Since the founding of CHAPS with the demolition of the Butler County Infirmary, our organization attempts to turn the negative energies that come from losses of historic structures and funnel them into a positive preservation movement for the county.
BUTLER COUNTY INFIRMARY
Fairfield Township (circa 1884; razed 1983)
Constructed on a hill overlooking Hamilton, the Butler County Infirmary opened in 1884 in Fairfield Township. The home expanded over the years, but was deemed unsafe and antiquated by the 1960s. The Butler County commissioners then choose to build a new home for the county's elderly in 1976.
After sitting vacant for several years and being used as a haunted house, the commissioners choose to tear down the structure. Preservationists--including the founding members of CHAPS--formed the 'Save the Old County Home' committee that objected to the demolition. The group won a grant to perform a feasibility study to evaluate the building's preservation potential and filed an injunction blocking the county from taking down the home. Suspiciously, however, fire broke out in the building shortly afterward and the county used the fire to have the injunction lifted.
The Butler County landmark finally fell in 1983, but it has not been forgotten. Those frustrated by the building's loss formed CHAPS and have assisted in saving countless other treasures.
MIDDLETOWN HIGH SCHOOL
Middletown (circa 1923; razed 2018)
Middletown High School was regarded as one of the grandest and most modern high schools in the state when it was completed in 1923. The new high school was part of a building program that included the construction of two new elementary schools (Lincoln and Garfield) and two new junior highs (McKinley and Roosevelt). Spanning two full blocks, the yellow-brick building featured a main classroom building, central entrance behind a grand colonnade, a gym wing, and a 1300-seat auditorium wing complete with separate marquee-covered entrances. Inscribed in the stone are quotes such as “Religion and Education are the Safeguards of Our Nation” and “That all Our Youth may have a Broader and Richer Personal Life.” In 1952, the legendary Wade E. Miller gymnasium was added, and was soon graced by the Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas who helped bring Middletown the state basketball titles in 1956 and 1957.
In 1969, a new high school opened and the building became Middletown Freshman High School. In 1981, it became Stephen Vail Middle School. The last use of the building was as a consolidated Middletown Middle School. After the school district completed construction of a new middle school on the 1969 high school campus, the grand edifice was finally demolished in the fall of 2018.
VAN VOORHIS GYMNASIUM
Oxford (circa 1897; razed 1986)
Miami University completed this Romanesque Revival gymnasium in 1897; it was originally called Herron Gymnasium. In 1923, after a donation for the construction of Odgen Hall required the new building to be constructed west of Herron, the building was moved 522 feet to the east. In 1953, the building was renamed Van Voorhis, and, shortly after, was recommended for demolition in campus planning. The gymnasium was used for art instruction until the new art building opened in 1985.
In 1986, Miami announced plans to demolish the historic gym, alarming both preservationists and sports fans as the building was important in Miami's "Cradle of Coaches" legacy. CHAPS led an extensive study of the structure by Jones and Speer Architects who deemed the facility viable and worthy of restoration. But, in the end, despite the study and the building's listing on the National Register of Historic Places, Miami Trustees voted to level the 89 year-old structure.
HAMILTON HIGH SCHOOLS
Hamilton (circa 1891/1915; razed 1946/1982)
Victim's of the city's growth, both of Hamilton's historic High Schools have been lost.
Central Public High (pictured) was constructed in 1891 by the Bender Brothers. The ornate four-story structure was located downtown at the corner of Second and Ludlow Streets. The building featured a strong central tower and stonework around the entrances. By 1915, however, the building had been added onto several times and yet still couldn't adequately serve Hamilton's growing high school population.
The "New" Hamilton High School was ready for occupancy in September 1915. The four-story structure was designed in the English Renaissance Style by Frank L. Packard of Columbus and local architect Fredrick Mueller. The building interior included a large auditorium that sat 1,500 on its main floor and balcony. As a result of the baby boom, the Board of Education ordered the construction of two new high schools--Garfield and Taft--to be constructed in 1959; the old high school building was reused as a junior high and renamed Harding. By the 1980s the building had fallen into disrepair and it was closed and demolished.
