Hamilton, Ohio as Seen by a Native
Maybe you want to escape California, or get away from Washing state. Maybe the eastern seaboard has become a loathsome and expensive drag. Maybe you have looked inwardly and wondered where home has gone. Cast your gaze towards the heart of the country, towards Hamilton, Ohio.
Hamilton, Ohio is a small city on the Great Miami River. General Arthur St. Clair established Fort Hamilton here in 1791. Our Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument in the heart of town marks the spot. You can’t miss the Monument; a bronze Union soldier waves from the colonnade dome high above the east bank levee.
About 60,000 people live in Hamilton. A surprising number of us know each other by name, or at least know each other by sight. Going out for dinner at Hyde’s, walking the dog, or just buying socks at Meijer almost always results in a familiar “Hello!”
People here are more likely to send their kids to Little League than to soccer practice. Hamiltonians tend to drive minivans, SUVs and big American sedans. A lot of us fly flags even when it isn’t Memorial Day or the 4th of July. When the 4th does come around, there’s a parade downtown and fireworks at the river.
Only locals are allowed to joke that Hamilton is thirty years behind the times and proud of it. You can still go to a drive-inn movie in Hamilton. The Holiday Auto Theatre on Old Oxford Road is open almost year ’round. Remember curb-service? Jolly’s restaurants still have car hops who’ll bring your chilidog and root beer right to your car window. Kids walk to school. Churches throw suppers. The ladies of the Hamilton Garden Club tend a garden in Monument Park.
Cincinnati is forty miles to the south of Hamilton. Dayton is forty miles north. Hamiltonians will work and play in both. Culturally, Hamilton looks to the South, and Cincinnati has the edge as far as attractions are concerned. Thanks to native Joe Nuxhall, the Great American Ballpark in Cincy is a popular destination. Some of us even go to Music Hall, the Aronoff, or to noisy bars across the Ohio River in Covington and Newport, Kentucky.
Not that you have to go out of town. The Butler County Philharmonic makes an heroic effort with the annual Mozart Festival. Riversedge amphitheater is a popular music venue. High school athletics are a religion to some; just listen to Schwarm Stadium on a game night. Giant donuts from the Ross Bakery on Eaton Avenue can can kill an entire morning. Craft beers and chichi bistros are a local thing, too.
It’s easy to take Hamilton for granted. A lot of locals do. The cure for that is a trip away. When you’re flying back into Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, sometimes you see Hamilton. You see a little, glowing city with a river winding past. Around the city are green hills spotted with houses, farms, creeks and ponds. Even before you touch the ground, you’re glad to be home.