Friday, February 6, 2009

Downtown South of Third: Jefferson & St Clair Streets

The last set of Downtown South of Third then and now pix. These are keyed to the map below and are mostly along Jefferson and the last of St Clair. This area was drastically altered by urban renewal in the 1960s.

One of the locations of historic note, not shown here, was the Pony House on Jefferson, about where the driveway into the Crowne Plaza is today. This was the restaurant (including cigar store and shoe shine parlor) owned by James Ritty, the inventor of the cash register. Ritty lived his last days in one of the apartments atop the Arcade.



Starting with the northeast corner of Jefferson and 4th. All of the mid-block buildings have been removed for parking. The neo-romanesque telephone company office building on the corner was modernized for Price Stores sometime in th 1950s or 1960s.



Further down on Jefferson, another fireplug pix set, becuase one has to use the fireplug to set up the shot, since thats all thats left. Not strictly true, though, as the Price Stores building is in both pix.

This is a good shot becuase it shows how commercial encroachment worked south of 4th, with old pre-Civil War houses, some probably from the 'Canal Era" of the 1830s and 1840s, are converted into retail. The directories, though, also note people living in the upper floors, so this was maybe more mixed use than it seems.


Heading down the street the northeast corner of 5th and Jefferson. Uneeda Biscuit wall sign...yes maybe I do. I think there was a small movie theatre on this block, too, but maybe later than this. The corner building is an old house. Either this one or the house next to the alley on the above set was the home of the Clegg family, pioneer industrialists in Dayton.


...entire side of the street replaced by the Transporation Center parking garage. I guess its OK for its era.

Heading back up to 4th, the southwest corner of 4th and Jefferson. Imposing chimney is gone but the power plant remains. The corner building had rental rooms in the upper floors.



Same intersection, but looking west on 4th. This scene reminds me of old photos of outlying business districts in Chicago, like Lincoln/Belmont/Ashland and Englewood, or a bit like the downtown of a Chicago satellite city, such as Aurora or Elgin. One can see the tower of the Center City Offices being built. These were to be the demoninational HQ offices for the United Brethren church.

The turreted building midblock was the old YMCA, by this time the State Theatre. The Y rooms were retained as apartments or SRO-style sleeping roms.

I think the pic is a good example of how one needs 3 or 4 story buildings to provide height to define a street wall on Daytn's wide downtown streets.

The impressive street wall on the south side was removed for urban renewal (was going to be an in-town shopping mall) and is now Dave Hall Plaza.



Moving east to St Clair. The southeast corner of Main and St Clair was home of "The Dayton Electric Car" but was built for an earlier industrial use in the late 1870s or 1880s. Architecturally the detailing on the windows resemble Canal Street Tavern and the old Farmers Freind plant on 4th & Wayne. A good example of the massive multi-floor older industrial architecture found along the canal, later Patterson Boulevard. Nearly all gone today. In this case the building survived into the 1950s but was replaced by an RTA facility and little parkette.


Same corner, Southwest corner of 4th and St Clair. A portion of Daytons wholesale produce market, which was the two blocks of St Clair from 3rd to 5th.

In 1914 there were 3 commercial merchants (wholesalers), a rooming house, and a saloon on this block among other things

In 1950 the wholesaling presence had grown. There were 2 wholesale produce dealers, 1 wholesale fruit dealer, 2 Greek restaurants, and 1 wholesale dye house on this block (among other things). So the place was pretty vital even after the war. The dye house represents some continuity as there was a dye house here since the 1870s. Some of these buildings look like they could date back to the 1840s or 1850s, from the canal era as this was very close to the canal.

Note the flatbed truck. There was also transfer operations working this area, to haul fruits and produce to the corner stores and early supermarkets. The interurban freighthouse was nearby on Kenton Street, so another source of business for transfer trucking.

Today replaced by the parking garage and the diner, now Pearl nightclub. The diner itself is old, from Canton, Ohio, but relocated to this site in, say, 1988/1989. Old power plant in the background.

Back to Jefferson. This is near the intersection with the railroad embankment, showing how fast downtown shifted to residential housing. This was another old mansion that was converted to a rooming house or rescue mission. The backs of the commerical buildings on 5th can be seen.
Today, the parking garage fills the site. This is probably the most massive building downtown that is not a skyscraper. Here there is a nice empty plaza with some token trees that seperates the garage from the street, accented by the closed Elbos dance & music club (formerly Chins fusion restaurant and before that a closed Trailways bus station).

Perhaps the part of downtown that has underwent the most drastic change. But what if there wasn't urban renewal clearing all this out?

The neighborhood would have been destroyed anyway by intermittent parking lot and new building construction, which was already starting to happen in the years before urban renewal clearances. One would have ended up with something like Webster Station landscape or the patchwork feeling of downtown north of Third (really north of Fourth).

So a no-win situation for obsolete old buildings in a shrinking downtown. But at least we have the Lutzenberger Collection to show us what was there, as a visual record of how the city grew and downtown expanded, if one knows what to look for.

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