Monday, November 19, 2007

The Oldest Commercial Building Downtown?

I think there are only six 19th century commercial buildings still standing downtown at their original location. The best known is the Kuhn's building, from the 1880's (a good example of the increasing scale of the post Civil War downtown business block).

There is at least one building that predates Kuhn's.

From the 1875 Combination Atlas by L H Everts come these illustrations of 136 & 134 east 3rd: Wm. Sander Central Wine Depot and Lowe Brothers Paints and Varnishes (Successor to Stoddard & Co.)


They are shown as separate buildings in the atlas, but going on a site visit one sees 136 & 134 are really one building...
...and the illustrations just feature one side or another.
Street numbers change through time, but these retain the same address. One can tell they are the same building by inspection of architectural detail, such as the window arches and especially by the cornice detail:
Next door is a superficially similar structure, perhaps from the same era.


Yet, note that the differences in window details, particularly the arch treatments. The cornice pattern is different, too. though some cornice details are the same (perhaps the same manufacturer, but a different model).

Most of this part of downtown was destroyed by fire during the 1913 flood, so perhaps enough of this building survived to permit reconstruction rather than replacement.

So, 136 & 134 is the oldest commercial building downtown (that I can date), at or before 1875, but it’s a substantially reconstructed building, dating from after 1913 or later.

This little exercise also demonstrates that the Everts atlas is a fairly accurate source for images of Dayton from that era. (at least it was in this case).

6 comments:

Foreverglow said...

I can't believe there isn't anything older than these buildings. I figured there had to be some stuff from the mid if not early 1800s. Hmmm.

Kevin said...

There are. I can think of one, possibly two on 1st St. and one for sure on St. Clair that may date back to 1820s that are still occupied today.

An old artist I once worked with by the name Dennis Kincaid worked in an old building downtown, that was from the pre-flood era. He said the floorboards were still warped from the flood.

metromark said...

I believe the townhomes on First and the small building next to the Cooper Lofts were built as residences. If that's the case, the building Jeff refers to may be the oldest commercial structures.

Bill Pote said...

Technically 120 N. St. Clair (built in 1829) is a commercial building in that it recently had a marketing firm as a tenant and now a small technology firm is moving in. It may have originally been built as a residence but I've seen an early 20th century photo in which it was a restaurant.

Jeffrey said...

metromark is correct. I was considering purpose-built commercial blocks.

There are a few houses downtown that have been converted to commercial, and I suspect the 1829 structure is an example of that, due to the big ground floor windows. They look like the might be later adds.

The 1829 building, if it was a residence, is the oldest 'double' in the city, and it's probably the second oldest structure downtown, maybe the third oldest in the city limits.


Some of the other houses downtown that are pretty old, pre Civil War, are the Dayton Bicycle Club and (heavily altered) the Dayton Womens club. The house next to the Episcopal Church on 1st might be antebellum, but not sure.

The oldest purpose-built commercial structure in Montgomery County, outside of Dayton, may be the Florentine Hotel in Germantown.

Alan said...

When the FA Requarth Co. moved from the Oregon District (Pine & Marshall) to Monument and Sears in 1895, we occupied a lumberyard purchased from C. Wight and Son. In 1926 we doubled the size of the building and added the brick facade you see today. The original east wall of the structure can be seen from the parking lot. I don't know when the building was constructed, but it may be one of the city's oldest commercial structures.