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BigDipper 80

CINCINNATI - A Walk Down McMicken Avenue

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Cincinnati is one of those cities that's really difficult to capture through photos. The topography isn't quite as extreme compared to what you might find in Pittsburgh, but you can find yourself suddenly high in the air over the course of a short walk. Photos also fail to capture how truly eclectic Cincinnati's architecture is. There aren't many places that have as many dramatic changes in style as I've found in various neglected corners of the Queen City of the West. One such street, notable both for its bizarre collection of architecture and its dramatic topographical changes, is McMicken Avenue. It snakes along the hill that forms the northernmost boundary of Cincinnati's "urban basin" and is roughly the dividing line between the "downtown" neighborhoods and the "uptown" areas surrounding the University of Cincinnati. Below are a few shots along just this one street that I hope help capture both the beauty and sheer weirdness of this isolated little pocket of the city.

 

32884985337_9e405a7499_b.jpgIMG_9554 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

McMicken's southern terminus is at Main Street, where it branches off at an angle roughly parallel to the base of the northern hillside. Because it runs off-kilter from the downtown street grid, you end up with a lot of oddly-shaped buildings.

 

46912592585_af11b77cff_b.jpgIMG_9555 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

A handsome stone townhouse sits at the start of the street.

 

32884984307_116d58a41a_b.jpgIMG_9557 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

McMicken is primarily located in the "Northern Liberties", or the northern half of the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Although most of the lower half of OTR has been fixed up after decades of neglect, the northern half is only recently coming into its own.

 

46912591435_8502412da3_b.jpgIMG_9558 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

Because of its Germanic heritage, Cincinnati was a huge beer producer for much of its history. The Northern Liberties have been adding signage recently to highlight this heritage and to hopefully transform the area into a tourist magnet not unlike Kentucky's Bourbon Trail.

 

32884983287_2d46713def_b.jpgIMG_9559 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

Notice how the one house is set a bit further back than its neighbors. For whatever reason, this is fairly common in Cincinnati, where you'll have an odball building or two on a block not built up to the lot line.

 

46912590155_8c099ba3c7_b.jpgIMG_9562 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

The Second Empire house in the foreground recently got fixed up and sold for quite a bit of money. People have been snapping up some of the properties higher up the hillside for cheap and renovating them, since many of them have spectacular views of the urban basin.

 

32884981007_8dc6b6ddb1_b.jpgIMG_9566 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

47828733511_037f19202b_b.jpgIMG_9568 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

47828732991_a42ae1cf1c_b.jpgIMG_9569 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

47828732301_2699182fb2_b.jpgIMG_9570 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

46912587195_d3cd2ef734_b.jpgIMG_9573 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

This beautiful building, situated at a five-way intersection in the heart of the neighborhood, has recently been undergoing some restoration work.

 

47828730851_3617a20cd1_b.jpgIMG_9575 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

46912586515_3fd3425aa1_b.jpgIMG_9578 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

47828729431_4d7308128d_b.jpgIMG_9579 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

46912585615_2f99ca75a0_b.jpgIMG_9581 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

47828727611_eba593a163_b.jpgIMG_9582 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

Another beautiful old brewery building.

 

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Some wonky houses because of the street grid's angle.

 

46912584785_314c627bb9_b.jpgIMG_9586 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

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47039263774_364e29f753_b.jpgIMG_9589 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

40862286293_0a4088a15b_b.jpgIMG_9593 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

Things start getting a little weird once you cross into West McMicken and the road beings to head northbound.

 

47039261314_0ff68fe2cf_b.jpgIMG_9594 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

40862284993_7d99b86f8c_b.jpgIMG_9597 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

47039259914_37b7b8ae30_b.jpgIMG_9598 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

47039259394_f29eb4f692_b.jpgIMG_9599 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

40862283333_47556abe17_b.jpgIMG_9600 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

This is the famous "Mockbee Building". It's hard to get a sense of how massive it is - because it's on a hillside, it's actually two-three stories taller on the south face than on the north face!

 

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Another angle on the building.

 

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The views in this area really are spectacular. This shot is from a block further up the hill, so the buildings in the foreground are all along McMicken.

 

47039257974_23f4738161_b.jpgIMG_9602 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

Another funky-angled dude.

