Saturday, December 15, 2007

Legends of Annexation

We wanted to be annexed but the city wouldn’t have us!”

A persistent urban legend here is that Kettering and Oakwood actually wanted to be annexed by Dayton, and that Dayton refused.

This is usually mentioned in the context of how Dayton has declined in population and influence vis a vis Kettering and Oakwood. It also has a bit of 'blame the victim' flavor to it.

The reality is quite different.


Oakwood incorporated as a village in 1906, during a period when Dayton was actively annexing peripheral areas.

The village included mostly Shantz Park and the original Oakwood plat, plus a few adjacent plats. As farms were subdivided out Lebanon Pike (now Far Hills Avenue) Oakwood village annexed them, until reaching its present size , probably around 1920.

In the mid 920s Dayton formulated an aggressive annexation plan to bring in the growing suburban areas that developed during the economic boom times of that decade. This was first suggested by the Chamber of Commerce, then incorporated into the city plan.

Oakwoood was one of the areas targeted by this plan. The city’s approach was to work with citizens groups and accomplish annexation via petition and action by the county commission, not referendum.

Apparently the Dayton did get agreement from the Oakwood haute bourgeois who lived west of Far Hills. One part of the deal was that the Dayton would let Oakwood keep its own school system.. Yet the Dayton and the haute bourgeois was not able to convince Oakwood local government and the petite bourgeois citizenry living east of Far Hills

As an example of petit bourgeois opposition is this statement from a real estate salesman from East Forrer Blvd, who was:

“one hundred percent Oakwood, and if Oakwood (had annexation)… thrust upon it…his home would be for sale and he would move out to Lebanon Pike”

(presumably this meant out to what is now Kettering)

The haute bourgeois was quite cognizant of the snob appeal of Oakwood, and that this would lead to resistance to annexation, as can be seen by this statement from an operating officer of DP&L as to who would oppose annexation:

“..only such people who had moved to Oakwood because they desire the distinction of being Oakwood residents would be opposed…”

So, it appears that Dayton wanted Oakwood, and the Oakwood haute bourgeois wanted Dayton, but both were spurned by the east of Far Hills suburbanites,


Kettering was originally Van Buren Township, the northern boundary was Wayne Avenue in Belmont. Dayton had slowly annexed south of the township line, but the big push came between 1925,and 1930 when the city annexed most of the Belmont plats. This was part of the same push that tried to bring in Oakwood

Interestingly there was apparently no or minimal opposition from the Belmont residents, with the stonewalling coming from the county school board and the county commission, which delayed annexation to 1930..

For some reason Dayton failed to make a push to annex Southern Hills, the two old streetcar suburbs of Carrmont and Berkley Heights. This was a fatal error.

After a hiatus in annexation during the Depression and WWII, Dayton renewed annexation attempts in the late 1940s. At this time the city attempted to annex Southern Hills, as part of a renewed annexation push. Other parts of Van Buren Twp were to be brought in as well.
Southern Hills had a neighborhood association, which mobilized to fight annexation. They brought in a consultant to advise on incorporating as a suburb. The consultant recommended incorporating not just Southern Hills, but ALL of Van Buren Township.

This was pretty radical, as it would have brought in disparate suburban areas like the industrial suburb of Moraine City, the estate country along Southern Boulevard, the plats out Far Hills to Stroop, Greenmont Village mutual homes, and rural areas of south and east Van Buren Township.

The Southern Hills activists went ahead and pushed through township incorporation, naming their new suburb after the township's most famous resident. But in response three de-annexation referendums went to ballot.

1. A move to de-annex Moraine City, the industrial,working class suburb.

2. move to de-annex the mid section of the township, the estate country along Far Hills and Southern Boulevard. This was led, I think, by residents in Castle Hills.

3. A move to de-annex the rural eastern third of the township out Wilmington Pike. This was led by a township trustee from that area.

Only one of these referenda succeeded, leading to the formation of Moraine as a separate suburb. The balance of Van Buren Township became Kettering, preventing Dayton (and Oakwood) from annexing to the south.

The Kettering incorporation also set a precedent for the postwar era. Two other township incorporations in reaction to city annexation attempts were Wayne Township---> Huber Heights and Mad River Township--->Riverside (though that was a township/village merger).

So there was no real basis for this urban legend. It seems, though, that Dayton, up to the postwar era, paced its annexations with urban growth, annexing areas that had been subdivided or had seen some degree of housing development, vs. open farm country. Maybe the legend arose because some farm areas wanted to be annexed?

An interesting question, though, is why Belmont didn't resist annexation when Southern Hills did. It seems there was a change in attitude in suburbanites after WWII,, perhaps due to Oakwood providing a model for suburban exclusivity.

Sources for this post were:

Suburban Stockade on the Urban Frontier, by Paul G Merriam (in the 1990 edition of Montgomery County History)

Dayton in the 20th Century, by Tom Dunham

A History of Van Buren Township and Kettering, Ohio, by Harold E Amli.


Foreverglow said...

Is there chance of annexing any land ever again? Riverside seems like it would be a good choice.

Jefferey said...

Mad River Township merged with Riverside to avoid annexation, so they are one of the least likely prospects.

I don't think Dayton will annex any more.

Admin said...

"I don't think Dayton will annex any more"

Except possibly portions of Jefferson Township and additional land near the airport.

Alan said...

"I don't think Dayton will annex any more"

If the residency rule survives in any form, they will still annex some individual properties in the Sunnyview/Catalpa neighborhood in Harrison Twp. to accommodate city employees. That’s how Joey Williams, prior to his commission race, became a city resident without having to move. At some point I would still expect the City of Dayton to try to pick up additional commercial areas of Harrison Twp.

Admin said...

"I don't think Dayton will annex any more"

There is another alternative to annexation called merger where a whole city could merge with another. That kind of regional thinking could have some benefits.

Jefferey said...

i don't see any city-city mergers involving Dayton, though i can see this perhaps happening with other suburbs, or the city-township merger that we've seen with Riverside and Trotwood and Clayton.

Elaine said...

Too bad we can't all annex to Oakwood, haha.

Nightowldweller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Have heard Dayton and Cincinnati will someday be a twin city. Maybe they will merge.

Anonymous said...

The only likely places that will be possibly annexed into Dayton city limits in the future would be, Parts of Jefferson Twp, Parts of Harrison Twp, Parts of Trotwood that are enclaves of Dayton & parts of Riverside that Dayton COMPLETELY surrounds. Other than those 4 options Dayton will not aneex any more land espically if its incorperted already