A Close Call With a Reckless Semi-Driver

The intersection I visited to capture an image I thought would be interesting. (Image courtesy of Google Earth)

I spend the majority of my day working on the website. It’s been that way for years, and it’s only gotten busier since taking a leadership role back in August. However, there are unexpected pockets of down time that randomly crop up every so often, and when that happens, I rarely use it for anything useful. Truth be told, it’s largely because I’ve forgotten what I enjoy doing and end up napping or endlessly scrolling through toxic social media feeds to fill time.

Yesterday, though, I had a chance to spend two hours in the middle of the day doing what I like. Determined not to waste it, I found an eBike at the nearby RedBike station and headed to Queensgate. I had a photo opportunity in mind and there was a pleasant break in the weather.

After 15 minutes, I’d ridden to the intersection of Merhing Way and Freeman Avenue in Queensgate. A small section of 5th Street still exists there, and there’s an interesting view of Carew Tower right above some overgrowth in the foreground. Thinking I could adequately capture it the way I’d envisioned with a 24-120mm, I attempted to make my photo.

The lackluster photo that really puts the “meh” in Mehring Way.

Long story short, I needed a lens with a longer focal length than the one I’d brought to do what I wanted. The image turned out to be lackluster and not commensurate with the perspective I had in my head. No worries, though; I was in Queensgate on a bike and there was more to see. I had two hours, afterall.

I then proceeded to travel north on Freeman toward the Police HIstorical Museum at 8th and Freeman where a mural I wanted to photographed was plastered on one of its exterior walls. It was about a three block ride from where I’d been. Traffic was light, so I rode on the street as I normally do when I’m on a bike. As I passed the 6th Street exit, a large semi truck was rounding the curve to get onto Freeman. I sped up to get ahead of it so I wasn’t breathing exhaust when the truck accelerated up the bridge ahead of me.

I was going about 15 mph and pedaling as fast as I could. Where I needed to go would’ve taken about 20 seconds to get to as I crested the bridge. Freeman is four lanes across, two of which are dedicated to the direction myself and semi were going at the time. The semi, apparently too eager to get to where it needed to go, decided to pass me, but instead of going into the other lane where I wasn’t riding, it passed me IN THE SAME LANE as we went over the bridge.

I am not exaggerating: the semi was so close, I could’ve reached out and touched it if I’d leaned far enough left. In all seriousness, it was somewhere between three and four feet from my shoulder. The thought of bouncing beneath the massive tires breathing on my legs mere feet away instantly entered my mind and I froze. It was incredibly loud and I squinted involuntarily. The semi sped up to pass me, but feeling the length of that truck—so close and hot—felt like it took a full minute to pass when, in reality, only about seven seconds or so probably elapsed from grill to hitch.

The bridge where the semi passed me. I was heading to the red marker. (Image courtesy of Google Earth)

Whatever fury I felt was neutralized by the fear in that moment. But as the semi appeared in full in front of me and I realized everything was over, the fury boiled over again. I raised a what the hell, man? hand and got off the road to the right as soon as I could. I couldn’t believe this person driving this deadly machine could be so careless and in THAT much of a rush to put a stranger’s life in danger like that. I was obeying the law and not riding on a one-lane street. There was NO reason for this driver to do this.

Adrenaline coursed through my veins and I tried my best to stop from becoming outwardly angry. I was shaking and actively trying to calm down. To make matters worse, the semi was stopped at the stoplight just 50 feet away. Its insistence on passing me was for NOTHING.

I couldn’t look at it. I couldn’t approach and scream at the driver. Anyone that reckless, I reasoned, could put my life in danger again if they had a weapon. I just parked my bike and got my camera out to take a photo of the mural in front of me. As I raised the camera to my eye, I could barely level it because I was still shaking. I went through with the photos anyway, relying on the technology’s VR to stabilize the images.

All of this is to say: Cincinnati is NOT bike friendly. The lack of bike lanes forcing cyclists into traffic with reckless drivers, the hostility toward cyclists, and the lack of vision from our leaders to protect cyclists makes this place a bad place to ride. And I really, really hate admitting that.

My whole job is to build up Cincinnati and find its strengths—to shine a spotlight on that which deserves highlighting. But I can’t pretend that Cincinnati is anything but unfriendly to those who ride in it. An unprotected bike lane on Central Parkway doesn’t make us worthy of that accolade.

Sure, some of this vitriol is a direct result of an emotional response to having my life needlessly threatened for the sake of getting to a stoplight three seconds faster, but isn’t that reason enough to raise hell? At what point do we look at the facts and address the fact that Cincinnati is hostile toward cyclists?

A Foray Into Film

After recently interviewing a local man who has over 175 vintage cameras collected in his East Side basement, I decided it’s finally time to start into film photography. Several friends of mine have been doing it for varying amounts of time, and their work slowly inspired me bit by bit when I’d see it. “You’ll learn to love the art form anew” and “it’ll recalibrate how you shoot” are arguments I’ve often heard from them. I knew at some point I would bite the bullet, but I didn’t expect it so soon. Then again, why not now? What am I waiting for, exactly?

After inheriting my mother’s old Olympus OM10, I bought a new battery and two rolls of Kodak Tri-X 400 B&W and ran through a roll in a couple of days. My friends were right. It’s fun taking your time and not knowing if it turned out or not. I shoot slowly using a DSLR as is because I want to get it right in the camera, but I shot even slower with the OM10. It’s satisfying to live with the image without running it through Lightroom afterward. The imperfection analog offers is liberating and tests your ability to make a photo better than digital does.

No one will process Tri-X 400 locally (if there are, I simply don’t know about them), so I sent them to The Darkroom in San Clemente, CA for developing. I received the digital files days later.

I think I have a little bit of a light leak (half the roll has a highlight line through it), so I’ll need to inspect the case when I open it again to see if I can replace the seal. Also, I might need to have the camera recalibrated because most of my shots are slightly fuzzy.

Below are some highlights from the roll. The only thing I did to these was resize them down to 3000 pixels on their longest edge and straighten a few of them that were barely off balance. I did a decent job making sure they were level when I took them, but some of them needed very slight alteration nonetheless. No corrections were made to exposure, highlights, shadows, or anything else. Living with the settings made in the moment is key to the integrity of the process.

Descriptions for each photo were added.

The Many Faces of Union Terminal

Union Terminal Landor Projection (for web)-155.jpg

For the grand reopening of the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, Landor Associates produced 15-minute, looping light shows that were projected onto the face of the building for a solid week beginning on Veteran’s Day. The light shows began at dusk and played until 10 PM every night. November 17th was the final night you could see them for yourself. The shows had a decidedly BLINK-like quality to them, although that’s probably due to the exclusivity of seeing projection mapping at that event (RIP, Lumenocity).

