Friday, February 29, 2008

Benn's Plat

Dayton is almost a textbook case study of the peripheral black communities discussed by Wiese in Places of Their Own:

Andrew Wiese begins Places of Their Own and his case for the importance of black suburbanization by pushing back the timeline of black suburbia to the early twentieth century. These early black suburbs shared much with white working-class streetcar suburbs but little with exclusive planned subdivisions; blacks clustered and were restricted to peripheral industrial suburbs, domestic service towns, or informal rural clusters. In some of these suburbs blacks slowly built their own homes, tended vegetable gardens, and raised chickens; almost all black suburbanites idealized rural life, thrift, church, and family



We’ll take a quick look at a few more of these, starting with Benn's Plat.
This is a familiar location to anyone going to the UD Arena or Welcome Stadium, or driving down Edwin Moses & I-75.

A map of the area sometime between the turn of the last century and WWI. One can see the unchannelized Great Miami and the little riverside plat out away from Edgemont. Presumably it was all low lying bottomland between Cincinnati Street and the river.


(I also located the Pontiac Street community mentioned in an earlier post, as another example of a suburban black settlement).

From the 1940 housing census, one can see both Pontiac Street and Benn’s Plat as developed black settlements (the xs mean 5 or fewer houses),


The large area of some of the census blocks mask how underdeveloped this area was


(One can see the diagonal of Cincinnati Street, the old power plant at Millers Ford, and the Stewart Street Bridge)

Here’s a close up: where you can just barley make out the houses. I think the channelization of the river might have eaten up a lot of the original plat:

In Dayton’s African American Heritage (a must-read for people interested in local history) Margaret E. Peters write in a caption of a group photo of the South Side Civic Association (SSCA):

….Benn’s plat, a half-square mile site now occupied by Welcom Stadium, lacked many basic services. By 1944, after organizing and going to the City Commission tweny-seven times, they had mail delivery, telephones, and hard surfaced streets.

When the land was condemned because the Miami Conservancy District planned to use it, the residents went to court and got a fair price for their homes….

Apparently sometime after this Miami University had considered this site as location for their Dayton branch campus (similar to their branch campus in Middletown or Hamilton), but instead co-located with the OSU branch campus as Wright State.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mendelsons/Delco: Lesson From Louisville

Mendelsons! AKA the old Delco plant, this great battleship of a building is probably, after the Arcade complex and Mead Tower, the biggest white elephant downtown.

The two Mendelson buildngs are all that’s left of the giant Delco industrial complex downtown,

Soon to be vacant, if not already, would it be too expensive to tear down just for the sake of tearing it down? Some of the local Creative Class advocates have suggested demolishing old factories (but keep the “cool “ones) to get away from Dayton’s rust belt image, or take the pragmatic approach that if a use can’t be found the building should go.

Yet For The Love of Dayton has an excellent post on how this particular building, with its massive fa├žade and big water tower is such an iconic structure, as much a landmark as the Courthouse and Kettering Tower, and makes a suggestion for re-use as a shopping venue.

Louisville also has an example of saving an equally massive building but also with some selective demolition.

The Belknap complex, right on the Ohio River downtown, was vacant in the 1980s, when the hardware giant went out of business and, like Delco, was a collection of big loft buildings

The main structure was such a massive landmark, dominating Main Street and east part of downtown, there was interest in saving it
I don’t know the details, but apparently a local corporation, Humana, was looking to expand, and selected the Belknap building. It was remodeled into the ‘Humana Waterside Building” in 1991, with Humana as the anchor tenant. Some of the adjacent loft buildings were demolished, but others saved and turned into other uses, including an unsucssfull attempt at a business incubator (Clocktower Building).

Humana has around 6,000 people working in and near of this building (this is not their only location in downtown Louisville), and it's corporate policy to stay on Main Street downtown.

