Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cincinnati Summers: How the Victorians Survived

As we all know it is hot right now in the midwest. Most of us are sitting comfortably in our homes in our air conditioning, maybe sipping a drink with ice from the fridge. We tend to stay indoors now with all our creature comforts and it makes one wonder "How did the Victorians do it?"

Cincinnati in the late 1800's was a very different city. people were EVERYWHERE, densely packed together in an urban city. OTR was Packed with people all scurry about on their way to work or shops. The city was well, 'filthy' thick black soot covered everything. Remember Cincinnati was an industrial town. You had tin smiths and cast iron works and they all burned coal or wood for power. Thick smoke covered the valley, the humidity was intense.

It wasn't a safe place either. Where Central Parkway is, built over the famous subway that never happened, was a canal. Boats carrying goods were pulled down it and being water there were mosquitoes everywhere and there was runoff from piveys, the water in that canal was polluted. Poorer kids who lived in OTR would as kids do,if they were not working, remember there were no child labor laws back then, jump in for swim when the police weren't looking. The adults, the men, that is, would stop at one of the many taverns that dotted the downtown for a drink.

If you were poor summers were long and hot and not very comfortable. If you were well to do however you had options. Believe it or not back in the Victorian day in Cincinnati it was not uncommon to have a weekend or summer house. The well to do wanted out of the grime of the city and many looked to the hills above as an option. Some would take the inclines up to neighborhoods above it all, others traveled across the valley to the hills of Fairmount.

These summer homes were opened up in the late spring and the family would "summer" up the hill in their cottage up in the cooling breezes and away from the soot and grime and the "rif-raff" of the downtown. The father of the house might stay in town but more often than not the day to day operations of a business would be turned over to a trusted manager or even the oldest son for the summer and the wealthy would relax the day away. The father might head out to the shooting club in Fairmount and of course the beer garden, while the lady of the house held tea with her neighbors people of 'equal station' , the children would go off to explore the hills often with older sibling or a servant in tow

It was a different era. At the end of the summer the curtains would be drawn and the door simply closed until the next "dog days of summer".

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