Though I got to Union Terminal too late to photograph the Veteran’s Day-themed show, I returned to the building every following night to create photos. I stood just behind the Terminal’s entrance sign and used a Tamron 150-600mm G2 on a tripod (at 150mm) in the same position every night. Some nights were cold, others were wet, and a couple were relatively comfortable/dry. For the nights I had to shoot in drizzle, I used a rain sleeve to protect the gear and it worked beautifully. That was my first foray into using one even though I’ve owned it for a couple of years.

This project was interesting because I’d never seen Union Terminal used as a canvas like this before. The parts of the daily shows that integrated the curvature of the dome into their design worked the best, in my opinion. The simple scrolling photos that would slide from one side to the other weren’t overly memorable. I’ve omitted a lot of the second day’s show because it featured a large amount of kaleidoscoping photos of the Terminal during construction that were difficult to make sense of in the moment.

If you missed seeing it in person, below are stills from each day’s show. They aren’t in any particular order.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Westcott House

Two weeks ago, a friend and I drove to Springfield, OH to see the Westcott House. A Prairie Style mansion built in 1908, the Westcott House was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for a rich couple who had moved to Springfield from Richmond, IN. The two-story house features a pergola that connects to what was once a garage and attached stable. The whole property is elevated slightly above the street, giving it this air of superiority (though the front door is technically at street level below the house). It was subdivided in the 1940s, fell into disrepair by the 1990s, and was sold to a foundation that successfully restored it to its original look in 2005. It's been open to the public for tours ever since.

This is the first Frank Lloyd Wright home I've ever had the privilege of photographing. What strikes me most about Wright's design is how low the ceilings feel compared to other houses built around the same time. I'm no stranger 12-foot ceilings bedecked with elaborate trim and stenciled designs, and this house has none of that. Aside from some geometric woodwork and a blocky motif shared between the house and it's furnishings, there isn't much in the way of overt extravagance. It feels odd, but not in a bad way. Had this place been built in 1950, I wouldn't bat an eye. When we walked through it, I understood all over again how Wright's influence over the following century of American architecture took form.

The skylight above the second floor foyer adds a nice touch of natural—albeit harshly colored—light to an otherwise dim upper floor. Had the house not been designed with so many windows, it'd feel like more of a man-made cave than a proper dwelling. Bedrooms vary in size, with the patriarch's and matriarch's rooms being the largest (they had separate rooms). Small bathrooms, closets designed with built-in wardrobes, a sleeping balcony (we take air conditioning for granted), servant's quarters and staircase, and a 360-degree view of the surrounding land are all part of the second floor.

The first floor has a staircase that connects the street level front door to the elevated first floor of the house. There, a study with period furniture, a piano and sitting area, a dining table with built-in lamp posts, and a sizable kitchen can be found. The pergola connects a back room and the kitchen to the garage and stables, which now serves as a gift shop and visitor center.


While I shot the house in color, I ultimately chose to make a version of these black and white with a subtle warm hue. I did this because I felt the house demanded an older looking edit due to how hard it tries to preserve its original look. The result, I think, is a pleasant, vintage aesthetic that speaks to Frank Lloyd Wright's turn-of-the-century vision. While I wouldn't apply this type of edit to most of what I shoot, I felt like this particular instance made sense.

If you'd like to see color versions, I put them on Cincinnati Refined.

Recreating Ezra Stoller's Terrace Plaza Hotel Photography

View of the former Terrace Plaza Hotel from Center at 600 Vine on the morning of November 14th, 2017.

View of the former Terrace Plaza Hotel from Center at 600 Vine on the morning of November 14th, 2017.

I've been working with management of the former Terrace Plaza Hotel on a historical documentation project for over a month now. As a years-long fan of the building, it has been on my list of places to photograph because of its importance to the history of our city. Many on the street dismiss it as "ugly," but they're missing what's truly amazing about it: that 5-story brick facade isn't the whole building. An entire world of entertainment, hospitality and fine dining was once perched atop the big box. A world that is now all but gone save for the physical remnants hinting at its past.

But also a world that was photographically documented long before many of us were around to witness it in its prime.

Ezra Stoller was a renowned photographer associated with catalyzing interest in modern and contemporary architecture. Esto, a firm dedicated to archiving architecture of the same style, was founded by Stoller and featured much of his own work. Stoller’s decades of careful, brilliant photography ranged from iconic buildings across the US to scenes of American industry. It should go without saying that he is among my influences; I've been trying more and more to shoot like him.

During the late-40s, Terrace Plaza Hotel was finished and Stoller was there to document Cincinnati’s new Modernist marvel. One half of the photos below were taken right after the hotel opened, giving us a sense of what it was like to visit a Mid-Century Modern masterpiece in the heart of post-war Downtown Cincinnati. Esto’s archival of these photos thankfully preserved the vision of Terrace Plaza Hotel’s heyday. Changes to the building have been made since it first opened, and many of SOM's original designs were altered throughout the years. 

To illustrate the contrast of the hotel’s origins with its current state, I have attempted to step into the shoes of Stoller to recreate his photos nearly 70 years after the hotel first opened. Attention to color palettes was used in the editing of the images. Lighting is often different from the originals, but the perspective is roughly the same. It's an ongoing process.

Esto owns the rights to Stoller's images. These are purely for non-commercial documentation purposes.

BLINK Cincinnati

Yes, I did all four days of BLINK Cincinnati. It was unlike anything I've ever seen in this city. Newspapers reported yesterday that a million people attended. It felt like more.

I am short on words today. BLINK has taken my breath away and with it my ability to articulate the experience. Enjoy the photos below. NOTE: they are lower res to accommodate faster loading.

Cincinnati From The Carew Tower During The Great American Eclipse

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The Great American Eclipse happened today. From the West Coast to the East Coast, the path of the moon’s shadow bisected the country in nearly-even northern and southern halves. According to the extremely-topical website, greatamericaneclipse.com, total eclipses are said to be “unlike anything you’ve seen in your life” and “an amazing celestial coincidence,” even venturing so far as to claim it’s one of the most emotional experiences a person can have. It's written in a language familiar to those who've read old newspapers describing P.T. Barnum’s circus or other fantastical spectacles of passing ages. In a world of ever-advancing technology and ideals, that same loquacious excitement and sensational verbiage is immune to the passage of time.

While it’s no surprise that a website dedicated to this event boasts grandiose claims such as those above, it was, in fact, spectacular. Cincinnati was unfortunately not within the path of totality, but it still experienced 91% of the sun blocked from view by Earth’s moon.

