Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 1998
Captain Bruck 'first' in Civil War
By Jim Blount
"The news flashed over the country like wild fire," wrote Stephen D. Cone in recalling Hamilton reaction to the attack on Fort Sumter April 12, 1861. "The patriotic heart of the great North was stirred and thrilled to its innermost depth."
Cone said "when the news was received in Hamilton, the bells of the old Neptune Fire Company of the First Ward were rung by John R. Vaughan and Samuel Schofield, calling the citizens of Hamilton together."
John Peter Bruck was one of the hundreds who gathered to show their loyalty. He wasted no time demonstrating it with his actions.
Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor surrendered to Confederate forces April 14. The next day President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers, including 10,153 from Ohio.
Since March 2, 1854, Bruck had been first lieutenant of the Jackson Guards of the 19th Division of the Ohio Militia.
He took command and supervised the recruitment of the company to full strength. That had taken place during a rally at Beckett's Hall (at the northeast corner of High and North Second streets in a building that later housed Wilmur's and Elder-Beerman stores).
April 18, the company became the first Butler County unit to respond to Lincoln's appeal for troops. There were about 100 men in the Jackson Guards when the volunteers left Hamilton by train, three days after Lincoln's call.
The Guards arrived at Camp Jackson in Columbus the same day -- without arms, ammunition and uniforms. The local unit became Company K of the First Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, enrolled for three months of service.
The First Ohio -- led by Colonel Alexander McDowell McCook -- included similar groups from around the state: the Lancaster Guards (Company A); the Lafayette Guards of Dayton (B); the Dayton Lights Guards (C); the Montgomery Guards of Dayton (D); the Cleveland Grays (E); The Hibernian Guards of Cleveland (F); the Portsmouth Guards (G); the Zanesville Guards (H); and the Mansfield Guards (I).
The recruits didn't stay long in Columbus. The morning of April 19, the First Ohio was on a train headed to Washington, D. C., to help protect the nation's capital against a feared Confederate invasion.
The First Ohio participated in the war's first major battle July 21, 1861, at Bull Run (or Manassas), near Washington, D. C. Captain Bruck was born Oct. 13, 1819, in Hesse Darmstadt, Prussia (later Germany). He arrived in the United States March 31, 1835 -- not yet 16 years of age -- and settled in Hamilton.
Bruck worked as a tailor in Hamilton, operating a shop on High Street for several years. He also was a founder of The Schildwache, the first German newspaper in Butler County. He was still involved in publishing the weekly newspaper when the Civil War started.
He had married Mary D. Klein, also a native of Germany, in Hamilton in 1840, and became the parents of nine children.
Bruck's term was shortened by the illness and death of his wife. He resigned his commission to return to Hamilton to care for his young family. He supported them by resuming the tailor trade.
He returned briefly to military service in July 1863 when General John Hunt Morgan's Confederate cavalry threatened Hamilton. Bruck was among several veteran officers who commanded quickly-formed Home Guards during Morgan's Raid.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 1998
Recreation sites lacking, said 1920 city plan
By Jim Blount
Vision 2020, now in its early stages, will plot a course for Hamilton 20 years into the next century. Seventy-eight years ago, a similar plan was developed for the community. The 1920 City Plan of Hamilton was prepared by Harland Bartholomew, a city plan engineer of St. Louis.
"The obligations of the city to its citizens do no end with the provision of utilities, good streets, police and fire protection," said the writer of the 1920 plan. "The necessity of providing for public recreation is more evident and pronounced than ever before."
"Where wholesome public recreation is not properly provided for in cities, direct encouragement is given to the development of forms of amusement not altogether desirable or beneficial," the report said.
"Poor picture shows, vulgar dance halls and cheap amusement resorts should have active competition from community centers, playgrounds, neighborhood parks, large parks and boulevards, all provided by the city itself to counteract these low standard enterprises which prey upon normal recreation instincts."
The plan described community centers "as the only practical means of cooperation between the recreational and educational authorities and the people. For purposes of social welfare and the unification of common interests, community centers have great value in the modern city."
The centers should "provide amusement, recreation and education to all people of all ages throughout most of the year. A well directed and effective center should afford opportunity for neighbors to become acquainted, should encourage discussion of community problems and political questions, should provide public lecture courses and indoor recreation, and should conduct an employment bureau, branch library and public health clinic."
"Distributed advantageously throughout the city, they would more adequately serve the community's needs and stimulate a greater desire for recreational pursuits," the plan observed. It urged cooperation between the school board (with a new high school) and the YWCA and the YMCA (also in a relatively new building).
In 1920, Hamilton had only one playground "with equipment and supervision." It was South Ninth and John streets. The plan said, "despite limited funds and inadequate support," that site "has proven its worth."
It also noted that the school board had equipped "the various school yards with playground apparatus, but the generally small areas of the school yards and inability to secure supervisors has greatly reduced their efficiency."
Neighborhood parks, it said, "should provide a means of recreation and rest for both grown-ups and for children, should be within easy walking distance," and "to be really effective . . . should have an area of at least 25 acres." Three existing parks, the plan said, "embrace about a city block each," and "serve only as breathing spaces in the city and spots of aesthetic appeal."
