Last week, I wrote on 512 Main Street and the history of the Point Pleasant Register and Dr. Eshenaur’s Point Clinic. I also briefly mentioned the building next door, the current Register office. Like 512, this building also has an interesting story to tell.
Our story begins with a German immigrant, Joseph Hein. Joseph was one of the “Forty-Eighters,” along with over one million other German immigrants who came to America after the failed German Revolutions of 1848. In general, these German revolutionaries were well-educated, skilled in the crafts and arts, favored a more democratic government, and wanted better guarantees of human rights. They brought this (and a little bit of a rebellious nature) to the United States, where they joined a radical minority of Americans pushing for abolition, political reform, and institutional reform in asylums, schools, and prisons.
Tens of thousands of these German immigrants settled in Ohio, with over 30,000 in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood alone. From there, they spread north along the Miami & Erie Canal, Ohio & Erie Canal, and Ohio River. Joseph Hein was no different. He arrived in New York in 1853, where he married his wife Annie, and then continued west to settle in Sidney, Ohio (a town on the Miami & Erie Canal).
A few years later, of course, was the Civil War. Joseph enlisted in Battery M of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery and was involved in Shiloh, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and Sherman’s March to the Sea. After the war, he resettled in Pomeroy, Ohio where he was a grocer and saloonkeeper.
In 1877, he moved his saloon to Point Pleasant, to a frame building where the Lowe Hotel now stands. At that time, some in town were against there being another saloon. (Mostly, these were other saloon owners, such as fellow German immigrant John G. Stortz whose saloon was next door.) Others, like respected German tailor J. Friedman, were wholly supportive! A good German lager, he said, “brings people to our town, and thus promotes the business interests of the place.” Joseph’s own advertisements proclaimed him “Captain Hein, Commander-in-Chief of the best liquors!”
Whether or not his lager had an effect I can’t say, but the next 30 years were some of the best in our history. The booming economy in Point Pleasant led many, including Joseph and Stortz to expand their businesses and build larger brick buildings across and up the street. A good thing too, as a fire wiped out that entire block in 1890.
Stortz’ new saloon and hotel, the Stortz House, opened in 1884. It is perhaps better remembered by many of my readers as the Phoenix Hotel, which burned in 1969 and was replaced by the present Mason Jar building. In 1894, Stortz went on to build a second saloon and hotel, the European Hotel. This was most recently the TNT Café at 314 Main.
Construction on Joseph’s new saloon at 510 Main Street began in 1888. From the Register: “The foundation of Capt. Hein’s new building is the most solidly built and substantial in town. The rains may descend, and the floods may come, but it will withstand them all.” I’d say it certainly has! It’s probably one of the most intact buildings on Main Street. Local contractors Neighbors & Wilson laid the masonry, W.B. Cable put on the roof and cast-iron storefront (manufactured by Schreiber & Sons, Cincinnati), and Robert Haptonstall handled the plastering.
The opening on June 1, 1889 truly was a grand opening, with thousands in attendance throughout the day, as much food as one could eat, and as much beer as one could drink. Not to worry, Joseph wasn’t a supporter of drunkenness. He certainly wasn’t a prohibitionist, but he did believe in moderation. An announcement in the next newspaper after his grand opening asked any “wife who has a drunkard for a husband, or a friend who is unfortunately dissipated, give me notice and all such persons shall be excluded from my place… I have no desire to sell to minors, or drunkards…”
Since Joseph’s retirement in 1901, there have been a number of small businesses in the Hein Block, as the building came to be known. All of them have their own story, worthy of an article by themselves, but I’m out of space! Perhaps the best-known, at least to most of my readers, was Rairden’s Shoe Store. Today, of course, the building is home to the Register.
So, this building’s story? It’s our community’s history, of course, but it’s also a piece of our national story. Think about the story the other buildings could tell.
Information from the Weekly Register, census records, and the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.
Chris Rizer is president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society, reach him at email@example.com.