Friday, November 30, 2007

This Building Should Be Landmarked!

It's on Canal Street, next to Miami Jacobs.

According to the caption in the Lutzenberger collection:

"...The building on the right was Chambers Canal Depot. It was built in 1850 and was still standing in 1935. All merchandise was received and shipped from this point between First and Second Streets."

Assuming Lutzenberger is correct, about the date and use. at 1850 this was one of the very last buildings of the canal era, when the canal was the primary trade route to and from Dayton. In 1851 the first railroad arrived (coming in to town about a block and half north of here), marking the start of a new transportation era. The canal basin was directly across the street from this structure.

As a commission and forwarding house this structure was directly related to the canal trade as this business acted as middleman between farmers and other producers and merchants outside of Dayton. This middleman trade was the first driver of local economic growth during the keelboat and flatboat era, were Dayton merchants assembled the agricultural surplus from area farmers and floated it down to New Orleans for sale, returning by land (before steamboat service) possibly via the Natchez Trace.. Mercantile houses also brought raw and finished goods overland from the east via wagon, flatboat, and pack horse, later when the roads were opened, via freighter wagon.

After the Miami and Erie canal opened Cincinnati and the canal replaced New Orleans and the river system as the trade route and goal, but the middleman role remained as an intermediary between the local and outside market.

So, as the last structure in Dayton directly related to the canal and the canal trade which helped build the city one would think some sort of landmark designation is in order

There is some architectural significance, too, as there are very few (if any) commercial structures surviving in Dayton from the 1850s, with this clean neoclassical style.

The façade composition is symmetric, but note the differing methods of establishing rhythm on the façade, with the ground floor having this paired pattern,


Which controls the upper portion of the façade via centerline, but the upper part having a symmetric yet different rhythm


The center openings appear to be somewhat altered as they can be barely seen on this old image to be maybe more open, permitting things to be lifted up into upper floors for storage

Some details, showing the stonework, window frames (upper floors original?) and cornice details" The ground floor was probably bricked-in in at some later date, as one can imagine the lower opening being open to the canal landing for ease in hauling

Clearly this building has neoclassical features, in the façade composition and in the cornice detail (assuming they are original), as one does not see the heavy Italianate corbelling and volutes in later cornice treatments.

And the building bears a family resemblance to other older, but now lost, Dayton structures.

The building is not threatened as it is the home of an active business. So perhaps not a preservation issue as much as a recognition issue.

(Year of construction 1850? Historical trivia for that year: Zachary Taylor died in office that year, replaced by Millard Fillmore. Compromise of1850 to deal with slavery in the recent aquistions from Mexico, and Califorinia joins the of the few states to do so without going through territorial government).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kroger Boycott = Symbolic Protest

The paper reports the black ministers are organizing a citywide boycott of Kroger. One of the comments is that there are a lot of senior citizens in the area without cars, so not having a grocery will be a hardship:

“…The coalition says the area is saturated with senior citizens who do not have the means to drive to another store…”.

Taking a look at census tracts immediately around the store, 38, 39, and 44, which are Westwood and Residence Park, one sees that there seems to be a lot of people 65 or older, and that this is increasing (based on the comparison with the 1990 census):

...............1990 Census..... 2000 Census
Tract 38:... 763... 15.0%...... 771... 17.6%

Tract 39: ... 719... 18.1% .....660... 19.5%

Tract 44:... 476... 15.2% .... 524....19.8%

Total: 1,955 senior citizens for 2000

We also know there is a problem with carlessness in the area, which probably extends beyond the senior citizen population..

Percent of of housing units without access to a vehicle:

Tract 38: 23.4%

Tract 39: 22.0%

Tract 44: 20.0%

So maybe the ministers have a point.

But I think they take a symbolic way out of the issue with this Kroger boycott.

I wonder if there a more difficult, yet more constructive strategy? One that would confront the neglect shown by city government toward poorer areas like West Dayton in favor of facilitating things like Ballpark Village and that Wayne & Wyoming Kroger,.

