Hamiltonian preserves heritage of German Village

Santa Claus sits next to Ann Dennett, longtime chairwoman of the German Village Christmas Walk. They are pictured with Dennett’s daughter Debbie, and Dennett’s four great grandchildren, Kylie, Lucas, Charlotte and Clara. CONTRIBUTED

‘Each building has its own history.’

Ann Dennett of Hamilton has a deep love and appreciation of German Village that dates back to her childhood.

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Her grandparents lived in the village on Hensel Place (previously Vine Street), and she grew up spending a lot of time there — at her grandparents’ home, at school and at church. She and her parents lived a few blocks away. Later, Dennett became a proud business owner of The Candle Haus at 332 N. Third St.

For the past 26 years, she has served as the chair of the German Village Christmas Walk, which will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3.

On the National Register of Historic Places, German Village is a nine-block historic district that is located north of Hamilton’s central business district. The neighborhood features a mix of architectural styles from Queen Anne to Gothic Revival and beyond, and it is made up of homes and businesses.

We talked to Dennett to learn more about her dedication to the village and what’s in store for the 26th Annual German Village Christmas Walk.

Q: Why do you feel the German Village Christmas Walk continues to be a popular event?

A: Number 1, it's a family-friendly event. All of the events we have are free to the public, because of the generous contributions from the community. Each year, we try to add something new, so our guests can see a new home or business, or experience a different type of live entertainment. It's a wonderful afternoon, and everyone's happy. There's something for everyone to do.

Q: Although there’s not an official count, close to 1,500 guests have attended the walk in recent years. Can you touch on why the walk was started and how it’s grown?

A: When you see the success and the growth each year, it makes it worthwhile. The walk was basically started because it's a charming area, and we thought that it would be nice to have a Christmas Walk in the village to showcase German Village. Also, to bring visitors into the city, which it has done. It has worked out well. We have people that come from different parts of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.

Q: What makes this walk different?

A: We're not a festival walk. We're a Victorian history walk. There aren't food trucks lined up, it's a historical walk, and I think that might be the key to why it's been successful. We hear from a lot people who have lived in town all of their lives, but they haven't seen any of the historic buildings. Many people have never been to the Butler County Historical Society's museum, and it's something else. It's really a neat thing to go and see.

Q: Could you speak to the rich history of the area?

A: Each building has its own history. Some of the buildings go back, from the mid 1800's to 1900. So, all of the buildings are historical in nature. People will ask about the woodwork, or the staircase in the Lane Hooven House, which is phenomenal. Throughout the walk, visitors can ask questions and learn about the details that characterize each building.

Q: Why would you encourage the community to participate?

A: We've always invited to community to enjoy the nostalgia of Christmas past and present. It's a day for the family to be together. There are activities for children and adults. All the events are free. German Village is a beautiful area.

Q: Tell us about your love for German Village.

A: My roots are in German Village. My life has revolved around that with school and church from the time I was born. My parents were married at St. Stephen's (now Saint Julie Billiart Catholic Parish), I was married at St. Stephens, and when we moved our business to German Village, that was the biggest highlight in my life — to be in that area. Being in the area, seeing German Village, and enjoying our business being there, is where the idea developed to have a Christmas Walk to showcase this wonderful area. That's where my love for the village came from, and I think it's a very important part of the city, because of all the history and everything that's in German Village.

Q: Your grandparents lived in German Village. Growing up, did you and your family live there as well?

A: We lived a few blocks from there, but we spent most of our time in the village. We went to St. Stephens School, and every day for lunch, we would walk to grandma's house, and walk back to school. My life revolved around grandma's and church.

Q: What’s one thing you love the most about German Village?

A: Its beauty and charm. And, the architecture of the older buildings. I love all of that. I love driving down the street, and seeing that. When I'm going somewhere, I will purposely drive drown that way, just to go through German Village, because it's so beautiful. It really means a lot.

Q: You have a deep love and appreciation for German Village. What would you hope others would gain from it or appreciate as far as its history?

A: I appreciate it, because growing up, we spent a lot of time at my grandparents' home. There's a lot of history in German Village. One of the big things right now, which is important with all the revitalization that's going on is we are getting homeowners back into the village. Over the last five years, we've had four new residents that have purchased homes and moved in, which is wonderful. There's another homeowner at Village and Second that is under construction that we were hoping would be open for the walk, but it will probably be next year … . I think that shows people have an interest in German Village, because of its uniqueness and history. They want to be a part of it.

Q: How can the appreciation of history in German Village be passed on to future generations?

A: That's where the German Village Christmas Walk comes into play a lot, because people come into the buildings, and the homes, and they see what's there. … People want to experience that uniqueness and warmth.

Q: What do you feel like your parents and grandparents passed on to you?

A: The meaning of family, because family was always together at grandma's. They were a hard-working family, and I think that work ethic has been passed down from my parents and grandparents to me. Their lives were not always easy, but they handled it wonderfully. They had great faith.

Contact this contributing writer at gmwriteon@aol.com.

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