Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 1995
Straub House, the most prominent Rossville hotel, called 'second to none'
By Jim Blount
The Straub House -- Rossville's most prominent hotel -- "was the most attractive place in this city," said Dr. Henry Mallory, who had moved to the community in 1849. The Miami House -- which eventually became the Straub House -- was built on the northwest corner of Main and Water (later A) streets by John Winton in 1824. Its name came from its proximity to the five-year-old Miami Bridge.
Later, according to early historians, its owners and operators included John J. Walker, Peter Schertz (or Shurz), Mike Huffman, Frederick Wehrnhorn, J. Humbach, Gottfried Kockler and a Mr. Northup.
During this succession, its name was changed to the Bridge Hotel and back to the Miami House before being acquired by Felix Straub.
Straub -- formerly with the Schmidtman House at the northwest corner of High and Front streets in Hamilton -- claimed to have leased the Falconer House, according to a December 1851 newspaper ad.
In the announcement, he pledged, "with the aid of the best of servants, to do everything calculated to accommodate the traveling public in the best of style." It also boasts of "stabling and shedding" which is "well supplied with grain."
That philosophy of full, first-class service continued when he acquired the former Miami House in about 1860. After a remodeling, it was renamed the Straub House and, according to Frederick Cone, "soon gained a reputation second to none."
Felix Straub "knew all about the hotel business, and when he bought the Straub House, he brought the whole experience of his past to make this the most attractive place in this city," said Dr. Mallory of the new owner. But he didn't do it alone.
"Felix Straub," said Mallory, "was the most fortunate in having a helpmate who could make anything attractive that she undertook. The Straub House externally was not such as to make a favorable impression," Mallory noted. "It was illy constructed, and too small for the business. But Mrs. Straub, by her magic hand and large social qualities, and the ease and grace that marked her movements, literally won the good will of everybody, and the Straub House was known all over the country," Mallory said.
Mrs. Straub continued to operate the hotel after her husband's death. Then the hotel came into the hands of her son-in-law, Eugene Allen Weiler, who had married Josephine Straub.
Weiler had served an apprentice at the yellow brick Straub House before he took over its direction. Gene Weiler, according to Robert M. Sohngen, had been "a great showman" before "returning home from his trouping to assist in the management of the hotel."
Already known for its food and hospitality, "it became a rendezvous for the great and near great in show business," recalled Sohngen. Its guests included William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody; P. T. Barnum and John Robinson of circus fame; James Whitcomb Riley, Joseph Jefferson, Robert Mantell, Julia Gaylord, Clement Laird Vallandigham and others from the realms of show business, the arts and politics.
In the 1892-93 city directory, George A. Huber is listed as owner of the Straub House. In the 1896 directory, there is no listing for a Straub House.
It was torn down about 1899 or 1900 and replaced by the Gordon Flat Building. That residential complex was destroyed in the 1913 flood.
When the Great Miami River was widened for flood protection, most of A Street -- including the site of the Straub House -- became part of the levee.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 1995
New downtown Hamilton hotel proposals discussed for 20 years
By Jim Blount
The Hamiltonian -- discussed and planned for several years, but constructed in less than nine months -- is 10 years old this month. When opened in December 1985, it filled a 21-year void for "a first-class, full-service hotel and supporting facilities" in downtown Hamilton.
City government leaders kept the idea alive when many citizens believed a downtown hotel was folly. Financial support from local businesses and more optimistic citizens enabled the Hamiltonian to become a reality in 1985.
Proposals for a new downtown hotel resurfaced periodically after the closing of the Anthony Wayne as a hotel in 1964. That year, the Anthony Wayne, which had opened in 1927, was converted to apartments.
In 1977, the city hired the Fantus Company of Chicago to complete "a comprehensive analysis of Hamilton's economy, and to establish a program for long-term orderly growth and development in the community." Fantus consultants were to look at the city "through the eyes of the industrial site-seeker."
Their mission was to tell community leaders how to improve Hamilton's "locational attractiveness." The end product was a document entitled "An Economic Development Strategy for Hamilton," commonly called the Fantus Report.
A motel or motor hotel was among 11 priorities set by Fantus.
