Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Neighborhood assets will win out over city "blight=bulldozer" policies.

(Million Dollar Views of Cincinnati and the Mill Creek Valley, but it's not Mt Adams, or Columbia Tusculum, its Knox Hill.)
Over our busy weekend I had the opportunity to tour our neighborhood Knox Hill with a couple of local architects and historic preservationists. These tours are really "preaching to the choir" as they already understand why this neighborhood is important and should be saved but its important for there to be as much knowledge out there about our neighborhood, why its an important historical asset and why its restoration and preservation make sound economic sense for the city. In fact I have done numerous tours of our neighborhood, people from Indiana, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, neighborhood leaders from several local neighborhood groups, members of the media, even a State Representative because the more people know about Knox Hill the more they want to save it too.
(Incredibly well preserved Historic Mansion on Fairmount built by the president of a local Cincinnati bank. A fine example with museum quality interior detail and stained glass windows.)
Knox Hill has, simply put, Incredible Architecture, owned by incredible people who were key in Cincinnati's development during the Victorian era and as a "place in time", with it being a German Enclave for the elite during the days when the SchuetzenVerien was on the hill of what is now St Clair Park to its many years as a predominately German neighborhood made up of mostly the German Merchant class, Knox hill has endured.
(This rare Swiss Chalet influenced home has been home to four generations of the same family!)
Knox Hill endured the white flight from the city. There are still homes here that are in their 3rd or 4th generation of same family ownership. My own house was within the same related family ownership from 1885 when they bought it, until I bought it and it was a VBML order and foreclosure and its aftermath that left it to the condition it was in when we got it. BUT its on its way back and an important piece of history is saved!

Knox Hill has endured the indignities of slumlords trying to make a buck under section 8 and it endured real estate investors who could care less about the neighborhood but who wanted to make a quick buck reselling people who had no clue about owning a home during the real estate boom between 2000-2006. people who could get into homes that were not qualified to own a home and when things got tough simply 'Walked away".
(This unassuming Federal style brick home may very well be on of the earliest homes in Cincinnati, potentially dating to the late 1830's. Another early frame, pre civil war home just down the street is threatened with impending demolition by the city.)
Knox Hill has endured all that and its only "threat" is from a source that should be trying to save it, and help turn it around. The city of Cincinnati. A city with a greedy government, willing to take Federal money (our tax dollars) and use them to bulldozer the history of this city just because the money is there.
(This home which may have been based on a George Barber plan , never had a chance and was demoed. Had the city had real section 106 review, this home could have been saved!)
Had the Knox Hill Neighborhood Association not been formed, an organization in part formed because of the outrage over a Barber designed house being bulldozed on Blain and Fairmount and the fact that residents realized they either had to stand up and save their neighborhood or the city would bulldoze it. Much of Knox hill may have been gone by now.

I can guarantee our house would have been bulldozed by now if we hadn't come along. I bet that many more would be gone as well had we not filed a citizens complaint with HUD to cut the 'free money' from the feds that have fueled the architectural rape of the city of Cincinnati by a bunch of bureaucratic paper pushers and try to hold them accountable. And though they wish we would simply "go away' well, that's not going to happen and the city now realizes that. We may soon know just hoe badly the city ignored the Federal process of section 106 review and just how much Federal money was spent without proper process. There will be new process, a better process or the city can kiss that Federal money goodbye, who knows, maybe they will even have to pay some of it back?
(From the front on Knox Street, It's a three story mansion, as it climbs up the steep hill its a cottage viewed from Fairmount. What makes this special it that porch which experts believe was salvaged from the famed Scheutzen Verien which sat 1/2 a block away. The porch columns came believed from the side Beer Garden porch of that famous structure which tragically burned in the 1880's.)
Knox Hill will endure, our neighborhood will endure because of new people like us who have chosen to restore here, it will endure because of my neighbors who turned a blighted house into a Urban native garden. A neighbor on the next street who house has been in the same family for Four Generations , who keeps his yard nicely mowed and his house well maintained. It will endure because of the fine stewardship of three architecturally significant homes, that they keep impeccably maintained. Our neighborhood will endure because of neighbors who spend their weekends picking up the trash off our streets, mowing the vacant lots left by the city who doesn't care what happens to them after they bulldoze a house. Our neighborhood will endure because of the will of those who live here and not those 'just passing through' or a city government who could care less.
The city government on the other hand.... I'm not so sure about. but Knox Hill will be here long after investigations are finished, federal complaints run their course and maybe some paper pushers in city government realize it's no longer business as usual and the 'good ole boy' network of city government is over.
(This park like setting with its grand mansions is not Hyde Park but Knox Hill.)
Knox Hill is a unique, special neighborhood, and an important part of Cincinnati history, that will endure.

No comments: