Hamilton is a city in Butler County, southwestern Ohio, United States. The population was 62,447 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Butler County. The city is part of the Cincinnati metropolitan area, and includes the historic neighborhood of Lindenwald. The city's mayor is Patrick Moeller and the City Manager is Joshua Smith. Most of the city is in the Hamilton City School District.
The industrial city is seeking to revitalize itself through the arts and was officially declared the "City of Sculpture". It has brought many sculpture installations to the city and founded the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park.
Hamilton, Ohio, was founded by European Americans in 1791 as Fort Hamilton (named to honor Alexander Hamilton). It was a frontier military fort intended primarily as a supply station for the troops of generals Arthur St. Clair and later Anthony Wayne. Their armies entered the Miami Valley wilderness to drive out the Shawnee and Miami during the Northwest Indian War. The Indians hoped to maintain their territory here, and, following the American Revolutinary War, the United States wanted to open it for American settlement.
The fort was located on the Great Miami River, where the east and west banks rose gradually. The river is shallow during normal flow and easily forded by men, animals and wagons on its gravelly bottom. By 1800, the fort had been abandoned, and Hamilton was becoming an agricultural and regional trading town. The town was platted, government was seated, and the town named by 1803.
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. 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.
On the afternoon of September 17, 1859, Abraham Lincoln arrived at the Hamilton Station (the station is on the city's Historic Preservation list). He gave a campaign speech in support of his fellow Republican, William Dennison, who was running for Ohio governor. Lincoln's speech concentrated on popular sovereignty. He began: "This beautiful and far-famed Miami Valley is the garden spot of the world." It was during this campaign that the relatively unknown Lincoln was first mentioned as a possible presidential contender.
By mid-19th century, Hamilton had become a significant manufacturing city. Its early products were often machines and equipment used to process the region’s farm produce, such as steam engines, hay cutters, reapers and threshers. Other production included machine tools, house hardware, saws for mills, paper, paper making machinery, carriages, guns, whiskey, beer, woolen goods, and myriad and diverse output made from metal, grain, and cloth. By the 20th century, the town was a manufacturing center for vaults and safes, machine tools, cans for veggies, paper, paper making machinery, locomotives, frogs and switches for railroads, steam engines, diesel engines, foundry products, printing presses, automobile parts, war materiel, Liberty ship engines, gun lathes. Manufacturers used coke to feed furnaces. Its by-product, gas, fueled street lights. The Great Miami River valley, in which Hamilton was located, was an industrial giant.
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, including areas of turn-of-the-century homes. Like Cincinnati, Hamilton had many German and Italian immigrants, whose influence showed in culture, architecture and food. Hamilton also had a Jewish community; Beth Israel Synagogue was founded in 1901 as an Orthodox alternative to Hamilton's existing Reform synagogue, which had been founded in the 1880s. At the time there were around 250 Jewish families in Hamilton.
In the 1920s, many Chicago gangsters had second homes in Hamilton. This gave Hamilton the nickname "Little Chicago". Some appeared to have invested in what became an active district of gambling and prostitution.
During World War II, the entire city was declared off-limits to military personnel because of its numerous gambling and prostitution establishments. Madame Freeze's and the long row of prostitution houses along Wood Street (now called Pershing Ave) were notorious among soldiers. Factories in Hamilton manufactured military supplies, such as tank turrets, Liberty ship and submarine engines, and machined and stamped metal parts.
The 1950s brought the construction of the new interstate highway I-75 and bypassed the city. Until 1999, when the Butler County Veterans Highway was built, Hamilton was the second largest city in the United States without direct interstate access.
On May 28, 1986, as part of a plan to increase publicity about Hamilton, the city council voted 5-1 in favor of adding an exclamation point to the city's name. Thus, Hamilton officially became Hamilton! While used extensively in the city's documents, letterheads, business cards and on local signage, "Hamilton!" was not successful in getting Rand McNally to use the new moniker on state maps and failed to be recognized by the Federal Board on Geographical Names. The city's website does not use the exclamation point.
The city has become known for its support of the arts, especially public sculpture. On August 16, 2000, Ohio’s Governor Bob Taft declared and formally recognized Hamilton as “the City of Sculpture”. This sparked a vision for a group of community members who officially formed Hamilton, Ohio City of Sculpture, Inc. a 501(c)(3) organization. This organization has been successful at adding many new sculptures in public spaces around Hamilton.
The city has won the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting Awards for best-tasting municipal water for the United States in 2009; and the best in the World, Gold Medal, in 2010.