Some interior shots of the the lobby area. This is such a deep building that one can open up the inside into atriums, illuminated by fancy lighting effects, to make up for the lack of daylighting.
I think there is a real good precedent for the Mendelsons building in what happened with Belknap, but this would require a growing local corporation to choose to relocate or stay downtown, rather than move to suburbia or build new.

This situation of a likely corporate tenant doesn’t exist in Dayton, as nearly all potential corporate tenants chose suburbia.

And other uses like shopping seem remote (though I could see a giant outlet mall, as this was the fate of textile mills in New England and old factories in Reading PA).


So maybe this is, along with the Frigidaire lofts, another candidate for demolition.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

DDC Benefit at the Cornerstone. Thursday 28 Feb

No, not the Dayton Development Coalition, but the Dayton Dirt Collective...this is a benefit show for some folks trying to open an all-ages space for music and meetings and such. Don't know much about them, but I know about what they are trying to start, so certainly something good going on here:





The Cornerstone was the old Walnut Hills at Wyoming and Brown. This place is a old time corner tavern gone funky, so worth a look in its own right. It looks like Miami Valley Hospital is tearing down the surroundings, so "smoke 'em while you got 'em" (i.e. visit a local landmark before the bulldozer does).

Louisville saves old factories/ Dayton demolishes them

It appears the old Frigidaire building at the Tech Town site is being considered for demolition, as re-use costs appear to be too high.

No word on what would replace it (more parking or another new building?).

That this is apparently "OK" with a lot of people is a good illustration on how this community is not too serious about historic preservation, or, more accurately, retention of its 19th and early 20th century urban fabric, as this structure is really not 'historic' aside from the Frigidaire connection.


It seems, beyond the few that have been renovated, industrial building conversions seems to have stalled in Dayton, perhaps due to difficulty in financing, and perhaps even a lack of market.

An alternative situation is developing in Louisville. There, creative financial intervention by city government combined with an interest in city living & working among the locals has led to some innovative re-use. A case in point is the Snead Building:

It’s on the edge of downtown, but has been remodeled into a mixed use facility and renamed The Glassworks.
The program is:

1. First two floors as studio and public space (including a night club, event space, glass art studios and classroom space)
2. 3 floors of offices (being occupied by an engineering/design firm, similar to Woolpert)
3. 4 floors of apartments
4. Roof terrace.

Some pi x of the event space, galleries & gift shop, and upper floor business lobby, & view of a glassblowing annex next to the main building



The glassblowing area visible from the event space (tours are offered, too, I think). I think is a neat feature of the complex. Imagine having a working tool & die shop or something similar on open view like this in a renovated factory building.

This project wouldn't have happened if not for Louisville government setting up a redevelopment deal fund. From the US Conference of Mayors website:
Downtown Louisville's Glassworks Blends Art, Commerce and Housing

"...Glassworks' $13 million project total consists of a $7.5 million first mortgage, a $554,000 secondary mortgage provided by the city's Downtown Housing Fund, and $5 million in equity and historic tax credits.

Glassworks was the first development to receive financing from the Downtown Housing Fund following its creation; the bank providing the project's primary financing is one of the investors in the Housing Fund and learned of Glassworks through the Fund..."

I don’t know if such a fund exists in Dayton to provide gap financing, but this approach is proving fairly successful in Louisville (the Glassworks is not the only example) in contributing to downtown revival.

And it's achieved national recognition:

"...The International Downtown Association recently gave the Fund its national award for economic development excellence, and Partners for Livable Communities has given the Fund its Bridge Builder Award in recognition of the unique public-private partnership that has been created..."

Another example, across the street from the Glassworks, is this residential conversion (at least it looks like one, with the balconies):


The most recent is the redevelopment of the old Hotel Henry Clay on the south edge of downtown, and a forgivable loan to a downtown grocery store start-up to serve the growing downtown residential market.

So, why not in Dayton?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Historical Geography of the Black West Side, Part III

Third and final look at the geographical development of the black community on the west side, to around 1920, by using the locations of congregations in listed Austin’s church tables, with added information from Dayton’s African American Heritage by Margaret Peters.

