Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Rat Pack Meets Tiki Towers: Grafton Hill in the Sixties

The 1960s, particularly the early though mid 1960s marked an apartment boom in Grafton Hill, perhaps a local reflection of a forgotten “return to the city” trend that was occurring nationwide at the time.

This trend preceded the better-known historic preservation/restoration/gentrification movement to some extent. A modern ironic/nostalgic echo of the era was the lounge/”cocktail nation” pop culture fad of the 1990s (though this fad didn't have a spatial turn)

In Dayton’s case there certainly is architectural evidence that Grafton Hill was a popular place to live during this era, or this location was in demand. If the market wasn’t there nothing would have been built.
The 1960s was the heyday of elevator buildings: mid rises 5 stories or higher. Grafton Hill probably the highest concentration of these buildings in Dayton. These buildings are not cheap to build, so that they were built is yet another indication of a strong market for this neighborhood. The 1960s kick off with Riverview Terrace (1961). Amazingly it still has its original window sash. In terms of design this is sort of "old" looking for 1961, almost a throwback to the 1940s and 50s style. Next comes the Schantz Apartments of 1962. This is the first low-rise of the era, and is one of those long "barracks-style" buildings. I suspect there might have been some decorative lettering or signage on that blank brick wall. But a fair modern composition on the entrance facade(including that chimney as a verticle accent) Next a series of elevator buildings go up on along the river. Townview (1965), is the first postwar Grafton Hill apartment house to have a garage included. Not in Grafton Hill, but just across Salem and part of the same wave of mid-rise construction were two buildings in Jane Reece Terrace, facing downtown. The first, Horizon House (1965) was torn down by 1988 or 89, but Lantern Arms (1966) survives. Neat penthouse with the barrell vault roof. The ironic thing about these riverside apartments is that there was not much of a skyline to look at at that time. The first really tall postwar downtown high rise was the Grant-Deneau Tower which topped off in 1967, after these buildings opened.

Back in Grafton Hill, the two Miamiview towers.
Miamiview South (1965) has or had a pool on the roof. Miamiview North (1966) had either a rooftop penthouse or party room. I think I looked at an apartment here once back in 1988 and was impressed on how big they were. This was a deluxe apartment in its day.

Also in 1966 the Rockwood, on Grand Avenue. This one is actually a fairly good design. Sort of modernist entry treatment (barrel roofs were popular here?), and also custom detailing on the windows. Another building with a basement parking garage.
The last market rate elevator building was the tallest and most deluxe. Park Layne, under construction in 1969 and leasing in 1970, with a pool, doorman, and secured indoor parking. The Sixities also saw a boom in low rise apartments of 1 to 3 stories. On Grand, this duplex is a very correct modern building from 1965. Again the barrel vault canopy detail, but also window styling using horzontal and vertical band windows. Below are two buildings on Superior from 1964. Very basic compared to the Grand Avenue example. On Grafton an interesting set. The first is from 1966, the second, Grafton House, was open in 1967. The second one has a few 1960s touches...white brick, and the facade composition was a bit more modern than the 1966 one. And then this thing from 1966. Either the Superior or the Sher More. But the funky birdsmouth roof, including the lower canopy, are pretty unusual. Note the atrium with decorative stair just visible, and the diamond/lozenge decorative detail in the verticle window panels, and taperd V shaped sidewalk to the front door. On Central, looks like by the same developer, the Regency Windsor (1966) at Central and Plymouth and Regency (1965)(which apparently has or had basement parking).

The sidewalk to the entrance was laid out on a sort of curve. The old Meridian of 1951 is visible in the background
Moving into the later 1960s one starts to see revival styles. The Sher-May (1967) on Grand is almost suburban, with the speckled brick and faux mansard roof. And the one story "motel" building on Federal (now vacant)is sort of a take-off on cape-cod/colonial style. Don't have an age on that one. As far as I can tell the last of the market rate low rises in Grafton Hill was colonial revival Overton Manor of 1968. This building replaced, I think, some four plexes, which themselves replaced old mansions, like the one next door.

The deep and sometimes wide lots on Central were ideal for apartment house the case of Overton Manor this permitted a circular drive to the portico entrance.
The last multifamily construction was, I think, subsidized. The Metropolitan (1971). The city directory listed a DMHA district office in the lobby, so this might be a housing project of some sort. If so it's one of three mid-rise projects in the city. The last mid-rise (9 stories) in Grafton Hill was 465 Grand (1973)(senior housing?). In the forground the low-rise Grand Rock(1965). That name reminds me of the Eden Roc, one of those faux luxe Morris Lapidus hotels in Miami Beach. Looking at the Grand Rock facade, one can see it is a variant of the aparment we saw on Grafton upthread. Speculating on Grafton Hill

I dated these building mostly from city directories. So the dates I give are when the buildings were occupied. Prior to this was a four phase process:
1. Financing

2. Land aquistion
3. Demolition and construction

4. Leasing

I show a two year timeline for the buildings just to get a feel for the activity in the neighborhood, but its pretty obvious there was a real bubble or boom here in the 1964-1966 years, maybe starting earlier , in 1963.

The question I still have is “why?”

Why this neighborhood? Why was there a market for apartment living in Grafton Hill? Who built the aparments? And why was it like to live there? Who lived there?
Did the local medial take notice of the apartment boom? I

It would be interesting to hear from people who were around during the 1960s and remember this neighborhood, or lived there.

End of the Apartment Era and the Present Day

According to a 1970s rental market study for the predecessor project to “The Landing” the apartment market collapsed in Grafton Hill in the late 1960s due to white flight. The study noted the Park Layne was an anomaly as it started to lease after the market collapse.

I suspect changing lifestyle trends and a localized apartment glut might have played as much a part as racial change. A lot of units went on the market here in a short period of time.

Also, the 1970 census has this tract at 5% to 9% black, so white flight hadn’t occurred in a big way yet. This did happened in the 1970s, when the tract went to 50%-75% black in 1980.

Since 1973 there have been some demolitions in the neighborhood, as some of the apartments (and maybe older houses too) have been removed, particularly on Central.

The last we’ve heard for Grafton Hill was a proposal to reconstruct some of the old mansions on Central, and that new high rise on Riverview & Central

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