"...And Great Enough in its Magnitude to Overshadow with Canopy ANY TEN SHOWS on THIS CONTINENT"

-Ad from the Cincinnati Enquirer, September 17, 1875

I wasn’t fortunate enough to get eclipse glasses in time for this event due to poor planning on my part. To mitigate remorse, I convinced myself that I wouldn’t have necessarily enjoyed staring directly into a filtered, darkened sun; despite myriad SPF options, I reasoned that a rectangular sunburn around my eyes would have adverse effects on my appearance despite preserving my eyesight to witness history. Vanity, it turns out, adequately serves as a makeshift, shallow excuse to circumvent self-condemnation.

Quietly rueing my life choices, I sought a Plan B. Despite receiving mixed information, reading about the damage DSLRs receive when attempting unprotected shots of the sun ruled out my photography options. Since I didn't know with absolute certainty if my camera would be ruined, I opted to play it safe. But if I couldn’t stare directly into the sun with neither eye nor lens, what on Earth would I do during this historic event?

Then, a bright idea came to me. I would do precisely that: I would look on Earth.

The idea was light years better than photographing the sun. My 6th floor apartment wouldn’t work, though. Greater elevation was needed to properly witness the event’s effects on our landscape. I wanted to see the world from its highest vantage point during the peak of the eclipse at approximately 2:30 PM. Again rueing my life choices for not becoming a helicopter pilot, a solitary option sprung to mind. I hopped the streetcar to Fountain Square with my camera bag in tow.

As the moon slid into position to darken the sun, the button to the 45th floor in the Carew Tower’s elevator illuminated under my finger. Four flights of stairs and four dollars later, I landed atop Cincinnati’s ersatz Everest to observe the city during the Great American Eclipse.

The temperature noticeably dipped as the afternoon wore on and the moon drew nearer to eclipsing the vast majority of the sun. I arrived at 12:30 PM and almost immediately met a woman who graciously gave me a pair of eclipse glasses. My rueing had been in vain.

Cincinnati history is important to me. It is something I actively incorporate into my daily life, and something I both read about and photograph with the same regularity. This event was part of its modern history, and I had the privilege to be part of it. Several friends and my father joined me while I was up there, and together we looked down upon our haven as the rest of the world looked up toward their heaven.

Below are photos from the city's highest public point on August 21st, 2017 at the peak of the Great American Eclipse in Cincinnati at 2:30 PM. All four corners and all sides were photographed within 60 seconds.

Below are photos of the observation deck and its observers from the time of my arrival to the peak of the eclipse, totalling two hours.

This was, without a doubt in my mind, the best vantage point to witness an eclipse in Cincinnati. I would be hard-pressed to find a better spot. The next eclipse will occur in 2024; better start saving for a zeppelin now, I suppose.

Old St. Mary Had a Church

Several weeks ago, I visited Old St. Mary's Church at the corner of 13th and Clay Streets in Over-the-Rhine. Finding myself there in passing but once before, I was never granted the pleasure of spending any notable length of time inside the building (primarily due to not being part of its congregation due to my lack of being Catholic). This time, however, I was there for work.

Our CincinnatiRefined.com intern tagged along. Her job was to photograph the space for a gallery; my own duty, by contrast, was checking off a personal photographic bucket list item. As you'll gather by the inclusion of the abundance of photos below, it resulted in a satisfying, proverbial upward permanent marker-squeak of success.

I won't go into the history of the church here. Quite frankly, non-secular history fascinates me less than that of our secular institutions. That's still a puzzle about myself that I'm working on solving since the only real explanation I have references my lack of interest in personally participating in organized religion. Then again, I've no interest in running a hotel, but the history of hospitality in Cincinnati is chief among the subjects aching for my attention at the moment. Explanation: useless, it seems.

Digression aside, below are the results of the photoshoot.


Portage Supply Co.

I recently witnessed first hand how changing the build equation of a product can totally reverse a negative perception of a small business.

Back in June, I purchased a camera and laptop bag from Portage Supply Co. They're a little family-owned business "born in Northern Minnesota" and they specialize in creating quality goods without asking a bajillion dollars for it. Since not having a bajillion dollars is high on my list of priorities (sadly), they were the obvious choice for:

  1. a good-lookin' bag
  2. a good-lookin' bag crafted without cheap materials
  3. a good-lookin', quality-made bag that carries all my dumb gear at once

After I got the bag, it Yoda'd my back all over the place; Washington DC, the Tough Mudder (spectating), Ft. Myers, practically every inch of Downtown, up and down Liberty Hill, and countless other places. I routinely stuffed it full with 7+ pounds of camera equipment, my Macbook, a tripod, and a full water bottle. The little Portage bag made trek after sweaty trek with me from start to finish, and I loved it.

But here's the rub: the bag done pooped itself out after 9 months. The shoulder straps started ripping and the top leather handle became so dissolved, it literally hung by a thread on one side. I didn't feel safe using it to carry my stuff anymore.

C'mon, guys! I thought you were different from other bag-ufacturers! I trusted you.

It didn't even make it a year. Something needed to be done about this. I went on their website and did a little research to see if I could get it fixed. Apparently, according to their website, if you have issues with your bag within 6 months, Portage'll swoop in and take care of it. It said nothing about those of us at the 9 month mark.

Figuring my full-term-baby-aged bag was about to end up stuffed in the closet forever, I emailed them anyway. It couldn't hurt to try, and if they told me I was out of luck, then I'd have to deal with it.

But here's where the story takes a dramatic turn: they were like "Yeah, no problem. We got you."

They asked my address after cross-referencing my name with the date of purchase I gave them, and they sent me a brand new bag, free of charge. I was stunned. Not only did they fix my problem, they gave me a brand new bag. And this wasn't just a copy of the same bag I had before; they made significant, and I mean significant, alterations to it. Alterations that made the old back look and feel like a generic dollar store version of the same thing.

You know how MadTree recently moved from 1.0 to 2.0 and how it was a gigantic of a leap forward to their business? It's like that with this bag. There's literally nothing quality-wise about the old bag that even comes close to the new one they sent me.

Here are some side by sides to give you some idea. The new bag is on the left.

The actual material it's made with is stiffer, heavier, and feels more synthetic than the old bag. You can feel the thread's weave on the new bag; its texture is pronounced and solid while the old bag's felt mildly absorbent and thin. The leather is a different color and feels slightly more rigid (although that could be due to its relative newness).

Left is the new bag.