One way would be to advocate a centrally located shopping area rather than one on just one side of town or another (like a shopping center, or even reviving a large scale market like the ones in Detroit and Cleveland or Findlay Market in Cincy).

Another would be finding ways of enhancing the selection in existing groceries.

Ye another would be doing something like running jitneys for carless people wanting to go shopping.

It just seems this boycott is too easy, and there might be more useful results from other forms of community organizing and community action.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

History of A Parking Lot late entry.

As promised, a late addition to the History of a Parking Lot post below (and supporting Urban Ohio thread). The west side of St Clair Street, facing Cooper Park and the library, and amazingly enough, mostly intact till the mid 1970s.

....and keyed to a 1956 downtown map via street number:
The site today. Demolition began (typically) with the most historic (ie oldest) structure...the corner building.

On localvores and food systems

Recent discussions about the localvore concept at some of the blogs, coupled with the Kroger controversy on the West Side and a entry at DaytonOS about bringing back horses brought to mind some research I did on on thee history of the Arcade and on neighborhood retail in St Anne's Hill, and the larger question of a local food system, and how this would have functioned in the 19th century without motor transport.

In the 19th and early 20th century people pretty much were localvores by default. Only with the advent of practical refrigerated freight cars in the 1880s and 90s would perishable foods be imported from outside the area, though I suspect canned and bottled foods might have been available earlier. Even up to the WWI era one probably was eating a mix of local and out-of-region foods with the local being a substantial portion of ones diet.

Given that fruits and vegetables had to be locally grown meant that a belt of market farming would have developed around Dayton, where farmers would be growing for the local urban market to some extent. Presumably this would be the case for poultry, pork, and beef too (Maybe less so) and dairy products. Beyond this belt one would see more commodity farming for export.

One can see this in these 1875 maps of Harrison and Mad River townships, where there was a belt of smaller landholdings around the city. Some of this was land divided for speculation,. Some was country estates for the Dayton bourgeois. However, I suspect that there was also a lot of small market farming going on for the city market.

(the inset shows what might be market farms with little orchards)

In fact the atlas that’s the source of these maps says this (of Mad River Township)(italics mine):

"...The people in this township are wealthy and the soil is extremely fertile. The farmers are close to the city market. Land is worth on the average one hundred dollars per acre..."

Taking a closer look one sees that there was sort of cycle operating. One thinks of food as a one way flow, but human waste was part of the process here as Dayton did not have a complete sewer system until the end of the 1880s. Privies were used instead, which meant the privy vaults had to be cleaned out. This was done by dealers in "night soil", who cleaned the privy vaults and then hauled the waste out to the farmers for use in fertilizer for crops. So it one sees an early example of recycling of organic matter (though one wonders about the stench and how sanitary this was)

Food is not limited to fruits and vegetables (unless one is a vegan), so there was also a meat an dairy supply. Per an 1869 map of Montgomery County one can see slaughterhouses in operation off Germantown Street at the western edge of the city. Presumably the rendered meat was sold to local butchers, as there are no rail connections shown to these operations. Eventually (at the end of the 1870s) a local stockyard was established in the vicinity of the slaughterhouses.

Dayton had a central market downtown, but as the city grew neighborhood markets formed. I have been able to to ID two outlying market halls (Wayne Avenue and in Webster Station), and, beyond that, two additional market squares (near Front Street and at the Haymarket).

Here is the largest outlying market hall, the Wayne Avenue market, at Burns and Wayne.

The original market house from the 1860s

And a later expanded version, awaiting demolition for US 35
A notional diagram of the food system as it might have operated by WWI. By this time one sees more food imports so a network of jobbers and warehouses would have developed to act as middlemen. There would still be a network of markets and a distribution system would have developed to haul food from markets and warehouses to retailers.

And a diagram on how this might have looked as a geography (loosely based on Dayton). One sees the central wholesale markets, produce terminals for food coming in by rail, the wholesale district for "imported" canned and processed foods, retail farmers markets, neighborhood markets in older neighborhoods (presumably before grocery stores became widespread), and then city neighborhoods with their network of corner stores selling various kinds of foods. These were sometimes called 'daily markets' in the city directory, but there were also, presumably, grocers, butcher shops, bakers, etc.

One also sees the stockyards and slaughterhouses located on the outskirts a bit. This was the case in Dayton as well, as the west side Dayton stockyards and packers moved to the eastern edge of the city after the west side became more built-up.

Not shown would be the local transfer haulers, using wagons and later trucks to haul foodstuffs from the markets, warehouses and terminals to the corner stores.

An interesting consideration is restocking and time through process. Given that home refrigeration was nearly non-existent, relying, at best, on small ice boxes cooled with real ice, meant there was more shopping. Instead of a weekly grocery trip it was more frequent, maybe even daily (on foot) to the local purveyors. So there was probably an ongoing restocking going one, as product was being pulled through the system via frequent (though low volume per trip) shopping.

Nowadays this local food system (really a hybrid of local and out-of-region) has collapsed. Oh, sure, there are specialized producers and the 2nd Street market, but this is really just a specialty trade. A robust city-wide system like I've diagrammed does not exist anymore.

It would be tough to reproduce this, too, as a local system could never compete against the economics of scale arising from mass production, centralized purchasing and marketing, and low-cost high volume sales, all operating at a national or multi-state scale.

So being a localvore is a tough deal, as one could never purchase a full range of foods that are locally produced. I suspect this is one of those European concepts that don't cross the pond too well.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ohio's Largest Company Town?

The company town, built and owned by one company as a place for its factory, managers, and workers, sometimes dominated by a paternalistic industrialist. The famous one is Pullman (now part of Chicago), but there are others. The raison d’etre of these places is to work and make money, lots of money for the owner or the stockholders, maybe no so much for the factory hands.

And can any place be more stifling?

Dayton is in some ways the largest company town in Ohio. There seems to be this historical pattern here., of one company dominating the community, some moreso than others.

In the 19th century it was the car works, in the early to mid 20th it was “The Cash”, also in the 20th it was Delco/Frigidaire/GM. Now it seems to be the military.

Of course, historically, the dominant company was NCR, due to sheer size and the force of personality of the paternalistic industrialist John Patterson. Patterson this, Patterson that, Patterson Road, Patterson Park, Patterson and the big flood, etc. etc. etc. Really, was having such a figure healthy for Dayton in the long run?

The problem I see in this type of economy and the mentality behind it, is that it squelches innovation and initiative. That it engenders conformity and uniformity. That it is risk-adverse. That there is an expectation that some new big daddy industrialist and line of business will rise to provide tons of new jobs. The question always seems to be “Where is the next John Patterson? “,”Where is the next Kettering?”

Which makes me leery of this big new influx of military work coming to town, as it seems like once again, the community is looking for or identifying with the next big company, rather than on economic diversity.

The next Patterson or Kettering is apparently is Uncle Sam. And he’s in an Air Force uniform.

Wouldn’t one prefer a city that is more diverse? Where there is a lot of smaller and mid sized firms and businesses of various types. Where there is more of a culture of entrepreneurialism leading to a richer more diverse and growing economy not dominated by two or three firms or a very limited set of business personalities.

And isn’t Dayton that city, or could be that city, but we just don’t notice it?

I blog on local history a lot. In fact the focus is mostly local history, or historical geography. History is open to interpretation, and has been selectively interpreted in Dayton to highlight the company town aspect of the community. There is more to the history of Dayton than that.

Which is why when I blog on historical things I rarely blog on NCR or Delco or the Air Force, as I prefer to bring to the fore the neglected and obscured history of the city, which I feel is more relevant to our times, and just inherently more interesting

At least to me.

Dayton (Amateur) Rephotography

The Dayton Metro Library has an interesting online collection of photographs of old Dayton, the Lutzenberger Collection.

