Aurora is a historic river town that is situated 35 miles west of Cincinnati, Ohio, located in the Southeast corner of Indiana. Aurora was settled in the early 1800's and incorporated in 1845 and has strong historic connections to the Ohio River. Aurora is full of unique and historic buildings that preserve its older rivercity characteristics.
The Grand Opera House
Formerly a livery stable that had burned, land at 321-325 Second St. was acquired on August 2, 1878 for the sum of $2,500. Built in 1878 by architect Thomas Lindsay, the Leive, Parks, and Stapp Opera House, also known as the Grand Opera House, is a three-story, Victorian: Italianate-style brick building.
Constructed to house a number of different functions the first floor was always devoted to retail space, the second floor was used as a meeting room for one of the fraternal orders as well as offices and the auditorium was on the second/third floor, having a seating capacity of 950 persons. It was furnished with opera chairs, arranged upon platforms of graduate elevation, contained two loge boxes, chandeliers, mezzanine dressing rooms, pressed tin ceilings, gas light fixtures and a freight elevator added in 1938.
Opening November 28, 1878 (Thanksgiving evening) with a lecture delivered by “Bob” Burdette on the subject of “Home” the opera house was the site of traveling theatrical performances, minstrel shows, and lectures, plus many local performances and community events, such as political meetings and high school graduations. General admission 35 cents; reserved seats 50 cents.
The opera house auditorium was stripped of its seats in the early decade of the 20th century, a gym floor laid, and the space was used by the Aurora High School basketball team as a gym from 1923 until the Aurora High School and Community Building was completed in 1935.
William Leive was born in Germany and came to Aurora in 1861 and was a watch-maker and dealer in jewelry. John A Parks, a farmer in Hogan Township and lawyer and David H. Stapp was of Ripley County and a lawyer. The Grand Opera House, in the downtown Aurora Historic District, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 after former Hillforest Executive Director Jeffery Huntington submitted an application February 1, 1993. Prior to the application the building was owned by Ray & Aurora Schuck in the mid 1980’s. At the time of the application the building was owned by Albert & Nancy Shumway who’d purchased it in 1992 and has been owned by Chad Jewett since 2006.
The Sutton Star
Dr. George Sutton, born June 10, 1812 in Greater London, England began his medical practice in Aurora in the spring of 1836 and acquired the hill that bears his name in 1840 building the first house in 1850. The rambling old house was taken down in 1937 and replaced in 1939 with a colonial revival home that stands today. Also in 1939, Dr. George’s son George, and wife Mary (nee Tandy), who owned Sutton’s Hatchery at Third & Bridgeway built the star that flanks the Sutton home annually at Christmas.
The local landmark that marks its 80 birthday with Christmas 2019 is made of plywood, wire and light sockets. Each of its five points measures about 5 feet to the tip, and contains four light sockets. There is a single socket at the stars center and it and the sockets at the tops of the points hold 25-watt bulbs and the other sockets, 15-watt bulbs for a total of 21 lights.
George’s son, John, was 11 when the house and star were built and continued the annual tradition after his parents passing, when he and wife Carolyn (nee Cleary) moved into the home in the early 1980s.
After Carolyn passed away in 2011 their son Jack and wife Beth (nee Gilbert) became the fourth generation to live on Sutton's Hill and continue the tradition of the “Sutton Star”. We thank the entire Sutton family for giving us who live in Aurora and those merely passing though the sense of direction, home, beauty and tradition from their shining star on Sutton’s Hill.
Walker Brick Company
John Walker was born in Hartford (Ohio County) but lived his entire life in Aurora and was postmaster for 20 years. After retirement from the post office in 1883 he went into the manufacturing of brick and had a reputation equal to the best in the country. The week of June 26, 1884 Walker Brick Company, with 28 employees, turned out 137,000 bricks with most of them going to Price Hill (Cincinnati).
In part of the city that was known as Walkertown whose proper name is “Westside” where Hanover Avenue led to the extensive brick yard, the yard had the capacity of three million bricks per year. The business owned by H. J and G.C. Probst Bros. was under the trade name of the Walker Brick Company having bought out the John Walker Brick Company in 1885 or 1886. The yard not only gave employment to 25-30 during the working season “Everything about the yard was of permanent character and facilities excellent”. The clay from which the bricks were made was mined from the bank of Hogan Creek.