Other physical needs included a highway connection to I-75 and I-71; purchase of sites for industrial development; new vocational education facilities; encouraging office development; tackling downtown improvements; and upgrading the airport, including conversion to public ownership.
Fantus recommended "that a combination motor hotel and conference center be constructed in the central business district of Hamilton." The study found "18 major manufacturing firms in the area, plus the large Ohio Casualty Insurance Company. These firms generate substantial motel room needs from visiting executives as well as sales people."
The steps necessary to attract "a major hotel⁄motel chain into Hamilton," Fantus said, were to (1) commission a feasibility study "to determine the actual need and demand for a new motor hotel in downtown Hamilton;" and (2) locate a potential developer, a task for city officials or chamber of commerce leaders.
"It might also be the city's responsibility to assist in providing an adequate site at a reasonable price to a developer, in order to the make the proposition as attractive as possible," the report said. "Developing a major private facility in an older urban area can be seriously inhibited by the problems and costs associated with land acquisition, particularly if there are existing structures to be removed."
It wasn't the first time a new, full-service hotel or motel had been proposed for downtown Hamilton.
In June 1973, for example, City Manager Edward C. Smith had suggested a 125-room hotel with a two-story parking garage be built on the riverbank along South Monument Avenue. In 1973 the site was a municipal parking lot. Now it is the location of the Fitton Center for the Creative Arts, Hamilton's bicentennial project, completed in 1991.
In 1978, the feasibility of a hotel was explored by Laventhol & Horwath, certified public accountants. "Our study and analysis of the available information," Laventhol & Horwath said, "indicate that, assuming competent management and effective promotion, the proposed motor inn could anticipate successful market penetration and acceptable levels of occupancy." A key to the hotel's success, the report said, would be "strong support from the community."
In the early 1980s -- with construction of the High Street Underpass underway -- a downtown hotel became the priority for the Hamilton Economic Development Corporation, a public-private partnership involving the City of Hamilton and the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.
In 1982 -- as suggested in the 1977 Fantus study -- the city began acquiring land to make the $6.4 million project possible.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 1995
Six-story, 120-room Hamiltonian opened in 1985, despite skepticism
By Jim Blount
"Come on, you critics. It's here," declared City Manager Jack Becker as ground was broken Monday morning, April 15, 1985, for the Hamiltonian, a hotel some skeptics said wasn't needed, would never be built and, if constructed, wouldn't succeed.
Less than nine months later -- and 21 years after the Anthony Wayne had ceased to be a hotel -- Hamilton again had first-class downtown lodging with a restaurant, meeting rooms, parking and other amenities.
Opening ceremonies at the Hamiltonian were noon Tuesday, Dec. 31, 1985, followed that evening by a New Year's Eve party. All facilities were completed by mid January 1986.
The six-story, 120-room Hamiltonian ended a quest by city leaders that began soon after the Anthony Wayne closed in May 1964.
After nearly 20 years of feasibility studies, debates over potential sites and a search for funding, pieces of the hotel puzzle came together in the early 1980s.
In 1983, the project attracted the attention of Tipton Associates of Kenwood and BriLyn Inc. of Springdale. A critical step in 1984 was the city completing purchase of the entire block between Monument Avenue and Market, Dayton and North Front streets. The city holds a $375,000 mortgage on the land. It is being paid off over 30 years. Funding for the $6.4 million project was approved in March 1985.
A limited partnership owns the hotel. In 1985, about 50 people, businesses and groups invested $20,000 each to join with two general partners. The Hamilton Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) coordinated formation of the limited partnership. "It was considered a civic investment in 1985, something to help the community. I don't think any of the limited partners expected to make any money," one of the investors explained recently.
The general partners were Tipton Associates (which built the hotel) and BriLyn Inc. (which operates it).
Most of the original cost was covered by $4.25 million in industrial revenue bonds, backed by Ohio Casualty, the First National Bank of Southwestern Ohio, and other local interests. The city also provided a $650,000 loan, paid from the city's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), repayable in 10 years.
The riverfront building was designed by a local architect, Robert Treadon of Robert Treadon & Associates.
The Hamiltonian in 1985 was described by its developers as "a first-class, full-service hotel and supporting facilities." It was planned "to capture displaced demand that is presently staying at lodging facilities outside of Hamilton." The document said "the largest segment of the traveling public is the commercial traveler and the hotel is designed and targeted primarily for this market segment." Employment projections were 55 full-time and about 100 part-time jobs.
