Artifacts from The Banks Project archaeological dig come to Cincinnati Museum Center’s Geier Collections and Research Center

CINCINNATI – In August, 2008, representatives from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), City of Cincinnati, and Hamilton County reviewed the potential impacts to the archaeological resources from the planned relocation and realignment of Mehring Way along Cincinnati’s riverfront. A major aspect of the multi-million dollar City-County investment in The Banks development, the Mehring Way realignment would create additional public space by reclaiming 40 acres for greenspace, event lawn, and water features and maintaining a major thoroughfare for vehicles and pedestrians along the Ohio River and through the new neighborhood that would emerge. The conclusion was that the impact of the relocation on the site and its underground utilities would have no adverse effect, as long as appropriate research and archaeological excavations were conducted prior to construction of the new infrastructure and street grid.

Funding for the infrastructure and street grid was provided not only by the City and the County, but also by ODOT and the Federal Highway Administration. All parties agreed that a portion of the County-owned land where Mehring Way would be relocated should serve as the site for excavation.

According to John Deatrick, The Banks Project Executive, “The archaeological excavation, the analysis and report of the artifacts uncovered, and the exhibition of these artifacts fulfills the environmental and historical obligations of this project, while reminding us about how our culture in Cincinnati in general and along the riverfront in particular, has developed. This work gives testimony to the ‘everyday people’ who lived and worked and enjoyed the banks of the Ohio River. It underscores the fact that two centuries later, people are flocking to the riverfront again to live, to work and to enjoy themselves.”

The Public Parties contracted with preservation consulting firm Gray & Pape, Inc. to conduct an archaeological dig at the former corner of Race and Water streets, where, at the turn of the century, three-storied buildings with commercial ground floors (a saloon and grocery store) and residential rental units in the upper stories once sat.

The archaeologists at The Banks soon uncovered late 19th century architectural features including the remains of foundation walls, brick basement floors, and coal chutes. Over 600 artifacts were collected, representing the remains of the items left behind or lost by local residents. The artifacts included: ceramic dishes; drinking glasses; liquor, beer, and mineral water bottles; medicinal bottles; ceramic doll fragments and other toys; and various personal items such as a pocketknife, coins, buttons, and even an eyeglass lens.

According to Christian Sigman, Hamilton County Administrator, “Cincinnati’s riverfront has seen many transformations over the centuries. Mehring Way was realigned to create more public space, and to bring businesses and residents back to the riverfront. These artifacts remind us of the connection we have in the 21st century to the people who were the apartment dwellers and shopkeepers of the 19th century, those who made this neighborhood their home.”

What’s next for these artifacts? On January 19, they’ll officially become part of Cincinnati Museum Center’s collection at the Geier Collections and Research Center. As a repository of Cincinnati history, the Geier Center houses archaeology collections, invertebrate and vertebrate fossil collection, all zoology collections, history artifacts, and fine arts in a museum-quality environment. Museum Center not only preserves artifacts, but also makes archaeology and priceless artifacts accessible to the community. One way to accomplish this is by bringing special exhibitions like A Day in Pompeii, opening March 2, to Cincinnati.

“It’s exciting that we can do urban archaeology in our own community and discover layers of Cincinnati’s own history,” says Douglass W. McDonald, president and CEO of Cincinnati Museum Center. “We’re proud to be able to showcase local archaeology, but also bring world famous ancient archaeology and the cultures they represent to our region. Opening March 2, our newest blockbuster exhibition, A Day in Pompeii gives you the opportunity to travel to the ancient city of Pompeii to understand the discovery and preservation happening through archaeology.”

The hub of Cincinnati is moving back to its riverfront origins with the development of The Banks. What once was both a residential and commercial area with 19th century saloons, rentals and markets is coming back to life as a vibrant residential neighborhood with a growing number of dining, entertainment and recreation options. The history of this area has come full circle over the last couple years and continues to tell a story while still growing strong.

About The Banks
The Banks Public Partnership is a working partnership between the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. The Partnership’s goal is to ensure timely, safe, efficient and inclusive management of the public infrastructure portion of The Banks project and deliver the best value for the public investment in parking facilities, street grid, streetscape and public park. With an investment of $128 million in the public infrastructure, the Partnership’s work lays the foundation for the residential, dining, recreation and entertainment venues at The Banks—a new gateway to the Riverfront where the people of Cincinnati live, work and play.

About Cincinnati Museum Center
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is a nationally recognized institution as well as national historic landmark. Dedicated to sparking community dialogue, insight and inspiration, Museum Center was awarded the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Our Union Terminal has been voted the nation’s 45th most important building by the American Institute of Architects. Organizations within Cincinnati Museum Center include the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children’s Museum, the Museum of Natural History & Science, the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater and the Cincinnati Historical Society Library. Recognized by Forbes Traveler Magazine as the 17th most visited museum in the country, Cincinnati Museum Center welcomes one million plus visitors annually. Cincinnati Museum Center gratefully acknowledges operating and capital support from the taxpayers of Hamilton County and the State of Ohio. For more information, visit

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