Hunt to build a sixteen-mile “rapid transit” rail system that would run in a loop around the city, partly utilizing the bed of the old Miami & Erie Canal to run underground, and partly running above ground elsewhere.  Thus in 1912 a Rapid Transit Commission was set up by Hamilton County to organize and execute such a plan.  The plan finally selected was to cost $12 million, but this was later cut to $6 million, and the project was put before the voters in 1916. The measure passed, but because of America’s entry into World War I (1917), when capital bonds were not permitted to be issued and construction materials went strictly for the war effort, work did not begin on the project until early 1920; by that time the costs of construction had doubled.  That was also when national Prohibition started, and the city of Cincinnati lost significant tax revenues from its many breweries, distilleries, distributors, saloons, and beer gardens, which were put out of business by the 18th Amendment.  Further, inflation following the Great War was on the rise, so funding for the subway system was in serious jeopardy.

But before we consider the project’s further demise, let us review where the Rapid Transit system was to have gone.  The route was to begin at Fourth and Walnut Streets and follow the old canal bed (with a few exceptions) to Carthage Pike, the underground subway portion extending from the heart of downtown to approximately Hopple Street in Camp Washington.  From Carthage Pike it would curve across the northern suburbs of the city to Oakley along Maple Avenue and Duck Creek Road, then cut down the Lake Avenue ravine and tunnel under Owl’s Nest Park, Madison Road, and the Beechwood subdivision.  Above ground again, a concrete trestle was to carry the system along the Ohio River bluffs to the Eden Park Reservoir.  A steel elevated-rail portion would then carry the tracks above Third, Martin, Pearl, and Walnut Streets downtown, changing again from elevated rail to subway on Walnut Street between Third and Fourth Streets (!).  Stations were built at Race Street, Liberty Street, Linn Street, and Brighton Place (all underground and still intact), and at Marshall Street, Ludlow Avenue (under the Ludlow Avenue Viaduct), Clifton Avenue, and Reading Road (all above ground and now demolished).  The system was to have been a high-speed surface line in the northern suburbs between Crawford Station and Oakley Station.

After some delays, the two-mile downtown underground portion of the system was completed by 1923; however, construction of the subway had caused the foundations of buildings along the route to crack, notably in Brighton, so the system was now saddled with costly lawsuits.  Further, soaring inflation had eaten up the budget, so the rail loop was accordingly reduced in size, the eastern portion being dropped entirely. Still, new tunnels and stations were being built as late as 1926 and 1927, although squabbles with St. Bernard and Norwood (still both independent cities within what has been called by Iola Hessler “Hamilton County’s Patchwork Quilt”) caused prolonged construction negotiations.

In 1926, the reform mayor of Cincinnati, Murray Seasongood, had the city take over the Rapid Transit project from the county; he projected that another $10 million dollars would be needed to complete the system as it was now planned.  However, following World War I, the rapid rise of the automobile (particularly after the Federal Aid Highway Act was passed in 1921, establishing our national system of highways) brought into question the need for an expensive short-line commuter rail service for Cincinnati, instead suggesting that a more modern system of roadways (such as the parkways being promoted by the nationwide “City Beautiful” movement) was what was needed.

Accordingly, Central Parkway was built atop the underground tunnels of the Rapid Transit system, opening in 1928 (other parkways in Cincinnati, such as Torrence Parkway, followed). Extending from the Alms & Doepke building to the canal’s water supply and boat turn-around basin at the western end of Ludlow Avenue in Clifton, at the foot of Mount Storm, the Parkway was spaced along its length with central tree-lined esplanades that featured the circular walled air-intake ducts for the subway system in their center (these disappeared when more traffic lanes were added to the Parkway in the late 1960s or early 1970s).  In the early 1950s, the marshy Canal basin at the northern end of Central Parkway in Clifton – also known as Fanning’s Dry Dock – was turned into Trechter Memorial Stadium of Central High School (later Courter Technical High School), the place where Walnut Hills High School played most of its football games.  The stadium, which later served the state’s Cincinnati Technical Institute (established 1970; now the Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, established 1994), was torn down in 1993 to make way for a college parking garage.  Ironically, part of this land, which once served as a water-supply basin for the Miami & Erie Canal, has now been turned (2010) into the state college’s Biodetention Basin for its sustainable storm water management system!

