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History preserved: 6 West Chester landmarks
West Chester’s history is “bookmarked” with pivotal moments that speak to the greater history of the region. These moments are identified and preserved as places and structures that are still enjoyed today.
Whether looking at more recent local historical events such as the construction of Union Centre Boulevard more than 20 years ago, or the pre-historic aspects of our geography as the Ice Age helped to carve the East Fork of the Mill Creek; local history speaks to our heritage and links the community’s past to its future.
Formerly known as Union Township, West Chester’s roots as a community officially date to June 2, 1823. The township’s roots are defined as agricultural, while settlers of the community also embraced the earliest opportunities for commerce with small businesses establishing first along stagecoach paths, then canals and then railroad lines. Later it would be highways that determined a community mixed with commerce and homes.
West Chester’s rich history still surrounds the community and is preserved through a variety of efforts and great commitment. Consider the following six examples:
The Station Road Schoolhouse
Built in 1900 on the foundation of an even earlier one-room schoolhouse, the Station Road Schoolhouse is a two-room schoolhouse that served students until construction of the larger, former Union School, on Cincinnati-Dayton Road. Station Road Schoolhouse, built as Sub District School #3, has spent much of its history as a private residence, but when purchased by West Chester Township in 1999 its original properties were preserved.
The Station Road Schoolhouse retains the integrity of its original architecture and is an in-tact example of turn-of-the-century school architecture in Butler County. The Schoolhouse was sold to the West Chester-Union Township Historical Society and will serve as home to a local history center. Learn more >
National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting
Commissioned shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Voice of America Bethany Relay Station (as it was known then) was constructed as part of the war effort and powered shortwave radio transmitters engineered by the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation. Overseas broadcasting was unheard of at the time, but on Sept. 23, 1944, the station sent its first broadcast to Nazi-occupied Germany during the height of World War II. The relay station located in our community delivered news in multiple languages around the world for more than 50 years during war time, peace time, the Cold War and every time in between.
Bethany Station was decommissioned in the early 1990s and given to the Township. Today, a dedicated Executive Board and countless volunteers work to preserve the history of the Voice of America at the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting, 8070 Tylersville Road. The museum is open to visitors every Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Learn more >
Also known as “West Chester Cemetery” or “Union Township Cemetery,” the 12-acre property on West Chester Road, near Cincinnati-Dayton Road represents our community’s past as the final resting place to many of its founding families. What began as a family graveyard grew to a community cemetery in the mid-1800s when owner James Cummins began selling plots. In 1870, Trustees purchased additional property from the Cummins family.
The cemetery is also the final resting place for hundreds of military veterans including 100 Civil War heroes and John Beckett, the only American Revolutionary War veteran buried there. All plots are spoken for today, but the cemetery remains a beautiful centerpiece of the community and provides inspiration to learn more about our community history. The cemetery is maintained by West Chester Township. Learn more >
Upper Mill Creek Conservation Corridor Port Union Historic Canal Trail
Located on the Fairfield border and accessible from Firebird Lane, the historic corridor offers a glimpse of the community’s natural history and is an excellent location for bird-watching. Visitors can explore the history of the Miami Erie Canal on the paved, 3-mile Port Union Canal Trail. The trail passes the ruins of a canal aqueduct, waste weir and the foundation of an ice house and ice pond. In past summers, the West Chester-Union Township Historical Society hosted archaeological dig in the area, where volunteers uncovered bits and pieces of the old canal which was used to transport ice and other goods to Cincinnati. Learn more >
Olde West Chester
Nestled along a stretch of Cincinnati-Dayton Road between Interstate 75 and West Chester Road, Olde West Chester today features a quaint district with historic character and charm. Like the other small villages of then Union Township, the Olde West Chester corridor (once known as Hogtown and Mechanicsburgh) grew as a center for commerce in the 1800s as a result of rail lines and featured a general store, a milliner’s shop and much more. The historic former home of E.W. Scripps, built in 1840, and other early buildings still stand in the district with new uses. Learn more >
The 123-acre property on Barret Road was once owned by the descendants of Joseph Barot who purchased the farmland in 1868 from Michael Ayers. One of Joseph’s daughters, Mary, married John Keehner and, in the 1970s, one of the Keehner’s sons – also named John – wanted the Township to use the space for a public park. In 1973, voters approved a levy to purchase 100 acres at a “nominal price” while the remaining 23 acres were donated by son John Keehner, hence the name Keehner Park. Today the park offers playgrounds, courts and ballfields, an amphitheater, picnic shelters, and creekside-wooded trails along the east fork of the Mill Creek – a popular place for hunting fossils over 400 million years old (search, but do not remove please!). The park is also home to an authentic 1800s log cabin, where each winter the Township hosts Pioneer Christmas for kids and families. Learn more >
The original barn stood in Fairfield on Seward Road from 1881 to 2004. The barn and the farmland on which it sat were once used by pre-Prohibition era beer barons Gottlieb Muhlhauser, Henry Muhlhauser and Conrad Windisch of the Windisch-Muhlhauser Brewing Company (a.k.a. the Lion Brewery). The Muhlhauser and Windisch families farmed for many years in what is now West Chester, catering crops to the production of beer.
In 1998, the land and property was acquired by the Ohio Casualty Group who donated the barn to the Township circa 2002. With backing from the Muhlhauser family, the barn and its tile roof were dismantled by renowned barn restorer David Gaker and moved to Beckett Park, 8558 Beckett Road, where it was reconstructed using nearly all of the original pieces and construction techniques. It opened as a rental facility in 2008 and continues to operate seasonally, April 1 through November 15. Learn more >
Experience West Chester History for Yourself!
Take the time to learn a little more about your local history. The West Chester-Union Township Historical Society offers a self driving tour. Locate these historical monuments and more when you download the driving tour map at www.westchesterhistoricalsociety.org/drivingtour.html
Information for this article comes from book, “A History of Union Township, Butler County, Ohio,” by Virginia Shewalter.