Lane Hooven House
By Jim Blount
By the start of the Civil War in 1861, Clark Lane was one of the most prosperous industrialists in Hamilton, and possibly the richest man in the town of more than 7,250 people. His business suffered because of the war, but not enough to stop him from building a mansion fitting his stature.
Lane's residence -- now known as the Lane-Hooven House -- is a showpiece in Hamilton's German Village Historic District. Today, the former mansion at 319 North Third Street houses the offices of the Hamilton Community Foundation.
It is "unquestionably the most unique structure in Hamilton from an architectural point of view," said James Schwartz in his 1986 book, Hamilton, Ohio: Its Architecture and History. It is described as a "rare and beautiful home" in Walking Tours of Historic Hamilton, a guide published in 1995 by the Greater Hamilton Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"The octagonal design is in the Gothic Revival style," according to the CVB guide. The guide said "a Tudor front door, Gothic arched windows and cast-iron tracery of the balconies and the jigsaw bargeboards decorating the eves add to the romantic character of the house."
Inside, a circular stairway leads to the octagonal tower. Interior features also include arched doorways and vaulted ceilings.
The octagonal house is on the National Register of Historic Places, which recognizes properties considered significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture.
The recent glowing descriptions of the Lane-Hooven House would surprise those Hamiltonians who in 1863, when the mansion was completed, referred to it as "Lane's Folly" because of the unusual eight-sided design.
Clark Lane resided there for 12 years. In 1875, he sold the house to John L. Martin, president of the Second National Bank. Its succession of prominent owners and occupants included Alexander Gordon, C. Earle Hooven and Bertrand Kahn, who purchased it in 1943 shortly after Hooven's death.
Bertrand Kahn acquired the Lane-Hooven House for the Lazard Kahn Memorial Fund, which honors the industrialist who established the Estate Stove Company in Hamilton in 1884.
Bertrand Kahn never resided in the house, but his father, Lazard Kahn, had lived in the house immediately north (now the offices of Butler County United Way) from 1885 until 1897.
The younger Kahn donated the Lane mansion to the community as a memorial to his father. The 1943 announcement referred to the building as the Community House. Bertrand Kahn specified that it be utilized by the Hamilton chapter of the American Red Cross for the remainder of World War II. Kahn also welcomed use by other civic and charitable groups.
Shortly after occupying the house on the west side of the street, Lane designed and supervised construction of the library. That building -- on the east side of the street, opposite the house --also incorporated the octagon design.
Lane said he would contribute $10,000 for a library if the community matched that sum. That didn't happen. Instead, Lane alone built the library on land he owned.
Work started in April 1866. The library, which cost about $10,000, opened Oct. 20, 1866, as a public reference library. Opening ceremonies were held Nov. 29, 1866. An 1866 newspaper article described it as "a building of novel proportions, octagon shaped and surmounted by a cupola with stained glass windows."
Lane died Sept. 4, 1907, in Elkhart, Ind. Funeral services for the 84-year-old philanthropist were held Sept. 13, 1907, in the library he had designed and built. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
The library wasn't the only example of Lane's generosity. Lane and a business partner,
E. J. Dyer, contributed the money which started of the Children's Home in Hamilton, which opened in 1875. The institution, an orphanage for most of its 90 years, served "the poor and unfortunate children" of Hamilton and Butler County until 1985.