1900s

After the turn of the century the Great Migration ensued, a mass exodus of African Americans from the South to northern cities. This was in part in reaction to increasingly oppressive Jim Crow laws and then to crop failures driving black farm workers off the land. In Dayton the population increase in 1900s was the same as in the 1880s & 1890s, but the Great Migrations appears in the 1910s. .



One begins to see black professionals in the 1890s. This was also the case in the 1900s, with business formation and more black entrepreneurs. One started up an amusement park for blacks at Lakeview and Germantown, Dahomey Park. This was perhaps a reaction to discrimination at the popular west side Lakeside Park.

On the west side one sees the relocation of the YWCA from Eaker Street, a playground on 5th street built, and more churches forming, particularly in that little corner near Germantown and Washington.

Not shown here is the development of a east side black community on the outskirts of the city, off Springfield Street, with a black church forming in 1909 as a mission of Third Zion. This would become Mount Pisgah Baptist.

1910s

The Great Migration begins in earnest in the decade 1910-1920, which was also the decade of the second racial disturbance in Dayton history. After the end of this decade downtown merchants adopt an unofficial Jim Crow policy barring blacks from public accommodations downtown.

During this decade one sees an increase in churches in the near west area, as well as churches relocating beyond this neighborhood.


What one doesn’t see is if there are changes in white congregations as the neighborhood changes. Apparently this happened after 1913 to a Catholic church south of Germantown Street, where blacks replaced Germans as parishioners.

A look at the heart of this neighborhood, Baxter Street between Fifth and Fitch. This was reportedly the first street to “go black” in West Dayton. Using an 1898 Sanborn map and old pix (from “Dayton Comes of Age”, I think). Looking north, one can use the locations of buildings and hydrants to figure out where the pix is.

The red boxes note the old firehouse on Fifth that was the site of the black school , Bethel, and McKinley churches.

A close up of the pix. The West Side as it was...

…and what the same view, more or less, looks today. Most of Baxter, renamed Dunbar, was removed for an industrial development

Expanding Beyond the Near West Side


Next, the expansion of the black community. Note some outliers over in early Westwood (which relocated back into the near west side) and in “Patterson” (AK Browntown, later Edgemont). The Patterson outlier didn’t survive, and this neighborhood remained mostly white as late as 1940..

Also the cluster of congregations locating off Western Avenue, perhaps indicating a black settlement developing in this area, near Kuhns Foundry (Peters, in Dayton’s African American Heritage, notes that Dayton blacks often worked in the foundry trade)

In this decade Allen AME moved from Fitch to a location west, south of 5th, on Euclid Avenue.

An additional black church also located in Hells Half Acre. Interestingly, the Mead/Fifth/Maple area didn’t support a church at this time.

And a church that started in the Washington/Germantown vicinity moved south to the fringes of Edgemont, on Pontiac Avenue

The Lakeside Racial Disturbance

So one can see a fairly organized community developing, even if they did experience job discrimination (NCR being the most egregious example). Yet one can anticipate some tensions between white and black given the big jump in population, which came to a flash point in the summer of 1919.

Newspaper accounts say tension was building all summer, but it came to a flashpoint on the night of July 19th, when racial disturbances broke out at Lakeside Park.

Lakeside was one of three early Dayton amusement parks, and though it didn’t ban blacks it did prohibit them from the dance pavilion and had other discriminatory practices.

Around 9:00 PM disturbances broke out, with blacks being ordered out of the concessions and park theatre by white park-goers, and fighting ensued. Reports said that the telephone line to the park was cut, and unfconfirmed reports of a shooting.

The violence apparently extended to the streetcar lines connecting the park to the city, with reports of cars heading back into town being stopped by groups of whites. blacks being taken from the cars and beaten. There were also reports of conductors getting punched and a car driver being beaten with the car controller handle.

