Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zoo

Source: Cincinnati Zoo at Wikimedia Commons

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden has been in operation since 1875, and is one of the oldest zoos in the United States. While I sometimes have mixed feelings about zoos and struggle with the idea of animals in captivity, I do believe the Cincinnati Zoo does a lot of amazing work. Of the zoos I have visited in the US, it is by far the best.

Every May, the Zoo puts on Zoo Babies, which is a celebration of all the baby animals born in recent months. Unsurprisingly, it is a very popular month at the Zoo, as it's hard for anyone to resist the baby animals. This year, I am in love with these baby wallabies, who are currently living in the Zoo nursery.

One of the things that impresses me the most about the Cincinnati Zoo is their Center for the Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife, or CREW. CREW is a state of the art research facility, and it is dedicated to saving endangered plants and animals from extinction. Their slogan is "Saving Species with Science."

In addition to working in the CREW facility here in Cincinnati, CREW scientists and researchers are dedicated to the protection of endangered animals in their native habitats. To that end, CREW has worked in Mongolia on an ecological study of wild pallas' cats and trained Mongolian students to work for the conservation of the cats' habitat, and founded an international consortium to work towards protecting the habitat of ocelots in Brazil. In addition, CREW has done groundbreaking work on saving the Sumatran rhinoceros from extinction.

Source: Cincinnati Zoo at Wikimedia Commons

CREW celebrated its 30th birthday in 2011, and I think their work is definitely something to celebrate here in Cincinnati. The CREW scientists are internationally recognized for their Signature Projects, which include small cats, rhinos, and endangered plants.

And with that, I am done with my A-Z of Cincinnati Challenge! Thank you to everyone who has stopped by here and read my posts, it's been great to meet new friends and catch up with some old ones along the way.

 Big thanks as well to the 2012 A-Z Challenge hosts:

Tossing It Out (Arlee Bird) Amlokiblogs (Damyanti Biswas) Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) Life is Good (Tina Downey) Cruising Altitude 2.0 (DL Hammons) Retro-Zombie (Jeremy Hawkins) The Warrior Muse (Shannon Lawrence) The QQQE (Matthew MacNish) Author Elizabeth Mueller (Elizabeth Mueller) Pearson Report (Jenny Pearson) No Thought 2 Small (Konstanz Silverbow) Breakthrough Blogs (Stephen Tremp) Coming Down The Mountain (Karen Jones Gowen)

Kudos to all of my fellow A-Z participants. It's been a great month! :)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Yeatman's Cove

Yeatman's Cove is a park along the riverfront in downtown Cincinnati, and it is also the site of the founding of the city. Yeatman's is named for Griffin Yeatman, who arrived in Cincinnati in 1793 and was one of the city's earliest settlers.

The park is now the site of numerous summer parties and festivals and, along with it's neighbor Sawyer Point, it is a great place to go for a walk and enjoy the city.

I really don't have much to say about Yeatman's Cove, but this was all I could think of for a "Y" post. So I'm just going to leave it at that, and call it a week!

I hope everyone is having a great weekend. See you Monday for the end of the Challenge! :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for St. Xavier Church

Source: Wikimedia Commons

St. Francis Xavier Church is located in downtown Cincinnati, and it has been serving Catholics in the downtown area since 1845. The present building, with its ornate clock tower, was built in 1860 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

What is interesting to me about the church is something I learned through my A-Z research. Francis Finn, an author whose books are still available today, was one of the priests affiliated with the church back in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Finn was a Jesuit priest, and he wrote the book Tom Playfair while suffering from insomnia. He decided to spend two of his sleepless hours each night writing, and ultimately produced the story about a boy at a Catholic boarding school.

Tom Playfair was published in 1893, and was an immediate success among school children. Finn went on to write 26 more books, with more school boy characters such as Percy Winn and Harry Dee, and all of his works were translated into numerous languages and published all over the world.

I'd never heard of Finn or his books before starting this Challenge, but it was interesting to me to learn about this little bit of Cincinnati literary history. And, because I struggle with insomnia quite often, I was inspired by the fact that Finn wrote his book during a spell of insomnia himself. That's something to remember the next time I have some sleepless nights.

Most of all, I loved this quote from Finn: "One of the greatest things in the world is to get the right book into the hands of the right boy or girl."

As someone who has loved reading since I was a girl, I could not agree more.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Washington Park

Washington Park is the last stop on my mini-tour of haunted Cincinnati. The park dates back to the 1850s, and hosted such events as The Centennial Exposition of the Ohio Valley and Central States in 1888.

The park is located in the downtown neighborhood of Over the Rhine, and it had fallen into such disarray and was so crime-ridden in recent years that there was almost no trace left of the sophisticated park it used to be. The city has now embarked on a renovation project for Washington Park, with plans to return it to its former glory, and this renovation has uncovered a grisly history.

