Whitehall's presence on the National Road (U.S. Route 40, known locally as East Main Street) has been key to its establishment and its growth.

For many years, the road made the city a popular stopping-off point for travelers on their way from one part of the country to another.

Numerous campgrounds, travelers cabins, motels and restaurants could be found along the road's roughly 2.5-mile stretch through the city.

As an up-and-coming community in the 1950s and 1960s, Whitehall and the area immediately west of it enjoyed a reputation as a destination point for dining and entertainment.

Numerous nightclubs and restaurants rose up on East Main Street along what came to be known as "The Strip" from just west of James Road to Hamilton Road.

Some of the popular stops included the Red Devil Cocktail Lounge, the Driftwood Steakhouse, Kuennings Suburban Restaurant, the Sands Night Club and Top Steak House, which remains today.

Another legendary night spot helped put Whitehall on the map from a recording industry perspective: Pat Zill's Boat House Lounge, at the southeast corner of East Main Street and Beechwood Road.

The nondescript building there might otherwise go unnoticed, but hints of its past can be found in the round porthole windows along its south side.

Pat Zill was born in Youngstown in 1925, and sang on a children's program on a local radio station there.

His destiny as a top-selling recording artist had not revealed itself in his youth; his interest instead landed him in the world of professional boxing.

His career choice was interrupted by World War II, and he enlisted in the Marine Corps. Boxing remained in his blood, however, and he became a member of the Marines' boxing team.

Returning to Youngstown after the war, he fought numerous boxing matches. But in the late 1950s, a career change brought him to Whitehall, where he established, owned and operated the Boat House Lounge.

The building had been the location of a boat-sales operation called Seaman's Marine, operated by Zill's mother, Leda Hartwell. She practiced law in an office facing Beechwood Road at the rear of the Boathouse. Zill took up bartending and stocked the jukebox with recordings of some of his favorite singers.

As he would tend bar and oversee the club's operation, he sang along with the recorded voices emanating from the jukebox, so much so that he soon earned a reputation as "the singing bartender."

One evening, a patron of Zill's invited country-western record promoter Pat Nelson to the Boat House to hear Zill sing. Zill was persuaded to go to Nashville and record a cover of a single called "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down."

The 1961 recording was an immediate hit around the country and internationally, selling over a million records.

The successful launch of Zill's recording career was followed by another top-selling single, "Heartaches by the Number," and one he wrote called "The Key's in the Mailbox."

Following his eventual sale of the Boat House, Zill kept up his interest in boxing and, according to his obituary in The Columbus Dispatch, "he returned as a trainer and manager for pro fighter Jeff Jordan and many others, he hosted numerous boxing matches in Columbus, and his fighter fought all over the world. He was also the first to promote a female Toughwoman contest."

While working in Columbus as a car salesman in 1994, Zill released a new album in the soft-country genre, called "New Beginnings," on which he rerecorded some of his bigger hits, along with numbers that had been recorded by Elvis Presley.

In his final years, he lived in Las Vegas and in Snellgrove, Georgia, where he died July 18, 2015.

Steve McLoughlin is past president of the Whitehall Historical Society.