Sunday, November 30, 2008

East Dayton's Oldest: Heirloom Houses at Linden & Huffman

We saw how James Findlays' estate subdivided East Dayton, laying out the land surveys the gave form to the modern east side.

Actual buildings on the land were few, though, since this wasn't pioneer land claims but a speculation. One can see, however, from the 1850's map how property was already being sold off in bits, as there are three owners shown on this map for the claims bisected by what was to become Linden Avenue (no east 3rd beyond Tals Corner yet).

One of the properties is labeled Widow Newcom, so this would be on the southwest quarter section of Section 28; Newcom property shown in the 1805 tax duplicate.

Early Huffman Avenue (at that time a country lane running east of the end of 5th Street) also appears.

One sees four houses with three owners listed: Vorhee, William Jennison, and Eichelberger.

As we've seen the land was first subdivided in 1854. fifteen years later the Titus map gives some detail, showing structures and property lines approximating the owners shown in the 1850 map. One can conjecture that these were the some of the first structures on the Findlay properties.

Though its notable that one structure is not shown. This building may have been ommitted, or the 1850s map, which is not that accurate, may be showing a structure further east on Huffman Avenue, east of the north-south section line (which marked the start of Newcom property to the east).

From a 1930 plat book one can fairly closely trace out the orginal lot lines, which have been re-subdivided. One can see slightly larger lots were some of the original houses were at.

William Jennison house

The 1898 Sanborn does show two large houses approximating the location of the Jennison house shown on the 1850s map.

Enlarging the Sanborn we see this was a brick house with the long side parallel to the street. There is a characterstic L shape of the antebellum I-house housform buried in plan (shaded in red) which may have been the original house. The map shows this as a double, so perhaps the house was converted and additions added, to make it two family. Or it may have been a double to start with.

Absent photographic evidenc we'll never know as this house is lost to us.

Eichelberger House

A well known name in the Dayton area as there is an Eichelberger Shopping Center in Kettering, and an Eichelberger was the first city manager of Dayton.

One can see the pie-shaped large lot on this 1898 Sanborn, with a fire station as a next door neighbor. Another old house of unknown age is further down the street. Presumably this was built shortly after 1869 or was not shown on the 1869 map for some reason.

As with the Jennison house, the Eichelberger house has a L shape, really a U shape, but perhaps the house was built in increments. Note that the unknown age house is built out to the lot line, similar to older houses appearing in old downtown photos and occasionally in the neighborhoods.

The two houses in a modern birds eye view.
And an enlargment of the Eichelberger house, showing the I House houseform, gable end perpendicular to the street. The two rear wings have been filled in, though.

On the ground at the intersection of Linden and Huffman, a rare survivor of antebellum Dayton, dating to 1851 at the latest.

...and a close-up, showing the side chimneys/fireplaces, central hall entry. There is also a raised lawn (with a low limestone watertable) and wrought-iron fence and gate. The wrought iron uprights at the porch? A later addition no-doubt.

Just beautiful. It would be a crime if this house was lost, not just because it is one of the oldest houses in East Dayton, but because the porportions are so good. This is excellent classical facade composition.

Down the street, the little brother. The zero lot line siting could easily fit this house in Springboro or Centerville villages, or Germantown. Again, age uncertain, but it is one of the first houses on this block per the 1898 Sanborn.

Though the Eichelberger house, certainly, was built well outside the city when new it's uncertain if it was a farm house or just a country house for a city person, or even an inn of some sort as it was near the end of the Xenia turnpike (Linden Avenue), just past one of the last tollgates. We also know that some inns near the public market downtown had a U shape like this house.

We do know that since it sat on the Findlay property it was not the house of a pioneer settler or early farmer in what is now East Dayton. We will turn to some of these early farm houses houses next.

Scaling Up Retail on Smithville Road: Growing the Grocery

The Smithville Road post leads to this typological comparison, showing how the grocery store type scaled up during the course of the 20th century

First, the four surviving structures in the study area known to be grocery stores and their aerial photographs

..converting the aerials to black plans, to better abstract the square footage

Finally a size comparison. If the square footage would be known we could say one 1970s Kroger = X pre-1930 corner stores, or Y 1949s supermarkets equals one Kroger.

Looking at it this way one can see how modern retail simply doesn't fit very well into an older urban fabric. And we are not looking at the parking and loading dock pavement footprint, either.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Origins of East Dayton's Property Divisions/Street Plan

I've always wondered about why the streets in East Dayton run at an angle. I know that Dayton and it's outlots do this, becuase the original town plat was oriented to the river, with drove the street system. And since everything south to Stewart and east to Tals Corner was part of the Cooper pre-emption the streets and property could be laid out as however the landowner wanted.

