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I-71 South
 Columbus to Cincinnati,  Ohio

This section of Interstate 71 starts in Columbus and then proceeds southwest to Cincinnati, linking Ohio’s newest big city with Ohio’s oldest big city. The region in between is mostly flat farmland with a unique history of its own. It was settled by Virginians, primarily, who were given land in exchange for their service in the Virginia militia during the American revolution. The early Virginia presence has given the region a characteristic southern feeling.

·        The route begins in the metropolitan Columbus area, just south of the I-71 and I-270 interchange. During the first miles of this journey, we’ll see evidence of the expansion of Columbus into what had been farmland: housing and condominium developments, commercial structures, high-power electrical lines, a golf course, and a landfill. Columbus is the only major city in Ohio that has shown consistent population increases over the past decades, and it reaches out over this land, which was once exclusively farmed.

·        When we leave the Columbus area, we’ll drive past farms that are likely to be involved in livestock production: beef and dairy cattle. When settlers first arrived in this region, it was a swampy treeless prairie, too wet for farming. But during the mid-1800s, the swamps were drained, making the land suitable for cultivation. In the newly-dried fields, bluegrass began growing, and bluegrass is good for grazing. Also, since early settlers shunned this land, it was available for purchase in large lots at low prices—ideal for cattle operations.

·        Notice the barns as we drive this route. Most are in good repair, indicating that farming in this region remains profitable. But America’s wooden barns are slowly disappearing from the landscape. During the last fifty years, the country has lost about half of our wooden barns.

·        About midway through our journey, we’ll pass Wilmington, one of America’s picturesque small towns. It also claims to be birthplace of an American institution: the banana split. According to the story, Ernest Hazard—owner of a restaurant appropriately called, “Hazard’s”—created the concoction on a cold wintry day in 1907. (Though in fairness we must note that Wilmington is not the only town in the USA to claim credit for the banana split.)

·        As we approach the bridge crossing the Little Miami River, we’ll see signs announcing the Fort Ancient State Memorial. The name is a misnomer: it wasn’t a fort and it’s not all that ancient. Furthermore, those named by settlers, “The Fort Ancient People,” didn’t build Fort Ancient. It was somebody else. The Little Miami River valley has served as a cradle of civilization for over 10,000 years, with waves of people making this area their home.

·        We then enter the Cincinnati metropolitan area. Among the first sights we’ll will be the tops of roller coasters and a replica of the Eiffel Tower. This is the Kings Island amusement park, successor to an amusement park called Coney Island that dates back to 1870. The original park was located along the Ohio River, but it was subject to frequent flooding and so new owners moved the facility, reopening during the 1970s.

·        Cincinnati was the first large American city west of the Appalachians, thanks in great measure to its location on the Ohio River. It was a stopping point for those on their way west, a gateway into the future. The city also became a vital trading center, a link to the Mississippi River, then south to New Orleans, the Gulf of Mexico and markets as far away as South America and the West Indies. When the Miami and Erie Canal was completed, Cincinnati was connected to Ohio’s interior and to Lake Erie. Later, Cincinnati also became a manufacturing center.

·        As the West’s first large city, things happened in Cincinnati before they happened in other places. Such as, the first professional baseball team in the country, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was organized in 1869. The nation’s first public weather service was located in Cincinnati, the first air mail left Cincinnati by hot air balloon, and the nation’s first train robbery took place in a suburb of Cincinnati, on May 5, 1865. No one was ever pinned with the crime although Jesse James and his brother, Frank, are likely suspects. Cincinnati was the first city in nation to establish a Jewish hospital, and a Jewish theological college: Hebrew Union College. It was the first city in the nation to establish a municipal university: the University of Cincinnati. And get this: Cincinnati is the first and only US city to build and own a railroad: the Cincinnati Southern running between Cincinnati and Chattanooga, Tennessee. You know, the song about the, “Chattanooga Choo Choo?” That was a Cincinnati Southern train.

This program is available for purchase on CD. The narration runs for about 70 minutes in 4 segments and takes you from Columbus to Cincinnati along I-71. The CD sells for $9.95.

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