Journal-News. Sunday, March 4, 1990
Heating with gas a long Hamilton tradition
By Jim Blount
About 22,000 Hamilton residences are heating with gas this winter — a fuel available here for more than 130 years.
In July 1855, six years before the Civil War, Hamilton City Council granted a franchise for gas service to the Hamilton Gas Light and Coke Co., which spent 530,000 before starting operations in 1856.
The company made artificial gas in a former pottery factory on the south side of High Street, opposite North Sixth Street. At first, it only supplied gas for 60 city streetlights.
In 1888, after more than 30 years of customer complaints about rates and service, city council asked citizens to approve a $150,000 bond issue to build a city-operated gas plant.
In November 1888, it won lopsided approval (2,412 for and only 59 against), but the Hamilton Gas Light and Coke Co. challenged the proposal all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court.
The city won the legal battle, and April 9, 1890, the municipal gas works began operation on North Third Street, near the present city electric-generating plant. It was supplemented by artificial gas from a private source.
That first municipal plant was closed in 1905, and the city had to rely on a private supplier again.
Five years later, the first natural gas — purchased from the Ohio Fuel and Supply Co. — flowed into the city's 48-mile system. Numerous problems, including leaks, plagued the system between 1910 and 1926, a period of rapid industrial and residential growth for Hamilton.
Deficits developed as the operation expanded into the annexed areas of Lindenwald and East Hamilton and into new neighborhoods built during boom years after World War I.
The advisability and affordability of municipal ownership were questioned in the mid 1920s.
In a special election in February 1926, Hamilton voters where asked to decide between a city gas operation and a privately-owned one. Voters favored keeping the municipal system, despite its constant problems and deficits.
The red ink continued during the Depression years. It wasn't until 1943 — in the middle of World War II - that its indebtedness was eliminated.
Its lower long-distance transportation costs, cleaner burning qualities and ease of handling, plus successful advertising, made gas the popular fuel in the extended post-World War II building boom in Hamilton.
Consumption in Hamilton jumped from 747.7 million cubic feet in 1944 to 4.3 billion in 1964, a 479 percent increase.
During that time, Hamilton was buying mixed gas from the Cincinnati Gas & Electric Company. But in the mid 1960s, city officials tried to save money and lower rates by purchasing natural gas directly from the Texas Gas Transmission Corp.
Texas Gas had acquired the Little Inch pipeline in 1947. It was one of two petroleum pipelines built during the war to transport oil from Texas to eastern states.
CG&E opposed the move before utility commissions and in state and federal courts. Hamilton won the legal struggle and began accepting natural gas from the pipeline in January 1968.
In the mid 1970s, with local use up to 7.4 billion cubic feet yearly, another crisis hit — a U. S. natural gas shortage.
In the winter of 1974-1975, the city stopped issuing gas permits for new customers and asked existing ones to begin conservation practices. For several winters during the 1970s, a "Cool It" campaign urged customers to lower thermostats.
Nationally, gas supplies increased in the 1980s, and by 1982, a glut was reported after deregulation and development of new wells. Also in the 1980s, Hamilton resumed issuing permits to new customers.
In the 1980s, new problems surfaced. Leaks in aging distribution lines and some explosions occurred, which required more than $15 million for repairs in the Hamilton system, one of more than 450 municipal gas operations in the United States.
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Journal-News, Sunday, March 11, 1990
Paramount Theater opened in 1930
By Jim Blount
Sixty years ago, Hamiltonians were awaiting the opening of the Paramount Theater, which would become the largest and most luxurious of several downtown movie theaters. Plans were announced in December 1929, and construction began in 1930.
The theater site — whose address was 18 S. Second St. — extended 90 feet on South Second Street and Journal Square and 175 feel along Court Street.
A theater was one of several two and three-story buildings razed for the Paramount. The Eagle Theater, at the corner of Court Street and Journal Square, had been built as a post office.
The Miami Building at the corner of South Second and Court streets had been a social center, the site of meetings, stage shows and dances.
The new theater also displaced the Eatmore Restaurant, two cigar stores, a grocery, a taxi office, a barber shop, a shoe shine parlor, a clothing store and a stationery store.
Demolition of those buildings began Tuesday, Feb. 18, 1930.