 

40862281303_f3e5a125a1_b.jpgIMG_9605 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

I love how this house wraps around on itself but then suddenly stops.

 

47776662332_654f7b4e61_b.jpgIMG_9607 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

Look at all the bizarre editions this house has had over the years!

 

32884966977_10b2118871_b.jpgIMG_9609 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

A beautiful Second Empire mansion. Yes, we're still on the same street, just over a mile from where we started.

 

32884965247_c009434b63_b.jpgIMG_9611 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

Cincinnati suddenly gives way to San Francisco and this gingerbread stunner, directly across the street from the previous mansion.

 

47776659972_b81711b636_b.jpgIMG_9613 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

32884963607_cc352d226b_b.jpgIMG_9614 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

A gorgeous little chunk of rowhouses.

 

47776659202_75a8c5379b_b.jpgIMG_9618 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

The Fairview Steps climb an additional 200 or so feet up to the Fairview neighborhood uphill from McMicken Avenue.

 

32884961927_c70d734bd7_b.jpgIMG_9619 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

47776658522_2d3582f6de_b.jpgIMG_9621 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

The poor guy in the foreground has been mutilated beyond recognition.

 

32884960397_6af34f4ee1_b.jpgIMG_9622 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

More strange additions.

 

47776658002_020a267d94_b.jpgIMG_9623 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

46912577975_61bfd08178_b.jpgIMG_9625 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

46912577465_1dc7e773bd_b.jpgIMG_9626 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

46912577145_37ede4a7f1_b.jpgIMG_9628 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

It's hard to tell here, but we're 100 or so feet up now. Below us is the Camp Washington neighborhood.

 

46912576895_22e07da1ac_b.jpgIMG_9629 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

 

33951505958_92b62375da_b.jpgIMG_9631 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

This might look like a narrow shotgun-ish house, but it's perched on the hillside and actually has a second unit and a cellar below it.

 

46912576325_8cae817431_b.jpgIMG_9632 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

Meanwhile, this house is tucked well down the hillside and almost completely invisible from the street.

 

33951504948_80e8d58637_b.jpgIMG_9635 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

A better view of how far back this house is. It has no driveway and no back alley access, so it's completely isolated on its lot.

 

33951503698_ba44edbacf_b.jpgIMG_9638 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

And then out of the blue... some bungalows. On one street we've gone from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.

 

46912574785_fe006e2eb4_b.jpgIMG_9641 by Ethan Kocjan, on Flickr

And there you have it. The last building on McMicken Avenue. Hopefully these photos gave some good insights into a very unique street in a very unique city.

Edited by BigDipper 80
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“To an Ohio resident - wherever he lives - some other part of his state seems unreal.”

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This is a great set of photos. The street really is one of the strangest. It goes from typical OTR buildings to a smattering of hillside homes, to a weird, almost Appalachian feel at times. Thanks!

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Great set of photos. McMicken is one of my favorite streets in the city. Some friends of mine recently purchased a property on the street near Ravine and will be renovating soon. 

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Some wonky houses because of the street grid's angle.

 

Both of these buildings have been renovated by Kunst. You can see photos on their site at the bottom under "Best & Lothes": http://www.kunst.us/apartments/

 

Anyway, nice photos. I love the part of McMicken that bends around Brighton Bridge. Nice views of the entire basin, trees, beautiful houses. It's the kind of street that seems to only exist in Cincinnati (maybe Pittsburgh has similar streets, I don't know).

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Excellent set and commentary.

 

I miss the days of circa 2000's UrbanOhio when city photo sets like these were so commonplace. 

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Thanks for posting! I always thouht the area of McMicken between Vine and Main and the smaller streets in between can be a beautiful, urban neighborhood. There are a ton of abandoned buildings in that area and probably will be the last area of OTR to revitalize.

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Great photos, please continue to share more with us! It's encouraging to see development starting to spread to McMicken. I imagine this same photo tour will look much different in 5 years or so.

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IMG_9598

 

This crushes me. I lived in the building on the left and it was gorgeously restored by Nazca Properties. Original 4-level Victorian staircase, operable transoms and original wood doors. It was gorgeous. The fire that tore through it last year destroyed everything. It's promising to see work moving again on it, but some of what was lost can never be rebuilt. 

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