History column: Long & Allstatter Co. was a storied local manufacturer

Property where business was is now parking lot in downtown Hamilton.

There is a large, mostly vacant parking lot just off High Street between MLK Boulevard and Fifth Street in downtown Hamilton that has an interesting history involving a storied local business, bankruptcy, legal twists and turns that ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in the building being demolished.

The business that would eventually become the Long & Allstatter Company was started by Peter Black, John Long and Robert Allstatter in 1856. Black sold his share of the company in 1870 and went on to start the Black Clawson Company. The company was then re-incorporated as the Long & Allstatter Company in 1878. The firm initially manufactured products such as plows, cultivators, planters, horse rakes, and pretty much everything else a farmer of that era would need to ease back breaking work. The products were hugely popular and sold well.

In 1871, the Long & Allstatter firm erected an imposing factory on the northeast corner of High and Fourth Street adjacent to the mainline of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad. Upon completion of the building, the firm added new products for punching, shearing, bending and forming metal. These machines were used by shipbuilders, steel mills, safe makers and later auto manufacturers worldwide.

By 1918 Long & Allstatter’s business expanded to the point that it was necessary to acquire the adjacent Bentel & Margedant property for a foundry and an additional machine shop. Bentel & Margedant was located between what was then Fourth and Fifth Street, ending at Butler Street. A sale of the interests of the Long family in the company in 1918 resulted in a reorganization of the company with the addition of new investors. During the 1920s, control of the company was transferred to the Columbia Machine Tool Company, also of Hamilton, led by Frank Yingling.

On March 11, 1931, Long & Allstatter entered into an agreement with the Oldroyd Machine Company of Cincinnati to manufacture coal mining machines designed and patented by Oldroyd and split the profits. Apparently unknown to Long & Allstatter management at the time, was that A. Hunter Willis, president of the National-Erie Company of Erie, Pennsylvania had filed suit against Oldroyd claiming fraud. Willis alleged that in November, 1929 Oldroyd had given his firm an exclusive contract to manufacture coal cutting and loading machines using the Oldroyd patented design. As part of this arrangement, Willis was required to purchase 833 shares of Oldroyd stock that had been previously assigned to George Taylor and used to secure financing for the Oldroyd firm. The stock was valued at $92,171.

After Willis purchased the stock from Taylor and turned it over to the Oldroyd firm, he discovered the Oldroyd’s had already made other manufacturing arrangements with the Webster Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois. Willis demanded the return of either the stock or money. The Oldroyd firm initially consented to do so, but failed to complete by the agreed January 1930 deadline. In July 1930, Willis sued the Oldroyd firm in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court and won a judgement of $92,171 for damages, plus attorney fees and interest.

In the summer of 1931, bucking the headwinds of what was becoming a severe recession, Long & Allstatter had just completed a prototype gasoline/electric locomotive that had been sold to the Port of Albany in New York. Future locomotive work, along with the patented coal cutting machines made promise of substantial business at the High Street facility when the national economy recovered. So confident of his vision, in early 1932 Yingling mortgaged the Long & Allstatter property with two local banks. In hindsight this did not work out well.

The board of directors of the Long & Allstatter, led by Yingling, now fearing the loss of this potentially lucrative business agreed to pay a bond to allow the Oldroyd Machine Company to appeal the Willis award to a higher court. Long & Allstatter’s interest, was that if Oldroyd lost the case, control of that firm and therefore the patented design, would pass to Willis and the competing National-Erie firm.

The Oldroyd firm lost the appeal and was unable to pay, Willis then proceeded to sue Long & Allstatter in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court winning an award of $107,000 on June 10, 1932. By now it was apparent to all that the country was not in a recession, but a full-blown depression with banks failing and manufacturers closing due to shrinking demand.

What followed was literally seven years of courtroom drama, bankruptcy, multiple receivers, and numerous parties including two banks and the Butler County Sheriff being dragged into the legal proceedings. To round out this litigation extravaganza, no less than two visits to the United States Supreme Court and one murder/suicide took place. Newspaper accounts of the time detailed what could best be described as a nine-round legal boxing match.

On April 4, 1933 in order to avoid the foreclosure initiated by Willis and a scheduled Sheriffs sale of the High Street factory, Long & Allstatter filed for bankruptcy. On April 5, 1933 Butler County Sheriff John C. Schumacher was found guilty of contempt of court and fined $250 by Hamilton County Judge William Morrow for failing to sell the property as directed by his court order. Sheriff Schumacher’s novel defense was that Federal Judge Robert Nevin in Cincinnati ordered him not to sell the property.

