Cincinnati witnessed a 70-plus-year background of vibrant cargo and also characters along the waterway that provided Over-the-Rhine that is name.

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Since he to be behind practically every improvement ever contemplated in pioneer Cincinnati, it need to surprise no one that Daniel Drake propose a canal mechanism in his 1815 book, A snapshot of Cincinnati. Drake was, as usual, 10 year ahead of his time, however his proposal closely matched the route ultimately selected as soon as the canal was laid out in 1825.

Looking eastern from gyeongju Street towards Mt. Adams. By 1914, as soon as this picture was taken, the Miami & Erie Canal was basically abandoned while citizens argued about its future.

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Just the Facts

The Miami & Erie Canal prolonged 244 miles from Cincinnati come Toledo. Construction began in 1825 and also was completed in 1845, at a complete cost the $8,062,680.07. Follow me the route, the canal crossed 19 aqueducts and employed 106 locks. The critical 10 of this locks brought barges indigenous Court Street down to the Ohio river at Cincinnati follow me a channel now hidden under Eggleston Avenue. The peak year for website traffic was 1851, after which competition from railroads raised every year. The canal was abandoned in 1913 ~ a catastrophic flood in Dayton damaged essential infrastructure.

Up & Down

Along that is path, the canal climbed 395 feet increase from Lake Erie to with its highest possible level. Well-known as the Loramie Summit, this plateau extended nearly 20 miles between brand-new Bremen to Lockington, phibìc of Piqua. From there, the canal descended 513 feet until it reached the Ohio River. The final 100-foot fall ran indigenous Court Street come the Ohio flow in downtown Cincinnati.

From Barges come Superhighways

Long stretches of the Miami & Erie Canal are now traversed through automobiles, specifically on I-75, U.S. Course 24, and also Ohio path 25. Automobiles were often the third vehicles come follow these routes. As the canal was abandoned, boats usually gave means at first to interurban rail currently in the 1920s and also 1930s. Automobiles followed only after ~ the Federal help Highway action of 1956 sponsor the building and construction of interstate highways.

Cincinnati’s Rhine

Without the canal, there would certainly be no Over-the-Rhine. Well, no the name. The an initial references to Cincinnati’s “Little Deutschland” ar as “Over-the-Rhine” appear around the moment of the polite War. Originally a put-down, the city’s German residents came to appreciate the idea that they felt more at house once lock crossed over the Canal (the “Rhine”) into familiar territory.

The “Other” Canal

The Miami & Erie Canal was not the just canal offer Cincinnati. The Cincinnati & Whitewater Canal to be completed in 1843 and connected Cincinnati to Indiana’s Whitewater Canal close to Harrison. This short canal was in operation for only two decades and to be converted to a rail right-of-way after 1862. A tunnel constructed for the Cincinnati & Whitewater canal deserve to still be watched in Cleves.

The Lakes Abide

Some that Ohio’s biggest lakes were originally produced to for sure a constant flow that water for the canal. Cool Lake St. Marys was one of these feeders and also was the world’s largest reservoir as soon as built. Indian Lake, originally a collection of little lakes and wetlands, was converted into a big supply basin for the canal. Along the length of the canal, smaller sized basins—including LeSourdsville Lake—allowed barges to revolve around, dried dock, or exchange cargo.

Holy Water

A pair of neighborhood African American churches dunked converts in the Canal. One Northside church carry out its rites in ~ a location well-known then together Baptist Hill. The other congregation i was baptized a half-mile southern of the Bruckmann Brewery, beneath the west slopes the Clifton.

A canal watercraft near Middletown.

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Liquid Gold

Canal transportation was suitable if you didn’t need cargo in a hurry and also if your cargo to be unlikely come spoil. Whiskey, in other words, was practically the perfect canal cargo, and also a many liquor go up and also down the canal. A solitary barge could carry 500 barrels that whiskey at 50 gallons each. In ~ pre-Prohibition price averaging $1 per quart retail, it is a $100,000 boatload.

A Taste that Venice

The City of Cincinnati commemorated its Centennial in 1888 through an enormous exhibition staged in ~ Music Hall, and the 1,248-foot-long “Machinery Hall” was erected behind it over the flowing canal. The hall’s internal was decorated in a Venetian theme, accentuated by a fleet of gondolas poled follow me by to sing gondoliers. The Italian boats returned yearly into the early 1900s.

A Lock top top a Name

Lockland, our suburban neighbor straddling the “Split” ~ above I-75, has actually nothing to carry out with security gadgets requiring a key. A half-dozen Ohio communities contain “Lock” in your names, all showing their erstwhile place along the assorted canals connecting Lake Erie to the Ohio River. In ~ Lockland, I-75 barrels right through the previous canal locks.

Ice Is Nice

As an exposed and reasonably shallow stream, the canal frequently froze every winter. In the sections near towns and cities, the annual freeze brought out skaters and also even horse-drawn sleighs. The frozen canal also generated comprehensive supplies of commercial ice to icemen issued permits by the State that Ohio. One of the biggest storage infrastructure was located at LeSourdsville, north of Hamilton, capable of holding a two-year supply of the pre-refrigeration necessity.


Every young in Cincinnati knew the “secret” sign: two fingers organized up in what later became the sign for “peace” meant it to be time to go swimming. Every boy in Cincinnati also knew the warning shout, “Cheese it, the cops,” a signal come grab her clothes and also scatter.

Beware the nude Man

The canal had actually barely been excavated as soon as Cincinnati City Council pass an ordinance in 1828 outlawing shower in the waterway. The ordinance began: “Whereas much lewdness and also obscenity everyday occur native the public and lascivious path in i beg your pardon men and also boys reveal themselves in bathing in the Miami canal in the city that Cincinnati…” by the so late 1800s, naked males were still in level view follow me the local waterways. Yet nakedness was no the just crime. Also worse, these flagrantly unclothed males were naked ~ above Sundays. Skinny-dippers created an attack impediment to good folks cross the Mill Creek leg on their way to church.

Dangerous Waters

Charles Ludwig’s little book, Playmates that the Towpath, published in 1929 through The Cincinnati Times-Star, is filled through anecdotes around parents paddling your sons (and, rarely, daughters) for swim in the canal. The book is same packed with stories about swimmers gift rescued or drowning. Return seemingly placid and tame, the canal asserted many lives over the years. Drownings to be common, yet infectious diseases from dysentery come cerebral meningitis spawned in the polluted waters together well.

And Gross, Too

Even those former boys who in their dotage fondly remembered swim in the Miami & Erie Canal recalled the stench from industrial wastes including grease, acids, and chemical salts; rotting animal carcasses; the occasional corpse; and also the materials of innumerable chamber pots cleared into the stream indigenous tenements along the banks. When a swimmer yelled “floater,” there to be no informing what was on the way, however everyone scrambled out of the water.

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The last Boat

Cargo barges had disappeared native the canal through the early on 1900s, and long-distance passenger business vanished after ~ the 1913 overwhelming demolished some of the upstream locks. It’s believed the last excursion boat on the Cincinnati ar of the canal organized a party that “Free Setters,” a culture of men devoted to beer drinking. Fittingly, the July 27, 1917, voyage started at the Gerke Brewery on the Plum Street bend and also ended at Bruckmann’s near the Ludlow Viaduct.