Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2007
Bridge dedication set exactly 92 years after last one
By Jim Blount
Dedication of the new High-Main Street Bridge is planned for Sunday, May 6, exactly 92 years after similar ceremonies for its predecessor. The 1915 event, which included a parade, attracted more than 5,000 people.
"Although large crowds were expected," a newspaper said, "the thousands of people that turned out to make the occasion such a success were not really expected." Representatives from other communities and townships in Butler County participated in the celebration. Residences and businesses in Hamilton were decorated with red, white and blue bunting for the occasion.
Businesses and industries were expected to close that Thursday afternoon to permit employees to attend the festivities that started with a 2 p.m. parade that snaked through streets on both sides of the river before ending at the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument on the east side of the bridge.
"The bridge sets a new standard for bridge improvements in Butler County," an editorial writer declared. "It marks the beginning of an era of permanent concrete bridge construction, which will, in time, relieve the county from practically all cost for the maintenance and erection of bridges."
The bridge dedicated Thursday, May 6, 1915, replaced an 18-year-old iron truss bridge that was swept away in the March 25, 1913, flood. That 440-foot span cost $109,000 in 1895, and, according to its builder, the Toledo Bridge Co., was then the longest single span highway bridge in the world.
The 1913 flood destroyed all four Hamilton bridges, including the railroad structure. Between the flood and the opening of a new bridge in 1915, the city's east and west sides were connected, in sequence, by a pontoon foot bridge, a barge operated as a ferry and a temporary High-Main crossing.
The iron truss bridge was the third at the site. It followed (1) the privately-owned Miami Bridge, 1819-66, a $25,195 wooden covered bridge that also was a flood victim, and (2) an $85,000 suspension bridge that opened in 1867.
The Miami Bridge -- believed to have been the first bridge anywhere on the Great Miami -- was built through private investment by citizens of Hamilton and Rossville (now the city's west side). Income from tolls was so good that the bridge paid for itself every five years. During its first 25 years, each holder of a $50 share of stock earned $272 in dividends -- or more than five times the initial investment.
The contract for the newest bridge was awarded Nov. 13, 2003, to Kokosing Construction Co. Preliminary work started in December 2003 on the six-lane structure that was expected to cost $16.4 million. A preliminary estimate in 2000 had been $7.5 million.
Several problems stretched construction of the new bridge -- the fifth at the site -- beyond three years. High river levels were a delaying factor.
Under new measurements adopted recently by the Corps of Engineers and the U. S. Geological Survey, the all-time high March 26, 1913, has been restated as 103.10 feet. Among the top 10 historical crests for Hamilton are seventh place, 75.84 feet Jan. 5, 2004, and eighth place, 75.57 feet Jan. 6, 2005. The river reached 72.32 feet earlier this year (Jan. 15).
These 2004 and 2005 readings are the highest levels since 79.49 feet Jan. 21, 1959, which ranks second to the 1913 flood.
Construction on the previous bridge began May 11, 1914. It was dedicated less than a year later. That period covered a severe winter, including a frozen river, and a six-week delay while legal challenges were resolved. It opened to traffic in January 1915, four months before the May 6 dedication.
That bridge was 576 feet in length -- 136 feet longer than the preceding span. A reason for the longer bridge was the planned widening of the Great Miami River through the center of Hamilton.
In 1915, the Miami Conservancy District (MCD) -- organized to protect the region from floods like the 1913 disaster -- was in a formative stage, clearing legislative hurdles. When its work was completed about seven years later, the Great Miami at the High-Main Bridge had a new look.
At a width of 390 feet in March 1913, that location was the narrowest spot in the river. The bottleneck contributed to the heavy loss of lives and property in Hamilton. When the MCD completed its mission, the river was widened to 540 feet at that spot -- a 150-foot increase, or 38.5 percent.
In addition to improving 3.8 miles of channel through Hamilton, the MCD built 5.1 miles of levee in the city as part of its flood protection program in nine counties along the Great Miami.
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Street paving progress was slow and controversial
By Jim Blount
Complaining about potholes seems to be a citizen's right. Those bone-jarring crevices in streets and roads are never filled fast enough. But it could be worse. For example, look back a little more than a century before paved thoroughfares were commonplace.
A December 1906 Hamilton newspaper said "there wasn't a paved street in the town" 10 years ago (1896). "Whenever it rained, there was mud; when it didn't there was dust. Not that there is no dust now, but it was worse then."
"And the mud!" the writer said. "Who has forgotten the mud? After every rain Third Street was a river and High Street was a lake. Snow and slush made the street practically impassable in winter."
"We didn't begin [paving] until 1897, and then the work went along by fits and starts for a year or two," the report noted. There was no paving in 1898, and none from late 1900 through 1905. The first interruption was caused by the Spanish-American War.