The Paramount was designed by George Rapp and C. W. Rapp, theater architects, whose office was in the Paramount Building on Times Square in New York City.
The Paramount interior was described as a "combination of the classic and modern period, with a dominant Italian Renaissance motif. The vaulted dome ceiling, as well as the series of attractive niches, artfully illuminated by concealed lights . . . give maximum acoustic qualities."
Its main floor, 113 feet in length, seated 1,483 while the balcony capacity was 330.
The Midland Co. of Cincinnati, headed by Frank Messer, was the general contractor. Its theater-building experience included the Albee, Palace, Keith, Capitol, Cox and Schubert theaters in Cincinnati.
The Paramount grand opening Friday evening, March 6,1931, began with a parade from North Fifth and Dayton streets, led by the American Legion drum and bugle corps.
Block-long lines formed north and south of the theater before the box office opened at 7 p.m. Patrons bought gold tickets that they were able to keep as souvenirs.
The opening program included remarks by Mayor Raymond H. Burke and the dedication of the Barton-Balaban theater organ by Edwin Schenck, formerly an organist with WLW in Cincinnati.
A newsreel preceded the feature film, "Fast and Loose," a romantic comedy starring Miriam Hopkins, Carole Lombard, Charles Starrett and Frank Morgan.
"I'd Climb the Highest Mountain," called "the song that has become popular in all Paramount houses," was played before the film started.
The Paramount was owned by Paramount-Publix, a national chain, which also operated the Palace Theater on South Third Street. Nat Turberg, who had been at the Palace, was managing director of the new theater and Charles Wood was assistant manager.
Paramount admission was 50 cents for adults for evenings and Sunday shows, 30 cents at matinees and 10 cents for children anytime.
Prices were lower at other downtown theaters (Rialto, Palace and Lyric) which charged adults 25 cents during evenings and Sundays, 15 cents for matinees and 10 cents for children.
The Paramount's last show was 29 years later on Labor Day, Sept. 5,1960,
The property had been purchased in March 1960 by the Citizens Bank for a 40-car parking lot next to its main office in the Rentschler Building.
The Paramoun' complex was razed, except a portion on the corner of Second and Court streets, which housed the Dalton Dress Shop. Cleveland Wrecking Co. completed the job in January 1961.
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Journal-News, Sunday, March 18, 1990
Famous guests slept at Hamilton House hotel
By Jim Blount
The Hamilton House was the social, political and business center of Hamilton during most of the 19th century when the United States transformed from a struggling nation to a world power.
Several leaders who helped build the nation were guests at Hamilton's first hotel from its erection in either 1812 or 1820 until its demolition in 1897.
Names on the guest register included William Henry Harrison, Henry Clay, John C. Breckenridge, DeWitt Clinton, Stephen A. Douglas. Thomas Ewing, Thomas Corwin, Clement Laird Vallandigham, Anson Burlingame and Gen. 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. Earlier historians disagree 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. It also was the location of many special events and several annual celebrations and dances.
A north addition was erected in the 1860s, and in April 1897, when demolished, it was called a four-story building.
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.
Rates in 1831 were 50 cents for a private room and 25 cents when sharing a room. Candles provided the only light and a fireplace the only source of heat.
Meals, which were included in the lodging rate, were served family-style until 1870 when the hotel began the European plan.
McBride, a Hamilton mayor and the town's first historian, maintained his library in the hotel. Some guests were invited to the library where McBride also had a collection of tomahawks, scalping knives, bows and arrows and other Indian artifacts.
Thomas Blair, a Hamilton fire warden in the 1820s, was operating the Hamilton House by 1821. He changed its name to the Blair House or the Blair Hotel.
Blair, who was McBride's brother-in-law, came to Hamilton in about 1807 to join Joseph Hough as a merchant. Later, he operated a general store with his brother William.
Thomas Blair wore two hats while managing the hotel. He also was the agent for a stagecoach line which stopped at the hotel. His wife, Margaret, presided in the hotel dining room.
Thomas Blair ran the local hotel from 1821 until 1835 when he became proprietor of a hotel in Dayton In 1845, he took over a hotel in St. Louis, where he died a year later.
