Springfield, Ohio

History and Genealogy



Unprecedented Commercial Activity


From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 481


By Oscar T. Martin

The flush times which followed the war gave an impetus to trade and business unprecedented in the history of commercial matters. The city was growing rapidly. Scores of new buildings were rising in every locality. The unroofed houses, partially demolished structures and unfinished blocks made the place look as if a tornado had recently swept over it. In the year 1868, new manufacturing establishments were started, additions to others and extensive enlargements were completed, while in the suburbs, the neat, tasty cottages, as well as the substantial and elegant mansions, gave evidence of the culture and wealth of the citizens.

Up to this time, the old, dilapidated City Hall was the only audience-room. The concerts and dramatic representations placed upon the stage in that dingy hole were not of the highest order, because of the lack of conveniences to properly present them. A commodious hall with the proper facilities was an increasing demand. Andrew C. Black had the spirit and enterprise to undertake to supply this want. In 1868, he began the erection of the Opera House, which has long been appreciated by an amusement-loving public. The building is 99 feet on Main street, and 108 feet on Market street. It has four splendid business rooms on the first floor, with a number of offices on the second and third floors, and a festival hall on the fourth floor. On the west side, extending from the second floor to the dome, is the auditorium, stage, and rooms connected with the "music hall." It has a capacity for seating about one thousand people. The usual arrangement of parquet, dress circle, proscenium boxes and gallery were complete, while the decorations and artistic work were of the highest character. The cost of the building was $100,000. It was formally opened to the public on February 4, 1869, by an address by Thomas F. McGrew, and an entertainment of music, select readings, etc., by home talent followed by the presentation of the "Drummer Boy of Shiloh," which was largely attended, and was continued several days. In the summer of 1880, Mr. Black remodeled the interior of his opera house, conforming it to modern tastes and requirements, at a cost of $18,000. It is now one of the most beautiful and convenient opera houses in the State.

The total number of buildings erected this year (1868) was 250, and the total cost was $900,000.

Another improvement added to the city this year was the large hotel building on the northwest corner of High and Limestone streets, called after Springfield's favorite stream — the Lagonda House. The lot on which this block was built was long known as the Mason corner. It was lot No. 32, on the original town plat, and was bought by Gen. Samson Mason of James Lowry in 1822. A title bond had been given in 1821. The lot was then inclosed, and was covered by hazel and elder bushes and young walnut trees, and intersected by hog-paths in many directions. The ground now occupied by the First Baptist Church, Second Presbyterian Church, and the business block between was at that time in a similar condition. Gen. Mason, in 1827, commenced the erection of the residence which he completed in 1831, and occupied until his death. It was a splendid mansion for those days, and was a very respectable building when demolished. The enterprise of the building of the Lagonda House was given a start by the solid donation of $10,000 from the firm of Whiteley, Fassler & Kelly. On the 12th day of March, 1868, subscriptions to the amount of $100,000 were obtained, and the Champion Hotel Company was organized. The Mason corner was purchased for $20,000. The building was then placed under contract, ground broken, and was rapidly pushed forward until completed. It is five stories high, with an extension from High street north on Limesotne street of 115 feet, and 170 feet on High street. It contains 140 rooms, a commodious office, bathrooms, and other arrangements of a first-class hotel. The cost of the entire building, when furnished, was about $130,000. The Board of Directors of the company, when first organized, was composed of the following persons: William N. Whiteley, John Foos, J.D. Stewart, David Thatcher, James S. Goode, John W. Bookwalter and Charles H. Bacon. The hotel was formally opened on September 30, 1869, with L.W. Cook & Son as landlords.

The activity which had prevailed in business circles in 1868 extended over into the following season. The demand for business rooms and private dwellings was increasing. Rents advanced, the value of real estate appreciated, and additions to the city proper were made in all directions. In 1869, there were erected 188 new buildings, at a cost of $582,751.

Now, with its hotel accomodations, its opera house and extensive manufactories, Springfield became an object of importance throughout the State. Invitations were extended ot various associations to hold their annual meetings here. The State Fair was held on the Clark County Fair Grounds in 1871 and 1872. The State Editorial Association, upon invitation, had also met here in 1870. Great preparations were made to entertain the editors of the country press throughout the State, which included an inspection of all the manufacturing establishments, a banquet at the Lagonda House, and an excursion to the Yellow Springs.

The census of 1870 gave a population of 12,652, being an increase of over 75 per centum since 1860.



The Hard Times


The depression of business, which was a natural sequence of the flush times of the war, and which prostrated all branches of industry in other localities, did not seriously affect the manufacturing interests here. While each establishment kept up its full quota of employes, run full time and paid promptly, the other business interests were enabled to successfully stem the tide of disaster which was sweeping over the country. It was a subject of much comment throughout the State that Springfield suffered little outside of the general depreciation of values, as compared with other localities. Immediately preceding and following the financial crash of 1873, there were a number of assignments, but the total is small for the city of its size and the magnitude of its commercial interests.

The records of the Probate court from 1872 to 1877, inclusive, show the nature of the assignments made, as appears by the following compilation:

Year Assets Liabilities
1872 $5,911.55 $9,159.82
1873 $88,112.57 $120,610.37
1874 $12,451.11 $7,151.68
1875 $21,193.35 $25,115.77
1876 $254,977.23 $465,074.60
1877 $45,581.94 $64,015.61
  ——— ———
Totals $428,227.75 $696,127.85

In the decade closing with the census of 1880, the population of Springfield was found to be 20,730, being an increase over the former census of over 65 per cent. This was an indication that, notwithstanding the stagnation, uncertainty and insecurity of monetary and commercial matters, the city was rapidly increasing in numbers and importance.