Singer, Allen J. The Cincinnati Subway: The History of Rapid Transit. Charleston, SC; Arcadia Publishing, 2003.
Toman, James A, Bruce E. Young, James R. Spangler, Blaine S. Hays. When Cleveland Had a Subway. Cleveland; Cleveland Landmark Press, 1999.
I would like to think this review is a guide to all you need to know about subways in Ohio. Two books that could be read in one sitting. A lifetime of conversation pieces. (“Did you know there were subways in Ohio?”)
Yes, the electric underground has a history in Ohio. Sort of. From 1917 until 1954, Cleveland had underground trolley lines running under the Detroit-Superior Bridge (now known as the Veterans Memorial Bridge). And there were two actual subway stations that looked just like real subway stations (because they were real stations). Cincinnati’s story is more grand, in that an actual subway system was planned but never completed.
When Cleveland Had a Subway is a great little publication (48 pages) that tells the story of the bridges over the Cuyahoga and the trolley and Interubrans that ran under one of the bridges. The text is brief but to the point, with a great description of an east-bound trolley turning right unto the bridge. The authors do a good job of detailing where everything was located, from where the train entered the underground tunnels to where passengers entered and boarded the trains. What should get this book on coffee tables is the great collection of old Cleveland photographs. “See, there was a subway station!”
The Cincinnati Subway is also full of amazing photos of early trains/trolleys of the Queen City of the West’s past. There are also maps, documents, and construction photos, along with a surprisingly detailed narrative. The font used in this Arcadia publication is some of the smallest font I have come across in my readings. Three page chapters could fill up 10 pages of text in average books.
The subway was, for the most part, going to replace the Ohio and Erie Canal, with a grand boulevard (Central Parkway) above. The planning and construction of the subway occurred for about 20 years up until 1927, when new administrations had new ideas. While there is plenty of information on the planning and construction of the subway, Singer’s main focus is on the politics of the construction.
In the afterword, Singer and a photographer, Suzanne Fleming, detail a tour taken of the subway line with several engineers. The end result is some post-apocalyptic looking tunnels, sure to be of interest in Cincinnati residents.
As with skyscrapers, there were very few completed subways in America between 1930 and 1980–the age of cars and office parks. The Cleveland subway closed with the end of electric trolley lines in 1954. Covered in detail in The Cincinnati Subway, there were numerous attempts to repurpose the tunnel or revive the subway dream. Of note, there has been a water line running through the tunnels since the 1950s.
Both forgotten architectural gems can be viewed by the public. The Cuyahoga County Engineers Office opens the lower level (subway station) of the Veterans Bridge on various holiday weekends. Likewise, the Cincinnati Museum Heritage Program and the Over-the-Rhine Foundation offer tours. In looking at the schedules, it looks like these tours have all passed for this year. But don’t fret, next year, when you go on the tours, you can come prepared with the knowledge found in these two texts.