And the new bag retains its shape and doesn't crumple under its own weight, either. Toward the end, I'd added a thin piece of wood into the laptop compartment of the old bag just to get it to stand up on its own. I felt like it needed a skeleton because it wanted to go fetal whenever I placed it on its "butt."

But the outside isn't what I love most about this updated bag. "Looks aren't everything" and "it's what's inside that counts", right?

The compartments where the gear is stored is much improved. The old bag had a Velcro-anywhere, cotton-y material that covered thin pieces of flimsy foam. While that was fine, it wasn't ideal. After a few months, the foam was curling inside the material and losing its shape.

The new bag's material feels more like vinyl and has isolated strips of Velcro on the ends of the dividers. The foam inside feels stronger and supported, giving you more confidence about the protection of your stuff when you place it inside.

Here's the old bag. Left is where you put your camera gear, and right is where you slide in your laptop:

And here's the new bag. Left is where you put your camera gear, and right is where you slide in your laptop (now with elastic strap to keep it tight):

The contrast is staggering. I don't know the real story behind the bag's redesign, but I speculate that enough people complaining about the original directly led to a much-needed overhaul.

An overhaul which not only totally solved the design issue of the bag, but also totally overhauled my opinion of Portage Supply Co.

A Flight To (And Within) Ft. Myers

Last week, I went to Ft. Myers, FL. It's a city with a tiny urban core along the Caloosahatchee River and a large sprawl of suburbs dotted with subdivisions, condo towers, and myriad camping sites. In the winter, the population spikes as people flock to the area to vacation and escape the frigid North. Many begin leaving mid-spring and only the dedicated residents stay for the summer. Notable figures such as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were known to have winter homes side by side in Ft. Myers, a practice many wealthy people maintain today.

And within this part of Florida are a staggering amount of exotic birds. By exotic, I mean we-don't-have-these-in-Ohio-and-they're-exotic-to-me. Birds are among my favorite animals, so it was thrilling to be able to get out of architecture photography mode and into the a new world of amateur wildlife photography.

I didn't fly to Florida exclusively to shoot photos of birds (maybe one day, though). As such, I was armed with only a Nikkor 24-120mm zoom lens on a Nikon D750 and a 30-110mm Nikon 1 J5.

During the week, I photographed a lot of birds. Some photos turned out well, and others less so. Below is a gallery of my favorites.


NOTE: each photo has been resized to a maximum of 1500 pixels and 2 MB to accommodate quicker load times. These are not full-res.

Top of the World

July 15th, 2016: an expedition to the top of the south tower of the Roebling Bridge.  I set the tripod and started a timer.  I'll treasure that night forever.

July 15th, 2016: an expedition to the top of the south tower of the Roebling Bridge.  I set the tripod and started a timer.  I'll treasure that night forever.

Refining My Career

I’ve landed my dream job.

After 6 years of working in multiple high rises doing pharmaceutical-based pricing for forty hours a week, I’m moving on.  No longer will I need to pay attention to Medicaid rates, how to set up pricing for IV drugs within a proprietary dispensing system, or how to interpret a facility’s many legal facets within a seventy-page contract.  Basically, I’m shirking my Chandler Bing job for one the public understands which ultimately affords me the opportunity to keep a conversation going after someone politely asks “what do you do?”  You’d think I was an anesthetist the way they fall asleep when I try to explain what I do for work.  But, despite my inability to describe it in a compelling way, my corporate job has been very good to me and I’m eternally grateful to have worked it for as long as I did with the people I met in the spaces we were given.  It was an invaluable experience that furthered my personal growth and taught me what I want out of a career.  I wouldn’t change a thing about the last 6 years, especially not how many gallons of free break room coffee I drank because that stuff was really good.

But I’ve learned I don’t want to do a seventh year in this position.  My enthusiasm for it peaked years ago, and getting motivated to do my best is nigh impossible at this point.  As such, my hardest work has been done outside of my day job; videos, photography, paintings, drawings, art shows, printing and selling my work, networking with other artists, researching the area, and being a non-stop content generator has become a full-fledged second job.  And that’s not hyperbole.  I honestly spend over thirty hours a week post-work day doing some sort of project to keep the creative momentum going.  The thirst to create and share is unquenchable, but I can’t keep this lifestyle up and also be social.  I came to the realization that people are this important factor in life and spending time with them is, like, worthwhile and stuff.  When you generally don’t have time to just sit and relax, it starts to take a mental toll, and to be honest, I don’t have much grey matter left to pay it.  While I genuinely enjoy writing about the city and photographing it, along with other analog and digital projects I’ve done, the ultimate goal of all this content creation and constant desire to do art has always had an ulterior motive: get noticed by the right people and land a full time job where I can exercise my creativity for a living.

And that’s exactly what two years of work has granted me.  My vision for the future has finally been realized (albeit without the high-speed hover trains I’d hoped for).

I’m moving into the world of lighthearted journalism to do what I love.  Cincinnati Refined, a wonderful publication focused on enthusiastically uncovering the coolest things in Cincinnati, has hired me on as their Assistant Editor.  I’ll be working with Leah, the hard-working managing editor whose passion project evolved into Cincinnati Refined years ago, and the many freelancers who run the site while producing interesting, fun stories for the readers.  Clay, the former Assistant Editor, moved onto another career endeavor after establishing a voice for the site and contributing excellently to it for years.  Honestly, I will never fill his shoes (we don’t wear the same size), but my goal is to do as well as I can in the coveted second place role.  It’s like the new Star Wars: it’s not as amazing as the original trilogy, but it’s the best sequel it could possibly be, and that’s more than fine by me.

The main reason I’m so excited to contribute to Cincinnati Refined is simple: those years I spent doing what I love is exactly the kind of thing they’ve been doing for years.  The transition into this job will be relatively seamless because it’s what I’ve been doing this entire time.  While there will be many things to learn, I feel like I’ve never been more prepared to do a job in my life.  I can reallocate those forty hours a week to creativity and my passion while using the other hours for whatever I want, like watching Animal Planet’s Too Cute on Netflix over and over again.  I mean, have you SEEN those Aussie Shepherd puppies meeting those ducklings?  I feel like Benjamin Franklin discovering electricity with his kite; by deliberately experimenting with my hobby for so long, I've discovered an opportunity that will change my entire life.

My last day at my current job will be August 4th and I begin at Cincinnati Refined August 5th.  No rest for the eager.  I’ll be covering a major local event that’s literally less than five hundred feet from my apartment.  To say I’m excited about my first day on the job is a gross understatement; if starting your new life on a Friday isn’t the perfect introduction to your dream job, I have no idea what is.

