Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Back From the Future

Close to a year ago I came across a thread on UrbanOhio.com which featured some photographs of Cincinnati from 1987. The thread was nearly two years old at the time and I wasn't sure if the user who posted them was still active on the message board, but I knew I needed to contact him. Why? Because I had a project in mind. The photographs capture a day spent wandering about town, something I can certainly appreciate. From their composition to the reasons he took them, I could identify with the photographer. I was able to get a hold of Chase Clements, the photographer in question, who took the majority of these shots on a cold day in November with some from the Spring of 1987 (to give you an idea of what 1987 was like, this was the number one song at the time and this was the number one movie).

Cincinnati, 1987:

- Ft. Washington Way.

- View from the Kentucky side of the Roebling Bridge.

- Sycamore Hill.

- Looking down Walnut St. towards Riverfront Stadium.

- A police officer on a motorcycle whizzes by Fountain Square.

The photographs aren't groundbreaking and they don't capture some monumental historic moment. They're innocent, good, honest photography. They capture a day Chase spent exploring the world around him and capturing what he saw. While I wasn't even born when the photographs were originally taken and while others may pass them off as ordinary city shots, I have a profound appreciation for them. With that in mind I contacted Chase and explained to him how I wanted to capture similar photographs at similar angles, but show how those same scenes look today. Chase was kind enough to let me use his photographs. So on a cold December day I set out to explore the city, just as Chase had done 22 years before me.

Photographs on the left by Chase Clements - November and Spring, 1987.
Photographs on the right by Ronny Salerno - December 5, 2009.

- Old and new Ft. Washington Way. The "trench" through downtown was completely redone between 1998 - 2000.

- Aside from some road signs and the shades of blue paint, not much has changed with this view of the Roebling Bridge.

- Some new buildings on the city's skyline weren't the only changes to come over time. Click to enlarge the picture and take a close look the tower on the Roebling Bridge. In 1987 it still had its silver domes atop, while over the years they were replaced with the spires we see today.

- The view from Devou Park. The revolving restaurant/hotel in Covington remains while the skyline of Cincinnati has seen new skyscrapers and stadiums come since 1987.

- Carriage rides are still a popular attraction along 5th St. across from Fountain Square.

- The Carew Tower has remained iconic, although with less radio antennas in 2009 than in 1987.

- Looking south down Walnut St., the street signs and streetscaping have changed over the years. Riverfront Stadium seen in the left photograph is absent from the right one. It was imploded and demolished in 2002 and replaced by Great American Ballpark in 2003.

- Cincinnat's iconic Tyler Davidson Fountain changed positions with the renovation of Fountain Square in 2005. The buildings behind the fountain in the far left photo are now adorned with the logos for US Bank.

- Looking south at the corner of Main and 7th, the historic buildings down Main have remained, while the business within them have changed.

- In 1987, the view from Sycamore Hill wasn't impeded by the URS Building (seen under construction) and the Union Central Life Insurance Building still bore the words "Central Trust." Today that building has received a modern PNC Bank logo.

- Central Parkway in Over-The-Rhine, looking towards downtown.

- The "Cincinnati Enquirer" name has since faded from this building.

- The Western Hills Viaduct as seen from Fairview Park in Clifton. If you click to enlarge the image and look closely at the top right of the left photograph, you can see what appears to be an old railroad turntable and storage facility. The area is park space in the right photograph.

- The Imperial Theatre near Mohawk corner hosted strip shows and adult movies until 1978. By 1987 it had ceased operations and still to this day sits vacant.

While emulating the photographs Chase had taken over two decades before me, there was one I couldn't seem to get; the photograph seen earlier of a Cincinnati Police Officer riding a motorcycle near Fountain Square. After I had photographed the square I found a parked police motorcycle, but the photograph wasn't nearly similar enough. I had walked back to my car a few blocks up, but realized that the Bearcats game was almost over and the team was close to a comeback victory over the University of Pittsburgh. Wanting to see the end, I walked back to the square to watch it on the jumbotron. The Bearcats came back to win it and everyone at the square cheered. As I crossed the street and once again started walking back to my car, I heard a loud engine. I turned to see a Cincinnati Police Officer riding by me on a motorcycle and without time to check the settings on my camera, I raised it up and took the shot, probably in a similar fashion to how Chase took his.

- Cincinnati Police Officers on motorcycles as seen in 1987 (left) and 2009 (right).

Special thanks to Chase Clements for allowing me to use his photographs and for taking these pictures originally, for that I am truely thankful. I hope some time down the road someone will take my pictures and keep this up.

P.S. The Rick Astley song posted earlier wasn't meant as a "Rick Roll," it really was the number one song in America at the time, seriously. It's also not that bad of a song, also seriously.


  1. I am assuming the original Main St pic is a faded print. You could have at least tried to balance the color.
    Here's my stab.
    Notice the drug store in the Imperial pic is still open in 1987. That area used to be jamming in the mid 80s even with the closed down theater. Someone wanted to reopen it for live performances, recently. Dunno if that got off the ground but it didn't look like it would work in the long term.
    cool post

  2. These are fantastic. I always love viewing then/now photographs. Thanks for doing this.

  3. Fantastic... You did a great job of matching up your shots to the originals!

  4. Nice post.
    I can see my condo in the view from Devou Park.

  5. Dude, I LOVE this post. The Fort Washington Way renovation was not something I was aware of.

  6. Matt, thanks man. Yeah Fort Washington Way used to be a huge mess. By the time I learned how to drive it was all redone, but I can remember my dad cursing about how much of a pain in the ass it was when going down to Reds games. They also used to have these pedestrian bridges over it to get to the stadium and it was all just weird. The CBD was separated from the riverfront via this awful looking mess of highways.

    Check it out here: