Journal-News Wednesday, Jan. 3, 1996
Law suit blocked 1920 highway plan to connect Hamilton and New Miami
By Jim Blount
Law suits threatening highway construction aren't unique to the litigious era of the 1990s. For decades, legal roadblocks have delayed and added to the cost of local transportation projects.
An example is the North Third Street extension which connects Hamilton and New Miami. Litigation threw that project off track for about 10 years. Its completion came days after an accident blocked traffic on a parallel route.
Encouraged by residents of New Miami, Seven Mile, Overpeck and surrounding areas, the county initiated the improvement in the spring of 1920. Support came immediately from the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and other groups interested in road enhancements.
The package included 2.5 miles of new roadway and two new bridges, one near the Hamilton electric generating plant and the other over the Great Miami River south of New Miami (then known as Coke Otto).
In the 1920s, the only existing northern connection dated back to the horse-and-buggy era. It was over Seven Mile Pike (now North B Street in Hamilton and Seven Mile Avenue in New Miami), along the west bank of the river.
Traffic northbound on U. S. 127 traveled either over Third Street to High Street, across the High-Main Street Bridge and then north on North B Street, or Third Street to Black Street and over the Black Street Bridge to North B Street.
Electric-powered interurban (or traction) cars -- which then linked Hamilton, Cincinnati, Trenton, Middletown and Dayton -- operated on tracks parallel to the narrow road. The road and interurban crossed separate bridges over Four Mile Creek at the southern edge of New Miami.
Officials of the Cincinnati & Lake Erie Company, operators of the interurban line, favored the relocation of U. S. 127 and their tracks to the proposed North Third Street extension on the east side of the river for several reasons.
C&LE tracks east of Seven Mile Pike were close to the river and subject to periodic washouts. Flood water from Four Mile Creek often closed both bridges. New right-of-way east of the extension also would eliminate a dangerous crossing at the north side of New Miami.
With the planned removal of the tracks, residents in the area anticipated the widening of Seven Mile Pike, which was squeezed between a steep hill on the west and the interurban right-of-way on the east.
Because it promised benefits for many people, county commissioners expected strong support for the $390,000 issue they placed on the Nov. 2, 1920, ballot.
They weren't disappointed. In Hamilton, 69.9 percent of the voters (9,360 to 4,078) favored the expenditure. The response was more positive in St. Clair Township with 76.8 percent of the electorate (490 to 148) backing the road and bridge additions.
That cushion was enough to offset negative voting in Middletown, Oxford and other townships. When all county ballots were totaled, the positive margin was more than 2,100 votes.
After preliminary engineering was completed, county commissioners authorized issuance of $364,046.51 in bonds Dec. 29, 1922, an action prompting the legal action which was to stall the project for a decade.
Feb. 19, 1923, a Middletown resident filed suit in Butler County Common Pleas Court to stop the sale of bonds. He claimed the county commissioners had not advertised the date of a hearing and other details in a Middletown newspaper.
In a March 9, 1923, ruling, a visiting judge refused to stop the project. But an appeals court overturned that judgment and granted an injunction Oct. 8, 1923. The Ohio Supreme Court announced Feb. 27, 1924, it wouldn't review the matter -- a decision which placed the North Third Street extension in limbo for a few years.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 1996
Collapse of nearby bridge rushed completion of Third Street extension
By Jim Blount
Determined supporters and the prospect of funds from Depression employment programs breathed new life into a local highway proposal in 1931.
The North Third Street extension -- a direct connection between Hamilton and New Miami -- won voter approval in 1920, but died in the Ohio Supreme Court in 1924. A suit advanced by a Middletown taxpayer stopped the project, which had strong support in Hamilton, New Miami, Seven Mile and Overpeck.
In January 1931 -- almost 15 months into the Depression -- the plan for a new 2.5-mile road and two new bridges, plus the relocation of U. S. 127, was revived. It would replace the narrow antiquated route over Seven Mile Pike (now North B Street in Hamilton and Seven Mile Avenue in New Miami), along the west bank of the Great Miami River.
Sam Landis, representing St. Clair Township, initiated the 1931 meeting at the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. That resulted in formation of a committee to seek state and federal funds for the extension over right-of-way already owned by the county.
