September 29, 2011

Queen City Pub Crawl: Sedamsville

I'm guessing 99 percent of Cincinnatians have no idea where Sedamsville (Suh-DAMS-ville) is located. I had never even heard of the neighborhood until I began researching this project. Those of you familiar with the tiny town (under .5 square miles and less than 700 residents) owe its fame to Peter Edward Rose. The hit king played baseball on the fields at the edge of Sedamsville as a child.

One thing was certain as I drove the streets of Sedamsville: There were no bars. Heck, there were barely any signs of life. But as I explored, I was struck by the visuals. This was a town with history. Potential oozed from its cracked sidewalks and abandoned buildings. It was like seeing the ugly ducking before she transformed into a beautiful swan. There were times when I felt sick to my stomach as I stood and imagined a different Sedamsvillea vibrant neighborhood filled with life. Where had all the people gone? And when had the town's heart stopped beating?

What happened to Sedamsville? A river town just west of downtown Cincinnati should be bustling with activity. Young professionals should be buying up property and transforming this historic district into the Queen City's next hot spot.

From what I can gather, there has been a clash of interests over the past three decades. Local residents want Sedamsville to remain untouched. Developers prefer to demolish crumbling houses (and churches) in the name of progress. The stalemate has created a stale community. Even the courts have gotten involved as residents have filed desperate pleas to declare Sedamsville a historic district to stop the bulldozers. For now, stagnation seems to be winning.

Eventually, I parked and began a walking tour of Sedamsville. Almost immediately, I ran into a local who eagerly gave me an overview of his neighborhood. He pointed out the homes of two locals who had been living in Sedamsville for over seventy years. He also offered me a house for $5,000. I got the feeling someone could literally buy the entire town for the price of a home in Clifton.

That's probably why I received the strangest looks from locals. Perhaps they thought I was another developer snooping around town hoping to demolish their homes and stomp on their traditions.

Hometown pride? Stubbornness? Stupidity? Loyalty? Despair? Hope? Your guess is as good as mine. Sedamsville is a fascinating neighborhood on life support. Will it be a ghost town in thirty years when the current residents die off? Will a younger generation transform the community into a thriving neighborhood? Either is possible. Both are equally encouraging and saddening.