CHAPS takes great pride in the historic treasures that have been restored and preserved across Butler County.
ANTHONY WAYNE HOTEL
Hamilton (circa 1926; restored 1998)
The center of social life in Hamilton for several decades, the Anthony Wayne Hotel was completed in 1927 through a partnership of the well established American Hotels Corporation and the Hamilton Community Hotel Corporation, a group of local stockholders. The absolutely fireproof hotel was designed by George B. Post and Sons of New York, the most experienced hotel planners at the time. George B. Post is also known for designing the Wisconsin State Capitol and the New York Stock Exchange. Local architect Frederick Mueller assisted with the drawings and project oversight. The hotel overlooked the Great Miami River and was detailed with a limestone first story, various window pediments, and huge urns atop the seven-story structure.
Opening just before the Great Depression, the hotel struggled most of its life and eventually closed in 1964; the building was then converted to apartments. In 1989, demolition of the then-vacant building was announced as a local bank wanted to make way for construction of a nine-story office complex. Although the plan fell through, demolition was scheduled again in 1994. CHAPS, in partnership with the Ohio Preservation Alliance, acquired the structure, and--after four years of searching--located a developer who led a renovation of the building into senior housing. In recent years, the former retail wing facing High Street has been converted into offices for the City of Sculpture and the Hamilton Welcome Center.
Oxford (circa 1910; restored 1996)
One of the more ornate buildings on Miami University's Oxford campus, Alumni Hall was originally built as the school's first library. Library philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $40,000 toward the building, provided the school matched the donation to meet the building's $80,000 price tag. The library, which featured a grand rotunda, opened in March 1910. Frank L. Packard, a prominent Columbus architect, handled the design. When the facility was opened to the Oxford community for the first time, the library advertised with a simple slogan, "Books can help you. Let them do it." The structure saw additions in 1924 and 1952, but was abandoned as the library in 1972.
After King Library became the University's main library, Alumni became home to the Department of Architecture and Interior Design. A complete rehabilitation and new addition were completed in 1997, preserving this gem for future Miami generations to enjoy.
Hamilton (circa 1900; restored 2015)
The Mehrum-Lindley Block consists of two structures which were joined to form one complex. The oldest and largest section, the Mehrum Building, was completed in 1900. Henry Frechtling chose to name the building after his hometown of Mehrum, Germany. On November 6, 1906, a massive fire destroyed almost the entire structure, sparing only the beautiful façade. Secured by the lease of the Strauss Clothing Company, the Mathes-Sohngen Company rebuilt the building on a larger scale behind the surviving façade.
Sometime between 1906 and 1913, the Lindley Building, a narrow, red brick structure to the west of the Mehrum Building was constructed. This structure would see a variety of uses until 1922, when renovations connected the building with the Mehrum Building, and the Strauss Clothing Company expanded into it. Both structures survived the Great Flood of 1913, and held dominant positions along the north side of High Street.
A 1924 pamphlet celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Strauss and states its storefront was “as recognizable as the courthouse.” This is hard to doubt, for the company had installed lighting all across the middle section of the building, proclaiming the Strauss name and illuminating High Street. Postcards of the building lit up in 1909 were printed and distributed. Strauss would survive until the mid-1950’s, when H.R. Green took over its space in the complex. In the 1970s, the entire complex was covered in unattractive brown louvers that hid the character of the building when the complex was turned into the Hamilton Center which housed retail, convention, and office space.
Around 2006, the idea of demolishing the complex arose. As a result, the complex was added to Preservation Ohio's Most Endangered List in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Increased pressure to demolish the building was added in 2009 when High Street traffic was detoured for two weeks because the brown-louver cladding was unstable in some sections. At the same time that CHAPS was advocating for the building's preservation, local leaders were working with Artspace of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to investigate potential sites for a artists residents complex in Hamilton. The Mehrum-Lindley Block was identified as an ideal location due to its central location. After numerous funding hurdles, preservation and housing tax credits were awarded to make the project possible. The cladding was removed and the complex was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Once a major eyesore, the building is now an icon on High Street.
