Welcome to the Gateway City, St. Louis, Missouri, home to Nelly, William S. Bowdern and some fabulous architecture. Above is the city’s modest city hall. The city built this building in 1890, when it outgrew “the municipal barn,” according to the city’s urban design and planning agency.
Category Archives: The Big Urban Photography Project
More urban photography from readers across the region. Today’s edition: Cincinnati’s Prospect Hill.
My friend Claudia, who is originally from England, wanted to take a trip to Detroit. On Saturday, I volunteered to be her “guide.”
Did you know Cleveland has a ghost train?
What’s a ghost train, you ask? Why it’s just like a regular train except all the passengers are DEAD! Continue reading
I recently spent an afternoon in and around my old stomping grounds of Lorain, Ohio. While I was there, I took a few hours to explore a Lorain County Metroparks Trail that runs through the slag fields of the city’s steel mill, as well as along the banks of the Black River. Walkers, runners, and bikers on the trail get to see a juxtaposition of industry (or what’s left of it, anyhow) and nature.
I wanted to share a few photos:
Full disclosure: Nepotism alert- my Dad, Tony Giammarise, took these photos and submitted them to us. I think people will find them interesting so I still wanted to put them up. This series focuses on what I think is Erie’s best natural resource: the waters of the Great Lakes. Continue reading
Let me start off by saying, Youngstown is one of my favorite cities. It is a weird place, with a set of rules all its own. Some of my best friends in the world live there. Also, they make some killer Italian food in this city. Killer. It’s cheap too. Very cheap.
Anyway, photographer Mark Stahl, an acquaintance of mine from my days at The Vindicator newspaper, has generously donated the use of some of his photos. This series is about decay taking place in the city.
There are few more compelling or storied neighborhoods in Cincinnati than Over The Rhine.
I say this from experience because I spent a year in The Queen City as a college undergraduate. The neighborhood I lived in bordered Over The Rhine and one of me and my friends’ favorite things to do on a sunny afternoon was drive through the hills and valleys and deeper into the city.
Over The Rhine was the first stop and the neighborhood always made me check my locks, hold my breath and duck down in my seat. It was crime-ridden and desperately poor and my white-collar Columbus eyes had never seen anything like it.
There would be toddlers unattended in the streets and makeshift memorials on telephone poles. The most startling image was a public art project near a park on Vine Street. Someone had painted larger-than-life children at play in vivid color on a brick wall. And then someone else had come along and spray painted each child’s face a ghostly white.
When I was in school there it was 2001 and 2002. And just before I arrived, there had been race riots that originated in Over The Rhine stemming from claims of police brutality. Shortly after, I heard the NAACP was boycotting the city because conditions in this neighborhood were considered worse than post-Civil-War Alabama.
I am, some might say, an admirer of rough neighborhoods. And I would say Over The Rhine was surely one of the roughest neighborhoods in the Mid-West. The movie Traffic was filmed there and my appraisal is that it was pretty accurate in its portrayal of the neighborhood as a major drug marketplace.
I figured it was a symptom of Cincinnati’s famously conservative edge. So I was surprised to hear recently that developers had started building high-end condos in the neighborhood. But maybe I shouldn’t have been.
I haven’t been back in years, but it looks like things have really started to turn around in Over The Rhine. From what I read, a tremendously successful urban renewal effort has taken root here, with $93 million (correct me if I’m wrong) invested in the neighborhood since 2006.
A little background: like many of our rougher neighborhoods, Over The Rhine is one of Cincinnati’s oldest. It was founded by German immigrants–hence the name–prior to 1850. It is known for its 19th Century Italianate architecture.
The whole neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s. That’s the thing about Cincinnati, it’s a grand old city. One of the striking things about it, is the views from the rolling hills of the beginnings of Appalachia sloping down into the Ohio River. It always makes me think of Old Jim and Huckleberry Finn.
Today, the neighborhood is home to many artists and young professionals, although it remains ethnically diverse, reports say. And targeted police efforts have led to a marked reduction in crime. Check it out …
I really never thought I would see this happen. And I used to think what a disgrace this neighborhood was, so close to Cincinnati’s beautiful downtown. All I can say is, way to go Cincinnati and thank you to Kevin Lemaster of Building Cincinnati for donating the photos, who has also provided shots of some of the city’s other beautiful neighborhoods.
