Hamilton, Ohio is the most exuberant city in the United States, as evidenced by the city council’s decision to legally place an exclamation point at the end of its name. It’s ‘Hamilton!’ now, and doesn’t that make you feel great about relocating to this small Ohio town of 60,000? The city is admittedly very industrial but is making great strides in the revitalization department, even declaring themselves the City of Sculpture and funding many new arts projects over the last few years. Located in the Cincinnati metro area, Hamilton! may not win any beauty contests, but it sure is trying, and you’ve got to love that.
It’s truly a wonder that Hamilton! hasn’t been mined for an HBO television series yet, and we’ll tell you why: originally established as Fort Hamilton on the Great Miami River, Hamilton! quickly transitioned from an agricultural outpost to a major industrial city during the late 19th and early 20th centuries as manufacturers produced agricultural machinery to aid the remaining local farmers. The large flood of 1913 destroyed much of Hamilton!’s infrastructure and put a brief kibosh on the city’s economic boom. Boring so far. But wait–
Now here’s where things get really tawdry: unless you are approximately 100 years old or a local historian, you probably didn’t know that Hamilton! used to be nicknamed “Little Chicago.” Why? Well, it certainly wasn’t because of the wind. After the flood of 1913 when everything was in shambles and ostensibly pretty depressing, it’s alleged that several notorious Chicago gangsters invested in a district of ill repute in the city–we’re sure as part of some kind of economic revitalization project. As a result, gambling establishments and brothels abounded until well after World War II, when the city and its pleasures were actually declared off-limits to American servicemen. Really. This is all true. The script practically writes itself!
Despite the fact that you live in the only city with an exclamation point in its name, Hamilton! today is not exactly the wild, gambling, whoring town where gangsters run amok. Located just outside Cincinnati’s outer belt, the city is caught somewhere between nice, rural, historical town and suburban sprawl. The major monkey wrench in contemporary Hamilton!’s population is Miami University, located about 15 miles northwest in the town of Oxford, and Miami’s satellite campus located in southern part of the city. Thankfully, the constant influx of students in the nearby town has provided Hamilton! with some much-needed diversity.
Because Hamilton has gotten kind of sleepy in its old age, you’ll have to venture to nearby Oxford for the region’s restaurants and nightlife. However, the university town tends to skew a bit young and extremely sloppy when it comes to bars, so for a more refined time, do yourself and favor and drive the 45 minutes into Cincinnati.
The west side of Hamilton is generally considered the most desirable area in town. Proximity to Miami University means that a lot of faculty, staff and graduate students not interested in Oxford’s raucous house party scene and cheap beers have settled in this region for comfortable living and a quick commute. The Timber Hill area of the west side has a wide variety of newer apartment developments and a good reputation throughout the county. Additionally, Highland Park is another great neighborhood with older, established homes and the occasional rental. Two bedroom apartments on the north side generally range from $500-650.
Germantown Historical Village’s name does not lie—this part of Hamilton!, located close to downtown, is replete with beautiful old architecture from Hamilton!’s wild past. Part of the National Register of Historical Places, you’ll find over 150 Gothic Revival style residences, storefronts and generally cool old stuff, including the Lane Library—the oldest library west of the Alleghenies. Occasionally, some of these homes and adjacent residences have been divided into duplexes for renters, which make for seriously cool, possibly-haunted, homes. One bedrooms in this area generally go for $400-500.
Next, and probably last for many people, on Hamilton’s desirable communities list is the city’s south side. This area surrounds Hamilton!’s Miami University campus and has a number of desirable rentals at an affordable rate for those whose priorities center on avoiding class and looking for trouble. Keep in mind, you’ll be living close to a college campus, so there is some petty crime and noise disturbance that comes along with the youthful idealism. Try to avoid the west side of the Great Miami River. Two bedrooms in this area generally go for $500-600.
The rest of Hamilton!, unfortunately, is generally considered less-than-desirable. Much of the east side is not well regarded amongst natives, though there is also plenty of suburban development in this region that is safe and affordable. If you’re moving to the eastern portion of Hamilton, examine the neighborhoods and scope your neighbors closely before committing.
While there may not be as many rental options in Hamilton as in Cincinnati or even Oxford, you can generally find an apartment in town without the aid of a realtor, in 40-60 days. Application fees are cheap (under $30) and deposits are frequently waived or reduced given a satisfactory credit rating or perhaps a dashing smile. Additionally, the high student population means that you won’t have any trouble finding a flexible lease that suits your needs.
Well, the good news is that Hamilton! (can’t forget the exclamation point) now has quick and easy access to I-75 via the Butler County Veterans Highway. Many Hamilton! residents also commute to Cincinnati, so the roads can be a bit congested during rush hour. However, traffic doesn’t get truly spotty till you hit the outer belt: allow at least an hour for your commute into Cincinnati. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, also called SORTA, provides the city itself with bus service. So, bus lines through downtown Hamilton! will sorta (Ha! I kill me!) get you into Cincinnati, but buses are infrequent and make many stops into the city.
So there you have it. Hamilton! has one hell of a history, and though it has perhaps seen better (and more tawdry) days, this place is really making changes and you can’t fault that. Apartments are cheap, the city is growing and Cincinnati is just around the corner. Plus there’s just something about that exclamation point. So get going! Hamilton! awaits.