Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hidden Treasures

Two Northern Kentucky school teachers, Mac Cooley and Jerry Gels, have researched and organized two superb Cincinnati walking tours: "Queen City Underground: Breweries, Bosses, and Burials" and the newest "Civil War Cincinnati: Heroes, Halls, and Holy Places."

The highlight of the Queen City Underground Tour is the cavernous beer cellar under the old Kaufman Brewery in the Guildhaus Building on Vine Street near Liberty. Cincinnati's Over-The-Rhine neighborhood once had 130 breweries, bars, and beer halls, and remnants of those glory days are part of the tour and open to tour participants.

Nearby in St. Francis Seraph Church is a crypt where human remains were re-interred in the mid-nineteenth century and tombstones were used to pave the floor.

The Civil War Cincinnati Tour pauses at Washington Park to recall the military recruiting and drills common there in the early 1860s. Across the street is Memorial Hall, with a 600-seat auditorium, built by The Grand Army of the Republic and Hamilton County to honor the military service of local citizens.

Also on the tour is the now-closed Emery Theater built in 1911 to house the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra's new director was 27-year-old Leopold Stokowski. Tourists can see for themselves why the Emery is believed to be the first concert hall in America with no obstructed view of the stage.

A couple blocks away is Old St. Mary's Catholic Church, whose bell-tower, it is said, served as a watch tower during the Civil War against an invasion by Confederates across the Ohio River.

Many if not most citizens are unaware of Cincinnati's history and treasures. Once known as "The Paris of the United States," often dubbed "Porkopolis," nicknamed "The Gateway to the South and the West," the Queen City is being refurbished and its hidden treasures are coming to light once again.

Few who drive downtown's Central Parkway realize that this thoroughfare used to be the site of the Miami-Erie Canal, nor do they know that remnants of a failed and long-defunct subway system still remain below the surface.

It's fair to say that wherever people settle, they leave behind remnants of their culture which in time become cherished relics.

Cincinnati, Ohio, is surely such a site. The German influence is obvious in Over-The -Rhine. Other ethnic and cultural details can be uncovered all over the city.

It makes me wonder what future generations will discover about us. Will they wonder about our accomplishments the way we marvel at the ovens and lager-beer caves under Vine Street? Will they be impressed with the beauty of our decorations the way we stand in awe of the ornamentation in Memorial Hall on Elm Street?

Sometimes, when I assess the art, music, drama, literature and architecture of our day, I draw the conclusion that we are in a New Dark Age.

What shall we leave behind?

Put that question in the context of the Gospel, and we look not to things that perish but to things that last.

Cincinnati has many hidden treasures, and they are revealed only when I go look for them. Perhaps the same is true of life in general. Maybe I need to look around and see the good that people do and realize it shall live after them. Maybe I need to go look for the treasures around me. Maybe I need to become a tourist.

We and everything we manufacture will one day turn to dust. Only one thing lasts, and that is love. And so I question, "Where is my treasure?" And, "Will it last?"

(Further information about Cincinnati tours at Further information about lasting treasure at Matthew 6:19-21.)

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