On the positive side, 1920 planners said that "Hamilton, divided by the Great Miami River and surrounded by beautiful hills and rolling country, possesses unusual park possibilities. Much natural beauty lies in its river and hills. To the casual visitor it is surprising that Hamilton has not taken greater advantage of these splendid opportunities," the report continued.
It suggested that "the large area known as Peck's Addition is suited to park purposes and is of sufficient size to permit of the construction of several large game fields for football, baseball and track and field sports."
It recommended a city boulevard system -- "inner and outer loops" -- to connect parks and afford "picturesque drives and sweeping vistas over the surrounding country."
What would it take to implement the 1920 recreation proposals in a city of nearly 40,000?
"The necessary funds will only be provided," said the planners, "when public opinion and civic organizations demand that such appropriations be made."
This series reviewing sections of the 1920 city plan will continue in future columns.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 1998
Hamilton civic center proposed in 1920
By Jim Blount
"Public buildings by their very nature should create a feeling of common ownership and express the progressiveness and local pride of a community," said the writers of Hamilton's 1920 city plan. "The desire of cities to erect fine public buildings is natural, and nothing better serves to promote and maintain civic interest and community ideals," said the St. Louis-based city plan engineers who prepared Hamilton's blueprint for the future.
"A grouping of public buildings about a common center near the heart of the city," the planners said, "has the double advantage of providing opportunity for a good setting and the convenience of a concentration of public business, especially desirable in the smaller cities."
"The logical location for such a group in Hamilton," the plan asserted, "is west of Front Street and between Market on the north, Court on the south and the river on the west."
In 1920 that civic center area included the Butler County Courthouse and the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument. The Butler County Jail was on the south side of Court Street, opposite the courthouse.
Hamilton's city hall also was within the proposed boundaries. In 1920, the city operated from an old building (1839) at the southwest corner of Front and Market streets. The present municipal building at the northeast corner of High Street and Monument Avenue opened in 1935. The Lane Public Library, then and now, is on North Third Street at Buckeye Street.
The 1920 plan observed that "a new city building and a public library are immediate needs of the city. Their location within this area would establish the nucleus for a splendid civic group."
"Later, a community house or building to house the charity organizations and the offices of the board of education might become necessary and be added to this group," planners said.
"It is unfortunate that the southwest corner of Front and High streets has been selected for the location of a new hotel" (the Anthony Wayne opened in 1927 on Monument Avenue). "This will preclude the possibilities of including the present courthouse as a part of the proposed civic center."
City planning dates back to ancient civilizations, including an Egyptian scheme about 2000 BC. Also, Roman engineers had layouts used throughout the empire in fortified towns and provincial cities.
William Penn's 1682 plan for Colonial Philadelphia included the basic elements of straight streets and public squares on which the principal buildings would be located.
Another early example of U. S. city planning is Washington, D. C. Pierre Charles L'Enfant laid out the new capital city in 1791, the year that Fort Hamilton was built. His Washington plan included a rectangular street grid over a plan of radial avenues, with squares and circles at major intersections.
The 1920 Hamilton document, completed two years after World War I ended, was the city's first full-scale plan. The same firm, Harland Bartholomew of St. Louis, prepared a new blueprint for the city in 1948, three years after the conclusion of World War II.
Now city leaders are in the preliminary stages of formulating Vision 2020, a plan to guide the community through the first 20 years of the 21st century. It is expected to include ideas ranging from community services to lifestyles.
Traditionally urban planning during the last century has addressed city problems and a variety of resources and topics, including education, employment, recreation, transportation, utilities, housing, public facilities and community services.
More details of the 1920 Hamilton plan will be covered in future columns.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 1998
1923 crackdown became 'joker raid'
By Jim Blount
A series of prohibition raids in Hamilton in 1921 had failed to lead to convictions because federal agents had relied on shaky second-hand evidence. The feds returned in March 1923, intent on overcoming their embarrassment of 1921.
This time the raids were ordered by the nation's top prohibition enforcement officer in Washington, D. C. Major Roy A. Haynes, U. S. commissioner of prohibition, issued the order because of reports of flagrant violations in Little Chicago.
The crackdown was unusual because it involved both federal and state prohibition agencies. Accompanying the 30 federal and 14 state agents was Washington-based Sherman Cuneo, publicity agent for the National Prohibition Bureau. He was here to represent Major Haynes, and to see that the event got sufficient media exposure.
"Conditions in Hamilton have been very bad," said Roy D. Goodwin, general federal prohibition agent. "Drastic measures necessarily must be taken if we are to clean it up." The feds believed large amounts of home brew beer were being produced here and supplied to so-called soft drink parlors in the region.
The Hamilton raids began at 3 o'clock Friday afternoon, March 23, 1923. Three hours later, the raiders claimed these accomplishments:
* 22 cafe proprietors in custody on prohibition charges.
* 35 of the city's soft drink parlors forced dry.