After McBride's death in 1859, the hotel had a series of owners and part owners, including James Beaty, C. Edward Hutchinson, Peter Schwab, G. F. Elliot, John C. Lindley, B. C. Stoll, Henry Frechtling and William C. Frechtling. In 1871, it was subject to a sheriff's sale.
There also were a number of managers, including James Blair, John Ingersoll, Steven Ingersoll, James Arnold, Arnold Sweeney, Andrew Hubbell. Samuel Cory, James Basey. George Hough, Theodore Reutti, Herman Reutti, Geroge Gross, R Fuller, David T. Riley, Charles Howald. William Bruck and William Morner.
In its final years, part of the building was occupied by the First National Bank and Martindell's Drug Store.
In the early 1890s, an ad in a city directory described the Hamilton House as a "European hotel and restaurant, neat and spacious rooms, sample and billiard rooms, William Bruck, proprietor." It was one of 12 hotels listed.
The 1900-1901 city directory reported the Miami Valley National Bank as occupying the northwest corner of Second and High Streets.
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Journal-News, Sunday, March 25, 1990
Daylight-saving time is near again
By Jim Blount
The "spring forward, fall back" daylight-saving time ritual — which will be renewed next weekend — has been around since April 1967, after passage of a federal time law a year earlier.
The idea was discussed as early as 1784 by Benjamin Franklin. It was revived by William Willett in England in 1907, but wasn't accepted until 10 years later.
Daylight-saving time was imposed in the United States during World War I to conserve fuel, especially coal.
Congress passed a time bill March 15, 1918. ordering that clocks be set ahead one hour the last Sunday in March and turned back an hour the last Sunday in October — the same plan adopted in 1917 in England, France, Sweden, Denmark and Portugal.
Unlike recent years, Hamilton officials became involved in the details of the switch as the Sunday, March 31, 1918, time change approached.
Mayor C. J. Smith asked Henry B Grevey, Hamilton's director of public safety, to have fire bells tapped at five minutes before midnight. This was to be the signal for Hamiltonians to change their clocks from midnight to 1 a m.
The clocks on the Butler County Courthouse, in the tower of the Mosler Safe Works in East Hamilton and on several church steeples, also were advanced Saturday night to avoid chaos.
'There was no confusion in Hamilton yesterday over the change of time," a newspaper reported.
The return to standard time was on Sunday. Oct. 25. 1918, less than three weeks before the Nov. 11 armistice that ended World War I.
With the war over, opposition to DST mounted, and Aug. 20, 1919, a law repealing the practice was passed by Congress over the veto of President Woodrow Wilson.
But some areas decided to retain DST while others followed the national trend.
For example, May 3, 1920, the nearby cities of Cincinnati and Dayton went on daylight time while Hamilton remained one hour behind on standard time.
Railroads and interurban lines operated on Cincinnati and Dayton time schedules, creating confusion and inconvenience for Hamilton passengers for a few days.
"A very disagreeable feature is that it now takes two hours to go to Cincinnati," a local newspaper noted. It observed that passengers "start from here in the morning" and "get there in time for a noon meal." A train leaving Hamilton at 9 a.m., local time, arrived in the Queen City after 11 a.m., Cincinnati time,
"Coming back from Cincinnati the experience is very pleasant, as you arrive in Hamilton five minutes before you left Cincinnati." the newspaper said
May 5, Hamilton Citu Council enacted a new time ordinance, placing the community on daylight time Sunday, May 9
U. S. involvement in World War II Dec. 7. 1941, renewed the arguments for saving fuel and increasing efficiency. The government estimated DST would mean, an annual saving of 736 million kilowatt hours of electricity.
Congress ordered that DST start Monday. Feb 9, 1942. It was called "War Time" at the suggestion of President Franklin D Roosevelt. The change was uneventful that year because every city and state made the switch.
Complications arose the next year when the Ohio legislature placed the state on Eastern Standard Time, also called "slow time."
The cities of Hamilton and Middletown decided to follow national DST while Oxford and Butler County adhered to the state order. This meant that as of Feb. 24, 1943, it was 9 a m. in Hamilton when the courthouse clock read 8 a.m.
After 1,264 Hamiltonians signed referendum petitions, the confusion was placed to a city vote Nov. 2. 1943. The state's slow time was favored by a 6,610-4,007 margin.
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