The collection was created by William Lutzenberger. Apparently Lutzenberger photographed the city through the later 19th and early 20th century, capturing a lot of the changes downtown. The collection also has photos and images that pre-date Lutzenberger, but that he apparently acquired somehow.

The collection is a community treasure.

And I've been working with the collection on and off, experimenting with rephotography.

Rephotography is more than "before & after" pix as it requires close study of the original image so as to match the technical characteristics of the original camera position, exposure, depth of field, lens, etc, and lighting conditions arising from time of day and time of year (winter afternoon low sun would be different than high noon in the summer).

Another unwritten rule is to chose an image that has something of the original image still in it.

In a sense rephotography is almost a form of conceptual art.

This type of photography got started in the western US, via the Rephotography Survey Project, organized by Mark Klett, and published as “Second View” . Klett and his team rephotographed 19th century federal land survey images of the western landscape. Klett returned to the same locations some years later and then rephotograped them a second time (published as “Third View”). Here is some interesting blog commentary on Klett and his project.

From what I recall many of these were rural/wilderness images. Rephotography is being done in urban areas, too; one of the better known examples is New York Changing by Douglas Lavere (rephotographing Springfield, Ohio native Bernice Abbot’s Changing New York)

For Dayton, it’s tough to exactly duplicate Lutzenberger as he made his own camera and ground his own lenses (or had them ground to his specification). Pro photographers or serious amateurs might be able to duplicate the images better, but this is beyond my competence as a snapshooter.

Lutzenberger photographed on quite times, usually on Sunday when there was little “traffic” (so he could position himself in the middle of a street).

Another issue is the changing landscape. Much of what Lutzenberger shot is now gone…not just the individual buildings, but entire streetscapes and blocks.

So what I am doing is not strictly rephotography, though do I try to match the images as much as possible. Here are two examples:

From this month, the southeast corner of 2nd and Jefferson.

From a year ago: northwest corner of 1st and Keowee

I will be posting more sets every so often

Monday, November 26, 2007

Killing Off Main Street Retail.

The heyday of downtown Dayton and Main Street was well before my time, but it was an interesting exploration rebuilding the street using old city directories and a base map from the 1950s, as well as my knowledge of when certain buildings went up.

One of the urban legends of Dayton is that I-675 helped kill retail downtown.

The following study proves that to be false.

Staring out with the retail mix on Main Street through time

Then taking a closer look at what I call “mall retail; the type of shops one usually finds in a shopping mall or larger strip center: men’s, women’s, and general clothing stores, shoe stores, jewelry:

Aggregating the clothing retail and then inserting a trend line. The expected trend from the 1960s was clearly downward, but the five years after the Dayton Mall opened in 1970 really dropped retail downtown.

Then some key urban renewal and new construction projects helped destroy what was left of downtown shopping. The Arcade Centre project (intended to “rescue” the Arcade) helped kill off retail on the 3rd-4th block. Courthouse Square, The Gem Savings bank and the Citizens Federal tower along with the renovations at and around the Victoria wiped out retail on Main north of Third.

So one can see retail being killed off well before I-675 was opened. Downtown retail was essentially dead by the time the new shopping centers and malls opened off 675 in the early and mid 1990s.

Taking a look at three key blocks, 1st to 2nd (Victoria and Lazarus block), 2nd to 3rd, (Courthouse Square), and 3rd to 4th (Arcade Centre), one can see how big drops after the impact of the mall was because of specific projects and buildings clearing out storefronts

(the graph line shows how “mall retail” faired on each block. In some cases there was a lot of other kinds of businesses, too).

An example of how urban renewal helped drive out retail is the Donenfelds womens wear store. Originally located on west side of Main just south of Lazarus, across from the Keybank Building, the store was forced out by the Court House Square urban renewal, to the 3rd-4th block. Then the Arcade Center urban renewal came to displace the store again.

Instead the store closed.

The bitter local struggle over I-675 in the 1970s(worth a blog post of its own) was partially driven by the city wanting to preserve downtown. But by then the die was already cast.