But outside of the pre-emption one would expect the rectangular coordinate system established by the Land Ordnance of 1785 would govern. In most of the rest of the city it does. In East Dayton and the adjacent Mad River bottoms it does not. And here's my guess why.

Looking at this very rough early 1850s map, pretty much the first somewhat good map of Montgomery County, we seed the countryside of Mad River Township just east of Dayton. And we see a lot of property marked 'James Finleys heirs". No property lines, though, except for the section lines from the 1802 Between the Miamis' Survey.

The J. Findley was James Findlay of Cincinnati. Findlay was in the Ohio Militia, rising to rank of general, served in Congress, and was Cincinnati's second mayor. Based on research in early history and land holdings, the above map, and knowing the sections and quarter and half sections one can surmise Findlay owned a sizable block of property, over 1 & 1/4 sections (over 800 acres) of land immediatly to the east of the Cooper pre-emption, AKA the town of Dayton. And this was not his only holding as he apparently owned the quarter section atop todays Huffman Hill.

Here is my conjecture on his property, over the 1869 Titus map, the first to show property lines for the county.

What's interesting is that Findlay didn't own the land immediatley after the 1802 survey. He was one of the agents of the Federal land office in Cincinnati, so was involved in the sale of the land around Dayton, yet his property shows as vacant (or at least no tax payed) in the 1805 tax duplicate. This is particularly interesting since the land was surrounded by other property owners even in 1805.

Did he somehow keep this acreage out of play while a land agent, buying the land himself sometime after 1805, as a very promising real estate speculation?

Subdividing the Findlay Lands

Findlay died in 1835. His heirs or estate held the property intact, with pehaps minor sales along the Xenia and Springfield roads based on the 1850 map, a small parcel for a schoolhouse, and right-of-ways for railroads and a hydraulic race.

However, in 1854, the estate subdivided the property.

They didn't subdivide it into town lots, at least not all of it. Most of it was split up into large lots, perhaps to be sold to speculators, perhaps to be used a market farming, perhaps both.

The land was subdivided in 1854. In 1856 the property closest to Dayton was subdivided yet again, into town lots, by Huffman & Craighead. Presumably the close-in parcels were bought up pretty quick when they came on the market. This property was to become the modern Huffman Historic District. But it also means the original land subdivision by Findlays' heirs is obscured (perhaps the original survey map is in the county archives?).

Findlay's heirs didn't subdivide the property using the rectangular coordinate system (except for the land north of the Mad River). They based their surveys off the original Dayton out-lot system, projecting the outlot streets and property lines eastward across two quarter sections to the eastern end of their property. These became the basis of perpendicular survey lines running north-northwest, intersecting a hydraulic canal, the Springfield road, and a railroad.

Some other observations on the map, including the somewhat larger lot sizes in the Mad River bottoms.

The Findlay subdivision lands would eventually be bought up by speculators and resubdivided into town lots (quite a bit during the 1880s boom) being mostly platted by 1895. The end result was todays East Dayton.

As one can see from the above map that this property could easily have been developed differently as adjacent plats do follow the rectangular coordinate system. But the geometry of the site, bisected with diagonal transporation routes and watercourses might have led to the decision to use a survey approach less in conflict with pre-existing conditions.

In any case, a good illustration of an almost metes and bounds survey within the framework of the rectangular coordinate system of 1785

Smithville Rd in Eastern Hills: City to Suburban Retail

Investigating the evolution of retail on Smithville Road, which, as we saw in the posts below, was a particularly busy street in the early postwar era.

Smithville & Huffman: Streetcar Suburbia's Business Corner

The story starts well before WWII, though. The key intersection is Smithville and Huffman. Between 1895 and 1901 the 5th Stret car line was extended up Huffman to the top of Huffman Hill, looping at Smithville & Huffman. Shortly thereafter, in 1906, the East Park plat was subdivided east of Smithville, as the furthest east suburb of the city at the time.

As East Park and adjacent areas underwent build-out a business corner developed around the trolley loop.

The 1932 Sanborn shows a small collection of buisnesses, including an old style gas station.

The businesses were basic neighborhood services. The criss-cross directory lists two groceries, a hardware store, cleaners and shoe repair, a drug store, and some things we don't see anymore; a malt shop (soda fountain?) and confectionary (candy store?).

By 1955 things change a bit. There was even more buisness buildings (one built in the late 1930s and two built later), but some vacancy too. One also sees some things like bars and a TV sales & service place. There is still a bar and an appliance place here today.

What it looks like. We have a mix of one story commrecial blocks and one story adds to two story houses. This is the northeast corner, directly across the street from the old streetcar loop (off pix to the right), showing as a hardware store on the corner in 1955

Moving down the block, this is now an appliance place, but had a variety of uses, including the "Loop Cafe", referencing the transit connection. There was also a Loop Cocktail Lounge in Dayton View.

