Ohio Casualty leaves behind a long history in Hamilton

HAMILTON — Ohio Casualty made its final act in Hamilton Friday, July 23, when the last of its employees moved out of downtown after 90 years in the city.

The employees, down to 38 remaining in Hamilton in May, left the North Third Street building for the consolidated Liberty Mutual Group offices in Fairfield, said Chris Goetcheus, a spokesman for Liberty Mutual Group, the parent company of Ohio Casualty. The employees will go to Ohio Casualty’s Fairfield office on 9450 Seward Road early next week.

“It’s a shame that any company leaves the location it’s in so I’m disappointed in the fact they’re leaving Hamilton, but the fact it’s remaining in Butler County is a plus,” said Mike Juengling, county director of development.

When Ohio Casualty, founded in Hamilton in 1919, opened its Fairfield headquarters in 1999, it had more than 1,000 employees at the Hamilton headquarters, said Butler County historian Jim Blount, a previous editor of Hamilton JournalNews. After the move, it still had more than 1,000 employees in Hamilton. The company is Butler County’s 12th largest employer with 975 workers, according to county records.

Ohio Casualty at one time the 'economic life of downtown

Ohio Casualty ends an era in Hamilton, where the insurance company was central to the city’s vibrant economic past.

“They were literally the economic life of downtown,” said Butler County historian Jim Blount, a previous editor of Hamilton JournalNews.

Howard Sloneker Sr., Ben D. Lecklider, Charles Sohngen, S.M. Goodman and Don Fitton founded Ohio Casualty as a car insurance company in a room of the Rentschler building at the corner of Second and High streets in 1919, Blount said. It always claimed to be the first Ohio company to write full coverage for automobile insurance when the number of automobiles sharply increased after World War I, he said.

The first two stories of the current building on North Third Street was finished in 1927. Blount also said he thinks the most recent addition to the six-story building was in 1979. A print shop and records center was opened in 1975 across the street.

Ohio Casualty was headquartered in Hamilton more than 70 years. Many families had a family member or a friend who used to work at the company’s Hamilton offices, said Mayor Pat Moeller.

“I’m confident there’ll be someone in that building whether it be one company or multiple companies who will add to the economic vitality of the city,” said Moeller, who said the building is in good shape.

Boston-based Liberty Mutual insurance company acquired what was previously called Ohio Casualty Group in 2007. In Fairfield, Goetcheus said it has Liberty Mutual, its business unit Liberty Mutual Agency Markets, and Ohio Casualty employees located there.

Liberty Mutual sold the Hamilton properties at 131 and 136 N. Third St. in 2008 to IRG Hamilton Office LLC for $3.4 million.

The now vacant six-story former headquarters has 428,000-square-feet of office space available, plus an adjacent building and separate building across the street, according to city records. A representative of the building’s current owner could not be reached for comment on building prospects.

Ohio Casualty is a business unit of Liberty Mutual with operations in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

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