Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Beneath the Facade: A Rare Look Inside the Deteriorating Cincinnati Union Terminal (Part 2)


Photos-Michael Manning


 
Can you imagine? For over 8 decades, this towering strength of Art Deco beauty has welcomed every traveler inside from the heat and cold. Wherever your destination was, you were left with an indelible impression of a city with a deep and proud cultural heritage. There were seven railroads that provided service to Union Terminal: the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O);The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad (C&O); the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway; the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N); the Norfolk and Western Railway; the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Southern Railway selected a site for their new station in the West End of Cincinnati near the Mill Creek. Santa Fe ceased offering passenger service in 1960 (it's distinctive red and silver "Chiefs" were repainted in the cargo blue and yellow livery). Today, Burlington Northern is merged with Santa Fe (as Burling Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, or BNSF) and Southern Railway (who purchased the Union Terminal's rear freight yard and carried out demolition of the 407 foot-long Concourse to enable piggy-back freight operations), is now amalgamated into Norfolk Southern. Amtrak offers limited train service from Union Terminal.   
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(Michael Manning)
The beautiful massive neon lit clock.
As with my previous post, I'm grateful to CincyWhimsy for sharing these
photos. You can access them by Clicking HERE. Pictured above is a light
bulb that lights up the hour hand.
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(CincyWhimsy)
As you might expect over 83 years, the face of the clock has shattered,
yet stayed intact as it awaits new glass panes it so richly deserves.  
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(CincyWhimsy)
How many millions of travelers and visitors have gazed up at this clock?
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(CincyWhimsy)
Installed in 1931, the original gearing of the clock remains functional.
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"There were master craftsmen. We don't have master craftsmen anymore."
Actor Steve McQueen (1930 - 1980)
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(CincyWhimsy)
Tools, circa 1930 to repair and adjust the clock mechanism.
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(CincyWhimsy)
Engineers use this clock to adjust the hands of the massive clock for accuracy.
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(CincyWhimsy)
As the plaster has fallen away, deep cracks from water damage have broken this retaining wall.
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(CincyWhimsy)
Estimates are that what is left of this wall will last only 12 months, if that long.
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(CincyWhimsy)
A weather-beaten hallway.
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(CincyWhimsy)
Another crumbling wall near an old radiator.
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(CincyWhimsy)
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(CincyWhimsy)
A large section of this ceiling has collapsed, creating a serious safety hazard.
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(CincyWhimsy)
Above and below: This is the external Rotunda support wall with cracks that worsen with rain and snow.
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(CincyWhimsy)
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(CincyWhimsy)
Walls and archways where plaster and support materials underneath are subject now to collapse.
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(CincyWhimsy)
How long will this wall be able to support weight-bearing loads?
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(CincyWhimsy)
The Union Terminal deserves a far better fate. Since 1972, it has received a new lease on life and is a viable going concern. It has given much to society and now it is our turn to repair and maintain it for generations to come.
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(Michael Manning)
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Like arms that reach out to welcome a great city, so too we must give back. I believe this is entirely possible: Let's commit ourselves to salvaging the 9 Winold Reiss murals inside Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport's abandoned Terminal's 1 and 2. Further, let's permanently repair Cincinnati Union Terminal and the Cincinnati Music Hall. I am but one voice of concern--a catalyst and a conduit--to increase public awareness, and highlight the need for this action.  
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My Own Emotional Verdict
In the opinion of this writer, Hamilton County voters in Cincinnati were denied the right to have their voices heard when Commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann made an 11th hour move to strike the .25 cent icon tax issue from appearing on the November referendum.
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This reckless action, which amounts to collective malfeasance, was undertaken against the County's own consultants, the County administrator's advice, the Tax Levy Review Committee, and even by-passed direct communications with fellow Commissioners in advance of the vote. This is hardly a sterling example of ethical civic leadership.
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When Hamilton County Commissioners rejected  The Cultural Facilities Task Force solutions to permanently fix Union Terminal and Music Hall, they destroyed 9 months of dedicated hard work. The solutions were comprehensive in scope, and corrected decades of neglect by previous administrations. Many civic leaders and politicians alike could see that there was a problem festering, with the absence of a long-term maintenance and repair program for Music Hall and Union Terminal that was adequately funded. The tendency to "kick the can down the road", or apply temporary quick fixes to both landmark buildings, predictably resulted in a full blown crisis. Current civic leaders were awakened, and responded with a creative solution to complete restoration and permanent repairs to both buildings. 
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There must be a mechanism to revisit the decision of the Hamilton County Commissioners and return control of the icon landmark tax issue to the hands of the County electorate. The Commissioners were appointed to serve the people of Hamilton County and not their personal interests. In the eyes of this writer, they have failed to do their jobs and must be held accountable for their actions. If they are unable to perform their jobs, they need to be removed and replaced.       
 
