Sunday, September 28, 2003

NCH: Remember when?

Librarian chronicling suburb's history

By Perry Schaible
Enquirer contributor

NORTH COLLEGE HILL - A lot has happened since 1966 in this Hamilton County suburb.

Longtime resident Sue Benzinger doesn't want those important years in her community to be forgotten. The 42-year resident has been working to document the past since her retirement from the Cincinnati Public Library.

For the last month, she has recorded stories and recollections of longtime residents, hoping to keep the memories alive. She plans to chronicle what she learns into stories and release them to residents.

"To me it's interesting to know what your parents and grandparents did, how they lived," Benzinger said.

The last local history project ended in 1966, so her work is focusing on the period since. The major development in recent decades for this city of some 11,000 people as the opening of the Cross County Highway, with a Hamilton Avenue exit coming in the mid-90s.

But she's also chronicled recollections that go back to the city's foundation in 1916, when the main artery in the community, Galbraith Road, was a dirt path called VanZandt and teams of mules were used with heavy equipment to dig out basements of new homes.

The first firemen here mortgaged their homes to buy equipment for a new department in the growing community. A firemens' festival has been held each year since.

"What I really want is memories that people had. Not just where things were, but what happened there," Benzinger said.

The project started when Benzinger approached city officials about volunteer work.

"I thought doing something for my own community where we have lived for 42 years was a good place to start. I was told the city would like to have its history updated. Since I enjoy history and talking to people, that sounded like an appealing project."

Fliers asking for residents' memories were dispersed throughout the community.

Diane Stoehr, now a resident of Colerain Township, grew up in North College Hill and works in the city's school district.

She passed along a booklet found after the death of her parents about the early history of North College Hill, put out years ago by the school district's PTA.

"The older you get, the more important your roots become," Stoehr said. "I know I enjoyed looking at the things my mom had."

Anyone with memories or contributions about the city's history is asked to leave a name and phone number at City Hall, 521-7413, or at any of three drop boxes.

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