Friday, June 27, 2014

Queen City No More: Cincinnati History on Life Support

While some were 'patting themselves on the back' that they got Music Hall and the Train Station on the National Most Endangered List, those of us who care about preservation realize that Cincinnati's  Historic built environment is on life support and there is no doctor, or cure in site.

Cincinnati as a city should be embarrassed to have not one but TWO landmarks on this list. In case you didn't know this already, Cincinnati is  a national laughing stock in historic preservation circles. Look at our recent history over the last few years.

Gamble House...gone, a block of Corryville...gone, Glencoe ..gone! Buildings coming down everyday, in fact over 250 this year are down or will be down. Arch street is next and probably 5 more buildings even MSD's own preservation consultants agree are historic eligible in Fairmount. We are losing historic structures at an alarming rate.

Why does this happen? Simple, the preservation community has no backbone. In just about any other major city there would be a huge fight to save Arch Street and preserve that neighborhood. We are about to lose some of the oldest buildings in the downtown.

I've said this before and I will say is again CPA (Cincinnati Preservation Association) is ineffective, and afraid to fight for history because they are upset about upsetting the friends of their donors who sit on the boards of local corporations. You have two landmarks on the National  Most Endangered because the group that is supposed to be the 'voice' of Preservation is mute.

Ponder that OTRADOPT and Knox Hill Neighborhood Association , both fledgling organizations, have saved more historic  buildings from the wrecking ball than CPA has in the same time. They have done it without wealthy donors too.

You can not have historic preservation without fighting for it. "Please can we save this property, but if its 'inconvenient' for you then go ahead and demo it, because one of our donors might be friends with your board of directors," is not how you save historic properties. Do not get me wrong, there are some people who belong to CPA who care, but they are afraid to take on the "old guard" that wants CPA to be 'society preservation group' that puts on an occasional home tour or holds a lecture.

While they are doing home tours and lectures our history is being bulldozed. Its time for a real preservation group made up of passionate people who care, who wont be afraid to upset a donor,. In other cities Preservation organization sue, they go to court. Not here that wouldn't be 'polite'. No push for the Arch street properties to at least be moved. No push to slow the pace of demolitions. Preservation organizations are not afraid to get their hands dirty in other cities. They get together and clean up endangered buildings, they fix them. They do not have to be owned by some locally important dead person or architect designed, if its old and historic they do everything in their power to save it.

Cincinnati needs to stop calling ourselves the "Queen City", all the Jewels in our crown are being taken away one by one... and either no one cares, or those that should are afraid to stand up and fight. Maybe we should just change our name to Detroit and get it over with.

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