A couple of Saturdays ago, Mrs. Dubbatrubba and I went on a two hour urban hike. We started just north of downtown, went to Washington Park, then north to Findlay Market… then up (and later down) several sets of steps that took us to Mt. Auburn, Pendleton and Liberty Hill.
During our 11,000 steps, I saw streets I never would’ve found otherwise, many of them with homes from the 1800s. I’ve lived in Cincinnati for 30+ years, yet on that Saturday hike, I walked through parks I never knew existed, and enjoyed views of the city that I’d never experienced previously.
We went past old breweries, down original cobblestone streets, through an alley filled with street art… and up really long sets of steps.
Cincinnati lays claim to being a “City of Seven Hills” (although no one can agree on which seven are the official ones). Back in the day, these steps were part of the daily commute for the folks working in the breweries and meat-packing plants of “Porkopolis.”
This Soapbox Media article from 2016 has great information about the steps that help connect the city, and its residents. Here’s an excerpt:
At the height of their use in the 19th Century, over 30 miles of hillside steps once connected the neighborhoods of Cincinnati to each other. The first were installed by Mt. Auburn residents in the 1830s in order to gain easier access to Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine. These days, some are more travelled than others and many have been closed; some are in decent condition, but others are trashed and overgrown.
As a reward for the climb, the ascending pedestrian is greeted at the top with scenic vistas of downtown, the Ohio River and beyond. Not just for recreation, however, the hillside steps are also an integral part of our city’s transportation system and provide a pedestrian-friendly connection to some remote areas of the city.
“What separates Cincinnati from other major cities are the steps, and they are essential. San Francisco has beautiful hills, but most access points are on private property. You never get a really good perspective of the hills, valleys and views unless you are in an expensive hotel or restaurant.”Carl B. Westmoreland Jr., as quoted in John Clubbe’s exhaustive and learned Cincinnati Observed guide to the city – from the Soapbox article linked above
Kudos to Derek Scacchetti for organizing and leading these walks, through his Urban Rangers group.
“As Urban Rangers, we bring people together to make a habit of purposeful walking, to explore the urban environment, and to be advocates for pedestrianism and our city’s public spaces.”
(Check out the Urban Rangers Instagram for some great tour shots.)
And a shout-out to Spring in Our Steps for helping to clean up, preserve and mark many long-neglected public alleys and stairways. An interactive map of more than 300 sets of steps in Cincinnati is here.
There’s a lot to be said for being a tourist in your own town. You don’t always have to go across the country or around the world to enjoy new sights and make new friends. Sometimes adventure awaits a lot closer to home.