Passing by the alley, this was perhaps the first store on the site. The Dairy Bar sounds like it might have been an ice cream parlor or soda fountain. Pretty cool to have had that around!

Across the street is this big four-square with a shop tacked on front. By the style one can tell it's modern, and it was built after the 1950s. But there was an early storefront or business activity at the site; cleaners, shoe repair, barber, etc. It's interesting that these little tack-on stores were happening as late as the later 1950s, without parking.

In 1955 the building there was a branch of Pantorium Cleaners, still in buisness on Salem across from Good Sam. Today this storefront is either a barber or beauty shop .

On the southwest corner (this birdseye looks south on Smithville), across Smithville from the former trolley loop, is a gas station with a sort of zippy 1960s design, but before that there was even more business action.

In 1932 there was one of the many Kroger groceries, plus a few more local business, including the inevtible corner drug store, which in this case was really on the corner, not set back behind a parking lot (Hello South Park?). Note the rear parking associated with early postwar commercial buildings
By 1955 the uses change and we get the "Overlook Bar" (since Huffman Avenue is locally famous for its great views over the city), a different grocery, and a corner drug store still.

The massing in transparent white, since there are no known (to me) images of the block. One can guess that since this was all one story it might have looked like this surviving business block across from the another former streetcar loop, this one Salem at Catalpa. Pedestrian friendly storefronts (despite the roller doors) .

Postwar business block buildouts. These went on the vacant lots on Huffman, visible in the 1932 Sanborn. Typologicially, these structures represent a sort of carryover of prewar ways of building, but in the functionlist modern style.

Perhaps the convivial spirit of the Overlook Bar (at least we can assume it was) carrys on at Roys Place, the former cleaners.

Just two doors down, past the Dayton-style bungalows, on the northeast corner is this relic. What makes this building interesting is that it was one of the very last of its kind. A one story business block built right up to the sidewalk, oriented to the pedestrian, with no parking, dating from between 1932 and 1938.

It was built as a grocery, which must have been sucessfull as the store took over a part of the next door commercial block a bit up the street for storage. After Kroger on Huffman left the store moved kittycorner across and down the street into the former Kroger building.

The Last Corner Store

Since East Park was a fairly old plat, one sees' the carryover of 19th century concepts, like corner store retail. This store was a grocery in 1938 and in 1955. Not sure when it closed. It was one block to the east on Huffman from the trolley loop. It's the "last" because we a nearly at the end of the pre-Depression/WWII city, just a few blocks from the start of suburbia, where there are no corner stores (in this walkable form).

Overlook Homes: The First Shopping Center?

North on Smithville a few blocks, past the 3rd Street/Airway Rd intersection, is Overlook Homes, the big wartime emergency housing project that was converted into mutual ownership. Associated with overlook is this structure, which I had always thought was some sort of school or daycare center.

It turns out this was a very early strip center. As a purpose-built multi-store structure with associated parking it might be the the first of its kind in Dayton, predating Miracle Lane.

One wonders if the "General Store" was an early variety store. A notable feature is the parking. It's there, but the site planning isn't anything like postwar strip centers. The street front is developed as a lawn and sidewalks instead.

Not shown is the entry to the A&P, which is at the corner of the building, copying older urban precedents where corner entries are usually emphasised .

But this is a premonition of what was to come after the war.

Apex Supermarket; Postwar Proto-Big Box

Better known as a broadcasting school, this structure is on the southeast corner of Smithville and 3rd/Airway. The intersection had two gas stations and a gravestone company before getting Apex, which was a stand-alone supermarket, not a chain (Apex, the top, probably, for the geographical location at the top of the 3rd Street hill)

Apex also had a bakery, either in store, or in the lower rear. Apex was an early example of a freestanding store at a larger scale than before, with parking. Maybe a proto-big-box of the 1940s?

Yet the Apex building wasn't quite there yet, as it still held to the sidewalk, apparently had windows, and still had the old fashioned corner entry. An evolutionary design, moving to the big box typology, but still clinging to some prewar pedestrian-oriented store design features.

Pinewood Center

Fast forward, way forward 30 years or more to the 1970s. The transition to modern neighborhood retail is complete. The concept at Overlook, the purpose-built multi-tenant retail structure with parking, and Apex, the larger scale supermarket with parking, have been combined, rationalized, and pumped up in scale (and especially in parking)

Pinewood, just south of Huffman and Smithville, is a covnentional strip center, anchored by a Kroger, but with a collection of other stores, too. In fact there are more stores and personal service things here then there ever was at the older shopping areas on Smithville.

But this is 1970s or 80s modern. We are not at state-of-the-art supercenter scale.