313 W. Fifth Street

I was given permission by the owner of 313 W. Fifth Street to enter the premises and photograph the inside of the building last Friday.  Myself and my friend who runs the @decayofpastglory account went in and scoured all four floors as best we could in the limited amount of time we had.  Over creaky floorboards and under sweltering summer conditions, we poured over most every corner trying to get as many shots as we could from every possible angle.  The building is in bad shape, but construction crews are working to resolve those issues; massive holes in the floors and an entire missing portion of the side of the building make for a treacherous walkthrough.  Back in January, the building suffered a partial collapse and an emergency demolition order was sought to prevent further catastrophe.  Luckily, the building was stabilized and efforts to save it are under way.

Below is a gallery of images of the building and its interior.

Ledge Gallery

Final Fridays are, in Cincinnati, a big deal.  The massive Pendleton Art Gallery features a ton of art studios that open to the public for viewing, the gigantic Cincinnati Art Museum up on the hill hosts Art After Dark to scores of people ready to enjoy their multi-level offerings, and the Art Academy and many of the shops along Main Street OTR feature thousands of combined square feet of content for interested Final Friday participants.  But even though Cincinnati prides itself on having a huge art scene by having myriad venues to enjoy all of it, there’s one tiny gallery making a delicate and deliberate ripple in lieu of giant waves.  Instead of a 2000 square foot street-level gallery with high ceilings and refurbished wooden floors, Ledge Gallery opts for, you guessed it, a single 60 by 3.25-inch ledge halfway up a spiral metal staircase inside a 400 square foot loft.

Ledge Gallery is the creation of Maya Drozdz, the resident living in the loft Ledge Gallery exists within.  A former New Yorker comfortable with a conservative amount of living space, Maya started Ledge Gallery as a way to showcase tiny art within a self-aware realm.  Ledge Gallery is one half playful commentary on understood art gallery standards and one half serious way to showcase miniature art with a large amount of detail.  It’s a perfectly scaled version of other Final Friday offerings without sacrificing quality and while enhancing the fun.  Petite wine bottles and Sprite cans wait to be poured into 1 ounce cups and the tiniest olives, crackers, candy and slices of cheese are laid out perfectly on a small table next to the narrow spiral staircase leading to up to Ledge.  Along with those things, complimentary 3 inch multicolored magnifying glasses fill a bowl next to the refreshments waiting for gallery-goers.  Little signs adorn prominent parts of the loft, indicating the exit (front door), smoking patio (fire escape), and even ADA-compliant signage to remind people to wash their hands in the tiny bathroom.  A huge amount of attention was paid to such little details that the effort beyond Ledge Gallery is a work of art itself.

The gallery’s first show, #tinytownaf, was this past Friday and featured the work of Maya herself; miniature photographs of tiny things accompanied by extremely small didactic panels with text I can only assume is .0001 point font.  Along with the photography were tiny objects, such as a pint-sized salt spoon and snail shell, each with their own descriptions. The gallery was packed with people and laughter the whole time I was there.  To say I’ve been to something like this before would be an outright lie; Ledge Gallery is a wholly unique experience that separates itself from other venues in a distinct, brilliant way.  Maya’s embracing of a small space and transforming it into something that exists within the purgatory of private residence and public art sphere is simultaneously fun, brave, weird, and exotic.  It’s masterfully organized and executed and one of the strangest art projects I’ve witnessed in a while.

I have no idea what Ledge Gallery will do from here, but I’m going to be visiting it every Final Friday from now on.  It’s just too unique to pass up.  Follow it on social media (Facebook and Instagram) to keep up with what’s going on that month, and if you did go to #tinytownaf, be a human and tell Maya how great it was.

Below is a collection of photos of Ledge Gallery from its opening night.  All photos were taken by Maya (my personal set of photos got wiped by accident).


Today marks the first time I’ve been officially published.

Cincinnati Refined gave me the opportunity to combine my love of architecture and history to come up with an article about something Cincy-centric for their website.  I chose to look at the myriad styles of architecture built within the last 150 years in the urban core, illustrating the change we’ve seen from the 1860s all the way to the 2010s.  Each decade was represented with a building that was constructed within it and a (no-more-than) 200 word historical description was given for each building.  I actually originally wrote more for several of the buildings, but had to scale it down to fit established parameters.  Some were easier than others to write about and the whole process of finishing the written portion took roughly a week.  We’ve been having horrible weather lately, so shooting each one with the level of quality I’ve set for myself was more of a challenge than I originally thought it would be.  I finished and submitted it for review two days before my art show and it finally went live this morning.  I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.  A year ago I wouldn’t have dreamed I’d be contributing to their website in this capacity, so it’s extremely uplifting to be in this position now.

Go check it out and click through the rest of the website; Leah and Clay do a tremendous job of highlighting fun, beautiful, interesting things around town.

Derrick Braziel

My good friend, Derrick, is co-founder and managing director of MORTAR, a local non-profit that helps people of all socioeconomic levels achieve their entrepreneurial dreams.  He asked me if I could film and edit a video for a grant proposal that would help finance MORTAR and I agreed to do so.  I took off work and we spent the day together in order to film him doing what he does best.  After 14 hours of rigorous filming and a late night editing, a 3 minute video, of which I'm very proud, emerged and made its way to his inbox.  Derrick loved the final product and I put it on YouTube so he could share it (even though he's extremely humble and hates to self-promote).

I'm proud to call him my friend and I think what he and his organization are doing is history in the making.  Cincinnati and the people within it are better for it.  By helping the poor and giving chances to those who are routinely shunned by society, we are a better city deserving of their hidden talents.

This is Derrick's story.  Visit wearemortar.com to learn more about his organization.


I'm having an art show this weekend.  Here are the details:

Where: Crazy Fox Saloon (901 Washington Ave, Newport)
When: May 6
Time: 7 PM to 10 PM
What: Sixteen pieces of art that collectively tell the tale of twilight transition in Cincinnati, emphasizing the inherent emotion therein and the importance of our history that has been memorialized by our ancestor’s beautiful lasting architectural endeavors.


I've spent a long time and a lot of dollars to produce it, so I'm hoping people come out to see the collection and purchase pieces of it.  It'll stay at the Crazy Fox for several months after opening night, so interested parties can still go see it at their leisure.  I will be at the opening night celebration.  Oh, and hors d'oeuvres will be served.  Please come and watch me squirm as I struggle with social anxiety and the fear of everyone thinking I'm a pretentious a-hole the entire night.