Before being acquired by the city in 1855, the land on which Washington Park was built held three cemeteries, one of which was a potter's field filled with unknown or indigent people. When modern day builders started digging up the park to build a new parking garage, they uncovered numerous human remains.

The skeletons have been studied by forensic anthropologists, and were featured in an episode of the National Geographic show "The Decrypters."

Among the remains found was a woman with a fetus found under her head, as if she had placed it there herself. Researchers speculate that the woman gave birth prematurely, and died of complications related to the birth.

One of the most puzzling finds was a coffin with two skeletons, one male and one female, buried inside it. The male was on top of the female, and the female's skull was crushed. Researchers found that the woman's skull was fractured by natural forces following her burial, but the mystery of why two people were in the same coffin will likely never be solved.

Most disturbing of the remains was a four year old girl found face down in her coffin. Experts say it could be an indication that the child was accidentally buried alive, something that was unfortunately not that uncommon at the time.

To the horror of those studying the remains, nearly half of them are the bones of children. There are literally hundreds of bones now in storage, and they will eventually be transferred to Spring Grove Cemetery for burial.

I have no idea when the renovation of Washington Park is scheduled to be completed, but I can't imagine ever visiting there without thinking of the remains of these long-dead people. 

This story was particularly eerie and disturbing to me, but overall I've really enjoyed learning about Cincinnati's ghosts and ghouls. I'm planning to continue exploring, and hope to post about more local ghost stories once the Challenge is over.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Victory Bell

The Victory Bell is given to the winner of the annual football game between the University of Cincinnati Bearcats and the Miami University Redhawks. The series dates back to 1888 when the two teams met up on the Miami campus in Oxford, Ohio, and it is the oldest non-conference college football rivalry in the United States.

I love college football and, as an Ohio State alum, I bleed scarlet and gray for my beloved Buckeyes. But I have so many family ties to the University of Cincinnati that I enjoy rooting for the Bearcats as well, and I always root for them unless they are playing Ohio State. I've enjoyed the fact that the Bearcats have maintained ownership of the famed bell now since 2006.

The traditions of college football are one of the big reasons I love it, and I always get excited every year when autumn comes around. For me, no college traditions beat OSU's Script Ohio and "Hang on Sloopy," and no rivalry beats OSU-Michigan, but the UC-Miami rivalry is fun too. And, I hope the Bearcats don't give the Victory Bell back to the Redhawks any time soon.

If you're a sports fan, what are your favorite traditions or rivalries?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Union Terminal

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Union Terminal is the next stop on my mini-tour of haunted Cincinnati. It opened in 1933 as a passenger railroad station, but the terminal is now the home of the Cincinnati Museum Center. And, as I've learned on my ghost studies of my home town, it is also haunted.

The building is known for its Art Deco style, and the terminal rotunda is the largest semi-dome in the western hemisphere. 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The dome ceiling plays a big role in one of the more famous ghost stories surrounding the Terminal.

The Museum Center is home to the Cincinnati History Museum, which features a World War II exhibit called Cincinnati Goes to War.  A replica of a WWII-era fighter plane hangs from the ceiling as part of the exhibit. The plane is empty, but security guards working nights at the museum have consistently reported seeing a young pilot in full military uniform at the controls of the plane. In rare instances, day visitors have also claimed to see the mystery pilot.

Union Terminal has a strong connection to World War II, as the railroad station was at its peak during this time period. Cincinnati became a "hub" for transporting soldiers both when they went overseas and when they came back home, and as such the station was always packed, both with people and with emotion, throughout the war years. Some speculate that Union Terminal could have been the last stop for the young pilot before he was shipped off to war, where he met his death.

A more recent haunting involves a woman named Shirley, who worked as a night guard at the Museum Center in the 1990s and was murdered by robbers who broke into the building. Current night guards insist that Shirley continues to protect the museum halls even in death, and they often hear her footsteps behind them while they are making their own rounds. In addition, guards have reported seeing flashlights coming from halls known to be empty, and doors that are closed and locked behind an invisible presence. According to legend, Shirley is still at work and will be guarding the terminal for eternity.

I thought this was going to be my last post for my haunted Cincinnati mini-theme, but came across another ghoulish site that I am going to use for my "W" post. I'm starting to think that if I had known about the ghostly places sooner, I could probably have done an entire A-Z on Cincinnati haunts. I never realized I live in such a creepy place!

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Taft Museum of Art

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Taft Museum of Art is a house on the eastern edge of downtown Cincinnati that was built in 1820, and was originally the home of Martin Baum, a businessman and one time mayor of the city. In the later 1800s, the house belonged to industrialist David Sinton, who lived there with his daughter Annie. Annie married Charles Taft, the half-brother of US President William Howard Taft, and she and Charles lived in the house from 1873 until 1929.