At the American Brick Works owned by Minish and Herdegen the employees were turning out brick at the rate of 60 per minute, 2400 per hour or 24,000 for each day of ten hours work. In May 1904 the Aurora bricks were in demand and the entire output for the year was already sold, as it was in 1903, even before a brick was made. In 1907 two million bricks had already been turned out and all sold without any solicitation for orders. The American Brick Works was located in the northwest portion of the city about five minute walk from the depot (present day Water Ways Park) and had the capacity of 4,000,000 brick a year. The clay was obtained from Hogan Creek.
George Mitchell & S.D. Langtree owned the Mitchell & Langtree Brick Yard which began as Mitchell & Harbaugh near Rolling Mills along the river with facilities convenient for shipping by water or rail, and in 1868 with a capacity of 1,000,000 to 1,200,000 brick annually. No moulding machinery was used at the brick yard the managers thinking hand-made brick was superior.
Philip Wymond operated the Standard Brick Yard at the upper end of Broadway Street, also on Hogan Creek, and in August 1883 produced bricks at 10,000 per day.
Aurora's American Legion
Though the war began August 1, 1914 when Germany declared war on Russia it was not until April 6, 1917 America declared war on Germany. The great “War to End All Wars” saw many young men from Aurora and Dearborn County march off to fight the invaders to the peace and freedom of the world as they saw it. The war officially ended November 11, 1919.
In early January 1920, Denton V. Opp WWI Veteran, born May 27, 1896, with sponsorship of Clarence B. Wilson and Wm. J. Neukon called veterans together to form an American Legion in Aurora. The charter was granted January 16, 1920.
The post was named for (William) Keith Ross who was the first one of the community killed in the service during WWI, The American Legion Keith Ross Post No. 231. The first commander was Lee Ruble.
(William) Keith Ross was born July 17, 1900 in Lawrenceburg, Indiana to William Brooks Ross & Kate Feltner Ross. He was a US Marine Corps Private with the 55th Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment. Keith Ross was killed June 12, 1918 at the age of 17. He is buried at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, Belleau, Departement de l'Aisne, Picardie, France.
The Aurora American Legion Ladies Auxiliary was organized also thru the efforts of Denton V. Opp March 16, 1923 with Miss Ida Kirby the first president.
The American Legion Keith Ross Post No. 231 celebrates its 100 birthday in January 2020. Congratulations ladies and gentleman and THANK YOU
We Care Packages
From the Moores Hill Post Office in 2001 to a member’s garage to the Moores Hill Senior Center basement, WE CARE PACKAGES founders Nancy Spears and Melody Webster, in 2005 thought they’d be sending their last packages and donating remaining money to the USO but in 2006 found a permanent home in the Aurora City Building at 231 Main Street, Suite #209, thanks to Mayor Donnie Hastings, Jr.
For 18 years with additional leadership from Kathi Largent Prarat of Aurora, volunteers have been packing and sending monthly care packages to troops fighting Global Terrorism around the World.
In the infancy of the project new Aurora resident, Cindy Rottinghaus, and fellow friends of Epsilon Sigma Alpha (ESA) Delta Chi Cincinnati Chapter, a national philanthropic sorority, who primarily raise funds for St Jude Children's Research Hospital, supporting Juvenile Arthritis, Easter Seals and other national and local organizations in need became involved with WE CARE PACKAGES. The ladies for several years donated items, delivered the items to Aurora, packed the items and made monetary donations.
In 2005 one of those sorority sisters became the President of the International Council of Epsilon Sigma Alpha and from her involvement and passion for WE CARE PACKAGES started a project called Hope for Heroes, and challenged every state to regularly send packages to deployed military members.
The Hope for Heroes project that she started is still alive around the country as is WE CARE PACKAGES in Dearborn County.
First National Bank of Aurora
Authorized to commence business December 9, 1864 with a capital of $100,000 was the First National Bank of Aurora with charter #699.
The bank, originally opened in a room on the second floor of what was known as the Kemp Building, until the first bank building was constructed of brick at a cost of about $10,000 at 122 Second Street (present day 320 Second Street) in 1870. The original bank building was replaced at 320 Second Street about 1928 with the building that remains today.
In 1864 the First National Bank gave the bank a prominent place among the strongest and most solid financial corporations in the county. During the great panic of 1873 when banks all over the country were forced to suspend payment, the First National Bank of Aurora paid every check that was presented.
During its life, the First National Bank of Aurora issued 35 different types and denominations of national currency. Between the first bills issued March 6, 1865 and 1875 12,000 sheets of $1 original series bank notes were issued. For a national bank to print more than 10,000 means that they were doing a lot of business. In addition, 12,000 sheets of $2 original series bank notes were issued for what collectors call “lazy deuces”. Original series First National Bank $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bank notes were issued with each $10 bill pen signed by the president and cashier of the bank.
