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Why is the city of Hamilton named for Alexander Hamilton, anyway?

Published: Saturday, May 18, 2019 @ 8:00 PM

Car lights are blurred during a 20-second exposure of The American Cape sculpture of Alexander Hamilton, by metal sculptor Kristen Visbal, as cars drive by on High Street in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Car lights are blurred during a 20-second exposure of The American Cape sculpture of Alexander Hamilton, by metal sculptor Kristen Visbal, as cars drive by on High Street in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

With “Hamilton,” one of the hottest musicals on Broadway, came the Aronoff Center for the Arts in Cincinnati this year, we heard from some people who wonder: Why is Hamilton named for Alexander Hamilton?

“Hamilton” is the story of the Founding Father Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first treasury secretary.

READ MORE: Playbill ad invites ‘Hamilton’ musical attendees to visit Hamilton. Here’s what officials want them to see.

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On Sept. 30, 1791, construction was finished on Fort Hamilton, built to serve as a supply depot and stables for Army horses that served the campaigns of generals Arthur St. Clair and “Mad” Anthony Wayne during the Northwest Indian War.

The fort was named for Hamilton, who at the time was President Washington’s treasury secretary. Hamilton served as the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, a position he held from 1789-95.

This mural of the founding of Fort Hamilton, named for Alexander Hamilton, is located in the Hamilton Council Chambers in the city’s former municipal building at 20 High St. MIKE RUTLEDGE/STAFF(Mike Rutledge)

In 2016, Hamilton celebrated its 225th birthday with numerous events around the city. While most cities celebrate the date they were incorporated, Butler County historian and former Journal-News Editor Jim Blount said Hamilton has honored its founding based on the fort’s completion.

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Blount said Fort Hamilton was about the size of half a football field in 1791, then doubled in size the following year. The fort straddled what would be today’s High Street just east of the Great Miami River, from beyond Market Street on the north, to nearly Ludlow Street on the south, and somewhere between Front Street and Monument Avenue on the east.

In 1795-96, after the battle of Fallen Timbers near Greenville, Fort Hamilton was dismantled. Only the Powder House in the south corner of the fort remained until the Great Flood that occurred along the Great Miami River in 1913.

The scaffolding is down on the recently completed Alexander Hamilton mural painted on the building at 15 S. D St. in Armstead Park in Hamilton. The mural is a stylized image of Alexander Hamilton, based on John Trumbull's iconic 1806 portrait. The mural was designed by Miami University Hamilton art instructor Nicole Trimble. GREG LYNCH / STAFF(HANDOUT)

Hamilton probably uses the fort’s completion date to mark its birthday because the city’s incorporation story is more complicated. Hamilton was incorporated in 1810, but because of irregularities, the town’s charter was forfeited a few years later, according to a Hamilton Daily News article from Dec. 10, 1932. The city again was incorporated in 1827.

There is a statue of Alexander Hamilton in a median on High Street in downtown Hamilton as a salute to the city’s namesake.

On Aug.16, 2000, Ohio’s governor 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 503c organization.