Support came from the Butler County Farm Bureau, granges in Butler County and the Butler County Automobile Club.
In April 1931, the Ohio Highway Department said the North Third Street extension would be on its 1932 building program. The interurban company, the Cincinnati & Lake Erie, also disclosed it was ready to spend about $500,000 to relocate its tracks beside the new road.
In December 1931, representatives of Hamilton, New Miami and Seven Mile met with county, state and Miami Conservancy District officials to discuss financing for the project, which in 1920 would have been paid entirely with $390,000 in local money.
In 1931, the estimate was $600,000 with federal, state and local shares of $250,000, $200,000 and $150,000, respectively. About $50,000 of the local portion would come from the Miami Conservancy District in the form of gravel it was dredging from the river channel. The gravel would be used as fill dirt under the road right-of-way.
Work started in August 1932 with the contractor obligated to follow federal rules aimed at assuring jobs for the unemployed, estimated at about a fourth of the local work force.
Those employed were not to work more than 30 hours a week. Pay scales were a minimum of 40 cents an hour for unskilled labor and a maximum of 60 cents an hour for skilled workers. Hand labor was to be "used whenever practical to increase employment."
The road and bridges were to be completed by Jan. 1, 1934. But contractors won more time because of extended wet and cold weather, including sub-zero readings. But a mishap closed the old Seven Mile Pike and forced an early opening of the new road east of the river.
A steel bridge just south of New Miami collapsed Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 9, 1934. Two men escaped injury as a northbound truck, hauling six tons of waste paper, fell into Four Mile Creek. The 194-foot bridge, built in 1891, had been damaged two weeks earlier when struck by a truck.
Workers poured concrete on the extension until 6 o'clock the next morning to expedite its opening. Except for a 150-foot detour, the new road and two bridges opened without ceremony Saturday afternoon, Jan. 14, 1934.
The next day, a newspaper said, a "continuous stream of automobiles each way" brought sightseers to check the new North Third Street extension and the wreckage of the nearby Four Mile Creek bridge.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 1996
V-for-Victory topped Monument during hectic World War II years
By Jim Blount
A downtown Hamilton landmark acquired a distinctive World War II look in 1942. A red-white-and-blue V -- a popular symbol of Allied resolve during the 1941-1945 struggle -- was placed on the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument Thursday, Nov. 12, 1942.
Workers positioned the V just below the feet of another symbol of victory -- Billy Yank, the 17-foot, 3,500-pound Civil War Soldier, which was the work of Rudolph Thiem, a Hamilton sculptor, artist and professional model maker.
Thiem, a native of Germany who immigrated to Hamilton in 1881, had several local Civil War veterans pose as he formed the statue in an unmilitary stance. He said it represents a private at the moment of victory. The private, in his enthusiasm, has dropped his rife off his right shoulder, is waving his cap with his left hand, and shouting "hurrah!"
The V promoting civilian and military cooperation in the effort to win World War II was 15 feet high and 16 feet wide. It was the work of three local men.
William C. Baumann and Morris Hoehn, both residents of the 1000 block of Hooven Avenue in Lindenwald, and Robert Shepherd, a Symmes Road resident, built it in Baumann's house. It took them about seven weeks to construct the three-quarter ton sign.
The Hamilton Lumber Company donated the materials. The City of Hamilton provided the lights. City crews and firemen cooperated in hoisting the sign to the top of the monument, where it remained until the war ended in 1945.
The Journal-News said the sign "really is two V's, a larger one for the wThe Journal-News said the sign "really is two V's, a larger one for the white lighted background and the smaller one containing the red and blue lights." The lights were controlled by a patented transformer designed by Baumann.
Unlike recent decades, the exterior of the monument wasn't bathed in light in the 1940s. That enhanced the visibility to the lighted V.
Winston Churchill had popularized the "V-for-Victory" campaign July 20, 1941, in a broadcast to people in the German-occupied nations of Europe.
"The V sign is the symbol of the unconquerable will of the occupied territories, and a portent of the fate awaiting the Nazi tyranny," declared the British prime minister, who was known for his oratory.
