The Proposed City of Ashtabula Charter

By Darrell E. Hamilton



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                                                                                                            Copyrighted by Darrell E. Hamilton
                                                                                          Ashtabula 200 web site built, designed and maintained by
                                                                                                                           Darrell E. Hamilton

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Last updated 8/14/2018

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                                                                                                    (Photo by Darrell E. Hamilton)
                                                                                                            Federal Building - Municipal Building - Museum?
                                                                                                                                      Darrell E. Hamilton
       The old Ashtabula Municipal Building did not start out as a municipal building but as a Federal Building. To be more precise, it was a post office with other federal offices upstairs such as the IRS, Army & Navy recruiting offices and later on, the Social Security Administration.
        What was unusual at the time and even more unusual today was the fact that very few cities the size of Ashtabula would even be able to persuade the United States Government to build such a building in a town  the size of Ashtabula. Undoubtedly, it took great lobbing on the part of a congressman to acquire a federal building.
        Built in 1910 at a cost of almost $100,000 by R. S. Moore & Co. of Danville, Ill., the “Federal Building was completed in less than three months. Ground was broken on July 20, 1910 and on Oct. 15, 1910, Ashtabula had what was the biggest celebration this had ever seen. The dedication ceremonies were held on a Saturday and Main Street was profusely decorated with the national colors, flags and bunting were festooned from second and third story windows on all the building blocks in town. People from all over the state and county  were there in huge numbers including Republican Congressman W. Aubrey Thomas of Niles. Thomas introduced the bill that brought the new federal building to Ashtabula on Dec. 9, 1907.
       The ceremonies were started on a beautiful sunny fall day with a grand parade which included almost anyone of any importance from Ashtabula and then some. The Grand Marshall of the parade was H. A. Mixer, a member of the Masonic order. Included in the parade was the principal architect, James Knox Taylor with a plumb, level and a square. Also included in the parade was Ashtabula Postmaster J. Warren Prine who was also instrumental in bringing a new Federal Building to Ashtabula. After the parade, which went down Main Street from the Post Office to 48th Street to Park Avenue to 44th Street which ended up back at the Federal Building, the dedication ceremonies took place.
       The laying of the cornerstone was probably the highlight of the day. Articles put into the “casket” were  a set of 25 views of Ashtabula, showing public building, important scenes on the docks at the harbor and streets, copy of the bill providing for the erecting of the federal building, list of officials of the city, including a calendar for the council for the present term, roster of the employees of the Ashtabula Post Office at the present time including rural and city carries and clerical force, totaling 41 names. a statistical brief showing the population and other facts in regard to Ashtabula city at the present, a buckeye, a coin with the date of 1910, copies of the following Ashtabula publications: Ashtabula Beacon Record, Industrial Edition of the Beacon-Record published in 1902, Ashtabula Telegraph, Evening Independent, American Sanomat, Democratic Standard, Huliveli, Ashtabula High School Dart and Harbor High School Review.
       Late additions of Articles to be placed in the cornerstone since the original list was published were appropriate relics which were of Masonic significance.
       The cornerstone itself was a fine piece of granite and bears the inscription, “Franklin Mac Veagli, Secretary of the Treasury, James Knox Taylor, Supervising Architect, MCMX.”
       A space had been cut out of the block of granite for the casket. The cornerstone was settled into space at exactly 2:44 p. m. on that beautiful Saturday afternoon by the hands of Benjamin Franklin Perry Jr. of Jefferson, grand master of the Grand Lodge of Ohio. It had been customary for the Masonic orders to lay the cornerstone of federal building all over the country. The Masonic ritual was appropriate and impressive. After the cornerstone was set with the plumb, level and a square and cemented into place, the casket was placed inside the cornerstone.
       The speakers of the dedication ceremonies were Thomas of Niles, Granville W. Mooney, speaker of the Ohio House of Representative of Austinburg and Samuel F. McDonald, vice mayor of Ashtabula. Probably the most memorable speech of that day came from Samuel F. McDonald, vice mayor. I think that it is only fitting that parts of his fine speech is reprinted. Words that apply just as much today as they did 92 (now 95) years ago.
       “Time will not permit me attempting to mention in detail Ashtabula’s many advantages, but I want to take time to this point clear. That it is only ourselves and what we are that can make Ashtabula a good place to live in. How? In every way. Parts of our city are badly in need of morality, formalism and theology. Let us do our part to spread all three. Let us each do all we can to make our city attractive to the eye. What is civic beauty? You do not know and it would be very difficult to me to make it clear to you; largely, because I do not know myself, but like everything worth while, it was the result of little things. You remember the newspaper wrapper you dropped on the post office floor last Sunday. Throw it in the wastebasket next time. I remember a banana peel I carefully steeped over one day last week. I turned and saw a little curly haired, brown eyed Italian child come along behind me, pick it up and lay it in the garbage receptacle. That little girl had far more civic pride than either you or I. Let us in turn keep the alleys clean. Let us mow or pull the weeds in the back yard. Do it yourself, don’t let George do it. You need the exercise and the grass needs cutting. We soon will have the snows of winter. Why not keep the sidewalks clear and above all, let us pull together. Remember that one knock goes farther than 10 boosts, so that 10 of us must boost for everyone that knocks. Let us create the spirit of Ashtabula and let us keep the child alive. Father and mother, doctor and nurse, will all do their part, but you and I must rock the cradle and rock it all the time.”
       Samuel Freemont McDonald was also a state senator, president of the Ashtabula Hide and Leather, a director in the National Bank of Ashtabula and the Ashtabula Printing Co. McDonald was also the first president of the Ashtabula YMCA. He died in 1914 at the age of 41.
       I am now in the process of trying to turn the Federal Building (the old Ashtabula Municipal Building) into a museum. The city has given me until the end of August to do so even though the city has done a bare minimum of the years to maintain building. We have heard promises to restore or should I use their term, refurbish. We have heard promises to fix the building and even passed a levy to do so yet it still sits, unrefurbished. We don’t need another government agency in there just to let the building to deteriorate even further. I’ve been talking about turning the building into a museum for the past five years. When former city manager Hugh Thomas talked about tearing the building down, there was an outcry of people. Where are these people now? Where they just a bunch of talkers? Well, I’m not! I’m trying to do something about it. I could use the help. Just talkers need not apply. My phone number is 992-0817. Visit the Ashtabula Bicentennial web site at Send me your comments.                                                                                           
Our Princess & Queen
Our Bicentennial Queen, Stephanie Morris & our Bicentennial Princess, Stephany Millick. Among the many prizes they each received were dinners to Casa Capelli and a $500 scholarship to any accredited college or university in Ohio. Stephanie Morris is attending Lake Erie College. Stephany Millick is Senior at Lakeside High in Ashtabula and will using her scholarship next year. Stephanie Morris' scholarship was donated by Leah Gray and Stephany Millick's scholarship was donated by Darrell E. Hamilton.
Tammy Cochran & Darrell E. Hamilton

     This web site will not die with the Bicentennial Celebration. It will continue as a hope to help make Ashtabula and the surrounding communities a better place to live and hopefully to spark a little bit of pride and dignity in the hearts of Ashtabula County residents.

               Darrell E. Hamilton