Journal-News, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 1995
First United Way campaign in 1920
By Jim Blount
Leftover money wasn't the only legacy of the Hamilton War Chest at the end of World War I. As in other communities, the war drive had introduced an economical and effective means of financing local social services. It fostered a fund-raising campaign in September 1920 by a predecessor of what is known today as Butler County United War.
Previously, funds for the Associated Charities and other groups in Hamilton had been raised through private subscription drives without any unified effort. The War Chest also changed the pattern of giving, shifting the emphasis to short-term community-wide appeals instead of solicitations limited to the affluent.
On the foundation of $21,000 from the War Chest, the Hamilton Welfare Federation formed in 1920 as a clearing house for "social and character-building agencies." Its leaders were determined to do in peacetime what had been accomplished during the war.
Dr. Charles Matthew Brown, chairman of the War Chest, presided as 30 people met March 25, 1920, at the YMCA. They heard results of a survey by Fred C. Croxton, secretary of the Columbus Community Chest, a name which was gaining popularity after originating in Rochester, N. Y.
Besides the Rev. Brown, a Presbyterian minister, members elected to the executive committee included Ernst G. Ruder, John Janser, John Connaughton, G. G. Greist, Mrs. Walter Tobey, Guy C. Mitchell, Frank E. Barker, Thomas Beckett, Mrs. H. L. Kutter, Dr. Charles M. Brown, Miss Caroline Margedant, Stanley Ogg, Cyrus J. Fitton, Mrs. E. S. Griffis and Joe Wolfe.
Officers elected 10 days later were the Rev. Brown, president; Ernst G. Ruder, vice president; Guy C. Mitchell, treasurer, and Frank E. Barker, secretary. Later in the year, when he came to Hamilton as secretary of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, John E. Northway replaced Barker as secretary.
The group's purposes included "to strengthen and make socially efficient the spirit of human helpfulness in Hamilton and vicinity, and to afford its citizens an opportunity to contribute to human welfare work."
"As soon as the budget committee receives and reviews the budgets for the running expenses of the various organizations," a newspaper reported, "the public will be called upon for funds in one centralized drive to be conducted for all the organizations in the federation" instead of the customary new campaign every few weeks.
Barney H. Kroger, who had been a leader in Cincinnati drives, helped launch the five-day Hamilton Community Chest campaign. The pep talk by the president of the Kroger Grocery & Baking Company was described as "a delight and an inspiration." He spoke to a handful of workers present at the Hamilton High School auditorium at North Sixth and Dayton streets.
Solicitation started Friday, Sept. 17, on two levels -- calls on businessmen and volunteer teams knocking on doors in Hamilton neighborhoods. The first campaign was limited to the City of Hamilton.
Noble purposes didn't guarantee success for the Community Chest in the early years.
Leaders of the first campaign in September 1920 set a goal of $104,000, but raised only $67,782, or 65.2 percent of the target. The average contribution was $135.29, but only 501 people subscribed in a city with more than 39,000 inhabitants. The second year, 1921-22, the goal was lowered to $90,000, and $82,109 was raised, or 91.2 percent of the more modest objective.
It wasn't until May 1928 that a financial drive topped its quota, raising $88,299, or 100.7 percent of its $87,675 objective. In that 10th campaign -- before the stock market crash of October 1929 -- the average contribution was $9.70. But the number of subscribers that year increased to 7,903, a participation rate nearly 16 times greater than in 1920.
Pledges exceeded $100,000 for the first time two years later. Other United Way milestones have included topping $1 million in 1977 and surpassing $2 million in 1991.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 1995
Erection of Municipal building provided jobs during Depression
By Jim Blount
A federal Depression program aimed at relieving unemployment enabled Hamilton civic leaders to fulfill "a long-cherished dream" 60 years ago. The Hamilton Municipal Building 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 would be provided by the Public Works Administration, an arm of NIRA.
Land costs were minimized when the city decided to build on a site which 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." the Journal-News said as construction 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 dedication 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. 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 present fire station -- started Wednesday morning, Nov. 27, and was completed Monday, 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. Its interior features Italian and Belgian marbles.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 1995
Covered bridge in Bebb Park last to carry traffic on public road
By Jim Blount
Perfectly positioned for photographers year round is the 120-foot covered bridge in Governor Bebb Preserve, south of Cincinnati-Brookville Road (Ohio 126), between Okeana and Scipio in Morgan Township. It was the last of at least two dozen county covered bridges to carry traffic on a public road.
The bridge -- its age uncertain -- was moved to the park from Oxford Township, near the Ohio-Indiana line. It was on Fairfield Road over Indian Creek, west of Oxford.
As with most of these structures, it had more than one name, including the Fairfield Pike Covered Bridge, the Bath-Oxford Road Covered Bridge and the State Line Covered Bridge.
It was dismantled in 1966 to make way for a new bridge. Under the direction of Bruce Diehl of the Butler County Park District, it was rebuilt over a ravine in Bebb park, and reopened in 1970.
National and state covered bridge directories list its design as Burr arch truss, a popular system developed and patented by Connecticut-born Theodore Burr.
But Miriam Wood, author of The Covered Bridges of Ohio, identifies it as a Wernwag truss, the work of German-born Lewis Wernwag, who graduated from the University of Berlin before coming to the United States.