Churchill, easily recognized with his bowler hat and cigar, added the two-finger "V for Victory" sign to his distinctive appearance. It became his trademark, but he didn't have a monopoly. Americans quickly adopted the V sign after Dec. 7, 1941.
The monument was prominent in other World War II events. It was a rallying point in promoting the sale of war stamps and bonds.
The Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument had been built by Civil War veterans at the turn of the century with money from a county-wide bond issue approved in 1899. The campaign for such a memorial had started in 1897, a year before the Spanish-American War.
Work started in the spring of 1902, and the cornerstone was placed Nov. 27, 1902. Fire bells and cannons hailed the hoisting of Billy Yank to the top of the monument the morning of Dec. 4, 1904.
The structure at High Street and Monument Avenue, on the east approach to the High-Main Bridge, was dedicated July 4, 1906, on the 130th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence to "perpetuate the memory of the soldiers, sailors and pioneers of Butler County."
The $71,226 building was built on land which had been in the center of Fort Hamilton (1791-1796). A surplus of 52 cents remained in the building fund when the monument was completed.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 1996
Natural ice once major local business,
employing hundreds in Hamilton area
By Jim Blount
Natural ice was a major business employing hundreds of people in the Hamilton area for several decades. Icehouses -- which stored the perishable winter product for later distribution -- were built along canals and other waterways.
The combined storage capacity of Butler County icehouses reached 265,000 tons in December 1884. That year, 17 companies operated icehouses along the Miami-Erie Canal between LeSourdsville in Lemon Township and Port Union in Union Township.
By 1911, when artificial ice dominated the industry, at least 11 ice-producing ponds still operated within 10 miles of Hamilton.
"The natural ice industry was a highly profitable one if the winter season was cold, but if the winter was mild, it was a highly precarious one," a 1911 report said. "If all the conditions were right, ice could be harvested for as low as 25 cents per ton," and sold at $2 a ton.
Much of the local natural ice went by canal and railroad to breweries, meat packers and dairies in Cincinnati. One local ice company, which owned six canalboats, reported paying $30,000 in canal tolls in 1882.
Pressure from ice producers and consumers prolonged the life of the canal system for several decades after railroads had captured the bulk of the passenger and freight hauling business.
William Cullen, a Scottish scientist, developed the principles of artificial refrigeration in 1748. Ferdinand Carre, a Frenchman, invented refrigeration by compression in 1857. But the first commercial household refrigerator wasn't available until 1913.
Many Butler County residences and businesses relied on iceboxes to cool food and drinks through the Depression years. Until the early 1900s, they were stocked with locally-produced natural ice, most of it from specially-built ponds.
Other sources included two reservoirs just north of Hamilton -- now the L. J. Smith North End Athletic Field, maintained by the Hamilton Department of Parks and Recreation. In years of prolonged freeze, the product also was taken from the Great Miami River, the Miami-Erie Canal and the network of waterways which formed the Hamilton Hydraulic.
In 1898, ice on the river was seven and a half inches thick as early as Dec. 16. In good seasons, local icehouses were filled by Feb. 1 to meet demands for the next 10 to 11 months.
A 1911 newspaper story reflected the extent of the natural ice business in the area. "North of Hamilton," it explained, "there were, first of all, the two reservoirs, then north along the canal came the Sheley and Thomas pond, then the Rupp and Lawrence pond, then the Flenner ponds, two in number, and finally, the Rockdale ponds, owned by Rogers and Frederick."
"At LeSourdsville," the 1911 article said, "was also another ice cutting pond, known as Lane and Blackall's. There were quite a number of small ponds from LeSourdsville on to Middletown, all of which were under the control and ownership of Cincinnati parties."
The 1911 account said "going south, the first one that is met is Campbell's pond, about four miles south of town" in Fairfield Township. "The one below that was known as the Cincinnati Ice Company's pond. The next one belonged to the Stone Lake Ice Company of Cincinnati. Vinnedge and Schlosser owned the one south of that, and beyond this was another small pond that belonged to one the Cincinnati ice companies."
