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Neighborhood History

Since the early nineteenth century, Over-the-Rhine, a 360-acre neighborhood, has been home to people of all economic classes and ethnic backgrounds. Over-the-Rhine has long been physically defined by its characteristic compact streets, three- to five-story brick buildings, churches, and meeting halls, which was heavily influenced by its first inhabitants, German immigrants.

The neighborhood’s name is also a nod to its earliest residents. The first portion of the Miami and Erie Canal completed in 1827, and the canal flowed between downtown and Over-the-Rhine, which reminded German immigrants of the Rhine River. They dubbed the canal (now Central Parkway) “the Rhine,” and from this grew the name “Over-the-Rhine.”

As Cincinnati continued to emerge as one of the country’s important commercial and industrial hubs, Over-the-Rhine drew even more immigrants from Ireland and England as it was an affordable place to live with amenities steps away. One of the most prominent cultural institutions in Over-the-Rhine is Music Hall, located on Elm Street next to Washington Park. Music Hall was originally called Saengerhalle, and was built in 1878 to give a permanent home to musical performances and expositions. Today, Music Hall is home to the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras, Cincinnati Opera, and May Festival.

Fast forward to the 21st century, Over-the-Rhine is on the course to once again becoming a thriving culturally and economically inclusive place. After experiencing a population decline – from 45,000 residents in its heyday in the early 1900s to less than 10,000 residents as recently as the early 2000s – there has been a concerted effort from the public and private sectors to stabilize the neighborhood, reduce crime, secure vacant properties and lots, and develop the neighborhood into what has become in recent years one of the most desirable places to live, eat, shop and play by Cincinnatians and visitors alike. The 2012 renovation and expansion of Washington Park along with its appealing features and free programming has overnight, brought an influx of visitors and local residents to the Park and Main Street and Central Vine Street business districts.

The 2002 Over-the-Rhine Comprehensive Plan, which covers strategies on housing, economic development, safe and cleanliness, transportation, and quality of life, has acted as a guide for much of the development taking place today. The formation of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) and the increased private investment by developers such as Urban Sites, Model Group, Eagle Realty Group and others, have been instrumental to the success of Over-the-Rhine. Their combined efforts have helped to accelerate and leverage the development that has been taking place in the neighborhood for decades.

The revitalization of Over-the-Rhine continues to receive national attention for its clear direction with regard to development, public and private efforts, and strong will of local residents.

Photo Gallery: Historic sites with great stories located throughout Over-the-Rhine