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The Eyes of  the Nation are Watching 
It bodes well to remember that Cincinnati became the first city in 41 years to have two landmarks appear on the National Historic Trust's "11 Most Endangered Buildings in America" list.  Other cities with iconic landmarks that share a spot on this list have been closely monitoring the situation playing out in Cincinnati. The Commissioner's decision of August 7th set an example of poor leadership by recreating the problem. By choosing to strike Music Hall from the November referendum and underfunding Union Terminal's requirements, the initial problem will only worsen. Stop and imagine what civic leaders and concerned citizens in Richmond, Virginia (Shockoe Bottom), Englewood, New Jersey (The Palisades), Hot Springs, South Dakota (Battle Mountain Sanitarium), Huntington Beach, California (Historic Wintersburg), St. Louis, Missouri (Palladium Building),. Chattanooga, Tennessee (State Office Building), Miami, Florida (Bay Harbor's East Island), Tallahassee, Florida (Frank Lloyd Wright House) and Kona, Hawaii (Mokuaikaua Church) must be thinking. Could this outcome repeat itself in their city? The answer depends on the intelligence quotient and competency of their elected leaders.
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A Blue Chip Task Force
I've reviewed the names and credentials of The Cultural Facilities Task Force and they are impeccable. These 22 members volunteered the gift of their time, their presence, and their expertise. It bears repeating that the Task Force members were handed a problem. It wasn't their problem. It was a problem that was allowed to fester over decades of bad decisions that ultimately burdened a great city. No, it wasn't their problem. They didn't cause it. But they were willing to step in and solve the problem that ultimately landed two Cincinnati iconic landmarks on the "11 Most Endangered Buildings in America" list. 
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While the National Trust for Historic Preservation dates back to its founding in 1949, the endangered list was created in 1973. Over the past 41 years, 250 buildings have been saved through the efforts of this non-profit organization. 
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A Comprehensive Solution is the Best Option
The Cultural Facilities Task Force did an exemplary job, and proposed a comprehensive plan that was a solution to a blight on The People of Cincinnati. To dismiss this plan and "kick it to the curb" is a rank obscenity. We can do better that that by reversing the egregious action of two weeks ago, and embrace the comprehensive solutions to save both buildings now. Where there is a will, there's a way.
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No More "Business As Usual"
Further, I respectfully disagree with those who suggest that "it's time to swallow hard feelings and make it work". Nothing could be further from the truth. How many private donors were alienated and angered by this reckless 11th hour brinksmanship by Mr. Monzel to the point of withdrawing total financial support?
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Union Terminal Officials Must Hold Off Action on The Monzel Plan
Officials at The Cincinnati Museum Center must defer moving forward on what amounts to a failure to fund the future. Someone needs to explain to me how underfunding Union Terminal by at least $33 million is rational. Would anyone in their right mind attempt to drive through a remote desert with less than a full tank of gasoline in their car? Rallying supporters around a plan for failure is senseless. Any drive to raise the necessary funding after the Monzel affair, is ludicrous. With the Task Force Plan, donors knew how their money would be used. Would you be a confident donor with this mind set in place? Any seventh grade student can see that this is the type of thinking responsible for creating the mess that The Cultural Facilities Task Force was left to clean up in the first place!
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Rallying around "business as usual" sets a terrible example for our youth of flat learning. We manage to learn the same lessons year in and year out from half-baked decisions consistent with the Monzel affair. If I were a business consultant, and the Hamilton County Commissioners were a management team of a private business I was assigned to reorganize, I'd be tempted to fire every member from their post as quickly as possible. Next,  and replace them with competent leaders. Unscrupulous acts committed by unethical people have no place in government or private enterprise.    
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For the uninitiated, here are the members of The Cultural Facilities Task Force listed below. They deserve our continued support to remain involved, and to find a substitute leader, now that Robert A. McDonald has been appointed to his new position as head of The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
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The Cultural Facilities Task Force Members:
 
Robert A. McDonald -- Proctor & Gamble, Retired Chairman, President and CEO
 
J. Wickliffe Ach -- Hixson Architects, President & CEO
 
Hon. Theodore N. Berry Esq.-- Hamilton County Municipal Court, Judge
 
James E. Evans -- American Financial Group, Director
 
Scott D. Farmer -- Cintas Corporation, CEO
 
William Froehle -- Plumbers, Pipefitters & M.E.S. Local 392, Business Agent
 
Father Michael J. Graham, S.J. -- Xavier University President
 
Thomas L. Guidugli, Jr. - International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local No. 5
(IATSE), Business Agent
 
Robert Killins -- The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Program Director, Vibrant Places
 
S. Craig Lindner -- American Financial Group, Co-Chief Executive Officer/Co President and Director
 
Timothy J. Maloney -- The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Hale, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation President & CEO
 
W. Rodney McMullen -- Kroger, CEO
 
Kathryn E. Merchant -- The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, President & CEO
 
Keith A. Oliver -- Kroger, VP-Facility Engineering
 
Mario San Marco -- Eagle Realty Group LLC, President
 
Robert Sheeran -- Xavier University, VP for Facilities
 
John I. Silverman -- Midland Atlantic Development, Managing Principal
 
Murray Sinclaire, Jr. -- Ross, Sinclaire & Associates, LLC, President & CEO
 
Liza Smitherman -- Jostin Construction, VP Professional Development
 
Shiloh Turner -- The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Vice President for Community Investment
 
Kathy Wade -- Learning Through Art, CEO
 
Bernadette Watson -- Community/Government Affairs, Consultant  
 
 
 
 
 
      




 

6 comments:

P M Prescott said...

Let us hope that they don't let a great building die needlessly.

Stephen Hayes said...

What I wouldn't give to be able to prowl through this wonderful building with someone as knowledgeable as you. Take care.

Michael Manning said...

Stephen: Given the process used to create the murals, I believe you would serve better as MY guide! If you have a chance, Google the Union Terminal and the process Winold Reiss used to create the mosaic murals with colored plaster. This is something I could see you doing! :)

Margie said...

I do hope this remarkable structure is saved ...
Thanks so much for sharing Micheal, good job ....

Michael Manning said...

Thanks, Margie: I have faith in The People of Cincinnati and believe this story may still have a better ending ahead!

Michael Manning said...

P M: As you know, I dislike politics. But if the voters in Cincinnati are not given an opportunity to support the suggestions of the Task Force in November, the two buildings WILL eventually die!