Is There Beauty in OTR?

The entire city is a sort of physical interface but, to keep my life interesting, I focus on the sometimes-forgotten details. Sure, there are important things like street signs, and less important but more prominent things like billboards which, together, form a narrative that shapes the urban experience. But, it’s in the nooks and crannies of the city where the traces of a more compelling narrative are to be found. For instance, when I wonder if there is beauty in OTR, the urban interface provides an answer. “Yes. Yes, there is.”

Where? Why, at Below Zero Lounge on Walnut St.

And, what’s beauty if it doesn’t command an audience, here in the form of a surreptitious surveillance camera?

Lastly, Wilkymacky is one of those words that I’ve tried to introduce into the lexicon of Cincinnatisms. It could be a cross between “willy-nilly” and “mackin.” Maybe that doesn’t entirely make sense, but it doesn’t not make sense. I think there’s definitely a place for it.

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14 thoughts on “Is There Beauty in OTR?

  1. I tip my hat to you. When I got interested in photography, one of the things I liked was that it made me more observant. But I’ve walked by this part of Walnut scores of times and never noticed the bricks or the alley name. In fairness, most of those times were after dark, but still… kudos to your powers of observation!

  2. Thanks! Carrying my camera around definitely helps me pay attention, but I’m constantly surprised by seemingly new things in places I’ve walked many times before.

  3. I’ve never noticed the beauty sign either. Wilkymacky is a strange surname still found in Cincy, and I guess the alley was named after one of them.

  4. i can’t decide if i like this more or the you-are-beautiful project. this is much more subtle “make what you will of it” while you-are-beautiful is blunt force meaning

  5. Kevin: I was just sitting there, minding my business when he got up in my face, all wilkymacky. In other words, he was carelessly putting the moves on me, I think…

  6. Found out about Wilkymacky Alley: John Wilkymacky owned a hardware and cutlery story on the west side of Main Street between 12th and 13th streets in 1850, according to the 1850 city directory. The alley, running from Main to Walnut, first appears in the 1857 directory, which was assembled in the spring of the previous year. In 1894 the city passed a bond that allowed for the improvement of the stretch between Walnut and Clay Streets. There are wooden paving bricks there (only place in Cincinnati) that are likely from that date.

  7. My husband, Dale Wilkymacky, believes his great grandfather or grandfather once had a grocery store on the Walnut St. side of the alley, as well. He owned several small grocery stores at one time.

  8. The story does go that John owned mulitple stores in that part of the city at one time. Unfourtunately I have not been able to uncover any direct information on where or how many. And none of the family seems to know either which is a bit annoying. I am surprised that this is the only place left in Cinncinnati that still ahs wooden bricks. I’ve only personally been to the alley once and that was around ten years ago. Hopefully i can find more about it. Also to the writer of the article willy-nilly makes no sense. There is no known history that i can find on it but willy-nilly just makes no sense

  9. Thanks for chiming in, Chris! I took these photos and wrote this post. My point about the nameWilkymacky is that, like willy-nilly, it sounds like a slang term although it doesn’t obviously seem to mean anything.

  10. I had always pointed out the wood paver blocks to others and recently noticed construction barriers on the alley, associated with the adjacent street car tracks. I walked by this morning and saw the blocks have now been removed, back to the brick paved alley. I saw a single, mostly complete wood paver and picked it up to preserve. Now I have to figure out, who would want to save it, since it’s destruction May 6, 2015.

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