Take A Piece of Ohio: Dayton

By Christopher DeArcangelis

Ohio is rich, just loaded. Miles of wilderness, hills and valleys, rivers and lakes have allowed Ohio to support a massive population and to contribute to the mainstream of American culture. But, with signs of decay, overuse, mismanagement and waste nearly beating down your eye balls at a moments notice, its easy to forget about the millions of people still living in Ohio’s urban centers, as well as the rich cultural heritage surrounding them. Through tough times its industrial and commercial centers have persevered, among them, the Gem City: Dayton, Oh.

This city so close to Yellow Springs, was once as hot as boiling pot of water. Several classic American inventions were created here, including the stepladder, microfiche, cellophane tape, pop top beverage cans, space food, parking meters, the airplane supercharger, the automobile self-starter, gas masks, and the parachute (wikipedia, 2006). Famous folks abound including the Wright brothers, poet laureate Laurence Dunbar, rock and roll hero Robert Pollard and his legendary band Guided By Voices.

History

Dayton was the site of epic battles between the French and English for control of the land, actually settled and lived on by the Miami. This did not prevent the settlers from fighting until 1795 when at last the French were run out and Dayton was settled. The city began to prosper after construction of the Miami- Erie Canal, and then with the growth of railroads as a railroad hub. Dayton also grew many large industries, including Delco, the manufacturer of ignition systems and car parts, and NCR or National Cash Register. In 1913, an immense flood wracked Dayton. The city rebuilt and prospered in the World Wars that would follow.

Post WW2 production boomed and midwestern cities tasted immense wealth. With the prospects of work, hundreds of thousands from the south and beyond the continental limits migrated to the north and its cities. The racial tensions that had always been around started to come to the forefront of city life in the 1950’s and 60’s, causing some of those who had already lived in the cities to move out of the city and start anew. Dayton was not excluded from the racism and industrial exodus that would push residents out of the city. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, big companies like National Cash Register and Frigidaire downsized or moved out of the city limits. With a current population of 166,179, Dayton is Ohio’s 6th largest city. A certain neighborhood on Dayton’s west side, now called the Wright-Dunbar Village, exemplifies the negative effects of industrial relocation and racist politics. The neighborhood was once home to the Wright Brothers, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and their exploits. The Wright Brothers ran a bicycle shop there, as well as a laboratory where they built their flying machines for many years.

The neighborhood, which was based around the west bank of the Great Miami River, Third Street, Fifth St, and Broadway, took in a large population of African-Americans after the first World War and became a thriving African-American community. The construction of the highways in the fifties dislocated this area and many others from the rest of the city. Continual racial tensions continued to escalate and in 1966 the neighborhood responded with intense rioting. According to Johnson, the protesters marched down 3rd street “until met by the Mayor of Dayton in the middle of the West Third Street Bridge. Here, a dialogue between the authorities and the protesters led to a process for solving their differences. “

The neighborhood is changing, as recent developers have been renovating the area since the 1980’s, restoring old store fronts and houses. Drive off of 3rd street, south on Broadway, however, the abandoned buildings and empty lots testify to the violence of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Getting Down in Dayton

Taking a drive around Dayton, it is plain to see that there is not to much going on. The streets are relatively empty, the lights burn low. Why, oh why would you want to go to Dayton? -Architecture Featuring classic Midwestern city architecture in the form of warehouses and that cowboy-gothic style, Dayton is the visual treat. There are many abandoned factory-compounds which have to be seen to believe the sheer vastness of operation that manufacturing used to operate at in the Midwest. Dayton also carries on the tradition of the electric trolley by employing trolley cables of yore to power its electric buses. Operating since 1888, Dayton’s electric system is the oldest of six trolley systems in the US (Wikipedia, 2006).

Nightlife

There are a few nightclubs in Dayton, including Club Masque at 74 North Jefferson, Dayton’s premier gay night club. Bars abound as they should, but be ready for drinkers from a city of hard labor and hard times.

Dayton fosters a small yet vital scene of music, as exemplified by the cities largest musical export Guided By Voices, and the hardcore music scene that consumes Dayton and Cincinnati. Check any Dayton City Guide for day by day listings of the musical happenings going on in the city.

Outdoor Splendor

A city with three rivers colliding into each other? Thankfully the city has created a path along the rivers for us to take in their beauty, and the population flight of the city has left us with many empty lots teeming with wildlife.

Take some time to enjoy Dayton. Only twenty minutes from Antioch, it is a chance to live it up in a bigsmall city. Take a step back in time or use the untapped resources to shape your future. Just like at Antioch, Dayton is whatever you want it to be. The doors wide open. Step into Dayton.

Sources:

Preservation Dayton. ?Dayton History.? 1997 www.preservationdayton. com/Pages/history.asp

Wright-Dunbar Inc. “Live the Legacy: Innovation and creativity in the Wright- Dunbar Business Village.? 2002 www.wright-dunbar.org/history.html

Mary Ann Johnson. “On the Aviation Trail in the Wright Brothers’ West Side Neighborhood in Dayton, Ohio.? 2002 www.libraries.wright.edu/special/symposium/Johnson.html

Wikipedia. 2006 www.wikipedia.org