ARMCO GENERAL OFFICE BUILDING
Middletown (circa 1917; razed 2010)
Built in 1917 by the American Rolling Mill Company (renamed ARMCO Steel in 1948), the stately General Office Building served as the company's headquarters for decades. The red brick building was graced with 10 engaged columns across its grand facade and was noted for its impressive lobby upon opening in June 1918. Although ARMCO headquarters were relocated from the Curtis Street building in 1985, the merger between Armco and Kawasaki Steel created AK Steel which chose to reoccupy the building as their new headquarters in 1994.
In 2007, AK Steel finalized plans to discontinue use of the building and relocate its corporate headquarters to West Chester Township in southern Butler County. The move was completed the following year, leaving the building and surrounding campus vacant. After standing as a profound landmark and reminder of Middletown's industrial legacy for more than 90 years, the building was leveled by the company in October 2010 and the site remains a vacant lot.
Oxford (circa 1818; razed 1958)
The first building on Miami University's campus opened in 1818. The building was called Franklin Hall before receiving its more common name, Main, or--as it was referred to later--Old Main. A new east wing was completed in 1824 and replaced in 1898. The west wing was replaced in 1869. The grand building, which was completely remodeled and enlarged in 1898, featured two matching towers at the intersection of the wings that flanked the center portion of the building. Throughout its history, Old Main held dorm rooms, a gym, chapel, and the library. In 1931, the building was renamed Harrison Hall as expansion restructured the campus.
After years of neglect, the state condemned Harrison Hall and Miami chose to demolish and recreate the building, rather than restore one of the oldest collegiate buildings in Ohio. Harrison Hall was torn down in 1958 and a similar structure rose on its site in time for Miami's 150th anniversary in 1959.
MCKINLEY AND ROOSEVELT JUNIOR SCHOOLS
Middletown (circa 1930/1930; razed 2004/2010)
Middletown constructed two new junior high schools in 1930: McKinley and Roosevelt. The grand buildings each shared a similar floor plan, but featured different exterior architecture styles: Roosevelt in Colonial Revival and McKinley in English. McKinley was erected next to Verity Parkway, a new state route that was constructed over the former Miami-Erie Canal. Roosevelt took a prominent location on Central Avenue, just across the street from the elite Highlands neighborhood. Both buildings were converted for use as middle schools in 1969 and to an elementary schools in 1981.
Middletown City Schools has embarked on a rebuilding program that includes demolition of numerous historic schools. McKinley was one of the first victims, falling in 2004 to make way for a new elementary on the site. Roosevelt remained occupied until 2008 as the temporary home of Wildwood Elementary. District officials delayed demolition by two years to allow residents to investigate reuse of the structure, but the building was finally leveled in November 2010.
'CENTER PUNCH' BLOCK
Hamilton (circa 1800s; razed 1965)
A textbook example of 1960s urban renewal, the 'Center Punch' project in downtown Hamilton resulted in the loss of seventeen structures in the block bounded by High, Market, Front, and Second Streets. The idea was to bring a modern department store to downtown. Hamilton received $1 million in federal funds in 1965 to acquire and demolish the properties, some up to 140 years old. The most tragic losses were the two buildings at High and Second Streets which were each four-stories in height. After demolition, an Elder-Beerman department store and the Butler County Administrative Center were constructed on the site. Elder-Beerman operated until 2009, closing several years before the entire chain would be liquidated, and the building has been redeveloped.
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN AND FIRST BAPTIST CHURCHES
Middletown (circa 1883/1906; razed 1951/2013)
As Middletown grew eastward with new housing, congregations moved with their members. Two historic South Main Street churches designed by prominent architects were lost due to this migration.
