For the past 8 years I have spent the first 8 days of June in Cincinnati, Ohio scoring AP Human Geography Exams. Most of my friends and family think I am crazy, but scoring AP Human Geography exams has been one of the highlights of my summer for 12 years (1 year in Clemson, South Carolina, 3 years in Lincoln, Nebraska and the past 8 years in Cincinnati, Ohio).
Cincinnati of today is much different from Cincinnati of 8 years ago. My first trip to Cincinnati during 2010 we were told not to venture too far from the hotel and convention center. There were only a few restaurants open and not much to do in the city after work hours. We did not get an opportunity in these early years to see much of the city, in fact there was very little within walking distance of our convention center.
One of the places we did frequent those first few years was Fountain Square, home of the WKRP in Cincinnati fountain. I watched the show as a child and it was really cool to see the fountain in action. Fountain Square is also the sight of Cincinnati’s celebration of National Donut Day, one of my favorite days of the year.
Fast forward to 2017 and as a geographer, I have come to love all the city has to offer. It has been a learning experience to watch so many human geography concepts in action over the years. AP Human Geography teachers could use Cincinnati as a case study to teach the entire urbanization curriculum.
Cultural Landscape — Professional sports and the arts influence the cultural landscape of Cincinnati. The Bengals and Reds Stadiums are significant landmarks on the landscape. The pride in both teams can be seen all over the city.
There has also been a revitalization of the arts, with the addition of murals and art installations around the city.
Gentrification — Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine area is rich in German heritage, settled by German immigrants in the 1830s. It was a rich and vibrant community for decades. World War II and anti-German sentiment led to a change in the neighborhood as those of German descent left the area and most of the German influence was removed, including the changing of all German street names. Over time the neighborhood was neglected and in 2009 it was named one of the most dangerous areas in the United States. Since then, money and time has been invested in the region and many of buildings have been renovated. Restaurants and shops line the streets, former German breweries have been opened again and the Music Hall and Washington Park have been renovated and are now in integral part of the community.
The revitalization of Over the Rhine is not with out its critics. Original residents have been displaced as property values have gone up. Rent is so high that many who work in the area cannot afford to live there any longer. Renovations don’t always protect the original architecture. It is a good case study of the pros and cons of gentrification.
For more information on the revitalization of Over the Rhine, try this article from Politico Magazine.
Some of my favorite Over The Rhine establishments
Senate — poutine and gourmet hot dogs — YUM
Arnold’s Bar and Grill — great Chicken and Waffles — Cincinnati’s oldest tavern.
The Eagle — the BEST fried chicken and collards greens
Rhinegeist Brewery — A great rooftop to view Cincinnati
Mixed Use Development –Cincinnati is home to the headquarters of Kroger and the small remaining downtown Kroger store is scheduled to be demolished in 2019 when Kroger opens a new store in an 18 story mixed use development. The development will contain retail, apartments and parking. This new downtown grocery store will provide a wider variety of grocery options, eliminating a lack of grocery access in the downtown area. There are also plans for the new Kroger location to be located on or near the new street car line, the Cincinnati Bell Connector. This will give even more residents access to the grocery store helping to eliminate food deserts in the Cincinnati area.
The best part of experiencing the changes in Cincinnati over the past 8 years is that I have been able to share them with my students. I use the experiences I have and the pictures I take to explain human geography concepts to them. Once they learn these are “real” stories and pictures they have a connection to the place or event because of my first person accounts. Don’t underestimate the power of using your own personal experiences to connect and teach geographic concepts to your students. Your pictures and stories just might be the hook that helps students understand a variety of geographic concepts.