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Butler County Earthwork Saved By Online Pledges, Foundations

Ann Thompson
Bob Genheimer, Dr. Jeff Leipzig and filmmaker Terrance Huff stand on what could be one of the most important parts of Fortified Hill.

There's an element of excitement surrounding Fortified Hill, a Ross Township earthwork, after supporters were able to raise the money to save it in just over a month.

Dr. Lou Barich owned it and when he died earlier this year, he didn't have a plan in place to preserve it.  So historians, foundations and Butler County residents scrambled to raise enough money to buy it.

The George Rieveschl Curator of Archaeology at the Cincinnati Museum Center Bob Genheimer was at the auction held Saturday, Sept. 28.

"I wouldn't have missed it for anything," he says. "It was very tense for a while but we ended up getting all four of the parcels." (Containing the earthwork and totaling about 100 acres.)

Genheimer says 800 people pledged online and several foundations stepped up to contribute with the largest donation from the Harry T. Wilks Family Foundation.The Wilks foundation will own it. He says other critical partners are the Heartland Earthworks Conservancy, Three Valley Conservation Trust, and the Joseph and Sara Marcum Foundation.

In September, Genheimer and Dr. Jeff Leipzig showed off parts of Fortified Hill to WVXU:

The total sale price for the four lots was about $1.3 million.

After the Wilks Foundation closes on the property at the end of October, The Archaeology Conservancy, which owns an easement, will set up a management committee. "We have to make sure it's preserved, that we don't get rid of any native plants and how we're going to provide access," says Genheimer.

He estimates within a year Fortified Hill will be open to the public.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.