* Several trucks loaded with beer, whisky and wine confiscated.
As agents raided a cafe at North Front and High streets, a truck arrived and began unloading beer. The beer was seized and the driver quizzed in what was considered a major break. It was reported to Haynes this way:
"Capture of 20 kegs of alleged real beer from a Chicago brewery in process of unloading from a truck of the Richmond (Ind.) Trucking Company, the driver confessing having been paid $20 a keg. He admitted making similar deliveries at Dayton, and also confessed that his company supplied Cincinnati with beer product being shipped to Richmond from Chicago by rail.
"Bottled beer from Newport, Ky., brewery also was seized. No Ohio beer was seized, nor any bonded whisky. One saloonkeeper confessed that he doctored near beer with alcohol, soda and sugar," said the telegram to Washington.
The agents weren't finished. Four days later, Tuesday, March 27, two men were arrested in residences on East Avenue and on Hensley Avenue, one place identified as a distillery and the other as a brewery. Both were believed major producers.
"This raid," the agents told Major Haynes in a telegram, "is the largest and most successful in Southern Ohio's history, and will be followed with developments involving extensive interstate operations. This raid followed months of undercover investigation during which places operated with pre-prohibition boldness."
"Guising themselves as real estate agents, the advance men," the Journal explained, "stationed themselves in Hamilton more than two weeks ago and began a systematic listing of cafes and resorts." They "ate, drank, sang, danced and made merry with patrons."
Within a few days, there were indications the 44 agents may have jumped to conclusions. The Journal predicted "several cafe proprietors nabbed in the raid will be dismissed as beer tests proved the beverages were within Volstead limitations." One of the defendants had been told he could sell beer because "the test proved the beverage was non-intoxicating."
The revelation embarrassed agents again and angered Hamilton patrons who had been fooled by the watered-down beer. "A spirit of resentment overwhelmed many who had been putting out thin dimes for beer when the unofficial report came from federal authorities that the beverage . . . had no more wallop than the five-cent glass of near beer," the Journal observed.
By mid April, the glowing adjectives which had described the March raids had been erased and replaced by scornful ones. "Prize joker raid of the age" was the new description.
Test results submitted to Major Haynes in Washington showed the alleged "good beer" seized in Hamilton was really a poor near beer with less than one-half of one percent alcohol, the legal limit. The charges against 22 Hamilton men were abandoned.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 1998
1920 city plan focused on housing
By Jim Blount
"The housing question is one of the most serious confronting every city," stated the professional planners who compiled Hamilton's 1920 city plan. Assessments and recommendations for housing and zoning were a prominent part of the document prepared by Harland Bartholomew, a St. Louis city plan engineer.
"The housing problem has two aspects: (1) the character of housing accommodations and proper standards for them, and (2) the provision of more homes," planners observed.
"In the past 10 or 12 years there has been an ever increasing public appreciation of the need for improving the character of housing accommodations as a prime essential to improving the public health and public morals. It is not easy to produce good citizens in poor homes."
"The widespread movement to produce better housing conditions has resulted in so-called tenement house laws and building codes now to be found in all large cities and in many of the smaller cities. The house shortage problem is of very recent origin and explainable by the cessation of house building during the war" (World War I)," the Hamilton plan said.
"From the city planning standpoint," planners said, "housing involves a question beyond that of the mere regulation of materials, and the size and character of the structure."
Planners said "good housing is contingent first upon a proper subdivision of land. In order that the eventual production of homes on given parcels of land shall be with a maximum of economy and adaptability, it is very essential that the city supervise the initial layout of building lots."
"Heretofore, the production of houses has been more often the result of speculation in land and the construction of these homes conducted with little regard for the lots they occupy or the needs of the families who are to live in them," the 1920 plan said.
Through zoning and other regulations, Harland Bartholomew recommended that Hamilton leaders establish four zoning districts -- Hamilton: residential, commercial, industrial and unrestricted.
Zoning plans should "embrace the entire area of the city," said the 1920 blueprint.
"The purpose of zoning," the plan reminded, "is to regulate, by public control, the character of all building development within the city. It provides for the establishment by law of different districts in which the height, area and use of all new buildings, or alteration of old buildings, are regulated in accordance with a city-wide plan of development."
In 1920, Hamilton was a well-established industrial city of 39,675 inhabitants. Planners expected the city to remain a predominantly blue-collar town into the foreseeable future.
Regarding industrial development, the 1920 plan said "ample areas for such expansion are available and it should be the object of the city to facilitate the growth of industries here by providing the necessary water supply, sewers, streets and other public utilities."
With smokestacks gradually disappearing since the late 1950s, Hamilton's next full-scale plan may not mention "industrial development." The term "economic development" has supplanted it in recent decades.
Economic development -- ranging from high-tech businesses, communications, services, retailing and warehousing to offices -- is likely to be surveyed in Vision 2020, the city's plan for Hamilton 20 years into the next century.
Some things don't change. As Hamilton and other communities prepare for the 21st century, it is certain that the housing question, as noted in the 1920 plan, remains "one of the most serious confronting every city."
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