Hamilton House was Hamilton's first hotel It was the social, political and business center of Hamilton during most of the 19th century. It was built in either 1812 or 1820 and demolished in 1897. Prominent names on the guest register included William Henry Harrison, Henry Clay, John C. Breckinridge, DeWitt Clinton, Stephen A. Douglas, Thomas Ewing, Thomas Corwin, Clement Laird Vallandigham, Anson Burlingame and General Winfield Scott.
James McBride obtained the land at the northwest corner of Second and High streets for $300 from the heirs of Israel Ludlow, Hamilton's founder. McBride hired Joel Kennedy to build the two-story brick hotel, and Kennedy is believed to have operated it when it opened. Early historians have disagreed on the date, citing both 1812 and 1820.
In 1828 a third floor was added as a public hall for dances, lectures and entertainment. Masonic lodges were housed in the hotel at various times.
One of the largest and most impressive events held there marked the start of Ohio's canal system in July 1825. Gov. Jeremiah Morrow of Ohio was joined by Gov. DeWitt Clinton of New York, father of the Erie Canal in his home state. The turnout for the dinner was so large that it was served in the shade of locust trees on the lawn of the Butler County Courthouse, across High Street.
In 1831, after expansion, the hotel offered private rooms for the first time. Until then, several guests shared a room or paid 6.25 cents to sleep on the tavern floor. Meals -- which were included in the lodging rate -- were served family-style until 1870 when the hotel began the European plan. A north addition was built in the 1860s. In April 1897, when demolished, the hotel was called a four-story building. Thomas Blair, a Hamilton fire warden in 1820s, was operator of the Hamilton House by 1821. He changed its name to the Blair House or the Blair Hotel. Thomas Blair also was the agent for a stagecoach line which stopped at the hotel. His wife, Margaret, presided in the hotel dining room. Blair ran the hotel from 1821 to 1835 when he became proprietor of a hotel in Dayton.
After McBride's death in 1859, the hotel had a series of owners and part owners. A July 1860 newspaper ad said the Hamilton House had been leased "for a term of years" by Theodore Reutti. Reutti's ad in the 1861 Hamilton City Directory said "this house has been thoroughly renovated and refurnished." Other owners/operators included James Beaty, C. Edward Hutchinson, Peter Schwab, G. F. Elliott, John C. Lindley, B. G. Stall, Henry Frechtling and William C. Frechtling. In 1871 it was subject to a sheriff's sale. There also were a number of managers: James Blair, John Ingersoll, Steven Ingersoll, James Arnold, Arnold Sweeney, Andrew Hubbell, Samuel Cory, James Basey, George Hough, Theodore Reutti, George Gross, R. Fuller, David T. Riley, Charles Howald, William Bruck and William Morner. In 1892-93 directory, the Hamilton House was owned by William Bruck. Listed in 1898-99 city directory as the New Hamilton House. In its final years, part of the building was occupied by the First National Bank and Martindell's Drug Store. Starting with the 1900-01 city directory, the New Hamilton House was listed as at the northwest corner "rear of Miami Valley Bank." Harry B. Burch and Robert C. Curry were proprietors in 1900-01 directory; William H, Morner in 1902-03 and 1904 directories. The second building on the hotel site was razed in the mid 1960s to make way for construction of the Elder-Beerman Department Store.