Hamilton Basin was the town's connection to the Miami-Erie Canal. When canal construction started in Middletown July 21, 1825, its proposed route was about a mile east of Hamilton. Faced with the prospect of their town losing the advantages of being a commercial and transportation center, Hamilton leaders appealed to Ohio officials to change the route. At the same time, a new town was planned on the canal at the present intersection of Erie Highway and High Street (see Debbysville/Debbyville). In December 1827, Robert B. Millikin, Dr. Daniel Millikin, John Reily, Thomas Blair and Jesse Corwin -- representing Hamilton and Rossville -- persuaded state leaders to authorize a sidecut canal into Hamilton. This became the Hamilton Basin, financed mostly by local donations.
Construction started in the spring of 1828 and the basin opened March 10, 1829. The original Hamilton Basin started from a lock on present Erie Highway, between High Street and Maple Avenue, and ran west to about South Third Street. The basin was 148 feet wide at the water line to permit the turning of canal boats. Eventually it was lined with wharves serving shops and warehouses.
As railroads were built in the 1850s and 1860s, the canal and the basin declined. By the early 1870s, the basin was considered a health hazard and nuisance. In May 1875 voters favored closing it, but the state and city couldn't agree on who would pay for the work. The evening of June 19, 1877, about 100 men "appeared on the neck of the basin with wheelbarrows, picks, shovels, etc.," noted a newspaper, "and proceeded to fill up the basin." In 1888, the tracks of a new railroad (the Pan Handle, later the Pennsylvania, and now Norfolk Southern) were placed over the former basin.