Later in the week there was retaliatory violence at nearby McCabe’s Park picnic grove with black youth stoning white visitors, but scared off by one of the whites firing a pistol.

So Dayton had people going around armed, and it also seems a bit premeditated on the part of the whites, that they apparently knew to stop streetcars coming back into town from the park. (or word travels fast). It is suprising there wasn’t serious injury or deaths, considering the racial violence that flared elsewhere in the years just after WWI.

A map of the locations, showing Lakeside, the streetcar lines, and the black park, Dahomey Park, which had closed after 1911.


The Outskirts of Town

The black kids who had he rocks stockpiled probably came from Tin Town, which was next to McCabe’s Park. This was another early black community beyond the city limits. The black church here was Upshaw Mission. Based on the description in Peter’s book this sounds like a sort of self-help build-it-yourself place.

This apparently was not uncommon elsewhere in the US. Thomas Sugrue in “The Orgins of the Urban Crisis” describes the Eight-Mile/Wyoming neighborhood in Detroit as such a place. And Andrew Weise in Places of Their Own also notes this as a form of black community in his chapter “The Outskirts of Town: The Geography of Black Suburbanization Prior to 1940”.

A different approach was the Pontiac Street neighborhood, which was probably black from day one, as the congregation bought a lot there in 1913, and it was still partly undeveloped in 1919.


What makes this different from Tin Town is that this was probably more conventional working class housing : rows of identical two story houses might indicate serial construction by merchant builders rather than self-built cottages.

Black outskirts settlements probably deserves their own post, especially the east side ones.

The Ghetto

Perhaps a ghetto was forming in the near west side by this time, perhaps earlier. But certainly after the African American population explosion that started in the 1910s, the black community, while expanding somewhat beyond, still was confined to certain neighborhoods.

This meant increasing density, as one can see on these two enlargements of the Baxter /Dunbar Street blocks. One can see “negro hotels”, “tenements”, and houses locating on alleys and double and triple to a lot, including some small row houses. I’ve boxed the alley houses and side lot houses in red, to show how things grew.



What this doesn’t show is overcrowding in the houses, or if they have been spit up into multiple units.

By the 1940s this was a very dense neighborhood.


Yet, its all gone now! The near west side today, mainly the historic core black community south of 5th, is almost unrecognizable. Nary a house remains! Urban renewal has been as total here as in the old Haymarket area on the east side, though the streets still remain to some degree



Yet if you want to visit, there are the two old churches still standing off Fitch, plus Zion on Sprague.

So that’s it for development of the black community on the west side, at least the early era. If I had access to census info one could chart the development a bit better. Starting in the 1930s, and especially the 1940 Housing Census, one has actual numbers to work with, so its easier to research the continued growth of the black neighborhoods.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Historical Geography of Black Dayton II: 19th Century West Side

Continuing to track the development of black Dayton via locations of churches, this time the formation of a community on the west side.

1870s


The black population increases to around 1000 in the 1870s, which is the decade we see the first black institutions on the west side


West Dayton was still sparsely settled in 1869, with quite a bit of open country and undeveloped plats. This map would be interesting to talk about just for the how the area was developing, but the point is that one year later, in 1870, the first black congregation, of the Baptist denomination, was formed in a private residence on Baxter Street. This would probably be the block of Baxter between 3rd & 5th, as the Baxter south of 5th was called Vantoyl Street at the time.

This congregation eventually met on the east side, in Mclauslands Hall on Wayne for a few years.

Sprague Street, which would eventually be the home of the church, was still a small plat, near the lands associated with the Sprague glue works on the river.



So one can assume, even at this very early date in the history of the neighborhood, when it was still suburban, black folks were living on the west side.

And they continued to move to this area as it was further subdivided and houses built. City directories show Joshua Dunbar living on Baxter, probably on the southern part (which was renamed from Vantoyl to Baxter in the 1870s) in 1874.

