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What is Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati?

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  • Written By: Cathy Rogers
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2014
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Over-the-Rhine is a community in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a rich German heritage and an official classification in the National Register of Historic Places. The area is .64 square miles (1.66 sq km) and features extraordinary 19th century architecture. The largest U.S. national historical district, it is located on the northern side of Cincinnati’s Central Business district.

Its first residents were German immigrants who named the neighborhood because of a canal that ran through downtown that reminded them of the Rhine River in their native country. In the 1800s, the residents of Over-the-Rhine were from various economic classes and included the poor immigrants, small business owners and working class families. Many of these first residents shared a German heritage. In the mid 1800s, Over-the-Rhine became known as a community where migrants could find affordable housing and employers could find inexpensive labor. During this time, Over the Rhine was also home to over 50 breweries.

The population of Over-the-Rhine peaked during 1860-1900. During this time, many buildings had storefronts on the ground level with apartments above. Row houses were also common, as were meeting halls, churches, stores and theaters. The architecture is varied, but contains many Italianate style buildings. At the turn of the century, the community lost some German residents as they settled in other parts of Cincinnati, but it remained a cultural hub for the local German-American population.

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The canal after which the community was named was drained in 1919 to create a subway and parkway. Over-the-Rhine experienced a resurgence of sorts in the 1930s and 40s when rural Appalachian residents relocated to the community in search of employment and greater economic opportunities. During the 1960s and 70s, the overall population decreased; however the percentage of African Americans in the community increased. A community chamber of commerce developed in the 1980s. Because of the neighborhood’s proximity to the downtown area and to transportation hubs, the area is attractive to investors.

During the 21st century, Over-the-Rhine is experiencing revitalization and hosts numerous art galleries, entertainment venues and restaurants. Findlay Market, an open-air European-style market featuring locals selling bakery, meat and produce items, is located in Over-the-Rhine. The community features small homes as well as larger, multi-story residential buildings, many needing rehabilitation and refurbishment.

In 2001, the Over-the-Rhine community was the scene of an incident involving the fatal shooting of an African American man by a Cincinnati police officer. The shooting incited riots due to the fact that the murdered man was unarmed and it was the fifteenth time police had killed an African American in a period of six years. The riots lasted for three days.

The Over-the-Rhine neighborhood is home to several historical churches and other attractions, including the Cincinnati Music Hall, Washington Park, Wesley Chapel, Old St. Mary’s Church and German Baptist Church.

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