"The first true asphalt pavement in this country," according to the National Asphalt Pavement Association, was laid in 1870 in Newark, N. J. It was a sand mix designed by Edmund J. DeSmedt, a Belgian chemist. Asphalt paving had to compete with brick and blocks of wood for several decades after street and road improvements began in the late 1800s.
A total of only two miles of Hamilton streets were improved from 1897 through 1905. The first to be paved were 35⁄100ths of a mile along High Street between the Great Miami River and Fourth Street, and 56⁄100ths of Main Street, west of the bridge to Millville Avenue. More than 100 men were employed in 1897 on Main Street, completing the task in 51 days.
The Main Street project, finished in October 1897, cost $37,307.23. Today, adjusting for inflation, that would be equal to about $827,000 for little more than half a mile of paving and curbing.
The 1906 report said "the material used was block asphalt" for High and Main streets, and in 1899 for 4⁄10ths of a mile of Third Street, south to Pershing Avenue. Block asphalt in the 1890s was produced in a factory, not at the paving site. The blocks could be as small as a common brick, measuring only two to four inches thick.
For street paving, blocks usually were placed on a concrete foundation. After the asphalt blocks were positioned, fine sand filled the small cracks between the blocks. During a few hot summer weeks -- the usual season for street work -- the combination of heat and the weight of traffic would bond the blocks and the sand to produce a waterproof surface.
The asphalt blocks, said the 1906 account, "showed a tendency to chip off and to wear unevenly" and "city fathers decided to try something else, and they settled on sheet asphalt," which was produced at the work site.
Sheet asphalt was first used here in 1900 to pave Second Street north from Pershing Avenue to Market Street, and Third Street from High north to Mill Street (above Vine Street).
When paving resumed in 1905, streets covered that year were parts of Court, Central, Front, Third, Buckeye and Ludlow, each less than three-fourths of a mile, and 1.09 miles of Heaton. Paved in 1906 were small portions of Ross, Henry, Dayton, South Fifth, Seventh and East High.
By the end of 1906, Hamilton had seven miles of paved streets. Three more miles were added in 1907. Those first 10 miles cost the city $587.413.84 -- or more than $12 million in today's dollars.
Not every Hamilton resident was happy about the paving program. In 1897, after a contract for asphalt block had been approved for South Third Street, 84 percent of residents along the street signed a petition favoring brick. It took about three years to resolve the differences.
A common complaint was that asphalt surfaces were too smooth, causing poor footing for horses. In the 1890s and early 1900s, the majority of residents still relied on horses for personal and business transportation.
Strong support for paving came from local bicyclists, an activity that boomed in the 1890s.
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Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007
Washington's vision included development of Ohio region
By Jim Blount
No place in southwestern Ohio can claim that "George Washington slept here." Although he never visited the area, "the father of our country" devoted a period of his life to plans for developing the Ohio frontier and incorporating it into the economy of the young nation.
His Ohio vision and efforts highlighted six years usually neglected or barely mentioned in brief biographies -- between 1783, the end of his military leadership in the American Revolution, and 1789, when he was inaugurated the first president of the United States.
Washington's popular image is as a military and political leader. He also was a businessman, mostly dealing with (1) agriculture, (2) marketing and transporting Virginia farm products and (3) land speculation. His interest in western land was lifelong, including his two presidential terms, 1789-1797.
Washington -- born Feb. 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Va. -- was a surveyor in his early 20s. His services were in demand in an era when American colonists sought access to the unsettled west -- then western parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia along the Ohio River.
In 1784, after ending his military service, he suggested navigation plans to benefit the Potomac and Ohio valleys and the land between those waterways.
His motives were varied, including personal gain. In the early 1770s, before the revolution, he had acquired land in what is now West Virginia along the Kanawha and Ohio rivers. Sources disagree on his investment, ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 acres.
Another was the economic interest of the Potomac region. "One of the most fertile countries of the globe," Washington wrote in 1784, describing the area along the Ohio River. He also mentioned the Scioto, Muskingum and "two Miamis," the Great Miami and the Little Miami rivers. He saw the need for a market for frontier agricultural output. He believed Potomac improvements would provide an outlet for Ohio valley farms.
A third incentive was political unity. Before the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, the eastern bank of the Mississippi River formed the U. S. western border. But the river's west side and its outlet port at New Orleans were foreign owned -- either by Spain or France in the late 1700s.
Washington recognized that Americans west of the Appalachians could switch allegiance to Spain, France or Britain if economics dictated a change.
Linking the Ohio River (that flows west to the Mississippi) and the Potomac River (which runs east to the Atlantic via Chesapeake Bay) could persuade westerners to stay a part of the U. S.. It would provide a trade route that avoided the complications and costs of dealing with a foreign government at New Orleans.
"By his reckoning, the Potomac Route was clearly the best corridor to the west," wrote Joel Achenbach in his 2004 book, The Grand Idea, George Washington's Potomac and the Race to the West. "This was not something he [Washington] had deduced from looking at the back country maps . . . he'd seen it with his own eyes. He'd gathered the data personally." As a young officer, Washington had traveled to western Pennsylvania before and during the French and Indian War in the 1750s.
