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OKI Wanna Know: Why Does Vine Street Stop Being Vine Street In Corryville?

Bill Rinehart
If you're not looking at street signs, you might not realize Vine ceases to exist for a few blocks near the University of Cincinnati.

The most common question we get for our feature OKI Wanna Know has to do with street names: Who is honored by a street, or why is it called what it is? This week, WVXU's Bill Rinehart tries to answer why one of Cincinnati's best known streets detours for several blocks.

Eileen Crowe of Finneytown was a University of Cincinnati student about 10 years ago. At the time, she noticed how Vine Street becomes Jefferson Avenue before switching back to Vine.

"You kind of expect Vine Street to continue where there's Jefferson, but it's offset," she says. 

Vine Street used to be unbroken, according to former Cincinnati councilman and local historical Jim Tarbell. He points out Vine started at the Ohio River and ran north, up the hill, to Cincinnati's other neighborhoods and into other communities.

"It was a seamless transition. You came up, you crossed McMillan, and then William Howard Taft, and then you just kept going straight," he says. "You didn't veer off to the left on Jefferson. You went straight through the heart of Corryville."

But a change was afoot in the 1960s, according to the manager of Reference and Research at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Jill Beitz.

"The University of Cincinnati wanted to expand and the city made a plan for the Avondale-Corryville area," she says. "They did a study. They had surveys conducted by various citizens committees. The decision was to build a commerce center.

"They wanted to amp up some shopping, put a large shopping area and then widen Jefferson so they could work around it when they closed Vine off at Corry. They thought this would open up the area more for shopping and restaurants and interactions and things like that with the UC community," Beitz says.

Corryville 1974 0002-Rotated by WVXU News on Scribd

That was the beginning of University Plaza, anchored by Kroger and Walgreens. The director of Community Development for the Uptown Consortium, Brooke Duncan, says when the plaza was built, traffic flow changed.

"Vine Street and Jefferson were both realigned in the 1970s to provide a bypass around the business district actually," she says. "Vine Street and Short Vine used to form a five-leg intersection with Auburn Avenue and east and west Corry Street. The south of Vine and the north leg of Auburn were both removed to make room for a commercial shopping center."

So, why not just rename Jefferson as Vine? Because Vine Street still existed, two blocks over. And fun fact: 

"Vine Street near UC has been affectionately known as Short Vine since as far back as the '20s, but it was never the street's official name." Duncan says the name change didn't happen until 2017.

So that's how it is today: Vine Street becomes Jefferson, before shifting back to Vine. 

"Which kind of gets confusing because if you're driving from say the Zoo to Downtown, you're on Vine Street, you get to MLK, now you're on the eastern side of the University, you're on Jefferson and you never knew you moved."

Daniel Luther is the executive director of the Corryville Community Development Corporation. He has something that complicates things even more: A map from 1869 that shows Vine, and the now non-existent Mount Auburn Avenue, terminating at Corry Street. Going north from that five-point intersection is something else: What we call Short Vine today was Washington Avenue then.

1869 Corryville Map by WVXU News on Scribd

"I would offer a little bit of speculation that Washington was always there," Luther says. "Vine came up and crashed into Washington and perhaps there was no more Vine." 

Cincinnati annexed the area in 1870, and changed Washington Avenue to Vine sometime after that. But more importantly, other than street names, the map looks familiar. It's what we call Short Vine today.

"There's a lot of little, broken-up parcels that make it look like a town center, instead of these big chunks of land that the Burnets and the Corrys owned," Luther says. "This was already developed into a type of business district." He says the shifting of traffic from Vine to Jefferson moved people away from those businesses.

Brooke Duncan says since the creation of University Plaza, a lot of money has been poured into making Short Vine a destination.

"Not making your way to Short Vine, and really just flying through around the University neighborhood and not exploring the business district, you're not able to see the character of all the neighborhoods and the way they thrive, so the branding of Short Vine now has been critical to drive people up and onto the street."

If you have a question for OKI Wanna Know, we'd love to hear it. Fill out the form below or let us know here, and we may try to answer it.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.