Michelle Bellamy: Cincinnati is history … in a way

No, not the way you’re thinking.

I have always been interested in long ago times and far away places. I dreamt of castles and horses, farm houses and plantations. I dreamt of recent immigrants moving to new places in search of the American dream. (No, I promise, I’m not getting political here.)

As I grew up, I became more ensconced in the familiar, the big box stores, fast food, predictable places. It was wonderful because I was learning how the world worked in my own way, but I still held that imaginary place of long ago in the back of my mind. I still did a double take when I spotted those victorian style homes or the buildings with the columns. I’ve even been known to purchase vintage clothing simply because it had a decade marked from over 50 years ago.

If it weren’t for chamber pots, I’d definitely love to live in the Victorian era. I’d get to wear a bustle and carry a parasol!

It says in my bio that I guide historical tours in Over the Rhine. This is my ‘fun’ second job. I do it, not for the added income- that’s just a bonus- but because I get to share history in an entertaining way. I have learned a lot of interesting, sad, victorious, and macabre facts about our lovely city, none of which I’m going to share here. Mostly because I want you to take the tour and actually see these locations while you learn about them. I am so proud of our amazing city for recognizing the value of these historic buildings and locations, and putting the time, effort, and money in to saving them rather than tearing them down.

Over the Rhine isn’t the only neighborhood honoring our past by maintaining it. I just spent a lovely evening in Loveland. I dined at The Works restaurant in an old train car connected to an old fire station that had been renovated into a brick oven restaurant. It was beautiful. After dinner, we took a walk down the street. Unfortunately, a recent fire had taken out a huge piece of the strip, but we did find an adorable little candy shop. The girl behind the counter wouldn’t sing any of the songs from Willy Wonka, but she was super helpful in answering our questions, and put up with a couple of adults acting like, well, kids in a candy store. This little towns has managed to grow bigger and better while still holding onto that small town vibe with these little shops, parks, and statues.

There are so many other wonderful historic sites to visit in Clermont, hidden gems like Chateau Laroche, better known as the Loveland Castle, and Peter’s Cartridge Factory, which is illegal to enter but rises into view for travelers on the Loveland Bike Trail. There is a tiny cabin on Goshen High School’s grounds that was built in 1804, and Goshen students take field trips there to learn about local history. Milford is taking great strides towards the revitalization of their historic town. There is a self-guided Underground Railroad trail. And these are just the ones that I have actually visited myself.

It’s interesting to me that I’m not the only one who is fascinated with our past. I think of crotchety old guys on porches saying, “things aren’t like they used to be,” and I think, they’re right. Things aren’t at all what they used to be. We have plenty of food. Our drinking water isn’t full of bacteria. Women can wear pants, vote, and drive. So, it’s a good thing. On the other hand, everything is more disposable. Buildings are cookie cutter because mass production is cheaper. There is a certain comfort in that, but there’s something more in being able to see those vintage items being cared for and brought back. It’s almost like things from a hundred years ago or more still matter. I used to think there was a cycle to trends and fads. For example, about every twenty years, bellbottoms come back. The thing is, bellbottoms are not that hard to reproduce, but these buildings and the history they hold are irreplaceable.

Staircases worn in the center by age are beautiful, not in spite of that wear, but because of it. The hand stitch lace on the edge of a glove is beautiful because a machine can’t quite replicate the minor imperfections and overall strength of the original creation. I think that we, as a whole, are beginning to recognize that. I truly hope that is not just a current trend, but one that we can pass down to our children. Sure we could tear the building down, but what about the architecture? What will replace it? Another concrete box with automatic opening doors and a logo that can be spotted from miles away?

I’m tired of traveling and seeing the same town again and again. Fast food restaurant, check. Oil change place, check. Gas Station, Check. Big name grocery store, check. When I go into a town or a city and I see that the facade of a building contains artwork, carved wood design, heavy oaken doors, broad and worn staircases, it takes me back to that fantasy world in my head. I’ve begun seeking that out as I grow older. I want to get closer to that history because those days- when those building were built- were the days when our current lives were decided by the people who founded our great cities and towns. To touch the bannister that these great people have touched just stops me in my tracks. It allows me to think of the profound differences I could make, and the not so sad fact that my own bannister likely won’t be standing in a hundred years.

So, to Loveland, Goshen, Cincinnati, Milford and every other neighborhood

that is placing value on our historic locations, not just the big city halls, but even the smaller, run down buildings, I thank you so very much for the opportunity to stand in awe of the past.

P.S. If you wanted to take one of those ‘Historically Entertaining’ tours, visit AmericanLegacyTours.com. This is not a paid ad. I just love my job and want everyone to share in my joy.

Bellamy is a 35-year-old mother of three girls. She’s a teacher at a high school, which serves students with mental health and behavioral issues. She also guides walking tours in Over the Rhine. A couple of her favorite hobbies are a “little unusual,” such as ghost hunting and special effects make-up. In her free time, she likes reading, writing, drawing, or hunting thrift and antique stores for odd things.