By Colin Foster
TROY — The Hayner Mansion is known as a place for grand times.
The mansion, now in its 38th year as the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, has been the host of many great memories for those living in the community throughout its 100-year history.
Mary Jane Hayner, widow of William Hayner, owner of Hayner Distillery Company, had the residence constructed soon after her husbands’ death more than 100 years ago. Mary Jane passed in 1942, and willed her home to the Troy Board of Eduction to be used for education and/or cultural purposes.
After Mary Jane’s death, the mansion served as a library for many years.
Today, Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, 301 W. Main St., hosts art exhibits, concerts, meetings, parties, live entertainment and all sorts of community events available to children and adults. Its famous whiskey collection is just one of the features in the mansion’s 10 plus rooms. Above all, the Hayner Mansion was left behind by Mary Jane to become a structure for the betterment of the community — and since her passing, it has been exactly that.
“The house is an amazing gift that communities around us, to be honest, are a little envious of,” said Linda Lee Jolly, the executive director of the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center for the last 23 years. “In a lot of communities, it’s difficult for groups to even find a place to meet, and to have an arts organization that provides ongoing activities and opportunities for their citizens in the arts is really special … I think that’s the biggest legacy.
“A gift like this is inspiring and synonymous with philanthropy. I think it’s a generous show on her part and also the parts of the citizens who have contributed over the years to maintaining this building. I think it shows that we value community life and we value the town we live in.”
• Harter and Hayner: The Union That Made It All Possible
The year was 1891 … Mary Jane Harter was three years removed from her divorce. She would soon found love again with William Hayner, the president of the Hayner Distillery. The two wed in a civil ceremony in Cincinnati that year.
That union between Mary Jane and William would set into motion the opportunity for the Hayner Distillery to grow even more in the upcoming years.
Mary’s father, Samuel K. Harter, was an investor in real estate, railroads and banks, along with being a chief stock holder in the St. Louis patent-medicine company which was started by his brother, Dr. Milton G. Harter. Eventually, management of the Dr. Harter Medicine Company was turned over to William.
William was born in Piqua in September of 1857. According to “Mary Jane Hayner: The Woman, the Fortunes, the Legacy,” by Joanne Duke Gamblee, William learned the whiskey business from his cousin George Thompson, a distributor in Waco, Texas. Thompson taught William about the wholesale end of the distillery business — and William used what he learned when he moved back to the Miami Valley to work for his uncle Lewis Hayner, who had built the first distillery within Troy’s city limits in 1866.
Lewis was ready to branch out when he hired William, who was then in his early 20s. William was assigned to the wholesale distribution center in Springfield, which imported and bottled whiskeys. Springfield was where William met Walter Kidder — and the pair would form a business association that made them both extremely wealthy. According to “Mary Jane Hayner: The Woman, the Fortunes, the Legacy,” William was the wealthiest man in Miami County, as he and Kidder collaborated to form clever and innovative business ideas (i.e. mail-order whiskey).
William eventually bought controlling interest of the distillery after his uncle’s passing in the early 1890s. Shortly after, he put Kidder in charge of promotion and advertising — and the company grew massively in the following years, thanks in part to the merging with Dr. Harter medicines.
According to “Profits From Prohibition: Walter Kidder and the Hayner Distillery,” while most of America struggled in the depression that followed the Panic of 1893, the Hayner Distilling Company expanded due to both the growing success of mail orders and the fact that William Hayner was now supplying the alcohol for Dr. Harter medicines. William eventually moved the medicine company’s operations to Dayton.
By 1911, an estimated 20 million gallons of liquor a year were being sold by mail order. In the early 20th century, Troy’s facility ran for 24 hours a day and it was capable of producing 12,500 gallons a day. The distillery covered almost three city blocks. It was the largest grain consumer in the county — requiring an average of 2,000 bushels a day, according to the Timeline Magazine article, “Profits From Prohibition: Walter Kidder and the Hayner Distillery,” by Michael W. Williams. William eventually felt the need to build a new warehouse, one with a capacity of 5 million gallons.