In 1784, at age 52, Washington retired from the military to manage Mount Vernon. He also took the Potomac River as a new cause. "The Potomac had been part of his thoughts for five decades, and he may have felt some sense of proprietorship," wrote Achenbach. "He was born on this river . . . and for a time he'd been raised on the Potomac."
He spent weeks in 1784 exploring the western part of the river, seeking a practical portage, routes for bypass canals and river improvements to make the 287-mile Potomac part of an east-west transportation system capitalizing on development along the Ohio River and its tributaries.
When the private Potowmack Company formed in 1785, he was its first president. His ideas were the basis for the 184.5-mile Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, built between Georgetown and Cumberland, Md., between 1828 and 1850, but never reaching its western goal, the Ohio River.
That attempt to implement Washington's concepts was after his death Dec. 14, 1799. He died less than four years before the Louisiana Purchase resolved the nagging "Mississippi Question" and lessened threats that residents of the Northwest Territory and the Ohio Valley would secede from the U. S.
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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007
How much do you know about the Great Miami River?
By Jim Blount
How much do you know about the Great Miami River? What's your IQ in regard to the river's profile, its history and its relationship to area's economy. This is the first of a two-part quiz to assess your knowledge of the predominant waterway in Butler County. It begins with 10 multiple choice questions today. There'll be 10 more questions next week.
The length of the Great Miami River in miles is (a) 70-75; (b) 100-110; (c) 125-135; (d) 160-170; (e) 190-200.
Over its length, the river's average fall is (a) three feet per mile; (b) two feet per mile; (c) one foot per mile; (d) six inches per mile; (e) three inches per mile.
In contrast, the Ohio River's average fall over its 975-mile length is (a) three feet per mile; (b) two feet per mile; (c) one foot per mile; (d) six inches per mile; (e) three inches per mile.
The length of the river in Butler County in miles is about (a) 10; (b) 15; (c) 20; (d) 25; (e) 30.
The mouth (end or outlet) of the Great Miami is (a) in Cincinnati; (b) opposite the Kentucky River; (c) at the southern border of Ohio and Indiana; (d) in Harrison, Ohio; (e) opposite the Licking River.
The source (or start) of the river is (a) at Indian Lake, Logan County; (b) on Lake Erie at Toledo; (c) south of Lima, Allen County; (d) at Celina, Mercer County; (e) at Yellow Springs, Greene County.
Ohio's highest point, elevation 1,550 feet -- about 10 miles northwest of the river's source -- is (a) Mount Logan; (b) Campbell Hill; (c) Huffman Prairie; (d) Tipp City; (e) Mount Adams.
8. Which of the following Ohio cities is NOT on the Great Miami: (a) Dayton; (b) Troy; (c) Cincinnati; (d) Miamisburg; (e) Piqua.
9. Which of the following streams is NOT a tributary of the river: (a) Stillwater River; (b) Mad River; (c) Wabash River; (d) Whitewater River; (e) Four Mile Creek.
10. The Indian tribe that controlled the portages to and from the Great Miami was the (a) Shawnee; (b) Miami; (c) Delaware; (d) Cherokee; (e) Ottawa.
Check your choices against the following answers.
The length of the Great Miami River in miles is (d) 160-170. It is at least 160 miles; or 170 miles, according to some sources, including the Miami Conservancy District.
Over its length, the river's average fall is a steep (a) three feet per mile.
In contrast, the Ohio River's average fall is (d) six inches per mile. The Great Miami's average fall of three feet per mile was six times greater than the Ohio River average drop over its 975 miles. In 1791, the Army intended to haul supplies to Fort Hamilton by river -- 17 miles southwest down stream on the Ohio River from Fort Washington (Cincinnati) and then about 20 miles northeast on the Great Miami up stream against a swift current.
4. The river's length in Butler County in miles is about (d) 25. It enters north of Middletown in the northeast corner of the county and exits in the southern part of the county west of Fairfield.
The mouth (end) of the river is (c) at the southern border of Ohio and Indiana. In 1803, when the state of Ohio was formed, Congress set the boundary between the state and Indiana Territory as a line due north from the mouth of the Great Miami at the Ohio River.
6. The river's source is (a) at Indian Lake, Logan County. It flows south and southwest from there. The 6,700-acre lake was a small natural impoundment before it was enlarged in the 1820s to store water for the Miami & Erie Canal.
Ohio's highest point, elevation 1,550 feet, about 10 miles northwest of the river's source, is (b) Campbell Hill.
8. The listed city that is not on the Great Miami is (c) Cincinnati.
The listed stream that is not a Great Miami tributary is the (c) Wabash River.
The Indian tribe that controlled portages to and from the Great Miami was the (b) Miami. They controlled land passages between Lake Erie and several rivers, including the Maumee, Wabash, Eel, St. Joseph, St. Mary's, Auglaize and their tributaries.