First National Bank stopped printing money in 1935 equaling a 71 year printing period.
Old Aurora High School & Community Building
Built in 1935 at a cost of $104,000 on the old Criswell property, the Aurora High School and Community Building opened on US 50 West. An addition was added in 1955 for mechanical drawing/art room, cafeteria, music room and enlarged home economics room. In 1968 a new wing containing a modern chemistry laboratory, up to date library and media center and additional classrooms was added.
The building graduated classes 1935 - 1978 until the reorganization and forming of South Dearborn Community School Corporation and the opening of South Dearborn High School on SR350 on Squire Place. The US 50 building then became Aurora Middle School housing grades five-eight until 1998 when the middle school also moved to SR350.
In the midst of repurposing the building for senior housing, in 2001, the building was all but destroyed by fire. The 1968 addition as well as a rebuilt gym was then utilized as a local YMCA 2005- 2008.
The City of Aurora then acquired the facility back with the mandate that it be a resource to the community. Today the Aurora Recreation Community Center (ARCC) is a 24-hour, non-profit facility that works hard to sustain itself with programs that the surrounding community values. The ARCC serves as a 24 hour fitness center that continues to be a community resource at the heart of the City of Aurora’s Park & Recreation Department.
Aurora Distilling Company
Established in 1843 by Thomas and James Gaff, the Aurora Distilling Company, before changing the name to T. & J.W. Gaff & Co., was located on Importing Street and produced bourbon, rye and Thistle Dew scotch whiskey.
Constructed in 1873 on the corner of Fifth and Market Street using 1,700,000 bricks to erect the structure and a capital of $250,000 the T. & J.W. Gaff & Co. reorganized as the Crescent Brewing Company.
Because of the steep hillside along the river, the entrance to the main offices of the brewery on Market Street was actually the third floor. The brewery's primary product was "Aurora Lager Beer" (later shortened to simply "Aurora Beer") the beers quality so high that it was exported to Germany. The building was vacated by 1911 and the complex demolished sometime between 1917 and 1930.
135 years after the brewery’s construction only the remnants of the caverns remain, which appear to have been under the brew house. The City of Aurora retained RATIO structural engineering firm for construction documents for masonry repair in December 2008. A Master plan was designed in May 2009 and the city received revised construction documents in February 2011. In 2015 Mayor Hastings asked Dan Valas, President of Great Crescent Brewery an 11 year old Aurora business, to head the project which would capitalize on stabilizing the caverns, give visual intrigue to the caverns, and realize an educational component of cultural importance. In July 2016 Valas spearheaded the venture being recognized as one of 85 Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Projects.
Donnie Hastings, Jr.
Donnie Hastings, Jr. is the longest serving Mayor of Aurora. Mayor Hastings served on city council 8 years (1996-2003) before beginning his term in 2004 as the 44th mayor to serve the citizens of Aurora.
Mayor Hastings is the son of Don Sr., and Charlotte Peters Hastings and brother to Debbie Walter & Billy Hastings. He has one son AJ and a granddaughter Charlotte. He grew up on Third Street, attended St. Mary's School and Aurora High School but was in the first graduating class of the newly consolidated South Dearborn High School in 1979.
During Mayor Hastings tenure he, along with Richard Ullrich, launched Main Street Aurora in 1998.
Mayor Hastings saw over $800,000 in Aurora grants benefit community organizations, saw the Aurora Fire Station on Dutch Hollow Road paid off, secured $4.5 million dollars in grants from the City of Lawrenceburg for a Sewer Force Main project and a $10.6 million IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmental Management) Combined Sewer Elimination project. Saw the development of the Aurora Dog Park, purchase of 31 acres for the Aurora Soccer Association, repurchased the old Aurora High School and launched the ARCC (Aurora Recreation Community Center), River Cities Bike Share Program (with 7000 rentals to date), the development of Gabbard Riverfront Park and the continued development of Taylor Field (Pee Wee football field). He saw the restoration of Aurora City Hall, Downtown utility improvements of $1,440,125, Facade Improvement matching grants of $950,000, the $973,946 2018 Second Street reconstruction as well accepting the 2017 (AIM) Accelerate Indiana Municipalities Innovation Award for the Facade Improvement Matching Grant Program.
The citizens of Aurora thank Mayor Hastings for his years of dedication to the "CITY" and wish him a lifetime of good health, numerous NASCAR races, to rub elbows with AJ Foyt, to see Pete Rose in the Baseball Hall of Fame, to keep his Aurora Public Library card current and many many wonderful memories with his precious granddaughter.