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Knightsbridge

Knightsbridge, once the corporate headquarters of Champion Papers, was a major Hamilton employer for 39 years. The International Paper Co. decision in 2000 to phase out operations in the office complex was the most dramatic of several changes.

Champion, founded in Hamilton in 1893, had considered several sites in the region before settling on the location along Neilan Boulevard on the east bank of the Great Miami River in April 1958. The corporate center was named Knightsbridge, the company announced, in recognition of the company's knight trademark and to give the building a distinctive address. The tract's northern boundary was South Avenue, which the city renamed Knightsbridge Drive in appreciation of Champion's decision to locate the complex in Hamilton. In August 1861, Champion's corporate headquarters moved into the new building, vacating what had been called the General Office Building on North B Street, opposite the Black Street Bridge. The Knightsbridge opening set off a series of relocations in Hamilton. The "Stone House" on B Street -- formerly the corporate nerve center -- became the Ohio Division offices. Departments formerly in other mill locations were shifted into the office building that had opened in August 1925. Some of the vacated mill offices were converted to other uses. In 1966, Champion Papers and U. S. Plywood Corporation announced they would combine. The merger, effective Feb. 28, 1967, blended 31,000 employees and 130 manufacturing operations. Headquarters of the new company -- at first known as U. S. Plywood-Champion Papers Inc. -- were established in New York City. That resulted in the transfer of corporate operations and people from Knightsbridge in Hamilton. Later, Champion International moved its headquarters to Stamford, Conn. The Knightsbridge name survived, even though Champion dropped the knight as its company symbol in 1974. The trademark -- designed to represent strength, reliability and quality -- was first used in labeling paper products from the B Street mill in October 1925 and was registered in the U. S. Patent Office in March 1927. Knightsbridge, a 69-acre campus, experienced $45 million in physical improvements between 1988 and 1991. Knightsbridge employment was reported as about 900 people in 1994 as Champion observed its 100th anniversary. After a restructuring that started in 1997, the work force was down to about 560 when International Paper assumed control in 2000.

In October 2000 International announced plans to vacate Knightsbridge in 2001. IP said the shutdown would eliminate 350 jobs with 190 workers transferred to different jobs. IP rejected some offers for Knightsbridge before announcing its sale to Harry T. Wilks in February 2004. County records indicated it was a $3.5 million transaction. Wilks, a Hamilton lawyer and businessman, said he planned to sell the building to a single corporate occupant. In 2005, the Vora Technology Center or Vora Technology Park took over Knightsbridge. It was acquired Jan. 20, 2005, by Mahendra Vora and Timothy B. Matthews for $6 million from Harry T. Wilks. The center was dedicated March 25, 2005. (See Champion Papers and Vora Technology Center.)


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