BIG FOUR PASSENGER DEPOT & FREIGHT HOUSE
Middletown (circa 1909/1920s; restored 1980/2010)
Referring to Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis, the Big Four was a major railroad company serving Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. In Middletown, the company left behind a legacy of both a restored passenger depot and freight house.
Located at the eastern edge of Downtown Middletown, the Big Four Depot was constructed in 1909 after the Middletown Business Man's Club pushed for a new depot to respond to the city's rapid growth. The building is brick with a red terra-cotta roof, creating a striking appearance. After being abandoned as a train station, the building became an automotive repair shop. In 1980, restoration efforts were begun to convert the building for use as a craft shop. Today, a gift shop operates in the depot.
Standing several blocks away from the depot on Columbia Avenue, the Big Four Freight House was constructed adjacent to a train yard for cargo distribution. The building served several commerical and industrial companies until it was reincarnated in 2010 as the home of Family Services of Middletown. The 14,000 square-foot-building was sympathetically modernized to provide for a marketplace food pantry and organization offices.
ELISHA MORGAN FARMHOUSE & SYMMES TAVERN
Fairfield (circa 1817/1852; restored 1999/1990s)
The Elisha Morgan and Symmes Homes are distinct reminders of the once-rural nature of now-developed City of Fairfield.
The Elisha Morgan Farmhouse (pictured) was built in 1817 by the Welsh settler. The home was in Federal style and received an addition in the 1850's. In 1980, the City of Fairfield purchased the home and surrounding farmland to create a park. The city planned to tear down the house, but local residents objected and partnered with CHAPS to convince the city not demolish one of the few historic buildings in Fairfield. Their efforts lead to the house being listed on the National Register in 1990 and to a grant from the Ohio Arts Council for a feasibility study for the building's reuse. As a result of the study, Fairfield leaders agreed to restore the building; this was completed in 1999. The building is cared for by the Friends of the Elisha Morgan House.
Symmes Tavern was completed in 1852 by Benjamin Randolph Symmes, the son of Celadon Symmes. Celadon was the first settler at Symmes Corner where the tavern stands. The building was later occupied by Charles Nilles, namesake of Nilles Road. Throughout the years a number of restaurants occupied the building until the early 1990's when the home was to be demolished for a gas station. After residents and a student group objected, the developer backed off and a local bank stepped up to renovate and occupy the structure. Additions were constructed on each side of the building, but the original façade is preserved, anchoring the center of Fairfield.
NOTRE DAME & CENTRAL CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOLS
Hamilton (circa 1887/1923; restored 2002/1986)
Before the construction of Badin High School in the 1960s, Hamilton's Catholic boys and girls were separated into two buildings for high school: Notre Dame for girls and Central Catholic for the boys.
Notre Dame (pictured) was erected in three phases completed in 1887, 1893, and 1902. Located adjacent to Saint Joseph Catholic Church, the school was minimally used after the opening of Badin. In the mid-1980s, Pilgrim Baptist Church purchased the structure with hopes of turning it into affordable senior housing. That dream came true in 2002 when the church completed the restoration using HUD grants and Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits. The project maintained the building's historic character including a chapel on the third floor. Sherman Manor, as the old school is now called, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.
Central Catholic High was completed in 1923. The Spanish Style building was designed by Frederick Mueller and included in the April 1927 issue of "The Architect." After Badin High School opened, Corpus Christi Parish operated an elementary school in the building until 1980, when Ohio Casualty Insurance purchased the school. Ohio Casualty worked with the Ohio Historic Preservation Office in 1986 to restore and adapt the structure into modern office space. The building was subsequently added to the National Register in 1986, qualifying the project for Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits. Today, the building is home to the Hamilton Board of Education and is a landmark in the Dayton Lane Historic District.