Charles and Annie were avid art collectors, and they eventually turned their home into a museum and donated all of the art within it to the city upon their deaths in 1929 and 1931. The Taft Museum collection includes European old master paintings and 19th century American paintings, as well as porcelains, enamels, decorative arts, sculptures, and furniture.

One of the highlights of the Taft collection is the work of Robert Duncanson, who was the first African-American artist to gain international acclaim and recognition. In 1851, Nicholas Longworth, who was the owner of the house at the time, hired Duncanson to create landscape murals to decorate the foyer of the home. Duncanson created eight landscapes, which are still showcased in the Taft today.

When I wrote about the Music Hall ghosts for my "M" post, I had no plans to end up with a mini-theme of Cincinnati ghosts and haunted places. But, that is what has happened, as I learned about the ghost stories of the Taft Museum after I read about the Spring Grove cemetery ghosts. Thanks to a book called Ghosts of Cincinnati, I've learned about so many haunted places here in my home town that I'm a little bit freaked out by all the ghostly activity that's supposedly been going on around me.

I remember going to the Taft Museum as a kid, and I'm well aware of the museum's reputation for gardens as beautiful as its art collection. But I had no idea that the house is apparently haunted by the ghost of Annie Sinton Taft.

Many visitors to the Museum, as well as employees, have claimed to see Annie's ghost in and around the premises. One such sighting occurred during a concert in the backyard garden, when two security guards reportedly saw a lady in an old-fashioned pink gown sitting on the balcony and tapping her foot to the music. The balcony was inaccessible to the public, and the guards insisted that the woman they had seen was Annie. It seemed to them that she was simply enjoying the concert going on below her in her garden.

Other strange happenings at the Taft include books flying off the gift shop shelves for no apparent reason, and guests being tapped on the shoulder by an unseen presence. Night shift employees have heard disembodied voices calling out names, and the spectral cries of a baby.

It's been fun, and more than a little creepy, to learn about haunted Cincinnati. I have one more haunted spot to share tomorrow for the letter "U" before I leave the Cincinnati ghosts behind.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Spring Grove Cemetery

Spring Grove Cemetery dates back to 1844 and, at 733 acres, it is the second largest cemetery in the United States, behind only Arlington National Cemetery. It was founded by members of the Cincinnati Horticultural Society, who hired a renowned landscape architect to design it. The architect, Adolph Strauch, envisioned a "garden cemetery" filled with lakes, trees, and shrubs and, as a result, the cemetery remains one of the most picturesque places in the city, and it is extremely popular both for 5k races and for casual walkers.

I got the idea to use Spring Grove for my "S" post when I wrote about the Music Hall ghosts, and learned that the cemetery is, unsurprisingly, another local place that is filled with stories of hauntings and ghost sightings. I couldn't resist making a trip there myself.

I was at the cemetery in the middle of the afternoon on a sunny day, and I didn't get any sense of ghosts lurking about while I explored. But I was a bit taken back by the number of old mausoleums that dot the landscape. I thought this one was particularly spooky, as I could see what looked like a painting or stained glass window on the inside.

The door itself was creepy to me, with its huge padlock and engraved date. I wondered if that padlock has been in place since 1911.

These mausoleums were everywhere, and the majority of them belonged to famous names in Cincinnati history. There are also soldiers from the Revolutionary War and the Civil War buried on the grounds, and I came upon this memorial to what appears to be a Civil War soldier several times while driving around.

One of the most famous ghost stories about Spring Grove concerns the Norman Chapel.

It's a gorgeous building that is actually used for weddings now, but its history is not so pleasant. Built in 1880, the chapel was originally used by the cemetery as a jail, and bars can still be seen on the basement windows. Night guards were posted to stand watch over the jail, and were given orders to shoot trespassers as thieves. Now, visitors to Spring Grove have reported eerie cries coming from the chapel basement, and cameras have captured unexplained images outside the structure.

When I visited Spring Grove, I was most interested in seeing the grave of C.C. Breuer, an optometrist who died in 1908. According to legend, Breuer decreed that, upon his death, his eyes were to be removed from his body and encased in glass, then placed inside the bronze bust on his headstone so that he could watch over his grave for eternity. Visitors to the grave have reported that the eyes appear to dilate and follow the path of anyone who passes by his memorial.

Unfortunately, I never made it to see the Breuer eyes for myself, as I could never find the bust. I've mentioned before on this blog that I am a master at getting lost, so I knew I was going to be in trouble when I heard that Spring Grove is an easy place to get lost in. I never need any help.

It didn't take long before all of the mausoleums and gigantic obelisks began to look exactly the same to me, and I started to feel like a rat stuck in a maze. Especially as I passed the soldier monument for what felt like the hundredth time. When I finally came to the exit, I just wanted out and no longer cared about seeing Mr. Breuer's eyes.

