One of the things that confuses people from outside the area is Cincinnati’s foremost nickname: The Queen City. Why is it called that?
Before I answer that, let’s look at the city’s original name, Losantiville. Losantiville was a settlement opposite the mouth of the Licking River on the Ohio. Today, this lies between the “Big Mac” Bridge, carrying I-471 to it’s terminus in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, and the Taylor-Southgate Bridge, which spans the Ohio from US Bank Arena in downtown Cincinnati and the Newport Aquarium in Kentucky. Most of this original settlement is now Sawyer Point, a riverside park.
Losantiville was founded by John Cleves Symmes in 1788 and named by a surveryor who should never have had a job in marketing. The ungainly name came from four different languages and meant “city opposite the mouth of the Licking.” One imagines Symmes’ rolling his eyes and wishing he could just adopt the name of the local fort (on the site of the new Great American Building at Queen City Square), Ft. Washington. Ironically, the fort’s name survives to this day as the name of the stretch of I-71 from the Lytle Tunnel through downtown to the I-75 merge leading into Kentucky. As for Losantiville?
It’s been relagated to a street in Pleasant Ridge that’s home to a smelly chemical plant where I did Y2K remediation back in 1998 at great risk to my health. (Fortunately, I married into a kid, so no chance of any three-armed mutant babies springing from my loins.) Why?
Arthur St. Clair, governor of the old Northwest Territory and a Founding Father, arrived in Losantiville two years after the town’s founding and decided the name sucked. (Generations of Cincinnatians, Ohioans, Kentuckians, and history buffs in general agree wholeheartedly.) St. Clair, who admired George Washington the way young girls today moon over the Jonas Brothers, was president of The Founding Father’s fan club, The Order of Cincinnatus. Hence the easy to remember, but hard to spell name “Cincinnati” and the first of the Three C’s to be named. Cleaveland would follow in 1801, followed by Columbus a few years later.
So, when did it become “The Queen City?” Well, first, in 1815, it became “Porkopolis,” as, like another frontier boomtown, Chicago, the city became (and remains) home to numerous slaughterhouses and meat packing plants. This is where the city’s Flying Pig Marathon gets its name. But Queen City has nobler origins in the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, from the final verse of “Catawba Wine.”
And this Song of the Vine,
This greeting of mine,
The winds and the birds shall deliver
To the Queen of the West,
In her garlands dressed,
On the banks of the Beautiful River.
And, as the late Paul Harvery would say, now you know the rest…
of the story.
More My Town Monday posts here at Travis’s blog.