Hamilton Municipal Building. A federal Depression program aimed at relieving unemployment enabled Hamilton civic leaders to fulfill "a long-cherished dream" in 1935. The Hamilton Municipal Building at 20 High Street was dedicated Sunday, Nov. 24, 1935, and opened for business the next day. For more than 50 years, city affairs had been managed in a two-story brick structure built in 1839 as the Hamilton and Rossville Female Academy.
Starting in 1873, the Long and Allstatter Company operated a machine shop there while it built a new plant. The city took over the building in 1875. The city abandoned most of the old city hall in March 1928, moving the majority of functions to the former Ohio Casualty Company building on South Second Street near Ludlow Street. Only the police department and municipal court remained at the Monument Avenue and Market Street location.
June 28, 1933 -- just 12 days after passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act -- Hamilton City Council approved issuance of $425,000 in bonds as the city's 70 percent share of the cost of a new municipal building, estimated at about $555,765. The remainder was provided by the Public Works Administration, an arm of NIRA. Land costs were minimized when the city decided to build on a site that included the old city hall. Additional buildings along High Street -- extending east from Monument Avenue -- also were acquired. The low bid ($358,729) on the construction contract was submitted by the Boyajohn and Barr Company, Columbus, Ohio. After PWA approved the pact, demolition of the High Street properties started July 31, 1934. Local architects -- George Barkman, R. E. Smith, Frederick G. Mueller and Walter R. Hair -- cooperated on the project. "The new building is to be five stories in height, the first three stories to be over the entire ground area and the fourth and fifth floors to taper off toward the center of the building," said the Journal-News as work began. The building "will be 150 feet long east and west, and 120 feet wide, north and south." About 2,000 people attended the cornerstone ceremony Sunday, June 30, 1935.
Speakers included Mayor Raymond H. Burke, Vice Mayor Leo Welsh and M. O. Burns, a Hamilton lawyer, as 31 items were placed in a copper box. The building was dedicated less than five months later. Lucian Kahn headed the committee, which included Mrs. Emil Olinger, J. Walter Wack, Charles Hosea, John M. Beeler, Dr. Merle Flenner, John W. Strange and Raymond R. Nardine.
Joining Kahn as speakers Nov. 24, 1935, were Augustus R. Hatton, dean of the political science department at Northwestern University, and Cincinnati Mayor Russell Wilson. More than 10,000 people toured the Ohio sandstone building that Sunday.
"Its beauty has been enhanced by the stone carvings, medallion and seal located near the several entrances," Kahn said of the structure, which cost $548,088 when completed. "Models of these were executed by our fellow townsman, Robert McCloskey, Kahn said. "This young sculptor has, with fine artistry, caught the spirit of civic growth from the days of the beginning to the present." (Within a few years, McCloskey would be an award-winning, world-renowned children's author and illustrator.) City offices and municipal court opened in the new building Monday, Nov. 25, and the first council meeting in new chambers was Wednesday evening, Dec. 4, 1935. Razing of the old city hall -- which sat on the driveway of the fire station in the new building -- started Nov. 27, and was completed Dec. 16, 1935.
Sixty years later, the Hamilton Municipal Building at 20 High Street is described as "one of only two Art Deco structures in the city in Walking Tours of Historic Hamilton, a guide published by the Greater Hamilton Convention and Visitors Bureau. The building interior features Italian and Belgian marbles.
The last city council meeting at 20 High Street was July 26, 2000. The first council meeting at 345 High Street was Aug. 9. City departments began moving from the 65-year building in June 2000. One Renaissance Center was dedicated Aug. 16, 2000. (See entry for One Renaissance Center.) In May 2003 a portion of the former municipal building reopened as the BizTech Center, a Butler County business incubator. Formally the Greater Hamilton Center for Business and Technology Inc., it is a partnership including the City of Hamilton, Butler County, the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and Fluor Fernald Community Reuse Organization.