Other stories of Spring Grove involve visitors feeling as if they are being watched, or insisting they've been touched on the shoulder, only to turn and find no one there. In addition, one of the mausoleums is reportedly guarded by the spirits of two white wolves who stare at intruders with glowing eyes.

I can't say I had any strange experiences while visiting Spring Grove but, at the same time, I have no desire to go there at night. And, while I know the cemetery is very popular with walkers, I definitely prefer to do my walking in the park.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Reds

Source: Wikimedia Commons

As I made clear in my Bengals post, Cincinnatians don't have much to cheer for when it comes to professional sports. Sadly, our baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, is nearly as incompetent as our hapless Bengals.

It wasn't always that way. I grew up during the 1970s and the era of the Big Red Machine, when the Reds won back-to-back World Series Championships and dominated the National League. The Big Red Machine is considered one of the best baseball teams of all time, and it was a lot of fun to be a Reds' fan when I was a kid. But, with the exception of one World Series title in 1990, the pickings have been very lean ever since.

I'm not a huge baseball fan, but I always cheer for the Reds, and I love all of the history behind the team. First known as the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the Reds have been around since 1869, and they were baseball's first all-professional team.

My mom is a life-long Reds fan and first went to games with her aunt at Crosley Field, which was the Reds' home field from 1912 through 1970. Crosley Field hosted the first night game in baseball history in 1935, and saw many historic events throughout its long history. My mom remembers going to see Jackie Robinson play when he came to Crosley with the Dodgers in 1947.

One of the reasons I love sports is the sense of family and connection that is passed down through generations of rooting for the same team. Decades after my mom went to Crosley with her aunt, my sister, brother-in-law, and I went to a game with her last year at the Reds' current home, Great American Ball Park.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

My sister managed to secure seats in the front row right behind home plate, and we had a great time in spite of the fact that the temperature was 100+ degrees on the day we attended the game. The Reds won, which made the heat more tolerable. It was fun to have seats so close to the field, and I was able to get some pictures of my mom's favorite player, first baseman Joey Votto.

Votto was the National League MVP in 2010, when the Reds won the Central Division. We were all very excited and gathered together to watch the playoffs, only to have the Reds go three and out against the Philadelphia Phillies. It wasn't enough for them to just lose, they had to enter the record books doing it by coming out on the losing end of Roy Halliday's no-hitter, which was only the second no-hitter in postseason history. Like the Bengals, the Reds really know how to lose in style. 

But every year is another chance, and the city was buzzing with excitement for Opening Day back on April 5. The Reds won that game, but have only managed to win four games since, giving them a 5-8 record to start the season. Last week, the Reds scored a whopping total of 10 runs while losing five out of six games. But yesterday's win against the St. Louis Cardinals was a bright spot, so maybe things will start to look up.

It's obviously much too early to give up on the season, but it's always difficult to be optimistic about sports in this city. We know way too much about losing around here and, for decades now, we've simply come to expect it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Queen City Cookies

Cincinnati has had the nickname "The Queen City" since the early 1800s, and was referred to as "the Queen of the West" in the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem "Catawba Wine." Because I think "Q" is one of the hardest letters to come up with a post for, I was really hoping to be able to use this nickname in some way for my "Q" post. I got my wish when I visited Findlay Market for my "F" post, and discovered Queen City Cookies.

This is an absolutely adorable and charming little shop, and their cookies are among the best I've ever tasted. The people behind Queen City Cookies consider their creations "pastry art," and they are not exaggerating with that statement.

I bought a few of the cookies from their "Frieda's Creations" line, which is named for the artist Frida Kahlo. Each cookie is hand made and hand decorated using food coloring ink and edible rice paper. I visited right before Easter, and loved this Easter motif. I couldn't believe the detail that went into the artwork on the cookie.

I wish I'd thought to take the plastic bag off the cookie before taking the picture so that I wouldn't have ended up with this glare, but obviously I wasn't using my head there. In any case, the cookies taste as good as they look, and I actually made myself a little sick because I couldn't stop munching on this Easter cookie.

Anyone who has read my blog for any amount of time knows I am a huge animal lover, so when I learned about Queen City Cookies' support of a local animal shelter I loved the store even more. They donate 100% of their dog- and cat-shaped cookies to the Animal Adoption Foundation, which is a no-kill shelter in our area. I bought this cat cookie while I was there because I thought it was so cute, and I loved the way the artwork on the cookie looks like cross-stitch.

Queen City Cookies also gives away adorable Cookie Cards with purchases, and the cards are all designed to honor elephants. As they say on the website, "We adore everything pachyderm!" I found this to be very cute, and my favorite card was in honor of the elephant Elodie, who, according to the website, loves to dance and dress with "a dash of flash."

Each card contains a quote or inspirational message on the back, and I loved this quote from Rumi on the back of Elodie's card. It reminded me of how I feel about writing.

