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Over the Rhine

Over-the-Rhine is a neighborhood in Cincinnati. Historically, Over-the-Rhine has been a working-class neighborhood. It is also believed to be one of the largest, most intact urban historic districts in the United States.[2]


The neighborhood's distinctive name comes from its builders and early residents, German immigrants of the mid-19th century. Many walked to work across bridges over the Miami and Erie Canal, which separated the area from downtown Cincinnati. The canal was nicknamed "the Rhine" in reference to the river Rhine in Germany, and the newly settled area north of the canal as "Over the Rhine".[3][4] In German, the district was called über den Rhein.


An early reference to the canal as "the Rhine" appears in the 1853 book White, Red, Black, in which traveler Ferenc Pulszky wrote, "The Germans live all together across the Miami Canal, which is, therefore, here jocosely called the 'Rhine.' "[5] In 1875 writer Daniel J. Kenny referred to the area exclusively as "Over the Rhine." He noted, "Germans and Americans alike love to call the district 'Over the Rhine.' "[6] The canal was drained and capped by Central Parkway, the resulting tunnel was to be used for the now defunct Cincinnati Subway project.

In 2011 the Over-the-Rhine Foundation, which works to prevent historic building loss in OTR, won third place in the National Trust for Historic Preservation's nationwide "This Place Matters" community challenge.[22] In 2006 the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the status of Over-the-Rhine as "Endangered."[19] Since 1930, approximately half of Over-the-Rhine's historic buildings have been destroyed.[17] More will follow unless currently deteriorating buildings are repaired.[19] Between 2001 and 2006, the city approved more than 50 "emergency demolitions," which were caused by absentee landlords' allowing their buildings to become so critically dilapidated that the city declared them a danger to the public. Reinvestment could have saved them.[17][23] Due to the situation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation declared Over-the-Rhine one of Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places in 2006.[19] Over-the-Rhine was included in the 2008 book, Frommer's 500 Places to See Before They Disappear, which noted the district's "shocking state of neglect".[24]


According to research conducted by WCPO in 2001, some of the worst-kept properties are owned by Over-the-Rhine's non-profits,[25] which let the buildings sit vacant and deteriorating because of lack of funds[26] or volunteers.[27] With some buildings on the verge of collapse, investors and real-estate developers are trying to restore them before deterioration to the point of requiring demolition.[15]According to the U.S. Census Bureau, part of Over-the-Rhine has one of the highest rates of abandoned and vacant homes in the country. They classify it as the sixth hardest area in the nation to get an accurate population count.[28]

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