Cincinnati is a city between north and south, located on the border of bluegrass- and mint julep-Kentucky, brushing up against the east, but decidedly belonging to the Midwest. It is located at the midpoint of the 981-mile course of the Ohio River in the southwestern corner of Ohio, at an elevation of 540 feet. It is conservative, friendly, unpretentious—known for small-town charm and a cosmopolitan flavor. Winston Churchill called it “the most beautiful of America’s inland cities,” Charles Dickens described it “as a place that commends itself\205favorably and pleasantly to a stranger,” Places Rated Almanac rated it “America’s most livable city,” and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalized it as “the Queen City.” City limits squeeze 364,000 people into roughly 78 square miles. But Greater Cincinnati encompasses parts of Indiana and Kentucky, and has a population approaching 2 million people. There are 200 small towns and villages that that take up 3,866 square miles, making it the 23rd-largest city in the country. Downtown is a basin surrounded on three sides by rolling hills—the geographic layout is often likened to an amphitheater. Fountain Square, with its elaborate bronze Tyler-Davidson Fountain—the Spirit of Water—is the heart of the city. A multimillion- dollar redevelopment of downtown has built a skywalk that connects major hotels, stores, office complexes, restaurants, and entertainment centers. The riverfront has been renovated into an entertainment and recreation center.
Residents and visitors are flocking again to the middle of the city after a bleak period of withdrawal. Early settlers battled smallpox, insects, floods, and crop failures. After General Anthony Wayne broke the resistance of the Ohio Indians, a large influx of German and Irish immigrants settled the area. In 1811 the first steamboat arrived, the New Orleans. The construction of the Erie and Miami Canals in the late 1820s gave farmers transport to the city and a market for their products. In the 1840s and 1850s Cincinnati boomed as a supplier of produce and goods to the South. After the Civil War, prosperity brought art, music, a new library, and one of the first professional baseball teams, the Cincinnati Red Stockings (now called the Cincinnati Reds.) Late nineteenth-century political corruption led to the establishment of a city-manager form of government that has earned Cincinnati the title of America’s best-governed city.
Cincinnati’s skyline indicates its corporate power. Twin towers on the eastern edge are the world headquarters for Procter & Gamble, the consumer products giant. Five other local businesses are on the Fortune 500 list of largest industrial companies— Chiquita Brands International (bananas); Cincinnati Milacron (robots and machines that make other products); Eagle-Picher Industries Inc. (industrial manufacturing); General Cable Corp. (electrical, automotive, and telecommunications wire and cables); and E.W. Scripps (media). The city also houses 10 of Fortune 500’s largest service companies. Cincinnati is home to several colleges and universities, including the University of Cincinnati (largely a commuter school), with 34,000 students, and the Jesuit Xavier University, with 6,000 students.
This is an active city, offering festivals, music, one of the best zoos in the country, excellent museums, opera and ballet, and outstanding professional sports teams.
Tall Stacks, a nationally renowned event that occurs in October every three or four years, goes back to the days when Cincinnati was one of the largest cities in the country. The Belle of Louisiana, Delta Queen, Mississippi Queen, and dozens of other paddlewheelers line the banks of the Ohio with their calliopes tooting, as they did a hundred years ago. Flatboats like the ones that carried settlers before the advent of steamboats pull into a landing set with hay bales, old storefronts, and people in period costumes. This event draws 2 million visitors.
The Flower Shower, run on the last weekend of every April, is the best-known open-air flower and garden festival in the country, and the only North American flower show endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society of Great Britain. The Riverfest, held each Labor Day (the first Monday in September), brings 500,000 people to the waterfront to enjoy fireworks and watch musical performances. Another big annual event is Oktoberfest Zinzinnati: during mid-September, more than half a million people in six downtown blocks sing, dance, and enjoy beer, sausages, and sauerkraut. Seven stages, 50 food vendors, and a children’s area make this the country’s largest Octoberfest. The Cincinnati Zoo is renowned for its collection of 100 endangered species and its birth programs for such exotic animals as Malaysian tapirs, okapis, white tigers, and gorillas. More than 100 white tigers have been born here. The Zoo Babies event, held each June, is especially popular. Jungle Trails is a mock African and Asian rainforest that exhibits flora and fauna. During the Festival of Lights, held during the winter holidays, more than 1.5 million lightbulbs glow above ice skaters, hayrides, and ice carvings, and the premises in general.
Since the early nineteenth century Cincinnati has had a distinguished cultural life. William H. McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers, which were textbooks for many US primary schools, and Lyman Beecher’s religious writings and sermons, were printed in local publishing houses. Harriet Beecher Stowe, who used the area as a setting for parts of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, lived in Cincinnati for 18 years.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1894. It was the first US symphony orchestra to tour Europe, and regularly sells out venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York. Guest conductors and performers over the years have included Vladimir Horowitz, Beverly Sills, Benny Goodman, Marian Anderson, Sir Thomas Beecham, Enrico Caruso, Pablo Casals, Artur Rubinstein, Itzhak Perlman, Yo Yo Ma, and Ezio Pinza. The Cincinnati Opera Company is the secondoldest opera company in the country—it gave its first performance in 1920 in a converted band shell at the Cincinnati Zoo. It continued to perform at the zoo until it moved to the Music Hall in 1972. The company performs four operas a year.
The Cincinnati Pops performs indoors and outdoors, presenting top entertainers such as Ray Charles, Doc Severinson, and Roy Clark, and combines symphonic music with lasers, projections, fireworks, fire and water, and hot-air balloons. The city has a grand cultural showcase in the $82 million Aronoff Center for the Performing Arts. It opened in 1995, and has three performance halls. The Cincinnati Ballet, one of the top 10 in the country, plus dance theaters and Broadway show venues are among its occupants.
The Cincinnati Art Museum’s 118 galleries contain the world’s largest collection of miniature art, several Picassos, a 300 BC Egyptian mummy, Andy Warhol’s Pete Rose painting, a large collection of Frank Duveneck paintings, Rockwood pottery, Persian architecture dating back to 480 BC, marble carvings dating back to 2500 BC, Nabataen art, and Jin Dynasty wood carvings. It is one of the oldest American art museums, having operated since 1876. Professional baseball began in Cincinnati in 1869, and the first night game was played here when President Franklin D. Roosevelt threw a switch at the White House to turn on the ballpark lights. Former Cincinnati Reds player Pete Rose is baseball’s all-time hit leader. The Reds, who have won five World Series, play on artificial turf at Cinergy Field. The Cincinnati Bengals have reached two Super Bowls. They play in Paul Brown Stadium, which opened in 2000. The Cincinnati Cyclones play in the International Hockey League, a step below the major leagues, at Firstar Center, next to Cinergy Field. Cincinnati University has a strong basketball team, and has one of the famous names in college and pro basketball history—”the Big O,” Oscar Robertson. Cincinnati can be reached by car by I-74 and I-75 and by bus. The Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is located across the Ohio River in Kentucky.