Then & Now: The evolution of Cincinnati's riverfront


For a series of 'Then & Now' interactive looks at Cincinnati's riverfront, scroll to the bottom of the article.


CINCINNATI – The banks of the Ohio River weren’t always home to luxury apartments, athletes and fine dining. 

In the 19th century, the hum of steamboats echoed through the air – not cheers from two sports stadiums.

But despite its changing landscape, Cincinnati’s riverfront has helped shape and define an entire region.

“If we didn’t live near the Ohio River, Cincinnati would look like some desolate place in the middle of nowhere,” said 62-year-old Alan Bernstein, owner of BB Riverboats in Newport, Kentucky.That’s how much the Ohio River and the riverfront mean to our way of life.”

Cincinnati’s downtown riverfront once saw more than 30 steamboat visits a day. It later became the epicenter of freight rail for the western portion of the United States.

But that growth faded in the 20th century as Cincinnati’s central business district began to deteriorate. Pollution and industrial decline on the riverfront pushed businesses and people inland.

Then war brought it back to life.


To change time in each interactive image, just click and hold the white circular “slider” tool at the center of the photo. Then move the slider left and right to see “before” and “after.”




The Sidewheeler Cincinnati is seen passing under the Roebling Suspension Bridge in 1906. The Roebling was completed in 1867 and still stands strong today.



  1949 aerial image of Cincinnati


An aerial image of Cincinnati taken in 1949 compared to today shows how the warehouses and industrial portion of the riverfront have transformed into The Banks and sports stadiums.



WCPO Insiders can read more about the evolution of Cincinnati's Riverfront and explore five more interactive looks at how it all started -- including its boom in the early 1900s and 1950s, Riverfront Stadium in the 1990s and a 1912 riverfront map compared to today.

RELATED: Then & Now: A trip back in time at Kings Island

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