Smithville Road: From Streetcar to Car

A quick overview of what we've seen. Smithville is just one street were the shift to automobile suburbia can be traced. North Main and Salem are also good case studies. I think one of the discoveries is not necessarily the change of retail form responding to transportation modes (streetcars and foot traffic to automobile), but the change in scale, moving from the corner store, to smaller grocery, to slightly larger early supermarkets, and then up in scale to todays supercenter.

This scale change has some interesting systemic implications. The little stores at Huffman and Smithville wouldn't be viable in modern retail, even if they are walkable, due to systemic changes in distribution, economies of scale, necessity of volume sales and the size of a trading area required to support modern retail. The systems that used to support small scae retail don't exist anymore. This also forces changes in how people use the city. Even if you wanted to you couldn't really walk to the store in this neighborhood.

Yet it's notable that there still is a barber/beauty shop and tavern at Smithville & Huffman, and that used appliance store. So some relevance yet for these little business districts.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Outer East Dayton Suburban Genesis

Suburbia had its genesis in the outer edges of Dayton, where the real estate boom of the Roaring Twenties came to a stop with the onset of the Great Depression, leaving unbuilt and partially built subdivisions. These plats experienced no or desultory construction unit the economy improved with the late 1930s/early 40s war mobilization.

It's in these neighborhoods that we see the change in style from the "historic" city to a more auto-oriented suburbia, as well as a fairly drastic change in housing styles, sort of a visual reminder of the historical break that was the Great Depression/WWII era.

Two maps. The one on the left shows population distribution in 1952, and the one on the right shows areas of population growth. Wright Field is in blue and the State Hospital Farm other open space is shaded in green.

One can see how Smithville Road was a major traffic corridor in the early postwar period , conducting commuter traffic from newley developed areas to Airway Road and then to the base. But there are other routes, like Spinning, an early Woodman Drive, with lateral movement on Linden

But what's interesting here is the framework of the "old city" acting as sort of a matrix or incubator for postwar auto suburbia. Lets take a close look at two study areas, northwest Belmont and Eastern Hills.

Northwest Belmont Plats

This collection of plats between Linden, Wayne, and Smithville was subdivided mostly in the 1920s, and was only partially built-out as indicated by the the 1940 population distribution map on the left. One can see how certain blocks have more population, thus more houses.

The area also appears as a 1932-52 growth zone, as a transitional era from the historic city to the suburban era.

Housing growth from 1938 to 1955, using addresses from the city directories (apartments count as one address, so this graph counts structures, not people). One can see steady growth through the wartime era.

Coming into the study timeframe, the neighborhood as a stock of 1920s and some 1930s bunglows and foursquares, but already site development accomodates the car via driveways (note the maps above don't show alleys in some of the plats), but still with trad touches in terms of window details and especially front porches. But note the "stripped" version, third house from the left, sort of behind the pick-up, which wo

The visual character undergoes considerable change in areas of mobilization/wartime buildouts and early postwar construction, due to the change in architectural style, especially the disappearance of porches. We are starting to get into modern times with this block of cottages;

This cottage style would continue into the early postwar era, but deployed on curvy street/cul-de-sac subdivisions platted after the war ( and overlap with the ranch style that became around 1950 or so)

Eastern Hills Plats.

This area was somewhat underdeveloped vis a vis Belmont, with some large dead plats from the 1920s that would only undergo development in the 1950s (like "Beverly Hills", the curvy street subdivision at the northern edge of the neighborhood).

Comparing the 1940 and 1952 maps one can see some new streets being added and old ones extended. This would continue into the later 1950s. The base of the hills reads clear on the 1940 map, as densley built-up East Dayton pretty much comes to a stop at Garland Avenue. One can again see the alley/no alley contrast as developers begin to abandon the concept in favor of vehicle access by way of a front driveway.

This chart pretty much tells the story; underdevelopment coming in from the 1920s/30s, with more of a postwar construction boom here compared to the Belmont example, particularly in the early 1950s.

A good exampe of how things mix it up in these plats, with a brace of roaring twenties housing and either wartime or postwar styles further down the block.

And an example of how 1940s cottage style modifies into the 1950s version, perhaps simpler detailing and more picture windows, which we also saw in the post on postwar Fairborn.

Next a look at some commerical development along Smithville Road, tracing the change from shopping corner to shopping center.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Walking into the Fall Almanac Picture

The Fall Almanac posts have closed with this pix:

So lets walk into the picture, following the trail deeper into the woods.

There is a big creek on the property, near this trail at times....

....climbing the hill that is sort of visible in the Fall Almanac pic, still snow on the ground from last week....

...side trails branch off from time to time.....

...passing by an old foundation, ridgeline in the distance visible through the trees... opening in the woods....

...leads to this big prairie....

...and return then back through the woods.

One would never guess one is surrounded by developement here.