The situation quickly went downhill as each side attempted to gain control of the property. Allegations of conflicts of interest, judicial bias and illegal acts were made on one side or another. Litigation literally would bounce from various Butler and Hamilton County Common Pleas courts, the Ohio Supreme Court, various Federal and Appellate courtrooms, ending with not one but two hearings in the United States Supreme Court. A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1938, clearly tired of the mess, set in motion the eventual settlement. Normally, one would think that only the attorneys won out in this case, but in the end, that didn’t quite work out for one of them.

Due to the legal machinations and the effects of the Great Depression, operations at the plant from April 1933 to around September 1938 ceased. City directories of the time indicate that the property was vacant, and the presumption is that the plant workers, like many Hamiltonians, were left unemployed in the depths of the nation’s financial crisis.

In February 1938, with both sides having exhausted financial and legal options, Willis settled his claim against Yingling and Long & Allstatter out of court, reportedly for considerably less that the $107,000 judgement. Willis’s attorney, Coleman Avery, a former justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, was so despondent at not being able to collect his $35,000 legal fee, shot his wife and committed suicide on March 14, 1938 at his Cincinnati home.

One can only imagine if Yingling and Willis had settled the dispute early on, and if the prototype gasoline/electric locomotive had gone into successful production, whether Long & Allstatter would have survived during the depression and events turning out on a more pleasant note.

In any event, the remaining cases involving Long & Allstatter were settled in December 1939 with Columbia Machine Tool taking legal title to the property with the sales price listed at $164,000. On Monday February 9, 1942 as the war effort ramped up, the Columbia Machine Tool Company sold the property to a newly formed firm, the Columbia Machinery & Engineering Corporation. The ownership of new firm, was primarily made up of individuals with backgrounds in the foundry and steelmaking business from the Youngstown, Ohio area. Under this ownership the factory was drafted into the war effort, mass producing among other things, a 90 millimeter anti-aircraft gun for allied forces and earning, the “Minute Man” award for the achievement of 90% employee participation in purchasing war bonds.

On Dec. 22, 1953 it was announced that the Lodge & Shipley Company of Cincinnati would acquire the Columbia Machinery & Engineering firm and operate the Hamilton plant at Fourth and High Street as the Columbia Division of the Lodge & Shipley Corporation. This would not last very long, as Lodge & Shipley announced on December 28, 1956 that the Hamilton plant, then employing some 175 workers, would be closed and the work relocated to a Cincinnati facility by early 1958.

Hamilton leaders and merchants had long noted a need for convenient and cheap downtown parking. This, of course still being the era before large regional shopping malls doomed downtown retailers. The Long & Allstatter property was in a prime location to fulfill this need. As usual though, there was a problem. Lodge & Shipley wanted $200,000 for just the southern portion of the property that faced High Street. In today terms, the $200,000 price for the 2.1 acre property would be equivalent to $2.1 million. This was far more than the City of Hamilton could afford at the time as other major employers and their associated tax revenue, had already left town.

Hamilton Mayor Edward Beckett came up with a plan enlisting the Hamilton Merchants Association and the Hamilton Area Chamber of Commerce led by Second National Bank president Bernard Geyer, to solicit contributions from local merchants and nearby property owners to buy the southern lot. In total this group would raise $137,000 of the required $200,000 sale price for the city to develop the site into a 256 space parking lot. On November 16, 1958 the City would take title to the southern lot. The Cleveland Wrecking Company was hired to demolish the former factory buildings on that property and by July 15, 1959 the new municipal parking lot was ready for downtown shoppers.

On the same day, Nov. 16, 1958 and in the same transaction, Champion Paper purchased the less desirable northern lot that ends at Butler Street for an undisclosed amount. Champion Paper announced at the time the acquisition of this 1.2 acre lot was for industrial development purposes. This property was later acquired by the Ohio Casualty Insurance Company for an employee parking lot. The lot was sold by Ohio Casualty in September 2008 to Industrial Realty Group.

In April 2023, the City of Hamilton acquired the northern lot from IRG in a land swap, thereby reuniting both the northern and southern plots that comprised the original Long & Allstatter facility under City ownership. According to Hamilton’s Director of Neighborhoods Brandon Saurber, a contiguous parcel of this size, some 3.3 acres in the heart of downtown, makes for a potentially attractive future development opportunity for the city.

Jim Krause is a local historian who contributed guest columns to the Journal-News. He may be reached via email at journalnews@coxinc.com.

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