Contributor Luke Field explores the graffiti and trickling waterways of "The Narrows" in Duck Creek.
The Duck Creek corridor was once a well-traveled pathway into the city of Cincinnati. I first came across mention of the area while browsing Jake Mecklenborg's Cincinnati Transit website. He linked to a website, duckcreek.org, that does a wonderful job of exploring the history of Duck-Creek Road. This artery bordered the creek for much of its length, and ran roughly the same route as I-71 now does.
The creek itself is a small waterway that cuts through Oakley area on its way to the Little Miami River. It once formed part of the dividing line between the cities of Cincinnati and Norwood. Much, however, has been covered by the highway construction of I-71. What natural portions of the creek remain continue to be converted into concrete channels, and flood controls have reduced the creek to a trickle.
Duck Creek road remains only in small sections, often dwarfed by its large brother, I-71. This one particular stretch of the road contains a large number of Spanish-styled stucco houses - a interesting architectural pocket, barely visible from the highway.
While new sections of concrete continue to be added to the creek, many of the concrete retaining walls have been in place for years. During much of the hike we were bordered by six foot tall
concrete walls - canvases for years of urban artwork.
As the walk continued, the creek was crossed by an old (but active) railroad. The bridge over the creek provided for a few nice photographs, as did the interesting masonry of the railroad tunnel beyond.
Throughout the walk I was continually struck by how peaceful the creek continues to be. The evening sun setting on the layers of aging graffitti softened what might otherwise be a harsh, utilitarian waterway. And the historic remnants of the transportation lines that bordered the creek - the roadways and railroads- combined with the layers of more contemporary built elements and art pieces - all combined to create a rich palimpsest. This mixture of fragments from different times - some dating back nearly a hundred years - created a very self-reflective setting.
Places like these hold a very strong draw for many people. And I believe that as as the urban environment continues to be redeveloped and as the scale and speed of our transportation systems continues to increase, these urban vestiges become even more important us. Such small reminders help to ground us in both place and time - reminding us that things are not always so large, so fast, and so intangible.
As an architecture student, I often though about how to reengage these fragments of time - how to occupy a place like this. I never quite came to any conclusions. A fine line seems to exist between explorations and exploitation - between preserving something and ruining it. For now, simply walking and photographing seems harmless enough, I hope.
A few months back, Queen City Discovery hosted a contest called "Share Your Own Discovery" in which readers of the site could write in with their own ideas for an article to be featured on the site. The winner was Luke Field, who authored the above article. To see Luke's website, check out LukeField.com.
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