Save the Dennison Hotel (Updated)

“The Dennison Hotel”
Acrylic on canvas
16 in x 20 in

UPDATED STORY 4/25/2016: The CPC ended up adopting the painting as their primary source of imagery for the campaign to save the Dennison. I made posters at the Cincinnati Public Library and we spread them around town to local business including the Drinkery, MOTR, Ohio Bookstore, Indigo Hippo, Gray & Pape, Plaza Art Supplies, City Beat, Coffee Emporium and others.  Shirts with a monochrome version of the painting were also made and sold at Park+Vine and Acme Lock for $10 a piece.  I was extremely happy that it was able to be used as a way to bolster public awareness for the building's survival.


ORIGINAL STORY 3/13/2016:  I painted a historic building to help save it from the wrecking ball.  The story about why this painting exists, however, requires some explaining.

I don’t know everything about the Dennison Hotel.  The biggest source of compiled information I can find online is from Digging Cincinnati History (a must read), and scouring Enquirer archives bears little information beyond that.  Sanborns list a two story structure on its current site in 1887 and the current 8-story structure is there by 1904.  Beyond these clues, the Dennison remains a bit of a ghost on Main Street.  To summarize the DCH article (but I suggest you go read it), this 124 year old structure was built in 1892 for an ironworks company, and by the 1930s, the upper floors had become a hotel known as “the New Dennison Hotel”, eventually becoming a hotel in its entirety and low income housing after that.

It’s a beautiful historic building with modest features separating the windows and with prominent arches below layers of stone banding.  Its height is disproportionate to it’s width which makes it seem taller than it actually is.  The iconic, weathered fading ad boasting 105 rooms and 60 baths on its southern side distinguishes it from every other maroon-brick building in the city.  Despite its unique beauty, however, the story of the inside of the building is pretty ugly.  Combing newspaper archives yields a wide breadth of distressing activity that occurred within New Dennison; constant robberies, regular assaults, frequent fraudulent checks, suicides, a bomb threat, and even straight up murders.  A serial killer claimed one of his victims there in 1991 and was later caught by authorities.  Needless to say, its 105 rooms have witnessed the deepest, darkest depths of human depravity during its time.

Today it sits empty, its future uncertain, and it’s listed as one of the Cincinnati Preservation Collective’s 2015 Impact Buildings (buildings which are at risk and being monitored closely by the Collective in an effort to make a positive impact to improve their outcome).  As a result of this demolition threat, I decided to paint the Dennison and create a poster in order to raise awareness of its existence.  It's the only real thing I think I can do to help the cause.  It couldn’t hurt it, after all.  My friend Matt is part of the CPC, so with his guidance and encouragement, I put brush to canvas to try to assist the effort to save the Dennison.

Buildings are difficult to paint, however; I’ve never been a fan of trying to get perspectives right and lines straight with acrylics.  Attempting endeavors such as these has always ended in non-starters and trashed canvases.  I’ve never completed a single painting of a building because I always give up at some point, opting to discard the piece altogether rather than invest more time and energy into it.  Because of these failures, I haven't attempted painting buildings until sitting down to work on the Dennison, and believe me, this canvas almost found the dumpster itself at several points in the process.  Thankfully, determination kept it on the easel and the Dennison prevailed.

I started with a rough sketch of the proposed final product.

Then I took a photo of the building and placed a grid over it in photoshop.  I blew it up to 16”x20”, the actual size of the canvas I would end up using, and drew the same grid on the blank canvas.  Getting perspective right is tricky without a grid, so this helped me sketch out the building before actually starting painting.  Honestly, this proved to be the most important part of the process because it locked down the dimensions early on and I could free hand it much easier which made adding color and detail easier.  I know some painters don’t like drawing on the canvas prior to painting, but I find it to be an invaluable tool.

After the canvas sketch was complete, I started painting.  Hours passed, many podcasts were listened to, and days of revisiting an unfinished product threatened to discourage me from proceeding.  Mixing the same colors all over again is very difficult, after all.  At one point, I was so disgusted by how it was turning out that I considered throwing it out entirely and telling Matt I couldn’t do it. 

Instead, I took a picture and sent it to him and he promptly gave me positive feedback which encouraged me to just stick it out.  Eventually, once the base colors were all down and open spots of canvas were covered, I started adding detail.  Detailing is my favorite part of painting, a theme I realized mirrors the type of photography I prefer doing only after I started adding the detail.  As detail was added, I started to appreciate the piece.  Once the building was properly dirtied up, I was rather pleased with the end result.

I photographed it and loaded it back into Photoshop to add text to it.  Below is the final version of the poster, barring any future text-based edits.

I’m hoping with this imagery now complete, and with Matt’s connection to organized preservationists, the Dennison Hotel can garner interest with the public and something can be done to stay the wrecking ball and save this piece of Cincinnati history.  If you want this poster to display in your window (personal or business) free of charge, email me: philarmstrong2@gmail.com.  The next time you’re on Main Street on the 700 block, take a moment and look up at the Dennison Hotel; it deserves a second chance in our wonderful city and the more people appreciate and talk about it, the better chance it has at sticking around for another hundred years.

The Spirit of Anna Sinton Taft

“The Spirit of Anna Sinton Taft”
Digital illustration
14 in x 17.5 in

This is an illustration I did in Photoshop using a Waucom Intuos tablet.  While the process took roughly 21 hours, I feel like I learned a lot during the process and I’ll be able to do something like this in the future in less time.  The reason I chose to do this piece requires some explanation, though.

Anna Sinton Taft, wife of Charles Phelps Taft, was left with the Times-Star business after her husband died in 1929.  Construction of their new building, the Art Deco monument that stands today at 8th and Broadway, had only just begun.  However, she died of a heart attack in 1931 at her home, the present day Taft Museum, and never lived to see the new building’s completion.  The firm of Samuel Hannaford & Sons finished the building and it opened for business on January 1st, 1933, just 30 days shy of the second anniversary of Anna’s passing.

Anna Sinton Taft never stepped foot in the building that was dedicated to her and Charles and their legacy.  She never witnessed with her own eyes the artistry we can so easily walk up and appreciate today.  On the Hamilton County official website, it purports to list a complete history of the Times-Star building and mentions that it is rumored that Anna had “taken residence on the 16th floor, a huge penthouse suite, with a spectacular view, designed for her comfort.” This is obviously untrue given the timeline of events, but it conjured a mental image I couldn’t get out of my head: Anna, alone at one of the windows in her tower under the light of a full moon, looking up at the stars toward where she felt Charles would be, and feeling young and restored despite her old age. She’d let down her hair to settle in for the night and shared a quiet introspective moment with herself, the stars, and the room she was in.  The drawing is a collage of those elements.