As far as I'm concerned, Queen City Cookies is a gem in every sense of the word, and I'm so glad to have discovered it through the A-Z Challenge. If you're ever in our Queen City, I highly recommend trying out some of these fabulous cookies.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Pottery

After I wrote about Regina Berger, who founded Graeter's Ice Cream with her husband and transformed it into a thriving business after his death, I learned about another interesting woman in Cincinnati history, Maria Longworth Nichols Storer. Storer founded Rookwood Pottery in 1880, and the pottery made by her company is still treasured by collectors and pottery enthusiasts today.

The Longworth family was one of the wealthiest families in the city in the late 1800s, and it was common in that era for wealthy women like Maria to paint china as a hobby. Maria took her hobby much further, however, when she began experimenting with glazes and later oversaw the building of her own kiln due to her dissatisfaction with the temperature of her local kiln. From this kiln, Maria moved to opening her own shop, a first for a woman in Cincinnati at that time.

The Rookwood Pottery building in 1904

Maria hired excellent chemists and artists to work for her, and Rookwood's production and quality standards exceeded nearly every other American art pottery manufacturer of the era. Continuing Maria's initial interest in glazes, the Rookwood team created high-quality glazes of colors that at the time had never been seen on mass-produced pottery.

In the early 1900s, Rookwood began producing architectural pottery, and became known for flat pieces and tiles used in homes, hotels, and public buildings. Rookwood tiles can still be found in numerous locations, including the Vanderbilt Hotel and Grand Central Station in New York, and the Carew Tower and Union Terminal in Cincinnati.

Rookwood thrived for decades, until it was hit hard by the Great Depression of the 1930s. It never completely recovered, and eventually ceased production in 1967. In 2006, the Rookwood Pottery Company re-emerged in Cincinnati after acquiring hundreds of glaze recipes and molds from Storer's original company. The company opened a new production studio, and has released a limited number of pieces.

I admit I am totally clueless when it comes to pottery, but I can appreciate beautiful and well-made items, and I really admire the story of Maria Longworth Storer. I find it inspiring that she turned a hobby into such a respected and successful business, and that her products have stood the test of time. Since writing started out as a hobby for me and became a passion, I couldn't help but feel that I could understand how she must have felt about her glazes and her pottery pieces. I can only hope to attain even a sliver of the success with my passion that she achieved with hers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Observatory

The Cincinnati Observatory was established in 1842 and, according to the Observatory's website, it is "home to the world's oldest telescope still in use nightly by the general public." It is a "fully functioning 19th century observatory," and it is used by both professional and amateur astronomers.

The Observatory is a very popular resource for education in this area, and I remember going there on field trips when I was a kid. But to be totally honest, I had forgotten about it until I started looking for topics for my A-Z of Cincinnati.

It's funny to me that I had forgotten about it, because ever since I started reading my friend M.Pax's blog Wistful Nebulae last year and discovered her amazing photos from the Observatory where she volunteers, I have been fascinated by star-gazing and I love to read about her adventures. I can't believe it never dawned on me that if I want to do my own star-gazing I have a place to do it right here in my own backyard! I'm going to have to make some of my own visits this summer and see what I can discover myself.

In honor of Mary's amazing Observatory photos, I wanted to use this post to give a big shout-out for her upcoming blog hop, the Backworlds Launch Party. Mary's new book The Backworlds will be released on May 7, and she's having a party to celebrate.

The Backworlds is the first book in a series, and I know it will be an amazing book. Mary's a great writer, and her first book Semper Audacia was an excellent read. I can't wait to take a trip to her Backworlds.

If you want to sign up for the launch party, click here for the list. Hope to see you on the 7th!

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for National Steamboat Monument

The National Steamboat Monument is located at the Public Landing along the riverfront of Cincinnati, and it is designed to both celebrate and remember the importance of steamboats in the history of the city.

Cincinnati's growth as a city in the 1800s coincided with the heyday of the steamboat age, and there's no question it would not have expanded as it did if not for its importance as a steamboat port along the Ohio river. At the height of this era, when riverboats were the primary means of shipping materials to the south and west, 8,000 riverboats a year, or an average of about 22 a day, docked near what is now the home of the monument.

The monument itself is a 30 foot replica of the paddle wheel of the American Queen, which is the last of the original Delta Queen paddlewheelers. When visitors pass the monument, steam rises from the columns and calliope music plays. Since I was sick last week I didn't get a chance to visit the monument myself, but that's probably for the best as I've no doubt the music and steam would have scared the heck out of Clancy if we'd walked by it.