He established his reputation as a bridge builder with the completion in 1812 of the 340-foot Colossus, which spanned the Schuykill River near Philadelphia. Between 1810 and 1838, Wernwag built covered bridges in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, "and possibly Ohio," according to Wood.
"Ohio had a number of Wernwag truss bridges, all of which are gone now except the Bebb Park Bridge in Butler County," said Wood in her 1993 book. "It is interesting to note that only in Butler County was the name Wernwag mentioned in county records in connection with a bridge truss," she added.
"Although old Butler County records do mention Wernwag truss bridges, it was not in relation to the Bebb park bridge," she said. "Old county records failed to mention construction of this bridge, but we believe it was built prior to 1873," said Wood of the bridge at Bebb park. "By the mid 1870s, steel truss bridges were becoming popular in Butler County and timber truss bridges were no longer being built."
An unlabeled newspaper clipping (no date and no publication name) in the Smith Library of Regional History in Oxford adds to the riddle of when and where the bridge was built.
The mysterious article said: "The bridge on the road to Bath (in Franklin County, Indiana) was built about 1886, according to F. A. Wardell, a farmer who has lived in the vicinity since before that date."
"Two spans were brought from Middletown," the report continued, "one to replace an old covered bridge on the Brookville-Oxford Road which was washed away in 1882 during a flood, and the other to form a new bridge over Indian Creek on the Bath-Oxford Road."
"The covered bridge on the Brookville route was replaced about 12 years ago with an iron structure, but the one on the Bath Road was reinforced and continues in daily use," the article explained.
If that article is accurate, the bridge at Governor Bebb Preserve has been moved twice -- from Middletown to near Oxford about 1886, and eventually in 1970 to the park in Morgan Township.
Miriam Wood said the undated article helps to unravel the mystery of the origin of the Bebb bridge.
In 1867, according to Wood, "the county decided to build a two-span covered bridge just 1,000 feet west of the Deardorf Mill Covered Bridge and connected to it by a raised causeway. This new bridge was to span the flood channel of the Great Miami River."
The builders, Wood explained, "were the well-known Butler County firm of Bandin, Butin and Bowman. They charged $26 per lineal foot (plf) to build this 300-foot bridge" on what is now Ohio 122, west of Middletown.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 1995
Mystery and romance associated with covered bridges
By Jim Blount
Each covered bridge had its own personality, or multiple personalities, depending on its location and degree of isolation. Every one of the 19th century wooden structures seems to have been known as both "the kissing bridge" and "the haunted bridge" to nearby residents.
The overwhelming majority also had high wood sides, which admitted little natural light. Their dark interiors provided welcome relief on sweltering summer days. They also encouraged tales of strange noises and eerie happenings at night.
"It was mighty dark at nights going through the bridge. I've walked through when the only way I knew another man was passing was by smelling his pipe," recalled G. W. Sullenberger, who resided near the Black Covered Bridge over Tallawanda Creek, north of Oxford.
Sullenberger's covered bridge recollections are captured in an undated, unidentified newspaper story in the files of the Smith Library of Regional History in Oxford.
The same article tells of a careful Oxford area farmer who "worked out a plan of protection at night. He'd shoot a barrage of rocks ahead and then run through" the bridge.
Teenagers concocted many ghost stories associated with covered bridges to scare younger brothers and sisters. In some communities, the passage to manhood came when a boy mustered enough nerve to walk -- not run -- through a covered bridge on a moonless night.
Covered bridge frights and superstitions haunted some people into adulthood.
Fred Hammerle, a former Butler County engineer, told of a man's lifelong refusal to go through a covered bridge. Instead, he would walk or ride through the stream.
If the water was too deep to ford, he would risk climbing over the bridge roof to the other side. Under no condition would he go inside a covered bridge. Hammerle -- who related the story to John Diehl, developer of the universal covered bridge numbering system -- also remembered the same man losing a bet and paying off by walking backward for six miles to reach his residence in Seven Mile.
The timber bridges had many uses besides providing passage over water. This included spacious walls for posting community notices and advertisements, diving platforms for swimmers, shady spots for fishermen and a refuge from bad weather.
G. W. Sullenberger remembered farmers stopping on the Black Bridge during heavy rains and passing the time "exchanging notes on crops and politics."
A photo dated September 1913 shows Miami University students gathered near the same bridge for a tug-of-war. Covered bridges also were convenient places for baptisms. Members of the congregation could watch from the bridge or its elevated approach while the minister performed the rites in the creek below.
They acquired the name "Kissing Bridge" because their lonely darkness enabled many a brave male to summon the courage to buss his female companion for the first time inside the wooden tunnels.
In the era when courting had strict rules and chaperones, a trip through a shadowy covered bridge afforded young lovers an opportunity for spooning -- briefly or prolonged, depending on traffic.
A few of these romances led to a wedding ceremony on the same covered bridge.
Indiana newlyweds spent part of their honeymoon in the Lower Blue Covered Bridge in neighboring Franklin County, Indiana, in 1948.
After leaving the church, their car broke down near the 105-foot bridge over Blue Creek. They spent their wedding night in the car on the isolated bridge four miles south of Brookville. The next morning, they sought help and continued on their honeymoon trip after the car was repaired.
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