Completed in 1883, the First Presbyterian Church cost nearly $50,000 and was designed by famed Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford. The building was positioned immediately south of the Sorg Opera House. One of the church's most interesting features was the extremely ornate, high tower at its corner. After the congregation left the building in 1950 for a new colonial structure outside of downtown, the stone church was razed in 1951. A parking lot now stands on the old church site.
Designed by architect Frank Mills Andrews, First Baptist Church was constructed in 1906. Andrews worked on a number of notable projects including the Kentucky State Capitol. Paul Sorg provided a $10,000 donation to jumpstart the church's building program. The Bedford Stone-clad church was vibrant until 1972, when First Baptist moved to a new location. In late 2005, fire swept through the rear of the building, but not destroying the Sanctuary. After several redevelopment efforts failed to proceed, the church was dismantled and the stones shipped to Texas to be reconstructed within a shopping development.
Hamilton (circa 1890; razed 2018)
Constructed in 1890, the Treble Block in 1890 was a rare example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture in Hamilton and Butler County. The building displayed fine craftsmanship and was clad in quarry-faced stoned and ornamented with gables, oriel windows, decorative metal spandrels, and brick corbelling. Local residents remember the building as the Max Joffe Furniture Store, which closed around 2008.
The building was purchased by the Hamilton CORE Fund for redevelopment after the building sat vacant for several years. In 2017, the CORE Fund requested a Certificate of Appropriateness to demolish the landmark from Hamilton's Architectural Design and Review Board. CHAPS launched a petition and encouraged the CORE Fund and city leadership to pursue a creative redevelopment of the building. A compromise between the CORE Fund and the review board permitted demolition and the stone façade was to be taken apart and stored. Instead, the stone façade was demolished with the building and pulled from the rubble for storage, resulting in many stone pieces breaking apart.
Middletown (circa 1923; razed 2005)
Middletown's stately YMCA was built in 1923 for $400,000. The building was a main component of the Middletown Civic Association's $1,000,000 Civic Improvement Fund that included a grand memorial building which never materialized. The design was completed by the prominent Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford. Upon completion, the new YMCA was deemed to meet every need for the "symmetrical development of the physical man." In 1985, Middletown YMCA officials choose to abandon the structure, completing a new facility next door.
After years of minimal use and neglect, the original YMCA was leveled in 2005 to make way for a new surface parking lot that serves the modern YMCA.
Oxford (circa 1856; razed 1978)
Completed in 1856, Fisher Hall was originally home to the Oxford Female College. The building was an odd mix of Gothic, Federal, Greek Revival and other architectural styles. By 1926, the college had disbanded and Miami University acquired the structure for a dormitory. During WWII, it was temporarily used as a naval training school. In 1957, the theater department took over the building until it was totally abandoned in 1968.
Fearing demolition, the National Trust for Historic Preservation released a report on Fisher Hall's preservation potential in 1973, urging the university to choose reuse over demolition. The National Register of Historic Places-listed building was finally torn down in 1978. The site is now the Marcum Hotel and Conference Center.
Middletown (circa 1929; razed 2018)
The Studio opened in 1929 as the Strand Theater. The theater sat behind the Butler Building, which included office and retail space. When the theater closed in 1959, downtown still had two other theaters, the Colonial on Main and the Paramount on Broad. The Paramount closed in 1963 and was demolished for the construction of the City Center Mall parking garage. The Colonial was located in the Sorg Opera House. In 1964, the Strand reopened as the Studio Theater by Associated Theaters of Cincinnati. At that time, the interior underwent extensive renovations and the marquee was modernized. The Studio operated until 1984 and was inconsistently occupied since. The Butler Building portion of the complex was vacated in 1987.
The vacant building was acquired by the City of Middletown around 2009. Several attempts were made to redevelop the structure, but none moved forward. The building was designated as a contributing building to the Central Avenue Historic District that was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. Despite this designation and the prominence of the building on Central Avenue, the City of Middletown commenced a $600,000 project to remove the building in 2018.