Nowadays, the only steamboats we see going up and down the Ohio river are the B&B Riverboats, which offer dinner and entertainment cruises. The only time I've been on one of these riverboats was when I was in high school and went to a prom on one of the boats. I've always had trouble with motion sickness and Dramamine is my dear friend but, for some mysterious reason, I did not take any Dramamine before going to that prom. As a result, I spent the majority of the evening clutching the railing of the boat and hoping I didn't get sick over the side. Thankfully, I didn't, but it's probably not a surprise that I never saw that prom date again.

After that experience, riverboats really don't appeal to me at all and I've no desire to ever set foot on one again. But as long as I am not on them, I think they are beautiful and I love the sense of nostalgia that surrounds them. They are reminders of a bygone era and, as a history buff, I can't help but wonder what it was like to stand at the Public Landing and see the dozens of huge boats passing by on their way to the Mississippi, and all points south and west.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Music Hall Ghosts

Cincinnati's Music Hall was built in 1878 and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It is the home of the Cincinnati Pops and Symphony Orchestras and, according to legend, it is also the home of many ghosts.

Music Hall was built on land that held an Orphanage Asylum in 1844 and, prior to that, the Commercial Hospital and Lunatic Asylum, which included a "pest house" for the indigent who were stricken with contagious diseases. When these indigent patients died, they were buried in mass graves, making the land under the present-day Music Hall a potter's field

With that kind of history, it's not hard to imagine there could be some restless souls wandering around Music Hall. While the venue is undoubtedly beautiful, it's not a big stretch for me to believe that there could be ghosts there, as I've always thought the place had a bit of a "Phantom of the Opera" vibe. When I've been there for shows, I could easily imagine the huge chandelier crashing down into the crowd.

Throughout the years, employees of Music Hall have reported strange sounds, such as footsteps, slamming doors, and music playing when no musicians were in the building. One employee reported what sounded like a music box playing for hours in the elevator shaft. In addition, workers have seen apparitions and ghostly forms, such as an extra unknown "cast member" in a production, men and women dressed in 19th century clothing, and, most notably, a "girl in white" who frequents the auditorium. Chairs in the auditorium have reportedly been moved, and elevators set in motion when no one has pressed their buttons.

Music Hall has been renovated several times over the years and, each time, construction workers have unearthed bones. Its reputation for ghostly inhabitants has spread so far that Music Hall was featured on The Travel Channel's Most Terrifying Places in America.

Now, The Cincinnati Arts Association gives guided ghost tours of Music Hall one night a month. I've never attended a tour but, after the reading I did for this post, I can't deny I'm a little curious.

One of the primary settings in my WIP Polar Night is an old asylum that is considered haunted and has been turned into a tourist attraction. It was fascinating to me to read about Music Hall and other supposedly haunted places to get a feel for the atmosphere I wanted to create in my story.

I've always been so intrigued by ghost stories and "haunted" places like Music Hall. What about you? Do you believe in the possibility of ghosts? Or do you think the stories surrounding these places are just the products of overactive imaginations?

Friday, April 13, 2012

K is for Krohn and L is for Little Miami

I am playing catch up today because I've been sick and unable to post. I'm finally feeling a little more alive, so I thought I would just combine my K and L posts so I can get up to date on the A-Z.

The Krohn Conservatory is located in Eden Park, which I wrote about for my "E" post. The building itself is interesting, as it was built in 1933 during the Art Deco era. The Conservatory contains more than 3,500 plant species from all over the world.

When I visited Krohn a few weeks ago, they were finishing up a special exhibit called "Sparkle and Bling," which featured colorful beads and glass displays in addition to the flowers. The exhibit room was filled with displays of lilies, which are probably my favorite flowers.

I also loved the creative mobiles that hung from the ceiling.

One of my favorite things about Krohn is the permanent rainforest exhibit. One room is devoted to a recreation of a tropical forest, and I would imagine it's as close as you can get to a jungle without actually being there.

The sounds of the waterfall, and the steam surrounding it, merely add to the atmosphere.

Dogs aren't permitted in Krohn so Clancy couldn't go with me on that visit, but he did come along on my next trip, to the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

The Little Miami Trail is more than 78 miles long, and runs through five southwestern Ohio counties. It follows the old railroad lines, and is used for walking or running, biking, and horseback riding. It is the longest paved trail in the United States.

Clancy and I decided to pick up the trail in Loveland, which is a small city about 15 miles northeast of Cincinnati. As we drove into Loveland, we saw a sign that said "Welcome to Loveland: The Sweetheart of Ohio." It made me laugh, but it also seemed appropriate, as the town is very charming.

I loved this sign next to the lot where Clancy and I parked.

The trail follows the Little Miami river, and it wasn't long before Clancy and I were completely out of earshot of any traffic or city noise.

The only thing we could hear was a woodpecker, who was furiously pecking a tree and driving Clancy crazy because he couldn't figure out what was causing the noise. I know the woodpecker was in here somewhere, but I never did spot him.