By 1875 there were enough black folk to petition for a school on the west side, which met at the fire house on Fifth & Baxter.

The Baptist congregation returned to the west side and built a wood frame church in 1876

These sites are noted on an 1875 map of the growing neighborhood


This congregation, Third Zion Baptist remained at Sprague Street , and built a larger building in 1908.



The congregation relocated elsewhere when Edwin C Moses Blvd. was built through the neighborhood, but this historic church (first black congregation on the west side) was recently remodeled as a community center.

1880s


The end of Reconstruction meant that conditions would start to deteriorate for blacks in the South, as white supremacy was enforced via violence and political actions. Push factors for migration to the north.

Dayton’s black population doubles in the 1880s, reaching over 2000.

Around 1880 a sizable block of property became the Southern Ohio Stockyards. One wonders if there was a connection between this business and attracting blacks, as its been said one of the occupations at this time for black men was “hostler”, which means animal handler, usually horse in livery stables, but perhaps also working in this stockyards?

Or it could be that the property around the stockyards became cheaper (stockyards are sort of a nuisance land use due to the smell and noise), so became a place for a fairly poor population to live.

The west side also becomes more accessible to Dayton proper during this decade via streetcar lines on 5th and Washington Street. Coincidentally, these lines pass through the black neighborhoods that were forming east of the river, so perhaps a reason the west side became an option for an growing black population.




In the 1880s one starts to see new congregations on the west side, in the vicinity of Baxter, Hawthorn and Fitch. Austin’s congregation table lists a Baptist congregation on Hawthorn in 1887, and then notes that the United Brethren mission on Buckeye Street relocates to the west side in 1889, first on Baxter Street…

…but then to a permanent church on Hawthorn. This congregation changes names to McKinley, and affiliates with the Methodists. This is the second oldest black congregation on the west side, and the oldest at more or less the same location (the original church was not on a corner, but a few doors to the north on Hawthorn)

Also note that the black school was closed and the black children reassigned to Garfield school (organized in 1871, and in this building by 1887).


But one wonders if the firehouse @ Baxter & Hawthorn was still the location of the school in 1887, as this pix shows a frame building behind the big brick school.

Lutzenberger says this was the original school and the brick building was built later (before 1887), but one wonders if this was also the colored school, and was used as such at the time of the photo, as there are those black kids in front?


One can speculate that if this school was indeed integrated and the neighborhood attracted more black residents with kids, if there was early white flight from the neighborhood as the African-American population increased. It would be interesting to study the school district boundaries for the Garfield district during this era.

In any case perhaps the vicinity of Hawthorne, Baxter, and Fitch, perhaps also Mound Street (facing the stockyards) might have been developing as the core of the west side black district, based on the church locations.


1890s

The South begins to implement de jure segregation in earnest via Jim Crow laws at the state and local levels.

Dayton’s black population continues to increase at the same rate as the 1880s, approaching 3500 by 1900.



During the 1890s one sees the black presence on the west side expand as congregations relocated from the old east side neighborhoods, as well as new congregations form. The area between Germantown and Fifth was apparently developing into a black neighborhood.

A bit of a closer look. Austin’s notes on his church table says Allen AME first met on the north side of Fitch. Perhaps this was in a house or they shared a church building with Bethel Baptist, as there is no church shown on this Sanborn from 1898.

But one can get a feel of the urban fabric of this neighborhood…the churches noted in red, and the large block of land for the stockyards.


Taking a closer look at Bethel. This Sanborn is of the same area, but in 1919. Bethel has expanded to the west, and the Sanborn has enough detail to ascertain the roof lines


Going on-site, one does find a church at the same location, corner of Fitch and Baxter (which was renamed Dunbar sometime before 1919), which does have the same characteristics as on the Sanborn.

Though it’s been heavily altered and no longer a Baptist congregation this is probably the oldest surviving structure associated with the Dayton black community, or built by a community institution.