Urban renewal efforts just completed the job, bringing to mind the 1960s Vietnam war catch-phrase: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it”. Maybe the planners, architects and developers were thinking they were helping, but they were just nailing the coffin shut by the type of development that was put in.

Or maybe the type of redevelopment was a tacit acknowledgement that storefront retail opening to the sidewalk was a lost cause so why bother designing for it.

In any case, by the time the first big I-675 shopping centers started opening around 1990 it was all over for Main Street.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

20 Years in Dayton

I rolled into Dayton on a ice cold Sunday afternoon the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1987.

So this is my 20th anniversery here.


The Fall of Main Street, Block by Block

An investigation of Main Street and how it got that way. Block by Block. Looking at Main Street as a street (per Jane Jacobs). I look at street front retail, storefront business that has some public interaction (no professional offices or beauty schools), but things like stores, loan companys, restaurants, theatere, and so forth.

No arcade or lobby business (as much as possible)...just things that face the street, as a gauge on how active or lively the street is

Here is the rough cut, where I graph the businesses. I also lay in things that affect the retail environment, particularly the suburban competition.
Then a look block by block, from Monument to the railroad embankment.
Then looking in some detail at the blocks. I note physical changes (like the opening of a larger store) that impacts the count. First, the two blocks north of Third:
Next, the two blocks south of Third:
Note that some of the largest drops are from physcial alterations driving removals of buildings, reducing the number of storefronts. This implys that, though retail was declining, some urban renewal and new construction decisions also had an impact, and accelerated the decline.
I will take a look at a the retail mix next.

For a more in-depth treatment follow this link:

The Decline and Fall of Main Street

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Grocery Gap III: Where are the stores?

Continuing to investigate the grocery gap (if there is one) in Dayton.

This time I look at grocery stores. Here is a map of the major regional and national chains in the area (that I know of).

Taking away the base map and shading in the more or less built up areas to see if there are any patterns, and there are. There are some gaps in the distribution of the big chains (though some of that is due to population density south of town due to the Kettering/Oakwood estate country, with large lots and country clubs meaning there is more open space than is shown)
But also, from what I know about east and south Dayton, there are local independent supermarkets that fill in those gaps. The two Dorothy Land Markets, Dot’s over in Belmont/Greenmont, and a supermarket on Linden (an old Liberal,, I think) are located in the holes. This could be the case elsewhere in Dayton.

Looking at West Dayton, based on the yellow pages listing of groceries, there are a few out there, including some that I think are small supermarkets that go beyond just a convenience/carry-out trade.
So maybe things are not that dire in terms of accessibility. The situation might be different for price and selection.

As a proposal a centrally located shopping center and supermarket for the city. This would be very similar in concept to a Chicago-style TIF developmen for large-scale retail.

This could also solve that Kroger issue and address West Dayton folk’s complaints about the preferential treatment for the Wayne Avenue Kroger, by having a big super located so it could serve both east and west Dayton, located on the vacant and semi-used lands along the river, close to the bridges

And alternative would be a centrally located supermarket and shopping center in the heart of west Dayton, on the Kuhn’s Foundry or McCall property.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

History of a Parking Lot.

Wondering how it got that way (and when it got that way) I did a "history of a parking lot", more accurately the investigation of the transformation of one downtown block near the edge of downtown. The block bounded by Third, St Clair, Second, and Jefferson.

Starting in 1956 already there is parking.

The little lot at the 3rd/St Clair corner was a filling station in 1918. The big mid-block lot first appeared in 1928/29, so it's one of the oldest downtown (click on the image & it will enlarge so you can read the store names).

Then a series of black plans showing how the block lost the buildings, closing with my guess on the next removal.

The block today. The business names have all changed, of course, but an impressive void nonetheless.

For some before and after pix, plus some history of the block in the 19th and early 20th century (including what was in that early big lot on 2nd) click here:

History of a Parking Lot