Clancy and I didn't have enough time to do much exploring on the day we visited the trail, but I'm definitely planning to return and check out other sections over the summer. I'm not sure if we'll hit all 78 miles, but we'll give it a shot.

Hope everyone has a great weekend coming up! :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Joseph-Beth

Joseph-Beth Booksellers celebrated its 25th birthday last year, as their first Cincinnati-area store opened in 1986. With the closing of Borders and the continued disappearance of so many independent book stores, it was nice to see one brick-and-mortar store have something to celebrate.

I've always been able to spend hours in Joseph-Beth, and not just because of their books. I love their greeting cards and gift items like journals and stationary, and they also have fun things like literature related t-shirts. In addition, there is a fantastic cafe called Bronte's inside the store. 

Joseph-Beth is known for author signings and other literary events, and they also have wonderful programming for children, including weekly story hours.

Even though I love my Kindle and I'm a huge fan of Amazon and of online shopping, I would hate to see brick-and-mortar bookstores completely disappear. It's unfortunate that it almost seems inevitable in the current climate.

In any case, a belated happy birthday to Joseph-Beth. I know it's probably not likely with the radical changes in the publishing world, but here's hoping for another 25 years.

(This is just a quick drive-by post, as I've come down with a sore throat and fever and have been out of commission for most of yesterday and all of today. I'm sorry I haven't been able to do any blog reading but hope to get back to normal and catch up with everyone's blogs soon.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Ice Cream

After I wrote about Aglamesis Ice Cream for my "A" post, I thought I would be remiss if I didn't also write about the ice cream Cincinnati is known for, and the one I truly think is the best I've ever tasted, Graeter's.

Graeter's has been around since 1870, when it was founded by Bavarian immigrant Louis C. Graeter. Louis and his wife Regina Berger made and sold their ice cream and chocolate candy out of their home until Louis was killed in a streetcar accident in 1919. What is interesting to me is that from that tragedy, Regina carried on and actually opened Graeter's first satellite store in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Hyde Park. Over the next few decades, Regina expanded the business until the Graeter's family had a network of stores all over Cincinnati. She was called "boss" by everyone in the Graeter's business, including her own sons!

According to the Graeter's website, "Louis Charles Graeter may have founded the business, but Regina made it blossom. Undoubtedly, without her, there would be no Graeter’s Ice Cream today."

I always find it so interesting to read about strong women from times when so many doors were closed to them. Even though I've loved Graeter's ice cream all my life, I never knew the story of Regina, and it was fun to learn about this sharp lady who must have been an extremely shrewd businesswoman. 

For a long time, Graeter's was merely a Cincinnati treat, but the company has now spread to include regional locations, and their ice cream is available in grocery stores in various parts of the country. In addition, Graeter's can be ordered online and they will ship pints of the ice cream anywhere in the United States. In 2002, Oprah named Graeter's as her favorite ice cream, and the popularity took off astronomically from there. 

I've actually never had anything bad at Graeter's, but I can't deny I have a soft spot for their Buckeye Blitz ice cream. As an Ohio State alum and a Buckeye fanatic, this one is a can't miss for me. It's an ice cream version of chocolate and peanut butter Buckeye candies, and the fact that the mascot Brutus Buckeye is on the carton merely adds to the appeal. Like I said, I'm a fanatic. :D

If you're ever in Cincinnati, don't go home without trying out some Graeter's ice cream. I really don't think you'll be disappointed.

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Hofbräuhaus

Of all the visits I have made for my A-Z of Cincinnati, this one was by far the most fun. The Hofbräuhaus Newport, which is located right across the Ohio River in Newport, Kentucky, was the first authentic Hofbräuhaus in the United States, and it is modeled after the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany. Founded in 1589, the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl is the most famous beer hall in the world.

Cincinnati has a very strong German tradition, so a Hofbräuhaus was a natural fit for this area. The menu is Bavarian, and the beer is brewed onsite under the supervision of a Brew Master from Germany.

I have to admit that traditional German beer is usually too strong for my tastes, but fortunately for me the Hofbräuhaus offers a lighter "Americanized" version. That brew is perfect for me.

My sister is more adventurous and loves the dark beer.

The large Bier Hall makes you feel as if you have been transported to Munich, with rows of tables that can seat up to 250 people, and live music.

The Hall was quiet at the time of our visit since we went in the afternoon, but we did see this one lone accordion player.

A large cabinet filled with old-fashioned bier stiens stands along one wall of the dining area. I loved all of them, but these three were particular favorites.


The Hofbräuhaus also has an outdoor Biergarten, which is a long-standing German and Bavarian tradition.  

As I mentioned in my Findlay Market post, my maternal grandparents and their relatives were all of German or Bavarian descent. My grandfather died before I was born so I never knew him, but I loved visiting my grandmother and her sisters when I was a kid. These were German ladies who took their beer very seriously, and they actually had it home delivered each week. 

