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'The interstate was supposed to help.' That didn't happen

The inside of the Crosley building in February 2023.
Nick Swartsell
The inside of the Crosley Building in February 2023.

If you’ve spent any time in Cincinnati, you know the hulking white building with the tower on top that rises just west of I-75. In a city of architectural gems, the Crosley Building in Camp Washington stands out for its size and its neglect. 

What might not be apparent gazing at the crumbling building is that a significant amount of history took place there. This podcast is the story of how a now-empty building helped change the world, and how the fate of the neighborhood around it is tied up in its construction, its boom years, its decline – and efforts to resurrect it.

The departure of the Crosley Company from the Arlington Street building didn't immediately end work at the site. As former Camp Washington resident Bob Story can attest, other companies filled the space for a time — and Story even worked in the building as a young adult.

But those businesses became smaller and smaller, filling less of the space and employing fewer Camp Washington residents. Eventually, the building became entirely vacant. Story saw a similar situation play out across the neighborhood — a place once buzzing with life and friendship slowly emptied out. The coming of I-75 made matters even grimmer.

The Crosley Building in 2023.
Nick Swartsell
The Crosley Building in 2023.

"I noticed it changing as soon as I-75 went in," he says. "Shortly after that, the neighborhood, just kind of, went its different way..."

The story isn't unique to Camp Washington, of course. All across the country, urban industrial neighborhoods suffered as jobs moved away, residents left, highways tore through and buildings became vacant. University of Cincinnati Zane Miller Chair of Urban History Dr. David Stradling and UC Center for the City Director Dr. Anne Delano Steinert talk about deindustrialization in Cincinnati and America.

"The center of gravity shifts away from a street with stop lights, where you can pull into someone's business and actively participate in the life of a city by driving down that street, versus a highway, which is totally insulated and divided from the life of a city in this incredibly fast-moving flow," Steinert says.

Deindustrialization left neighborhoods like Camp Washington destabilized, and remaining residents cut off from resources, jobs and services. Buildings like the Crosley Building languished, becoming completely abandoned. In the next episodes, we'll talk about what has risen up to fill the void.

Listen to Crosley at the Crossroads by subscribing your favorite podcast platforms.

Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.