Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fairborn as Industrial Suburb

Industrial suburbs are fairly common feature of suburbia, though seldom acknowledged since they don’t fit in with the middle class suburban stereotype. Dayton has three industrial suburbs; West Carrollton, Moraine, and Fairborn. Of these, only Moraine was planned as such. Fairborn is particularly interesting since the industry was military, not civilian, and went away after WWII.

Fairfield and Osborn = Fairborn

Before there was Fairborn there was Fairfield and Osborn. You can still get a feel for the places as the respective towns have their own vibe. Fairfield seems a bit more honky-tonk, Osborn more established. The communities merged in the late 1940s or early 1950s, taking the new name (which actually is pretty clever and sounds good, too).

(For this and other images here, click on the pix and it will enlarge, permtting you to see the details better. )

Both villages were in Bath Township, set in the bottomlands of the Mad River, a historic landscape as this is where the Wright Brothers had their flying field, at an interurban stop to the southeast of Fairfield. Other key features of the landscape was the “narrows”, where the Mad River valley tightened between to high points, one of which was to become the site of a monument to the Wrights, today’s Wright Brothers Hill. The narrows later became the site of Huffman Dam.

Fairfield was founded in the very early 1800s, one of the oldest towns in Greene County, and grew during the turnpike and stagecoach era. A log cabin from 1799 still stands, but what’s remarkable is the small but nice collection of antebellum I-houses near the intersection of the old Dayton-Springfield turnpike and a road to Xenia.

Osborn started in the 1850s, growing around a railroad station on the first railroad to Dayton, named for one of its officers. Osborn became a trading and shipping center for local farmers, drawing trade from Fairfield. Fairfield was without rail connections until the inteurban came, running alongside the turnpike and then through town.

After US entry into WWI, the bottomland of the retention basin to the west of Fairfield was acquired for an Army Air Corps flying field, Wilbur Wright Field (later renamed Patterson Field). Additional land was purchased for a supply depot, the Fairfield Air Depot. This depot helped transform Fairfield and Osborn into an industrial suburb.

The depot was closer to Fairfield, while the flying school was arranged along the rise overlooking the bottoms, which was a grass airfield.

Whats’ notable in these early days was the dependence on railroads. The interurban line ran a spur right into the base, and a “government switch” was run to the depot warehouses from the Big Four railroad (later New York Central).

A view of the flying school barracks showing the interurban spur, with Wright Brothers Hill in the distance

After the 1913 flood and the purchase of land for the Huffman Dam retention basin, the railroad was relocated to the east, out of the basin, and Osborn relocated with it. The entire town moved in-toto to a new town-site next door to Fairfield

This areiel gives a great view of Osborn moving next to Fairfield on it's reloction plat. The interurban line also relocated from Fairfield main street to a private ROW between the two towns.
A notable addition was the Fair View plat, perhaps subdivided in response to housing demand due to the air base, but also perhaps in due to early suburbanization from Dayton, since the interurban was cheap and frequent enough to permit commuting. Cars were also becoming more widespread.

By 1929 Fairfield and Osborn had grown via plats to the north and south of the original towns.

Also by the end of the 1920s the Southwest Portland Cement company opened a big plant just to the east of Osborn. A second cement works, Wabash Cement, would open nearby by 1942.

Though impressive in scale, the cement plant might not have employed many workers.

Next, a closer look at the industry of the industrial suburb.

No comments: