graphic image

News Stories


Now that “Billy Yank” has a restored home atop his shiny new copper roof on the Soldiers Sailors and Pioneers monument in downtown Hamilton, the Butler County Historical Society is hoping to re-open the building to the public.Monument

Kathy Creighton, the society’s executive director, said plans haven’t been finalized yet but they hope to hire someone to man the museum that houses historic artifacts and war records at least on weekends.

“We’re hoping to have it open on a regular basis,” she said. “We’ll be developing special exhibits for over there, do programming. We’re hoping to turn it into something people can be proud of and come for activities. They used to have public meetings there, public programming, and this is where we’d like to take the monument back to, so that it’s going to be part of the community again.”

Creighton said the county will still own and maintain the monument.

Don Schollenbarger was the curator of the museum for 16 years until he retired in June 2015. The monument has been closed during restoration.

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter said she completely supports the historical society taking care of their monument.

“It is something we’re in favor of. As we took a looked at the items that were in the monument that are museum quality, we aren’t convinced that the commissioners are the right agency to be preserving those items,” she said. “So we would be very comfortable having the historical society be our partner in that.”

The restoration project has been 2½ years in the making after the Hamilton Community Foundation challenged Butler County commissioners to match a $250,000 grant they pledged to make repairs to the 111-year-old monument.

John Guidugli, president of the foundation, said he has toured the monument and said it is looking ship shape. The foundation made the offer to the county in keeping with the goals of their Michael J. Colligan Fund.

“One of the stipulations in that fund is to support the housing of military memorabilia,” Guidugli said. “So obviously that’s what is done there at the monument and it just looked like a really good fit for this fund and that facility. It certainly was in need of some repairs.”

The foundation gave the county a year to pony up the cash for the project or the offer would disappear. The commissioners committed Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) monies to the project in October 2015 and construction wasn’t set to start until the spring of 2016 — past the one year deadline — but foundation members said the county had lived up to the “spirit” of the deal so they didn’t pull the funds.

Commissioner Don Dixon said you just don’t pass up offers like this.

“That was a good cooperative effort,” Dixon said. “It worked out great for everybody.”

After commissioning an in-depth study of the structure — by the expert restorer who worked on St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City — the price estimate shot up to $1 million for a phased restoration project. The county bid the most crucial portions of the estimate, to get the building water proofed, among other repairs mainly to the exterior, and the commissioners awarded NR Lee Restoration a $360,900 contract last year.

Recent changes to the contract brought the price up to $425,870 but with other work the county has also put into the building — like installing sonic bird deterrents — Community Development Manager Desmond Maaytah said they have just about spent the total $500,000 budget. He said the monument was CDBG eligible partly because downtown Hamilton is considered low-to-moderate income area.

“It was considered a slum and blighted structure just because the water was going into the building and destroying the structure,” Maaytah said. “And actually the downtown area does quality as an LMI area.”

County Administrator Charlie Young said they haven’t completed all of the work on the monument and they will continue to work with community foundation on getting some interior refurbishing done.

“There is some interior work and a small amount of exterior work,” he said. “We are now looking to fix some lighting and do a little bit of interior work. Our first mission was to get it weatherproofed, to repair anything that would be a danger and we’ve accomplished that. Now we need to take a step back evaluate what our next steps will be.”

Commissioner T.C. Rogers said fixing the monument was fitting since it serves as the logo for both the county and the city.

“We had an obligation to preserve it and it came in pretty much on budget,” he said. “It looks good.”