I think if they were still alive today they would love Hofbräuhaus, and it would be such fun to go there with them. Even though I have a sneaking suspicion that they would never forgive me for choosing Americanized light beer.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Glenwood Gardens

Glenwood Gardens is a 335-acre park located in the northern suburbs of Cincinnati, and it is part of the Hamilton County Park District.  I have to admit I'd never even heard of Glenwood until I came across it while looking for something to use for "G," but I'm glad to have discovered it because it's really a beautiful place.

The park contains a 1 mile paved trail as well as a longer nature trail called a Wetland Loop. Clancy and I were short on time when we visited, so we just stuck with the paved trail.

I loved this arch at the start of the trail, as well as its accompanying building, the Cotswold Visitor Centre. I am a total Anglophile, so just the name Cotswold made me smile.

As we walked along the trail, we came upon this bridge that I liked the look of, and also found quite interesting.

The bridge was built in the early 20th century, when the park was farmland, and is made of indigenous stone from the bedrock of Southwestern Ohio, along with granite boulders left behind by the glaciers. Apparently, Ordovician fossils are plentiful in the bridge. In addition, a hill near the bridge, which I assumed was nothing more than one of the rolling hills that are so typical of this area, is actually a mound believed to have been built by either the Adena or Hopewell peoples of the Woodland era.

It was interesting to discover that what I thought was a brand new park actually has a great deal of history behind it.

When Clancy and I visited it was still too early in March for the park's gardens to be in bloom, but I've no doubt they are stunning. I plan to make a return trip later in the spring so I can see Glenwood at its best.

With that, I'm thrilled to have finished the first week of the A-Z Challenge! To my fellow A-Zers, kudos to everyone for a great first week. I admit I've had some trouble keeping up with my blog visits and also checking in with new blogs, but I'm hoping I will be more organized next week.

Happy Easter and Happy Passover to all who celebrate, and happy weekend to everyone! 

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for Findlay Market

Findlay Market is the oldest continuously operated public market in Ohio, and is located just a few blocks from downtown Cincinnati in the Over-the-Rhine area. The Market was built in 1852, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

The Over-the-Rhine district is considered an "intact" 19th century urban neighborhood, and is also on the National Register. Its name comes from the German immigrants who were the original inhabitants and builders of the neighborhood. At that time, the neighborhood was separated from the downtown area by the Miami and Erie canal, and residents called the canal "the Rhine" after the famous Rhine river of their homeland. The neighborhood, which was north of the canal, became Over-the-Rhine, or "über'm Rhein" in German.

My maternal grandparents were 100% German, and they lived in Over-the-Rhine in the early part of the 20th century. My grandmother shopped at Findlay Market, which she simply called "market."

I thought it would be fun to take a trip down to Findlay Market myself for my A-Z of Cincinnati, and walk in my grandmother's shoes for a while.

Today's Findlay Market features approximately two dozen indoor merchants selling meat, fish, poultry, produce, cheese, ethnic foods, and flowers. From April through November, the Market also holds an outdoor farmers market where area farmers sell their locally grown produce. In addition, outdoor vendors sell locally produced jellies, baked goods, soaps, and other items. The outdoor market also hosts street performers and numerous special events throughout the year.

When I was younger, the Market was not in the best condition and, quite frankly, the neighborhood had deteriorated to such an extent that it was not a place anyone wanted to be. But the neighborhood has been revitalized in recent years, and the Market itself was renovated and expanded in 2002 and 2003.

My mom went with me for my trip, and we were both surprised at how packed the Market was even early on a Saturday morning. It wasn't easy to find a place to park and, once inside, we were greeted with all the sights and sounds of a bustling marketplace.

The most tempting vendor for me was a waffle stand called A Taste of Belgium.

I found the story behind the waffle stand interesting, as the owner, Jean-François Flechet, grew up in Belgium and came to Cincinnati while working for a market research company. He wanted to re-create the waffles of his home here, and opened a small temporary stand at Findlay Market in 2007. The popularity of the waffles spread quickly through word of mouth, and now Flechet operates a Belgian Bistro in addition to his permanent Taste of Belgium stand, and his fantastic waffles have been featured in both local and regional media.

I love waffles and breakfast foods of all kinds, so my tongue was hanging out at the thought of these waffles. But there were so many sweets everywhere we looked at the Market, I could have easily gained 100 pounds in one morning if I had tried them all.

My impression of Findlay Market is that it has come full circle. Once the go-to place for produce and meat for the German residents of Over-the-Rhine, it and other urban markets fell out of favor when city residents began moving to the suburbs and shopping in suburban supermarkets as the 20th century progressed. But Findlay Market has come back in style again now as many people choose to live downtown again, and the Market is a flourishing and vital part of the movement to buy locally-grown and locally-produced food.

It's great to see such a historical place remain as a vibrant and thriving part of the community.