William passed in 1912, but the fortune he acquired during his time with the Hayner Distillery Company would be used by Mary Jane to build the Hayner Mansion in Troy.
• The Construction
Times have changed significantly since the ground plans for the Hayner Mansion were being laid in the early 20th century.
In the spring of 1913, the Great Flood of 1913 had just rocked the Miami Valley … construction on the mansion began that same year. The construction plans for the the Romanesque mansion were put together and submitted by Leonard B. Willeke, chief architect of the Allyn Engineering Company in Cincinnati.
Mary Jane, the mother five children; four from her previous marriage with Horace Colman (Max, Eva, Bessie and Sybil) and one with William (daughter, Isabel, born in 1897), moved into her new home with her teenage daughter, Isabel, on Aug. 17, 1914. Though the house was not fully completed, the Hayner’s moved into the residence due to the fact that Mary Jane wanted to throw a party for Isabel before she went back to school. The first ever party at the Hayner Mansion was held Aug. 24 of that year and it was confined to the ballroom on the third floor.
The Hayner Mansion was fully completed by November of 1914.
Here’s a look at what else was going on in 1914:
— The president of the United States was Woodrow Wilson.
— World War I begins.
— The Ford Motor Company establishes an eight-hour workday and minimum wage of $5 a day.
— Babe Ruth makes baseball debut (6-0 victory).
— Charlie Chaplin gains fame by playing ‘Little Tramp’ in silent film Kid Auto Race at Venice.
In 1942, while Mary Jane was away on a trip to Florida, there was an explosion and fire at the mansion. A picture of the damage grazed the front page of the Dayton Herald newspaper on Feb. 26, 1940. The picture featured Troy firemen making sure the fire was completely out in the ballroom. Mary Jane hired the original architect (Mr. Willeke) to come back to fix the damage following the fire.
Mary Jane lived in the home until her passing in 1942.
• For the Community
From 1943-1976, the building was home to the Troy-Miami County Public Library. In 1976, citizens of Troy voted for a tax levy which created the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center. Later, in December of 1976, the Hayner Cultural Center opened its doors with a Christmas Open House, which has became an annual favorite in town.
Since then, the center has provided the community with opportunities to experience top performing artists, speakers, workshops, exhibits and family activities which are free and open to the public.
In its time of existence, the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center has made available a wide variety of classes and one-day workshops in art, pottery, dance, self-improvement, technology training and other subjects for children and adults.
Hayner’s doors are also open for civic group meetings and private functions such as weddings, family gatherings and receptions. Currently, more than 90 community groups use rooms at Hayner for gatherings.
Hayner also has on display a collection of artifacts from the Hayner Distillery from the 1860s to 1928. The John E. Lutz collection of Hayner Distillery memorabilia is the most extensive of its kind in the United States.
Today, approximately eight exhibits are presented each year at Hayner. The center sponsors community art projects such as the photography show “Through Our Eyes” — a biennial event which features photography depicting life in and around Miami County. The Young Masters Student Art Exhibit and the Ohio Watercolor Society Exhibit are also presented annually.
There is an average of 25 performing arts events offered free and open to the public. Included in this entertainment are theatrical shows, cultural performances, music and concerts.
Summer concerts are held in the outdoor courtyard. The center also collaborates with The Troy Foundation and Troy Main Street in presenting outdoor programs during warm weather on the square in Prouty Plaza, which has brought diverse styles of music such as classical, folk, jazz and the blues to downtown Troy.
Hayner is primarily supported by a local tax levy paid by the citizens of the Troy City School District. Additional support comes from grants and fees, as well as donations and bequests to Friends of Hayner, Inc. A recent grant from the Paul G. Duke Foundation will allow Hayner to make several renovations in the near future. The Troy Foundation also provided the center with a grant this year in support of all the celebration activities upcoming at Hayner.
Colin Foster may be reached at 937-440-5208 or followed on Twitter @colinfosterbg or @Troydailynews