Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nuns & Subdivisions

Dayton’s interurban suburbia is a little-remarked aspect of the urban sprawl story, but it was the first extensive expansion of development beyond the city. Yer humble host will be doing more investigation of these forgotten places.

Dayton had seven interurban rail corridors leading into the city that experienced some degree of subdivision. The strongest examples of interurban lines driving growth extending well beyond the city were to north, along Salem, Main, and North Dixie Drive, and west, along US 35.

An interesting example of how an interurban line might have driven some institutional suburbanization is the Sisters of the Precious Blood convent complex on Salem Avenue.

This local landmark may have been sited here to take advantage of transit out Salem Avenue

The interurban came up Salem (via Fairview Avenue) to points north around the turn of the last century, kicking off subdivision activity. The furthest out plats were the two Fort McKinley plats (was there ever a fort here?), “Albert” (platted by 1910), the “Maplewood Addition”, and Green Meadow.

The Precious Blood convent was located here in 1923, just beyond the outermost cluster of subdivisions, and held a substantial block of property on both sides of Salem

The interurban line up Salem ended sometime in the 1920s (replaced with bus service), and the depression killed real estate activity (houses of the pre-Depression area on these plats can be identified, usually, by their bungalow and four-square style)

The Green Meadow plat did not survive but the others did, having a small collection of houses from the 1920s and 1930s.

During and after the war new construction first infilled vacant lots on the existing plats. By the late 1940s and early 1950s new subdivisions appeared. Brentwood Village on the old Green Meadow plat was probably the first of the postwar plats. By 1956 the undeveloped property between the prewar interurban plats & Salem Avenue and the Precious Blood land was filling in with subdivisions.

And the situation today. The convent had sold off most of its holdings (the first to go was the 1948 establishment of the Precious Blood across Salem from the convent), including a subdivision just north of Free Pike.

Today a portion of the convent is now a nursing home (Maria-Joseph).

Another view of the red brick convent with church towers, now the Maria-Joseph nursing home (the sanctuary is open to the public, though).

The present day convent:

(I’m not sure about the relationship between the two buildings, or which was built first)

Early 20th century suburban Catholic stuff is probably pretty common in cities with big Catholic communities. A good example of this (akin to Precious Blood) is Techny, in the north suburbs of Chicago.

And interurban suburbia might be an interesting development approach to follow as it is the ancestor of Peter Calthorpes “Transit Oriented Development” model. Though these plats predate widespread use of the auto the people who first moved out here in the 1920s probably did have cars and commuted with them.


Anonymous said...

The sandy brick building was originally the nursing home and the larger red brick was the convent. At some point the roles were reversed. My grandfather moved to Dayton from Mercer County during the depression for work and was the groundskeeper/maintenance man there when he and my grandmother were married. She came to Dayton to work at a biscuit factory and boarded with a family on Illinois Avenue. When my mom was born in 1938 they moved back north to farm. Several of my great aunts were Precious Blood Sisters who left the farms when they 14 or 15 to join the order. They were some pretty amazing ladies.

Admin said...

Jeffery - I shared this post with some of the nuns (yes they have email too!) and they wanted you to know how much they appreciated your write up. They send a big thank you!