The brightest star in the sky is directly in her line of vision, which represents Charles.  I chose to make him a star because of the namesake of the newspaper.  The moon is enlarged because I imagined the scene set within one of those nights where everyone has a faint shadow because the moon is so bright and it’s low on the horizon which makes it seem extra large.  Anna is rendered based on an image I found online of a nameless woman at the turn of the 20th century in clothing similar to the type Anna is wearing in old photos, and I added the necklace with the teardrop pearl (which is prominently featured in a painting of her at the Taft Museum).  The building has a stylized, dramatic lighting scheme to amplify the emotion present within the idea behind the image.  1930s searchlights were added on either side of the tower to represent Anna’s search for Charles.  They’re placed at the bottom of the image because that’s where the luminosity of the city actually is.  It symbolically bridges the gap between Anna and the city below by combining use for both parties.  The “TS” on the dark side of the building is a design taken from the street level windows bounding either side of the main door; I put it on the darkened side of the tower because if you draw a line from the “Charles star” to it, it passes through Anna’s heart, linking all three things together.

What Good Water's Worth

“The city of Cincinnati was one of the pioneers, in these United States, in securing ‘pure water’ for its inhabitants.”
     -Bert L. Baldwin, The Rotarian (Nov. 1914)


It was March, 1930.  A special report filed to the City Manager by the General Superintendent of the Cincinnati Waterworks stated the Western Hills pumping station on Queen City Avenue was in dire need of increasing capacity due to the large growth in population of the surrounding area. [1]  Built in 1907, the station was operating at max capacity and needed to expand.  For the next five years, those in charge planned for a new set of pumps, arguing about whether they should be steam or electric, in a new building to take over operation of the old station.  The Cincinnati Enquirer constantly changed their headlines when reporting management’s decision about installing steam or electric pumps. [2]  Finally, by 1934, the new station was decided to be built next door to the old one and management settled on using electric pumps after years of financial analysis was done. [3]  By November of that same year, Joseph G. Steinkamp was locked down as architect. [4]  Fifty men making fifty five cents an hour were planned for a year of construction to build the new station. [5]

The old Western Hills pump station, 1907.  It was located on Queen City Avenue. [6]

The new Western Hills Pump Station being constructed in the mid-1930s. [6]

A comparison of where the old pump station was located in relation to the newly built station.  Current day image courtesy of Google Maps.  [6]

A comparison of where the old pump station was located in relation to the newly built station.  Current day image courtesy of Google Maps. [6]

Apparently it took longer than a year to build.  Upon completion in 1937, the new Western Hills Pumping Station at 1650 Queen City Avenue was dubbed “the most modern in the United States” and was built at a cost of $312,000.  The station featured considerably smaller pumps than its predecessor.  According to the Cincinnati Enquirer from December, 1937, “much of the credit for the construction of the plant…goes to Charles H. Anderson of the Waterworks Department, who drew all plans and specifications for the pumping and control equipment.”  Anderson was held on as a consultant by city officials to assist with the construction project even though he had retired two years prior at the age of seventy. [7]

Headline (with photos) from the Cincinnati Enquirer. Click the headline to see the full article. [7]

Two years and eight months later, after seemingly being forgotten for a bit, the building was finally dedicated by Mayor James G. Stewart in a all-too-brief ceremony.  After only five minutes into the mayor’s speech, rain started pouring down on the masses who were standing on the lawn, scattering everyone to nearby shelter.  Ironically, the waterworks pumping station dedication was foiled by copious amounts of water it couldn't control despite its thousands of dollars of machinery. [8]

"No snogging by the water pump allowed!"
-City Manager

In the coming years, news of the new Western Hills Pumping Station grows more infrequent.  One story involved an effort by the city manager to make a private drive next to the pump station a public street so police officers could patrol it.  His reason?  “Indiscriminate petting” by people parking and committing “other nuisances detrimental to public interest.”  Apparently the city manager wasn’t a fan of teenagers making out in their cars. [9]

News of the old pumping station made obsolete by the new one started appearing in the Enquirer again in early 1942.  The city manager began raising the issue of demolishing the old station so scrap could be salvaged and donated to the war effort. [10]  A petition numbering 1,320 people protesting the destruction of the old pumping station made its way to City Council.  Their idea was to turn the old station into a recreation center, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. [11]  By August of 1942, a contract for $7,525 was awarded to Gus Goldman and James A. Dray of the Globe Wrecking Company to demo and salvage scrap from the old station.  Preservation efforts had failed. [12]

Occasionally news about the new station would appear in the paper, but it was generally forgotten as pump stations normally are, left to do their work without further celebration.  Fast forward to 2016, and my own personal adventure to rediscover this nearly eighty year old Art Deco gem began on a chilly Saturday morning in February.

Matt Deininger and I met up on the Square beside the currently-dry Tyler Davidson fountain, known colloquially as the Genius of Water.  It was a symbolic gesture, one that escaped my comprehension until reflecting on our morning later that day.  Our plan was to walk to the Western Hills Pumping Station to get a tour from Larry Moster, the Greater Cincinnati assistant treatment superintendent.  Matt had orchestrated the meeting and was kind enough to invite me along to see it with him, so with a camera bag on my shoulder and a tripod in hand, we made our way up Central Parkway to Harrison and crossed the viaduct into South Fairmount.  It was about three and a half miles and the walk was pleasurably sunny.

When we arrived, we checked out the station from the hill behind it.  Its jaded copper roof beamed brilliantly under the morning sun from behind a chain link barbed wire fence keeping us at a distance.  We moved toward the front and took some establishing shots while marveling at the work architects Joseph Steinkamp and his brother, Benjamin, had done eighty years ago.  Steinkamp designed a plethora of iconic Cincinnati structures in the basin, including The Waldo and The American Building, and he certainly didn't regard the pump station as any less of a project.  For a utilitarian construct, it’s absolutely incredible what government funded money would buy you during the WPA years.

A single-story limestone Art Deco building, the Steinkamps went out of their way to make sure both the generation of their day and future generations would flock to marvel at its artistry for years to come.  Metal paneled Egyptian water carriers cap off elongated vertical glass block windows on the front and either side of the building; directly above the front door, a muscular, posed figure pouring a vase of water is beautifully etched into the limestone along with stylized lightning bolts and concave vertical lines that are commonly associated with that era’s Art Deco design.  There’s a miniature parapet surrounding the façade that splits at the stairs leading up to the front entrance.  The entrance is a series of double doors encased in brown metal punctuated with lime highlights and dark, translucent windows embedded between vertical etched metal floral strips on either side.  It sticks out like a bay window both outside and in.

But the inside is why we were there.

