Sunday, March 2, 2008

East Dayton Black Communities I: Valley Street & Finley/First Street

Black settlement wasn’t confined to the West Side. Three outlying black communities grew up along the Mad River east of the city.

One formed in the vicinity of the Brownell Boiler Works, at Finley, Springfield, & First intersection another and one formed in the bottomlands between the Mad River and Valley Street. Yet another formed out Springfield Street near the stockyards.

We’ll look the first two and save the Springfield Street community for later

Valley Street Community

Charles Mosley Austin’s church records have a listing for a congregation that formed at the Valley Street settlement for 1920. This area was platted in the 1900s, so presumably blacks moved out here in the first 20 years of the 20th century.

The interesting thing about this fairly remote location is that it was shared by Dayton’s Polish community, who’s own little ethnic settlement was immediately adjacent, but more on Valley Street probably clustered around St Adalbert & Sig’s General Store.

In Midwestern cities it wasn’t unusual for eastern European immigrants to also settle in fringe locations, either as expansions from an in-town port-of-entry community or as sites of first settlement. This happened in Detroit, Chicago, South Bend, and other places. So a good parallel with what was happening with the blacks in the same era.

Its unclear what happened to this congregation. The settlement itself, though very visible concentration on the 1940 housing survey, apparently was removed when Route 4 was built through the area, so there is nothing left to show.

Sachs-Pruden Plat/Finley-First-Springfield Streets Community.

This community might have formed a bit later, as mentions in Peters’ history of Dayton’s black community note Shiloh Baptist congregation forming in the1920s, with the first congregation on Springfield Street near Finley, then moving to a church @ Finley and Pruden on the Sachs- Pruden plat, directly across from the Brownell Boiler Works.

Yet, accoding to the 1940 housing survey, this was not an exclusively black community. Yet one could see the start of black area west of Finley & South of Third, westward towards Tals Corner.

The Sachs-Pruden plat area was platted in the 1880s, around the time the boiler works was built. But by 1919 it was still about half undeveloped. A streetcar loop was routed down through here sometime before 1920, so good transit access into the city came late

By the late 1920s,maybe early 30s, one can see the Sachs-Pruden plat partially developed, but a lot still empty (Erie RR Dayton shops visible at bottom, including a coaling facility; Dayton was a western terminus for the Erie).
The Brownell works still stands today, though heavily modified)

Shiloh Baptist moved to West Dayton 1941, (Sprague Street), which was probably around the time the plat was being turned into factories. In this 1950 Sanborn one can see industrial growth and scrap yards crowding out residential. New factories replace houses, or locate on open land that never saw a house.

This industry-replacing-housing pattern occurred at other locations in Dayton (McCall Printing on the west side is an example) and other Midwest industrial cities, such as Chicago, where industrial expansion replaced the older parts of the Cragin and Hanson Park neighborhoods, among others.

The only non-industrial structure surviving is this corner store. One can compare how vacant the pix looks to the houses lining the side street to the left.

And the old Acme Aluminum Alloy plant on Finley Street: Shiloh Baptist would've been midway down the building.

Industrial development also cleared the area betwen First and Springfield.

Next, a look at the Stockyards community, which did survive into our time.

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