C.F. MURPHY BUILDING
Middletown (circa 1915; restored 2005)
Erected in 1915, the C.F. Murphy Building is one of the most prominent commercial buildings in Middletown. The building was the longtime home to the John Ross Store, the city's most popular department store. Later, C.F. Murphy Co. opened their five-to-one dollar store, which expanded into the Knights of Pythias building immediately west. The building fell into extreme disrepair after being incorporated into the City Centre Mall project, which included covering Central and Broad Streets to create a climate-controlled shopping environment in the 1970's.
Planned for demolition when the mall roof was removed, the building was saved by BeauVerre Riordan Studios. Now the building houses the company's stained glass studio, a small art gallery, a restaurant, and ample space for further expansion. The studio salvaged for use in the renovation woodwork from several historic Middletown schools that were demolished.
LANE PUBLIC LIBRARY & LANE-HOOVEN HOUSE
Hamilton (circa 1863/1866; restored 1984/1997)
Two of the most unique structures in Butler County, the octagonal Lane-Hooven House and Lane Public Library can be found in Hamilton's German Village Historic District.
The Lane-Hooven House (pictured) was constructed for Hamilton industrialist Clark Lane in 1863. Known as "Lane's Folly" the Gothic Revival house is regarded as one of the most unique residential structures in the country. The home is accented with an intricately carved front door, ornate stained glass, decorative bargeboards, and a spectacular spiral staircase that leads up to the third-floor cupola. The unique structure was later home to the Hooven family; Lazard Kahn then bought it in 1942 and gave the home to the community. The Lane-Hooven House was added to the National Register in 1973 and the Hamilton Community Foundation led a restoration of the structure between 1978 and 1984. The foundation operates out of the home.
The Lane Public Library was built by Clark Lane in 1866 as an octagon and was the first public library west of the Alleghanies. Mr. Lane operated the library with his own funds until convincing the city to take over its operation in 1868. After the flood of 1913 damaged the building, an addition was constructed to the north. A 1919 fire destroyed much of the new wing and the copula of the original octagonal structure. Two matching wings were built as a result, one containing a Rookwood Tile fireplace. In 1969, a new library was planned, but never came to fruition. Instead, the building was expanded. In 1997, a historic restoration project was completed restoring the copula. The Ohio Historic Preservation Office recognized the project in 1998 with the Outstanding Preservation Award for the library's contribution to Ohio's historic architecture and culture.
Madison Township (circa 1874)
Located south of Trenton, the historic Chrisholm Farmstead is a beautiful farm site with roots in the Amish Mennonite community. The home, constructed in 1874 by Samuel Augsburger, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Owned by Butler County Metroparks, the historic home and barn have undergone restoration by the Friends of Chrisholm. The group continues its efforts to maintain and restore the house. Regular events are held on the property for the public to enjoy the historic homestead.
YMCA & YWCA
Hamilton (circa 1915/1931; restored 1994/2005)
Although unique and separate entities, Hamilton's historic YMCA and YWCA have both been preserved for future generations to enjoy.
The YMCA (pictured) was completed in 1915, relocating the organization from a home at Third and Dayton Streets. Designed by Frederick Mueller, the building was originally proposed to be smaller and much less detailed architecturally. The largest donation toward the building's construction came from Peter Thompson, president of Champion Coated Paper Company. Through the years, additions were added to the rear of the structure, but the historic façade was never disturbed. In the early 1990s, plans were made to construct a new YMCA, but, at the urging of preservationists and the desire to stay downtown, the historic building underwent a $3 million restoration and now functions as the Central Branch of the Great Miami Valley YMCA system.
The YWCA was not completed until 1931. The structure is an anchor in the German Village Historic District and features Tennessee marble stairwells, leaded glass, and Elizabethan parapets. In 2003, the YWCA announced a project to restore the historic building after debating the closure of the facility. The YWCA took advantage of Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits to help fund the $5 million project.
Oxford (circa 1871; restored 1996)
Originally the main building of the Western Female Seminary, Peabody Hall was completed in 1871. Parts of the structure date from the 1861 building that stood at the same location. Fire had destroyed both the 1861 structure and a previous building on the site. The Chapel, now known as the Leonard Theater, enlarged the 1961 footprint. In 1971, after Western College dissolved, Miami University acquired the massive brick structure.