Next up is Prospect Hill …
Note: submissions are rolling in for The Big Urban Photography Project. We have had volunteers step forward from Erie, Pennsylvania, Midland, Michigan and Youngstown, Ohio. It looks like this thing is going to live up to its name. I’m thinking, book deal!
Back by popular demand: the always worrisome east side of Cleveland.
Today’s tour takes us to Slavic Village, a town once known for its close-knit Polish community. More recently, the southeast side neighborhood was featured in a remarkably grim and lengthy New York Times Sunday Magazine story. In his “All Boarded Up” feature, celebrated author Alex Kotlowitz referred to the neighborhood as “Foreclosureville.”
Well, I’d never been to Slavic Village. But I have some close friends who grew up there. After reading Kotlowitz’s article, I was afraid slithering one-legged women were going to come out of nowhere and grab my legs, or something.
It bears mentioning that The New York Times isn’t the first national publication to feature Slavic Village in it’s discussion of foreclosure. I heard a similar piece on NPR more than a year ago. Pretty much everyone’s done a Slavic Village story by now. It’s sort of become a poster child for the foreclosure crisis.
The funny thing is, it’s not the worst neighborhood in Cleveland by a long shot. For that, I will refer you to a town called East Cleveland (not to be confused with the east side of Cleveland. But more on that in another post.)
The real reason Slavic Village has been thrust into the national spotlight, is because the neighborhood has a very eloquent and outspoken city councilman, Tony Brancatelli, who has helped draw a lot of attention to the topic. Also, it had the highest foreclosure rate in the country during the third quarter of 2007.
A little background about Slavic Village: It was settled in the 1880s by Polish people. They were joined by Central and Eastern Europeans who worked in the nearby steel mills. Following the race riots and “bussing” initiatives of the 1970s and ’80s, the neighborhood suffered heavy losses to white flight and suburbanization.
I’ll tell you an interesting story. My friend Miora grew up in this house:
Her family was Romanian immigrants. They moved away when she was about five, about 20 years ago.
At that time, this steel mill, across the street, was still operating.
Now it looks like this:
Here’s the old office:
Anyway, Miora told me after her family moved away, her mom wouldn’t tell her where she was from, because she didn’t want her going back out of concern for her safety. When Miora was old enough, she got a friend to drive her back to the neighborhood. But she didn’t recognize anything at first. Then finally, she had a moment of recognition and was able to find her way back to her house.
So yeah, it’s a pretty rough neighborhood.
After saying all that though, I want to regress and say Slavic Village wasn’t nearly as bad as I was anticipating. The neighborhood actually enjoyed a brief resurgence when the current councilman Tony Brancatelli was working for the community improvement organization in the area. Now, there are these new, two-story, garage-having, vinyl-sided homes dotting the landscape. There was one on each side of Miora’s old home and they were occupied and well cared for.
There is a nice, big community garden by a park in the middle of the neighborhood.
The nexus of the neighborhood is St. Stanislaus Church. It is adjoined by Cleveland Central Catholic High School, whose basketball team just won the division III state championships.
It was last Sunday morning when I was down there and the church was packed. This is one of those churches where they still give masses in Polish and people drive from all over the area every Sunday to attend. They’ve even built some new condos near by.
So, Miora wanted to go to an old restaurant she liked growing up.
It was awesome, of course.
It was packed too. And they treated us like tourists from outer space because we weren’t from the neighborhood, and we sort of were.
Yep. Those are cabbage rolls.
We also stopped in this bakery/deli where the staff still speaks Polish. Holy Moly!
I heard this store might close down or move though, because the owner’s wife got shot in the arm.
So there you have it, Slavic Village in a nutshell. It’s too bad bankers threw about a third of the residents out of their homes because it’s got a lot of nice amenities. I wish I could hope and believe there was a better future in store for the neighborhood, but it’s hard to imagine how that could happen now.
It’s Friday night in Cleveland. The place to be is St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church, top-rated Lenten fish fry by Cleveland Magazine.
Hold the God stuff.
Ok. I believe.
Thanks to Randy Vines of STl-style.com for donating these amazing photos. There were so many good ones, I split them into three groups, people, art and architecture. Stay tuned … and submit your photos to The Big Urban Photography Project at firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t forget this guy …
Thanks again to Randy Vines. This is just a credit to what a personable guy he is. He can make anyone smile.
Send us your photos Detroit, Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Flint, all of you!