|City of Hamilton
St. Stephens Church
Bridge at High and Main Streets
Great Miami River
looking into Downtown Hamilton
Go to Shops
City of Hamilton
Hamilton was laid out as Fairfield in 1794, but took the name of Fort Hamilton, the army post established by General Arthur St. Clair and named for Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. General St. Clair and General Richard Butler, namesake of the county, marched north from there in 1791 to fight Indians. Butler was killed in the expedition. The 'father of Hamilton' and a leading statesman was James McBride.
Hamilton was first incorporated by act of the Ohio General Assembly in 1810, but lost its status in 1815 for failure to hold elections. It was reincorporated in 1827 with Rossville, the community across the Great Miami River in St. Clair Township but the two places severed their connection in 1831 only to be rejoined in 1854. It became a city in 1857. On March 14, 1867, Hamilton withdrew from the townships of Fairfield and St. Clair to form a paper township, but the city government is dominant.
The county courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its monumental architecture, was constructed between 1885 and 1889. The city has three historic districts that demonstrate part of its past, with areas of turn-of-the-century homes. Like Cincinnati, Hamilton had many German immigrants, whose influence showed in culture, architecture and food.
The paper industry, iron works, and manufacturing works thrived in Hamilton in the early to mid-twentieth century due in part to the immigration of skilled German workers and availability of a good water supply needed by industry. The Great Miami River, Miami Aquifer and the old Miami and Erie Canal system supported industry and transportation. The rivers also created risk; Hamilton was one of the Ohio cities severely damaged by the Great Dayton Flood of 1913.
In the 1920s, many Chicago gangsters had second homes in Hamilton. This gave Hamilton the nickname "Little Chicago". John Dillinger was documented as a visitor to Hamilton.
During World War II, due to the large number of gambling and prostitution establishments such as Madame Freeze's and the long row of prostitution establishments along Wood Street (now called Pershing Ave), the entire city was declared off-limits to military personnel. Military supplies needed for WWII were manufactured in Hamilton, including tank turrets, Liberty Ship and submarine engines, and machined and stamped metal parts.
The construction of I-75 in the 1950s followed the Miami and Erie Canal which bypassed the city. Hamilton became the second largest city in the United States without direct interstate access until 1999 when the Butler County Veterans Highway was built.
The city has become known for its support of the arts, especially public sculpture.
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