So what happened after 1928?  Well, first of all, the Great Depression hit in October of 1929 – that pretty much put an end to finishing a now-questionable project with such a steep price tag attached.  (The original city bonds and debts of the Rapid Transit system were finally paid off in 1966, to the tune of something a little over $13 million.)  Various plans for use of the tunnels were bruited in the 1930s, but none was implemented.  In 1948, the Master Plan of the City of Cincinnati finally “mothballed” (well, “deep-sixed”) the subway system for good, although many ideas have cropped up over the years since for using the tunnels:  a bomb shelter (a meager one was built at the Liberty Street station in the 1960s); a wine cellar (proposed by Meier’s Wine Cellars of Silverton, circa 1966); an underground shopping and nightclub district (proposed by Nick Clooney in the 1970s); a site for the shooting of Hollywood movies (proposed by the city itself in the 1990s); and, uh, rapid transit.  Most of these proposals fell through due to insurance and safety issues, but the rapid transit scheme was formally proposed again in 2002:  a regional light-rail system plan, using the subway tunnels, called MetroMoves, was put before Hamilton County voters at a cost of $2.6 million; it would have taken thirty years to build.  Voters defeated this proposal by a 2-to-1 ratio vote (one can see why).  (But wait!  Somehow an underground portion of it, on the Cincinnati waterfront near the stadiums, was built, called the “Riverfront Transportation Center”; it is used, I am told, maybe once a year, for all it cost to build.)

Nevertheless, any real prospect of rejuvenating and finishing Cincinnati’s Rapid Transit System disappeared in 1957, when the Cincinnati portion of Interstate 75 (originally called the “Millcreek Expressway”) and the Norwood Lateral highway were constructed; they followed much of the canal’s route (that same centuries-old Indian path up the Mill Creek Valley) and used much of the original Rapid Transit loop’s right-of way (which still existed), including the curve toward Oakley.  In the process, a large segment of the underground subway passage and all of the above-ground concrete passenger stations, such as the ones at Marshall Street in Camp Washington and over Clifton Avenue above Winton Place Station, were demolished.

However, “remains” remain.  The subway tunnels, built in the 1920s out of the fairly new technology of reinforced concrete – and pioneered in Cincinnati in 1894 with Fritz von Emperger's Melan Arch Bridge (still there) on Cliff Drive over Eden Park Drive between the Eden Park Water Tower and Krohn Conservatory (a technology widely developed in Germany before and after World War I, and exploited by the Nazis in World War II bunkers and fortresses) – apparently are very intact (yes, the stations do look like Nazi bunkers; I remember the above-ground ones very well, and they were ugly!)  But the city has to spend several million dollars annually to maintain the tunnels (why they feel the need to clean out graffiti annually, I don’t know) for two reasons:  (1) Central Parkway sits on top of the tunnels; and (2) in the 1950s a massive 52-inch water main was laid in the main tunnel and optical-fiber cables now run in the tunnels as well.  Two or three gated entrances to the subway tunnels still exist, although others have been concreted over.  Annual ticketed tours of the tunnels by the Cincinnati Heritage Programs (sold out within hours) were given until recently; they were suspended in 2016, due to a 2015 risk assessment.

So where does all of this leave us with Jerry’s initial question?  Many people and sources will tell you that the failure and abandonment of the Cincinnati Rapid Transit System was due to the corruption of Boss Cox’s “Cincinnati Machine” and/or the later missteps of the Charterite reform party under Murray Seasongood.  For many years, I myself believed that political financial corruption was somehow involved in the subway system’s abandonment (but Cox’s “machine” was already a dead issue when the subway planning began in earnest, and the Charterite Party was never corrupt, but reforming).  But the detailed evidence I have presented here for your consideration points, I believe, to the sole cause being constant ill luck with both national and local economics, as well as construction supply, from 1917 to 1947, to say nothing of rapidly changing transportation technologies, needs, and public desires.  (And no, the Cincinnati subway tunnels are not haunted – just occasionally inhabited by the homeless and the curious.)  As my father used to say in “Corryville Dutch”:  “So geht es alles in eine fremde Stadt!”  

