Hamilton’s firefighters union has purchased a union hall building at 204 N. 3rd St. in Hamilton, and has sold its old one in Hanover Township. The new location is immediately north of Neal’s Famous BBQ.

Hamilton firefighters buy former furs retailer building for new union headquarters

International Association of Firefighters Local 20 had been working on the sale since July and closed on it Tuesday for $122,000.

“It’s a cool place,” said Tony Harris, president of IAFF Local 20, said he hopes an estimated $80,000 renovation can start soon, using union labor and firefighters themselves. “We’re excited for it.”

It will have a meeting space in back, where furs used to be stored, and in the front open area, lots of old photographs, memorabilia and artifacts will be used to decorate. The local has old photos of the whole fire department dating back to the 1940s and ‘5os, for example, and some boards with everyone’s names on them from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

“If there’s a special event, like the German Village Christmas Walk, or concerts, or anything like that where we think there will be a lot of people out and about in German Village, we would try to be there, and open up our doors and let people walk in and take a look around,” Harris said.

The building most recently housed American Blueprint, but the company stopped using that location in 2006. Since then the owners used it for storage. Brice Brandenburg constructed the building in 1951 for his Brandenburg Furs — the reason the building had three safes, one of them built by the Mosler Safe Co. and two by Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Co., both local companies.

“They had to keep the furs locked up,” Harris said.

In 1990, Fred and Ruth Estep bought it and it housed The Doll Shop. Greg and Ruth White bought the property in 1995, and after a three-year renovation moved American Blueprints from Maple Avenue to North 3rd St. in 1999. It remained there until January 2006, when the business assets were sold to Office Graphics, which had another location in town. Ruth White went to work for Office Graphics to train the people there on how to use the equipment but ended up working there for years.

When Harris called Greg White to see if he was interested in selling, White told him, “Strange thing, I was just working on a for-sale sign,” White said. The sign, still unfinished, sits on his drafting table.

Before they sold it, the Whites made sure the electrical and other systems in the long-empty property were working properly, which impressed the firefighters.

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“I have nice things to say about the whole bunch over there at the fire department — they’re nice guys,” said Greg White, who recently researched the building’s history and provided it for this article.

The sale is the closing of a chapter for Ruth and Greg White, where they worked on blueprints — at first, separately, and later together.

“I had a business of my own, and that’s how we met, because I’d go in to get blueprints” in 1986, said Greg White, 72. “We had a pretty good business there in Hamilton for a time.”

They did blueprints for the Butler County Jail and digitized all the sewer and water systems for the county, he said.

Ruth White’s aunt started American Blueprint in 1944, when blueprints were blue. Nowadays, they are black-and-white.

The firefighters’ former union-hall land was purchased by retirees in the 1970s and they built the union hall, which recently was sold to a family that will convert it into their home.

“Because of our retirees, we were able to have a property to sell to purchase another property,” Harris said. “It was tough for our retirees. There was some heartache there. I understand it, and I hated the idea of going away from it. For us, it wasn’t real practical.”

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