This track was recorded as part of Cincinnati Dronescape, a project featuring a number of Cincinnati musicians who composed music to accompany ambient sounds recorded in various locations around the city. My track was recorded near Cincinnati’s Union Terminal in the West End.
Beginning in 1959, urban renewal programs and the construction of I-75 demolished as many as 1,000 structures and displaced between 20,000 to 30,000 residents from the historically black West End, which the city called Kenyon-Barr. Today, fewer than 6,500 people live there, mostly in the northern part of the neighborhood. Many of the neighborhood’s former residents were relocated to Avondale, Corryville, and Over-the-Rhine.
These photos were taken in Cincinnati’s West End and combined with archival photographs taken by the city just prior to demolition of buildings that once occupied the locations. These archival photographs not only show what the neighborhood looked like before demolition, they capture sometimes-intense interactions between the city employee posing with an indexing sign and neighborhood residents
A. 747 West Court Street
B. 1055-1057 Clark Street
C. 1049 Dalton Ave.
D.1065 Clark Street
E. 561 Carlisle
F. 700-702 Barr Street
G. 703 Cutter Street
Click on each address to see the archival photos. Click on the photos to see what these areas look like today. More photos of the West End are here as well.
Many of the addresses and streets once located in the area have been wiped away, their locations now occupied by highway ramps, vacant fields and nearly-empty industrial parks. However, some parcels from now-non-existent streets or street sections, such as 700 Barr Street, still appear on Google maps, tiny digital remnants of this once-bustling neighborhood.
The track’s ambient noises encompass the neighborhood’s pre and post urban renewal history. The clanging sound of the rail yards has been a constant in the West End, recalling the trains that brought so many to the neighborhood during the Great Migration. The harsh industrial hum, meanwhile, is a more recent, post-“renewal” addition to the area’s atmosphere.
West End Cincinnati and the Kenyon Barr District, 1956.
Though city leaders called the district a dangerous slum, residents at the time have a much more nuanced recollection of the West End, celebrating the neighborhood as a vibrant community. For more, check out West End resident, historian and novelist John Harshaw’s brilliant stories about living in the neighborhood before urban renewal here and read Malcom Lindsay Allen Sr.’s great memoir, 100 or So Boyhood Memories of the Real West Endies.