The thing that makes this building so amazing inside is how original everything seems.  I’m not an engineer, and my perception of what’s original versus whats been updated is obviously not the final word, but to my eyes, it looked like it hadn't been updated since it began operation.  Ivory terra cotta tile permeate the majority of the inside of the station’s main pump room giving it that old elementary school look.  Part-way up the walls, a horizontal blue stripe of tile accented by white triangles and laced together with a red zig-zag line divide the walls around the entirety of the room while underscoring metallic chrome trimming replete with a vertical design that resembles the edge of a quarter.  Where the ceiling meets the walls, shiny strips of ornamentation make a complete loop around the entire room.  This perimeter design accepts the indirect light from the floor and releases it back out over the azure machinery below.  It’s not embellishment to say that In the middle of the morning, the pump station is more than fully sated by natural light.  The decorative strips appear to bear stars above stylized potted fire and plants between instances of large leaves, all separated by scroll-shaped lines that mirror the gates to the basement below.  They’ve been painted gold and silver with a cornflower blue background to accentuate definition.  The shapes in those colors truly are magnificent, especially since they’re repeated in a loop around the room.  The quality of the pieces combined with the scope of it makes you appreciate it so much more.  This is a pump station, not a courthouse or a personal home or an office building.  The fact the Steinkamps chose to include such lustrous adornments (for what is basically a machine warehouse) is hard to believe.  Larry mentioned they’d pulled in several experts a decade ago to repaint and restore these pieces and the ceiling to their former glory.  Few people have seen the fruits of those restoration efforts which blew my mind.

The entirety of the pump room.  The entrance sits to the left and the control room (not pictured for security reasons) sits off to the right.  The Art Deco detailing is visible at the top and around the walls between glass block windows.

The room features five large pumps that constantly run, filling the room with a din that easily drowns out conversation unless you’re yelling to one another at close range.  I got used to the sound after a few minutes, but talking to Matt was labored.  In the corner of the room sat an old, partially tattered map from 1962 of the Cincinnati region that was aged to a caramel color to which Matt was transfixed for an extended period of time (the photo of it below was made black and white for clarity).  A dusty control panel sat next to it with dials and meters; I guessed it was an original piece of equipment from that era due to how stereotypically “thirties” it looked.  I was asked not to post close up photos of the machinery and select piece of equipment due to national security concerns which is why I cannot show you the full image of the control panel here.

Down narrow staircases on either side of the pump room sits a basement that’s filled to capacity with pipes and valves from over half a century ago.  Little openings in the floor between the pumps guarded by railings on the main floor look down into the basement as well, giving it access to natural light in addition to the fluorescent and incandescent lights installed between floors among spiderwebs of thin orange pipes.  Everything looks to be in prime condition despite the age of the machinery; I wondered if it's because the machinery and pipes are well-protected or because there’s an ongoing effort to keep them free of dirt and grime.  Perhaps a combination of both.  Regardless, it’s a lot cleaner than I'd originally imagined a pump station would be and it resembled an almost movie-like quality, like it was a recreation for a film set in the thirties.  Some of the photos I took weren’t approved to be posted due to national security concerns, so they’ve been omitted from the gallery below.

The basement also featured a very tiny “bomb shelter” that had been retrofitted as a bathroom.  We take for granted the ability to live in a world where we don't constantly worry about being killed by a nuclear explosion on our home soil, but people back then had that fear at the back of their minds and the architecture reflected necessary elements that made tangible their lingering anxieties.  It was odd to be inside a tiny room expressly designed to resist such malevolent deeds; it made me wonder about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and how those people felt before and after their fears of being annihilated erupted into a horrible reality back in 1945.  The pump station was meant to subsist on a light staff and their well-being was taken into account by the Steinkamps’ blueprints from the beginning.  Not only did the architects have to make the building functional, they chose to lavishly decorate it and include a tiny room solely for the purpose of protecting a few men from one of the worst catastrophes they could imagine at the time.

Matt and I spent about an hour in the station, taking tons of pictures and discussing the waterworks with Larry.  As we left the station, I realized I’d probably never get to see the inside of it ever again.  It made me sad that more people can’t readily see the brilliant Art Deco features and the old machinery inside the pump room with their own eyes, but I was happy that at least we were able to get in and document it as best we could in the limited time frame we were given.  That little moment in time on February 6th at ten in the morning was something I’ll never forget because it inspired looking into the story of a relatively small building on a hill just up the street from the viaduct that has been dutifully pumping away for almost eighty years without stopping, making the lives of so many in the area better with a constant stream of fresh, clean water with little fanfare.  

The bickering between management in the early thirties about steam versus electric pumps, the visionary brothers who created the blueprints, the seventy year old waterworks retiree who helped the city one last time, the fifty men who used their own hands to put it together, the WPA money that helped pay for materials and those fifty men a half-dollar hourly wage, and the soggy five minute speech the mayor gave before the heavens opened up above them one hot August day nearly two years after the station was opened and forgotten; it’s the humble story of the Western Hills Pumping Station, the most modern in the United States in 1937 and among one of the most beautiful preserved architectural relics in Cincinnati today.

An inscription of a quote from Lord George Gordon Bryon, an English poet from the early 19th century, etched into the limestone left of the front entrance.


“Plant Needs Expansion.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer 21 Mar. 1930:  14.  Print.

“Steam Power Is Said To Be Cheaper.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer 5 Apr. 1932:  22.  Print.

“Electrification Is Favored.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer 15 May. 1932:  10.  Print.

“Steam Pumps Show Lower Expense.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer 26 May. 1932:  10.  Print.

“Electric Pumps Planned For Station.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer 23 May. 1934:  10.  Print.

“Engineers Hired By City.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer 23 Nov. 1934:  26.  Print.

“Root Off With Projects”  The Cincinnati Enquirer 10 Jul. 1935:  15.  Print.

"Western Hills Pumping Station." Cincinnati Triple Steam. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2016. <http://cincinnatitriplesteam.org/western_hills_station.htm>.

“To Accept New Pumping Station Today; Reported ‘The Most Modern in United States.’”  The Cincinnati Enquirer 4 Dec. 1937:  24.  Print.

“Western Hills Dedicates Pumping Plant, Reopens Three Newly Improved Streets.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer 5 Aug. 1940:  10.  Print.

“Tough On Love Birds.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer 5 Sep. 1940:  22.  Print.

“Flywheels Loaned By City.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer 22 Jan. 1942:  2.  Print.

“Pump House Is Sought In Petition.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer 4 Jun. 1942:  10.  Print.

“Contract Is Awarded.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer 8 Aug. 1942:  22.  Print.