Next, the third and final installment: Black Dayton to 1919.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Geographlical Take on Dayton Black History Part 1

The first of a series on the historic urban geography of the African American community.

Notes on Sources

Some of the sources for this are (primarily) the very detailed multi-volume genealogical history compiled by Charles Mosley Austin (particularly the church history section), the Pictorial History Dayton’s African American Heritage, by Margaret Peters, the draft history by Marjorie Loycarno at the Dayton Dialogue on Race Relations web page, and various other sources.

Since I don’t have access to census data I will use the location of churches and schools to draw some inference as to the location of African-American neighborhoods, and how they developed. This method is based on the first chapter of “Race Relations in the Urban South”, by Howard Rabinowitz. That chapter provides the geographic setting for the rest of Rabinowitzes’ book, and, together with the footnotes, provides a methodology for locating 19th century black communities.

Black Dayton in the early-mid 19th Century

Given Dayton’s proximity to the slave-holding three western counties of Virginia, later to become Kentucky, African-Americans were bound to be among the early settlers. In Dayton they came as indentured servants, which is one way Kentucky and Virginia settlers brought their slaves to the new states of the free Northwest Territory.

There were some early free black settlers, too, as old histories mention two blacks, one a barber, as partners in running an early stage line to Cincinnati.

Black population expands with the arrival of the canal, dips due to a race riot, then expands slowly, then faster after the Civil War and Emancipation

Africa, Dayton’s lost Canal Workers Settlement

The first identifiably black neighborhood was on the edge of town. Know as “Africa”, the settlement was along Seelys Ditch, east of the Oregon, the area later known as the Haymarket. The blacks here came to dig and build the canal (perhaps they also worked on Seelys Ditch?). The first black church was organized in this settlement, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME for short) congregation. Austin’s table of congregations locates the AME church at the corner of McCain & Plum.

This settlement brings to mind the famous Chicago neighborhood of Bridgeport,which was also a settlement of (Irish) canal workers on the outskirts of town. Unlike Bridgeport it did not survive to our time.

Africa settlement was the victim of the first racial disturbance recorded in Dayton. There are two accounts. This is from Michael Ohmers’ memoir

The Negro Settlement was along Seeley's Ditch about that time. One night it was reported that they held a white woman there against her will. A lot of men went to take her away with the result that a white man, McLarey, was stabbed to death, the following night the Negro town was reduced to ashes, the murderer was captured and sent to the Pen for life.

It was a pitiful sight the morning of the fire to see the Negroes carrying their belongings. The men and women had bundles and the children had chickens. They left the country. For a while negroes were scarce in Dayton


The other from the Dayton Dialogue on Race Relations history, based on the Edgar memoir

In 1841 Dayton experienced its first race riot. According to some accounts, the violence began after a light -skinned black woman, believed to be white, moved to a black resort known as the Paul Pry. A white, pro-slavery mob stormed the area in late January, and the owner of one cabin stabbed and killed the leader of the mob, Nat McCleary.

A week later, in the sub -zero temperatures of early February, whites
retaliated by driving black people out of their homes and burning several cabins. A number of black residents died from exposure, and many left town.

(The Paul Pry was probably an inn or tavern of some sort)

Later in history, in the South, the fear of miscegenation was often a spark that set off white lynch mobs, but they usually didn’t burn out the black neighborhoods. There are examples of that though. .

The end of “Africa” also was the end of the AME congregation; the AME denomination didn’t return until after the Civil War.

This neighborhood was later rebuilt and was mostly German, an extention of the Orgeon, though, as we have seen, the Dunbars and their relatives did live there in the 1870s.

Today, nothing is left of the Haymarket as urban renewal there removed the old streets, except for one ghost street, so it would be difficult find the location of the old church.


Developing Congregations and Insitutions

“Africa” was not the only places African Americans lived in Dayton. Apparently blacks were attending the abolitionist Union Church on Main Street, and formed the Wesleyan Church around 1841 in the neighborhood between South Ludlow and Perry Streets.

