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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Lebanon Market Houses Of Years Ago

Dallas Bogan on 23 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 355
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Because transportation in the early and middle 19th century was limited mostly to the areas in which the residents lived, the old markets of this era thrived in each individual community, giving to these citizens a great abundance of trade substances. At this time we shall examine the "old market house" and Washington Hall on Silver Street in Lebanon. The old market house was built in the 1830's and stood in the middle of Silver Street, just east of Mechanic Street. It had roadways on each side of the building, as most market-houses had, with the two roadways meeting again near the alley in the block.
The western end of the block, between Cherry and Mechanic streets, was wider than the eastern end to allow room for traffic on each side of the market-house. It was described as a spacious building, fifty feet long by twenty wide, and had all the conveniences of a greater Cincinnati market-house. It was brick paved with stalls, blocks, and even had a hay scale at the eastern end.
Thomas Best ran a silversmith shop and lived in a small house on the north end of the lot. John Drake upon which he erected a carriage shop later purchased his property. (Perhaps some of the citizens of Lebanon now have in their possession some silver spoons with the name, "T. Best," engraved on them.) On the south side of the market-house was the chair factory of Ezekiel Cretors, father of George and John Cretors. Ezekiel manufactured the old-fashioned split bottomed kind of chair, and it was said that better chairs were not made.
The market catered mostly to folks buying meats and produce. William Smith, his brother John, and William Marlatt ran the meat market. Beef and pork, then, as now, were the bulk of the meat trade. An occasional roast of mutton, spring lamb and perhaps a veal cutlet were available for the buyer's table. Fowl were plentiful, ducks and geese being much more accepted then than now. Rabbits were immediately bought up in the wintertime. Squirrels were also in great demand.
The markets were held twice a week during the winter, at 11 a.m., and three times a week in summer, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, at 4 a.m. The rule of the market was "first come, first served." Every householder had his or her large basket, or other type apparatus, which was always set in an appropriate spot the night before the opening of the market. The finest cuts of meats, the freshest vegetables were purchased by the earliest marketer. It was not unusual to see someone with his hand covering a freshly killed fowl, a prime cut of beef, or a special head of lettuce, waiting for the signal of the opening.
Obidiah McCabe, or "Okey," as he was often called, was given the reputation of the "vegetable gardener par excellence of early days." His market garden was located a mile below town on the Cincinnati Pike. He was a skilled vegetable gardener with no one to his equal in the Lebanon area. Residents of the vicinity watched with keen interest McCabe's early lettuce and radishes in May; kidney potatoes, beets and peas in June, and especially the ripening of tomatoes by the Fourth of July.
The old market-house was abandoned due to the building of Washington Hall. Plans to construct a new building in 1855 were reviewed by the village council. It was decided that the City of Cedars would build a new facility that housed a fire department and a new town market-house, all under one roof.
The town hall at that time stood on part of the ground that housed the old Opera House on the corner of Broadway and Main Street. The old hall was a two story building (later another story was added by the Masonic Order) that housed the Masonic lodge room, the Mechanic's Institute lecture room, a public meeting room, a public library and reading room, and a courthouse which housed all the town and county offices. (It was also said that in the early days church was held in the building.) This crowding of facilities into one building intensified the plans for a new structure.
The idea of a fire department being housed in a new structure for purposes coinciding with a market place did not go over well with the citizens of Lebanon. With this controversy up in the air, council decided to put the proposition on the ballot. The proposal was defeated by 11 votes.
With a defeat at the ballot box, a stock company was formed to raise the necessary funds for the erection of the new building. The town became a stockholder in the new enterprise that amounted to one-half the cost of the anticipated building.
Funds from the village of Lebanon and private funds were to be used jointly in the erection of Washington Hall. This action was against the law, but since no one complained, the building went up. The structure was about one-third of a block long, two stories high and was constructed of homemade bricks at a cost of $3000. It was located on the southwest corner of Mechanic and Silver Streets. The north half of the first floor was used for the market house, the south side as the fire department headquarters. The entire top floor was used as a meeting place for the town. Seating arrangements were built to accommodate 500 people. The market place was terminated soon after the close of the Civil War; businesses were turned over to the local grocers and butchers, which left the entire first floor for the fire department.
Dedication of Washington Hall took place on Christmas Eve in 1856, given by the Franklin (possibly named for Benjamin Franklin) Independent Fire Company. On January 10, of the following year, the stockholders met and named the new structure Washington Hall in honor of our first President.
Many events were given at the new facility, the first being a public lecture on Friday evening, January 23, 1857, by Rev. C.G. Giles of Cincinnati, a Swedenborgian preacher, later an instructor at the National Normal University. Local folks such as lawyers, ministers, physicians and students, many of who were impatient to spread their reputation, primarily gave most lectures up to the Civil War.
In 1859, a succession of lectures was delivered in the hall on the "Duties of the American People." The great orator, Thomas Corwin, gave the first of these speeches. Following the lecture courses, the list of speakers is quite long. Horace Mann, Wendell Phillips, Mrs. Scott Siddon, Josh Billings, John B. Gough, Baylord Taylor, Mrs. Elizabeth Cady, and many others of prominence were heard in the hall.
Some time later the National Normal University leased the hall. Prof. Alfred Holbrook, founder of the school and its first president, for his grammar classes, used it. The professor also used the building for general exercises every morning to bring students from various colleges together before the day's work was brought about. Occasional get-togethers and socials were held for the intention of getting the students acquainted with each other.
A custom of the school at the hall was that two young people, male or female, were to promenade around the hall several times until they became acquainted. Next they were to introduce each other to some of their friends, who in turn performed a promenade, thus keeping the dance up until everyone became acquainted. Rutherford B. Hayes, in 1867, who later became the nineteenth President, opened his first campaign for Governor in Washington Hall.
In 1878, the upper room was turned over to the Granville Post of the G.A.R.
In 1886, the west end of the building was unroofed by a terrific storm, but was replaced by the veterans who afterward received free use of the hall.
In March 1921, the Village Council sold the old hall for a sum of $3000 to the County Commissioners. The bid was not accepted until the Commissioners agreed to allow the village to withhold the title until some other suitable quarters could be accessed for the fire department.
In the late 20's, the Ralph P. Snook Post raised $6,000 and installed a kitchen and dining room on the first floor, and added new hardwood flooring on the second floor auditorium. Sometime later, Washington Hall was renamed Memorial Hall.
In October 1957, a decision was made by the Warren County Commissioners to sell the aging building. An estimate as to the cost of repair ran as high as $50,000. These costs would far exceed its value. The building had been inspected the previous summer and the conclusion listed 14 defects, which included about everything.
In June 1961, workmen began the task of demolition of the building. A landmark that had lasted for 105 years unquestionably had an impact on many generations of Lebanoites and Warren Countians.

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