Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Monument: Good Urban Design

Following up on the Newcom Manor post, here is an aerial showing that building, Monument Avenue (Dayton’s 19th Century social row), and the Soldiers Monument, which is a Civil Ware memorial.

The Monument was erected in 1884, after a lengthy fundraising campaign, which included repeat performances of the “The Drummer Boy of Shiloh” at Turner Opera House (today’s Victoria).

Lichtenberger’s caption :

Excavation for the foundation of the Soldiers Monument at Main Street bridge began on September 19, 1883 and ended on November 22, 1883. Granite for the monument was quarried at Hollowell, Maine. The first carloads arrived on April 19, 1884. The statue of the Union soldier was cut out of white marble in Carrars (sic), Italy. It arrived in Dayton in June 1884. George W. Fair of Dayton was the model for the statue. On Wednesday, July 30, a G. A. R. parade was held. It was estimated that 10,000 persons were on the streets of Dayton that day. The monument was unveiled the next day, Thursday July 31st. It was 85 feet high with the statue accounting for 11 l/2 feet. This photograph, which was taken in 1889, also shows the old iron bridge and the Hose Company

George Fair was a Dayton bricklayer, living most of his life in the neighborhoods west of downtown, between downtown & the Great Miami (now the site of Sinclair and the county government buildings)

After the Monument was dedicated Water Street was renamed Monument Avenue.

With the advent of the automobile the Monument became a bottleneck (back when Main Street had a lot of traffic), so it was relocated in 1948, to a park area across the river.

(pix from Dayton, the Gem City). Good view of the Biltmore Hotel here, and traffic coming across the Main Street Bridge. The Monument was a gateway feature for downtown.

And there it stood, pretty much forgotten, until the late 1980s, when an urban design plan for downtown proposed the relocation back to Main Street, as part of a larger streetscape improvement for Main (more trees and benches and such). This time, the Monument was sited mid block between Monument Avenue and First Street.

The Monument was rededicated in 1991 at the new site, just a few yards from it’s original location.

The design was to site the Monument in a traffic island, necking down traffic to two lanes as it passed the Monument, but broadening again after passing the island. The design is actually a good traffic-calming feature, permitting people to cross to the island, between a row of bollards, where there is some seating and a small plaza south of the Monument.

The raised planting beds provides a sheltered space in the middle of Main, so as to admire the monument and look at the surrounding streetscape.

A view of the Monument and island, looking north. As part of the project the statue of Private Fair was found to be badly damaged by acid rain, and was remade as a bronze casting by a Cincinnati restoration firm

The bollards marking the break in the raised planting beds, and dip in the curb, inviting one to cross the street

The little plaza inside the island, with the planting bed edges developed as benches. This is a neat space, actually fairly sheltered from traffic and somewhat intimate in scale, yet in the very heart of the city.

At the end of the space is one of those pay-telescopes if one wants to look into the windows of the surrounding high-rises. A pretty good view south down main (and one of Dayton’s trolleybuses is visible; since they don’t make them in the US, RTA got new ones from Skoda in the Czech Republic).

An interesting feature is that the planting beds are broke here as well, but the low iron fence prevents walking across the sreet (and a good thing, too, as traffic would start to accelerate at this point due to lanes starting to widen and the venturi effect of the island)

Looking back one has a great view of the Monument, flanked by flagpoles and decorative light globes, reminiscent of City Beautiful era urban design. From further back on Main, the Monument terminates the northward vista up the street, creating a sort of quasi-baroque or neoclassical urban design concept (boulevard vista, termnatd by a monument or arch or public building).

And looking back across Main at the ground floor of the Biltmore., with the street trees and widened sidewalk. The street was slightly widened at the entrance to the Biltmore to permit passenger loading and unloading.

This is a deceptively simple design, but it is quite successful in creating a mix of monumentality and intimacy, as well as being quite successful as a traffic calming feature.

One of the better urban design features in a mostly utilitarian city, and an illustration on how small design moves can still be quality moves, and have a big impact on a cityscape.


Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see if CareSource employees utilize the island to cross Main Street, or if they will cross at the corner. Also, the previous Pvt. Fair monument site is to be the future home of the four monuments on the current Edwin C. Moses bridge, which is to be replaced.

Anonymous said...

You can still see the original Pvt Fair statue at the entrance of the VA Hospital.

A little history trivia: it had rained the night before the unveiling of the original monument, causing the shroud to plaster itself on the column. When the time came to unveil Pvt Fair, the undraping never happened. It took a flag pole climber to straddle the monument to the top(with the approving roar of the crowd) to make the official dedication happen.

Anonymous said...

You must know more about Dayton than God. Please consider doing a thread on Dayton's passenger train station. I remember it still standing in the late 1970s. As far as 20th century US train stations go, it was quite humdrum. Dayton was on the Amtrak service grid for five or so years. I don't remember when it was demolished, only that it is no longer where I picture it as having once stood.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to look for old picture of the Canton Tea Garden restaurant (circa 1927) which was located on 211 Main St., across from the Biltmore. This would place the restaurant about 50 feet south of the current monument location. Would you have any suggestions on how to find such a photo?