This congregation continues today as First Wesleyan probably the oldest in the city. The Short Wilkinson church was the place where the Emancipation Proclamation was first read in Dayton.

Austin’s table of churches mentions other congregations. One that predated the Civil War was the United Brethren Colored Mission, which met at various places, starting in 1858 in the Oregon, but settled in at the intersection of Court & Ludlow, near the old Union Station. The U.B.s had a second mission, which eventually relocated to the west side and became McKinley Methodist Church.

There were other denominations and insitution, like the Colored Methodist Episcopal CME) and the Episcopalean St Mary Mission, and the various locations of the “colored school” (segregated education ended in Ohio 1887, by statute, though it might have continued informally).

Like other immigrant groups the black community developed mutual aid socities, like the Colored First Voters and the early (1849) American Sons of Protection, and fraternal socities, with a black Masonic lodge forming in 1871. These met, at first, at locations in downtown Dayton.


(you will have to click on the map to enlarge due to the tiny text)

The Cradle of Black Dayton: South of Union Station

A close up of the neighborhoods south of downtown, showing some key locations in early black history, based on an 1875 map. Austin’s table of congregations notes that the Wesleyan Church started on Washington Street (probably in a home) but then moved to Short Wilkinson. Note that when this church was established this was on the edge of town, a fairly new plat.

The blacks apparently shared this area with Catholics, mostly Germans, from the start, due to the first Catholic church , Emmanuel, being located here in the late 1830s.

Wesleyan built a brick church in the 1850s, similar in style to the old German Baptist church on St Annes Hill, or the old brick church in Liberty (Jefferson Twp).

Blacks were prohibited from the public schools until 1840s when laws changed to permit their attendance. The first black public school in First Wesleyan, but then moved nearby to a building on Ziegler Street.

The black YMCA also got its start here, as one of the very early institutions in the black community, as a women’s club at the Eaker Street Church

The AME denomination returned in the 1867 after the Civil War, starting at Court & Ludlow meeting in halls downtown and eslewhere. One was McLausland’s Hall on Wayne Avenue ( which also hosted a black Baptist congregation), which makes one wonder if there was a connection between the Dunbar’s, and their relatives, first living in the vicinity of Wayne.

The AME eventually settled on Eaker Street, directy across from the railroad yards and Union Station.


And a brief look at Court Street. The corner building at Court and Ludlow appears as the home for three black congregations at different times, so perhaps this street was an early black neighborhood. The areas directly north of Union Station and the Joint Tracks, Mead, Fifth, and maybe Maple, might have had a small black community as the school relocated to Fifth, Dunbars’ father lived on Mead briefly, and the Episcopal mission was on Fifth.

Early Black Neighborhoods

One can infer due to the location of the congregations and school that where the early black communities where. One can see how they clustered around the railroad yards and station, reminiscent of Chicago’s early Black Belt on Federal Street, next the railroad lines coming into the city.

(The black stars show the locations of the Dunbars, both Paul and Matilda, but also Joshua, who appears in the city directory at some of these locations)

Perhaps there was a bit of a port-of-entry function to these early neighborhoods around the tracks? Black migrants would be arriving by train, and there is evidence of two black hotels on Ludlow Street right at the tracks, so they might have been places of first settlement.

Eventually the one to the south of Union Station, between Ludlow and the river, would be nicknamed “Hells Half Acre” around 1910.

None of these old 19th century close-in neighborhoods survive, torn down by commercial expansion, freeway construction, and urban renewal. About the only institution left in this part of Dayton with a connection to this early black community is the congregation on Buckeye Street, at Pulaski, which was the home to two of the UB Colored Missions..

But its interesting to see that the black community really started out east of the river, but never expanded in this area to the east, into South Park or the Oregon, or north of 4th Street. And the early "Africa" community never got a chance to grow.

The story of the expansion of the black commuity really belongs to the west side.


.