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This Historic Property's Relevance to the History of Appalachian Ohio

Throughout the formative period of our nation’s development, historical migration patterns primarily occurred from east to west.  The Appalachian divide presented a formidable challenge to westward expansion.  Many early Americans settled in the region we call Appalachia; however, regional industry growth was limited by the terrain.  The mountains limited the size of farming operations.  Limited access to the mountain resources stifled industrial development in the region.  Railroad development and expansion beginning in the 1880’s provided access to vast coal deposits in central Appalachia and the identity of the region became synonymous with coal mining.  As the development of America pushed westward, the demand for lumber exploded creating a vast lumber industry that created jobs while further exploiting Appalachian resources to the point that movements emerged to protect the vast forests through the creation of national parks and federally protected areas.

Coal mining and timber harvesting provided some of the most grueling and dangerous jobs in American history.  These jobs were almost entirely held by men and very little employment opportunity existed in Appalachia for women.  As concern over the environmental effects of strip mining and deforestation grew, Appalachian Americans began to seek better opportunities to the west.  One major, if not the primary historical route of westward migration was on the Ohio River and along US Route 52.  Appalachian migrants settled in the counties of Appalachian Ohio along the Ohio River and found gainful employment in the region’s growing industrial base working in factories like the “Dormer Brothers Hosiery Mill” and the “Clermont Woolen Mills”.  As outmigration from Appalachia accelerated from the end of World War II through the 1970’s,  Clermont Woolen Mills (aka the J&H Clasgens Company) grew to become the largest employer in Clermont County operating five factories in the county at its zenith.  While male Appalachian migrants found work in tanneries, furniture factories, and construction, female Appalachian migrants found work in the textile mills.

Clermont County, Ohio is a virtual desert when it comes to historical structures.  Precious few old buildings remain to carry the story forward of the Appalachian people who settled, worked, and grew the local economy.  The two historic factory buildings located in New Richmond that housed the A. Keyser & Co. Whiskey Distillery, the Dormer Brothers Hosiery Mill, and the J&H Clasgens Company are virtually unique in the region and contribute immensely to the story of our American history as lived by everyday Americans.  These historic factory buildings are indeed invaluable historical assets for the community in which they are located as well as for Clermont County, the region, and the nation.  The buildings are in a desperate condition, and we must take immediately action to prevent losing them.

As we work together toward this goal, we must understand that greatest opportunity for economic development in Appalachian Ohio comes from the west.  Appalachian Ohio encompasses the western edge of the greater Appalachian region.  The majority of people living in proximity to our part of Appalachian and who we must attract and encourage to visit and rediscover the beauty and diversity of Appalachian Ohio will come from the west.  As we invest in projects to spur development and create transformational opportunity, we must consider the boundaries and access points for job opportunities and tourism.  Just as the primary historical route for migration and the development of industry followed the Ohio River from east to west, the primary modern route for rediscovery of and reinvestment in Appalachian Ohio will be the same just in reverse.  New Richmond and Clermont County are positioned at the gateway to Appalachian Ohio from the west.  As we attract development and tourism into Appalachian Ohio, people will enter our region through communities like New Richmond.  The amazing historic factory mill buildings that are the subject of this project sit at the doorstep of the gateway to Appalachian Ohio.  Visitors’ first impression of our region will be imbedded at our front door.  We must make sure our front door opens to a warm, inviting, and exciting experience filled with potential and opportunity.

The Clermont County Regional Event Center will offer an amazing experience to welcome visitors and serve community members alike.  We will create a unique and invaluable community and regional asset comprised of a multifaceted public facility sure to wow and amaze visitors who will revel in their experience.  Groups and organizations will want to host their special events there.  From family reunions to corporate meetings and more, our facility will serve a widely diverse clientele.  Our entertainment facility will provide employment opportunities for a diverse workforce, and it will provide various educational experiences from facility tours to internships and scholarships for local students in controlled environment agriculture, museum curation, and restaurant and event center management.  Museums, microbreweries, restaurants, and event centers all share a solid proven track record of drawing further investment in local and regional development.  The undoing of the ill-conceived US52 expansion of the 1950s will once again connect the two halves of a divided village of New Richmond.  The Clermont County Regional Event Center will once again be connected to the village through newly constructed roundabouts and walking and biking paths, just as these historic factory buildings were historically an integral connected component of local employment and commercial activity.  The development of this historic property is integral to the economic development of New Richmond and will benefit Clermont County and the wider region.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about this project!