01/12/20 07:37 AM #4477    


Paul Simons

Thanks Phil for the history of something near and dear to me. Growing up in Bond Hill I would frequently ride my bicycle to what was known only as “Rapid Transit” and it was a concrete bridge across Paddock Road about a quarter mile north of Tennessee Ave. and the open grass right of way on either end of it. The right of way was never paved until it became part of Rt 561, the famous Norwood Lateral. The whole thing still brings back memories of the Twin Drive-In and the Frisch’s restaurant that used to be there. I will travel that road at some point every year on the way somewhere, when visiting Cincinnati or as some call it God’s Chili Parlor, since there’s a Skyline, Gold Star, Chili Time not far from anywhere in that town. Of course some prefer God’s Hamburger Stand because Frisch’s and White Castle are still going strong and others - these millennials who relate more to recent trends prefer God’s Bar-B-Que Pit due to the new purveyors of that delicacy City Barbeque and Jim Dandy’s. Anyway going the other way from the concrete bridge, towards the actual Mill Creek was and still is I think Grace Chemical Company. They used to dump something that looked like the light green glass that Coke bottles used to be made of, but it wasn’t glass, wasn’t as hard or dangerous as glass. It wasn’t anything more than something for kids on bicycles to be curious about. Anyway again thanks for the history of our town, Porkopolis, a place where pigs really can fly, or as some call it God’s Beer Garden.


01/12/20 09:13 PM #4478    


Jerry Ochs

A million thanks to Phil for a deep yet digestible history lesson about Cincinnati.  He should have been a teacher.cheeky

01/13/20 08:42 AM #4479    


Bruce Bittmann

Phillip, I don't respond too often, but I truly enjoy your posts about the city.  I grew up in the 'burbs' of Kenwood -  less than a 1/2 mile from the Montgomery Rd and Kenwood Rd intersection (it was a four way stop sign).  Not exactly the center of the city.  Actually, it wasn't even in Cincinnati!  I don't remember getting to many of the city's parks and other places until High School.  While I did get to Clifton to visit my paternal grandparents, and Norwood for my aunt & uncle, as well as my maternal grandparents when I was growing up, they were gone before I got know them.  So, please keep the history alive!  And, this goes to the others who add much to the thread.

01/13/20 10:10 AM #4480    


Linda Karpen (Nachman)

I echo Bruce! Phil (and all others), your fascinating knowledge offers a common thread for us all to share. So many memories keep popping up...thank you!! yes

01/13/20 08:47 PM #4481    


Jeff Daum

Here are three videos of Gene's dad,  Dr. Victor Stern celebrating his 100th and then his 102nd birthdays.


Gene's original message regarding this terrific celebration is located at message #4459.

01/14/20 02:18 AM #4482    


Gene Stern

Thank you Jeff, for putting my Father's videos on YouTube and then allowing our classmates the opportunity to view them on our Class web site!!

01/14/20 08:28 AM #4483    


Jeff Daum

It was my pleasure Gene.  Glad I could help.

01/14/20 01:49 PM #4484    


Paul Simons

Hmmm...sterilizing the stomach with vodka...I'll have to try that. Seems to work for your Dad, Gene. Amazing, my folks are from that part of the world as well, the videos remind me of my Dad and Uncle, his brother. Somehow that hair stays. It gets grey but it stays there. I was lucky enough to get some of that genetic material myself. Well, Congratulations all around!! Waiter - one bottle of Slivovitz (plum brandy) please!!

01/15/20 11:36 PM #4485    


Philip Spiess

Paul:  When I feel a sore throat coming on, I often down straight Vodka, thinking that alcohol kills germs.  It may not work the way I intend, but enough of it sends me to bed and to sleep, which works wonders.  And we (descended) Germans know "Plum Brandy" as "Zwetschgenwasser," a significant amount of which I had in 1970 at the private home where we were staying to see the late medieval Oberammergau Passionspiele (a drama of the Passion of Jesus Christ, with comparative Old and New Testament scriptural passages, sworn to be performed regularly by this German town after its being saved from the Plague), performed now every ten years (much beer consumed during the luncheon intermission).

01/15/20 11:37 PM #4486    


Ann Shepard (Rueve)

Gene, what a marvelous celebration for your father!  That you share the same birth date is something special!  
You are very fortunate to have this amazing man still with you. 
Jeff, thanks for putting the tributes on You Tube and on the class website!

01/16/20 01:16 PM #4487    


Paul Simons

Ok Phil - there it is - Slivovitz Plum Brandy. Depending on various currently unknown unknowns perhaps we shall all have a swig at the next reunion! 

01/18/20 06:59 PM #4488    


Philip Spiess

Rig a swig and I'll be there!

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