The canal and ice businesses complemented each other. To prevent freeze damage to levees, water was drained from the canal into adjacent ice ponds before temperatures dropped. In the spring, summer and fall, the stored ice moved to markets over the refilled canal.
A visible example of the relationship remains at the southern edge of Middletown, where Ohio 4 becomes Verity Parkway, north of Ohio 73.
Verity Parkway was built over the abandoned canal in the 1930s. The well-defined low land west of the parkway in Douglass Park at Lafayette Avenue was once owned by an ice company. "The depressed land areas in this vicinity," explained George Crout, Middletown historian, "are the remnants of the old ice ponds."
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 1996
Progress doomed natural ice industry;
manufactured product was cheaper
By Jim Blount
Development of artificial ice-making machinery doomed the natural ice industry which had boomed for half a century in the Hamilton area, especially along the Miami-Erie Canal.
Before the Civil War, William H. H. Campbell began harvesting ice from the Hamilton Basin. The basin was a branch of the canal. It extended west from present Erie Highway (which was built over the canal in the 1930s) between High Street and Maple Avenue.
In addition to his ice business, Campbell managed a 163-acre farm in Fairfield Township and served terms as state senator and sheriff.
The family wholesale business expanded for about a quarter century under the leadership of a son, Aaron L. S. Campbell. Before the turn of the century, his crews cut 50,000 tons of ice annually from five ponds. He also headed retail ice companies in Hamilton and Cincinnati.
Most winters, the Campbell firm hired between 150 and 200 men to cut ice in this area. Hundreds of other workers were employed by other ice companies.
In January 1887, a newspaper said "there are 1,000 men today working on the ice in and about Hamilton, and their wages, including the teams, will average $2 per day," a decent income in those days. "All this money is spent right in Hamilton," the report said, "and it is a source of work to many needy men who are, unfortunately, generally out of work in the winter season."
"During the past 13 years," the 1887 article said, "the ice business has tripled," and several new icehouses were built.
After a prolonged freeze, harvesting began with removal of snow and soft ice from the surface. Horse-drawn plows and men with saws cut the ice. Workers with long pikes guided the cakes to loading areas.
The blocks were hauled to icehouses, which had storage areas about 12 deep under the ground level. The ice blocks -- usually two by four feet -- were separated and insulated with straw and sawdust, the latter obtained from northern Ohio lumber mills.
Weight loss during storage ranged from 25 to 50 percent, depending on weather and business variables.
In December 1884 -- as the cutting season approached -- local houses reported ice left from the previous year. The Lake Erie Ice Company, near Port Union in Union Township, had 15,000 tons on hand. The Niagara Company of Schlosser and Clark had 8,000 tons stored in Fairfield Township.
Another long-time Butler County ice operation was at Knorr -- a location known to recent generations as the LeSourdsville Lake and Americana amusement parks.
In 1855 the A. H. Knorr Company of Cincinnati purchased land between the Miami-Erie Canal and the Great Miami River in Lemon Township. The firm built an earthen embankment around 19 acres to form a lake. It was fed water from the adjacent canal. Knorr also built 12 icehouses, each measuring 50 by 120 feet and 28 feet high, on a tract of about 40 acres.
The ice was shipped by canalboats to Cincinnati where Knorr's horse-drawn wagons delivered it to customers. As a wholesaler, Knorr also shipped ice down the Ohio River on steamboats.
The LeSourdsville post office -- which had opened May 11, 1838 -- was renamed Knorr Feb. 2, 1887. It was changed back to LeSourdsville Aug. 26, 1890, and reverted to Knorr again Dec. 19, 1890. It became LeSourdsville a third time April 1, 1891, when postal officials rescinded their three-and-a-half-month-old order.
Knorr sold the land and lake in 1892. Other companies continued harvesting ice there until the demand for natural ice declined. Then the lake became the basis for an amusement park. LeSourdsville Lake opened in 1922, and was renamed Americana in 1977.
In 1911, the Journal declared "the natural ice business in Hamilton is now a lost industry." The major cause, the newspaper said, was "the manufacture of artificial ice." It was cheaper to produce than natural ice. Also, it didn't rely entirely on Mother Nature, or require months of storage. Artificial ice output could be adjusted daily to meet fluctuating demand.
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