In 1996, a complete restoration was performed on the dormitory structure. During the $6.5 million project, beautiful stone fireplaces were discovered and restored.
Hamilton (circa 1866; restored 2000)
Built as the Dixon Opera House, the Robinson Schwenn building was erected in 1866. Soon it became the Globe Opera House which operated until 1904. In 1908, the Robinson-Schwenn Department Store opened; the store was a fixture downtown for decades before closing in 1964. The facade was covered in 1964 with wide louvers (top illustration), much like many other buildings in downtown Hamilton. Cincinnati's Mabley & Carew had a store in the building from 1964 to 1977, preceding Dollar General who was present from 1980 to 1992.
Restoration of the opera house was undertaken between 1997 and 2000; removal of the building's cladding to reveal the historic facade was included. The mixed-use building now holds various offices upstairs and retail spaces at the street level. In 2000, the Robinson-Schwenn Building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Oxford (circa 1909; restored 2007)
Miami University's School of Education, the Ohio State Normal College, called for the construction of McGuffey Hall. The building was completed in four phases between 1909 and 1925 and was named after Williams Holmes McGuffey, a Miami professor who authored the McGuffey Eclectic Readers during his time at the university. The building features a red-tile roof interrupted by massive dormers.
A major restoration overseen by Steed Hammond Paul Architects of Hamilton was begun in 2005. Miami rededicated the building in 2007 for continued academic use, including educator training.
Hamilton (circa 1919; restored 2008)
The Palace Theater opened on February 3, 1920 on South Third Street in Downtown Hamilton. The first theater in the city built for motion pictures, the Palace was designed to replicate the famous Rivoli Theater in New York City. Fred S. Meyer, the first managing director, assisted local architect Frederick Mueller in the design. The theater closed in the 1950s and the building was used as office space until 2000. When the building was converted to office space, the terra cotta facade was covered over with cladding similar to other downtown buildings (top photo).
Greater Hamilton Civic Theater (GHCT) acquired the building in 2004. Partnering with the Hamilton Community Foundation, the organization obtained donations and two grants from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission to restore the structure. Most fortunately, the original entablature and colonnade were left intact during the 1960s-era modernization, allowing for their full revealing and restoration as part of the project. Now restored, the building is known as The Creative Center at the Palace and is used as a home base for the GHCT, holding a rehearsal hall, costume room, set room, and office space.
BUTLER COUNTY COURTHOUSE
Hamilton (circa 1889; restored 1980,1999)
Second Empire in design, the Butler County Courthouse has withstood fire, flood, and changing times since its completion in 1889. Architect D.W. Gibbs of Toledo handled the design; Gibbs completed several courthouses in Ohio, the closest being the Fayette County Courthouse in Washington Court House. Gibbs was also the architect of the Wyoming State Capitol Building. The cornerstone of this four-story, $305,000 structure was laid during a ceremony on October 29, 1885.
A fire started in the clock tower in 1912 and the tower and roof eventually collapsed into the rotunda of the courthouse. Three Hamilton firefighters died saving the structure. A new tower was constructed boasting a giant ogival dome that reached 225 feet. The replacement tower was in the Second Renaissance Revival Style and was designed by local architect Frederick Mueller. In 1926, the tower was hit by lightning and the grand dome had to be removed. A low-pitched roof was installed and remains today. The roof was replicated on the new Government Services Center (GSC) tower completed in 1999.
As the county grew over the years, demolition and additions were proposed numerous times, yet the courthouse remained intact. In 1976, most non-court-related functions moved into a new building and county commissioners explored the future of the old courthouse. Restoration was decided upon, and in 1980, the $1.8 million project began. Further restoration efforts were undertaken in 1999 as many courts were moved to the new GSC. The Butler County Probate Court still finds a home in the old courthouse, however, and restoration efforts continue.