The Hamiltonian was the product of many people, but some stood out in their efforts, said Joel H. Schmidt, who was HEDC chairman in 1985.
"Pat Landi and Jack Becker from the city administration, Mayor George McNally and the members of city council, John Sloneker from Ohio Casualty, Dave Belew from Beckett Paper, and Dick Fitton from the First National Bank deserve particular credit for their vital contributions, as do all of the limited partners who have invested in the project," said Schmidt in a 1986 report.
"The Hamiltonian has been a real asset for the City of Hamilton," City Manager Hal Shepherd said in appraising the hotel's importance in 1995. "Not only does it provide much-needed restaurant and banquet facilities," Shepherd said, "but also lodging for the guests of our residents. A community as large and diverse as Hamilton needs a full service hotel."
"Although there were many skeptics when it was built, it has been extremely successful," the city manager observed. "I wonder often where we would be without those banquet facilities for all of the many activities that take place at the hotel."
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 1995
Do you remember Monday wash day, a part of woman's fixed weekly routine?
By Jim Blount
"Do you remember when most of the women of Hamilton had a fixed weekly program with Monday as wash day; Tuesday, ironing day; Thursday, calling day; Friday, cleaning day; and Saturday, baking day?"
That recollection of local tradition was part of a series once published under the headline "Do you remember?" The feature -- which was used as filler on the editorial page of Hamilton newspapers -- highlighted brief memories of day-to-day activities. Few dates and details were included as most entries were only one sentence, all starting with the word when.
Periodically, this column will reprise some of those anonymous reminisces which portray Hamilton and environs of earlier decades. This is the third collection.
Do you remember when . . .
As a boy you went to the Lane Public Library and obtained the books of Alger, Castleman and Ellis to read?
Open grate fires heated many of the homes in Hamilton?
Captain Philip Rothenbush brought the first bananas to Hamilton and sold them for 15 cents each?
The younger boys of Hamilton wore boots with copper tips on the toes?
There were placards in the rooms of Hamilton hotels reading "Don't blow out the gas"?
Following the flood of 1913, a public market was held around the Sutherland Park on the West Side? (The park is between Park and Wayne avenues and North D and North E streets.)
There were several slaughterhouses on South A Street, just south of Millikin Street?
Kopp's Garden at Main Street and Millville Avenue was one of Hamilton's chief places of amusement and where band concerts were given during the summer season?
Ministers of Hamilton wore Prince Albert coats and silk hats?
Theatrical companies playing Hamilton made their headquarters at the Straub House, then located at the west end of the High-Main Street Bridge?
Hamilton boys wore suits made over from their fathers' old clothes?
John Smoyer had a blacksmith shop on the east side of North C Street, just north of Main?
The hose reels of the Hamilton fire department were two-wheeled affairs?
Superstitious and credulous Hamilton women went to Cincinnati to have their fortunes told by Coffee Mary?
S. D. Bowers, "the Shoe Man," had a store at 105 High Street?
The forks used at the free lunch stands in Hamilton saloons were kept in a tumbler of water for the sake of cleanliness, the forks being washed and water changed every morning?
Butler County farms had rail fences six to eight feet high?
You knew all the Hamilton telephone operators by their first names and sent them Christmas cards?
The grocer would give you a sack of candy when you paid the bill for mother?
There was a beer garden at the northwest corner of North B Street and Park Avenue?
J. P. Tangeman, who then lived on Dayton Street, operated a line of canal boats between Cincinnati and Hamilton?
Hamilton boys and girls played post office and other kissing games at their parties?
The grocer would stick a potato on the spout of the coal oil can?
Stephen Crane was a well-known attorney and had his office on the second floor of the northwest corner of Second and High streets for almost half a century?
A sunbonnet was the morning headwear of many Hamilton women?
The hydraulic ran down through the center of Market Street?
Hamilton liquor dealers (before Prohibition) sold the finest eastern rye or Kentucky bourbon for 75 cents and $1 a quart?
Thomas Goldrick had a blacksmith shop on South B Street, opposite the old One's hose house?
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