A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Rick Pender’s Oldest Cincinnati is deep dive into our history; did you know buffalo built first roads?


By Andy Furman
NKyTribune reporter

Covid was quite productive for Rick Pender.

And it may very well prove to be financially successful as well.

“I wrote a book,” he told the Northern Kentucky Tribune. “I started around April in 2020, and finished about eight months later.”

It wasn’t a first for Pender, an Ohio native, journalist, author, tour guide and urban resident.

His 100 Things to do in Cincinnati Before You Die was so well-received in 2016, that a second edition was published three years later.

“I have a strong interest in local history,” he said, “and I already knew much on the local scene, so Oldest Cincinnati was a natural.”

Pender says his publisher – Reedy Press (prchase the book there) – approached him with the concept, and, of course he accepted the challenge.

“To be honest, I’m intrigued with local history,” he said. “My interest was perked back when I was in the eighth grade and took Ohio History as a course.”

Although Pender spent his early years in Northeast Ohio, he’s lived chunks of his life in Cincinnati – including Over the Rhine.

“Speaking of history,” he says, “I owned a home on 12th and Jackson. It was an 1885 building, which was formerly a candy factory owned by the Doscher Family.”

Oldest Cincinnati is a book with seven items, according to Pender – Northern Kentucky, Downtown, Over the Rhine, Mt. Adams, North, East and West.

Cincinnati, he claims, is quite an interesting place.

Rick Pender

He proudly points out that before people lived in what is today Northern Kentucky – around 10,000 B.C. – buffalo migrated south annually across the Ohio River at a natural sandstone ford at the mouth of the Licking River.

That’s where Cincinnati is situated today, he says, and those “buffalo roads” became what is today called the “Dixie Highway” – aka U.S. 27, U.S. 42, U.S. 25 and KY. 17.

“So,” he said, “Buffalo were the region’s first traffic engineers.”

Pender is quick to remind, “Oldest Cincinnati is not just ancient things. We also concentrate on items that people can see and enjoy.”

People often think of Cincinnati as a horizontal city.

Not really.

“When we think of skyscrapers,” Pender said, “we tend to conjure up the skyline of New York City. But the world’s first concrete skyscraper – the Ingalls Building – was built in Cincinnati in 1903. 
“Many skeptics were convinced that the 15-story, 210-foot building would collapse, but it’s still standing today at Vine and Fourth Streets.”

And who knew the Cincinnati Observatory in Mt. Lookout is the “Birthplace of American Astronomy.”

Pender says it was the first observatory in the Western Hemisphere, and it houses a working telescope from 1843 – one of the oldest in the world.

“Cleveland Abbe, the facility’s astronomer in the late 1860s, devised a system to collect weather information,” Pender said. “When Congress created the U.S. Weather Bureau in 1870, he became its first meteorologist.”

Even Pender – a historian who gives tour guides on the city – was surprised with some of his findings while doing research for Oldest Cincinnati.

“There were some modern-day items that really surprised me,” he said. “Some of the old Drive-In Theaters in the region, that were, in fact starting to thrive again during the pandemic. People felt a bit safer outdoors.”

And Pender, who worked in public radio at Cincinnati’s WGUC (90.9 FM) years ago tells this story.

“That PBS station was in the same building as WCET TV,” he said. “And WCET (Channel 48) is the first licensed educational TV station in the United States.”

Who knew?

And perhaps more people should know about their hometown and history. What about Oldest Cincinnati as a possible text to be used in the local school system? Maybe even a course at the local colleges and universities?

“I’d be happy to talk to any school system, and help them study local history through my book,” he said.

Oldest Cincinnati does much to close the gap in history between Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Today that gap is shortened by the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge – the world’s first suspension bridge.

Pender closes the gap through his book.

Information on Oldest Cincinnati and other Rick Pender books can be obtained at: www.RickPenderwrites.com.


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One Comment

  1. J says:

    Interesting — sounds like a great read!

Reply to J Cancel Reply