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.


Anonymous said...

I believe you did a posting on annexation in the first half of the last century. I remember seeing an old annexation map of Dayton once that showed much of the area we now refer to as Belmont being unincorporated until 1930. You mentioned that the Belmont folks put up little resistance as compared to the folks from Oakwood and Southern Hills. (Another discussion entirely) What would have been very interesting is if the area in old Belmont, extending east from the State Hospital to the county line near the State Farm and then north to the Base with the Burkhardt hill (Smithville or maybe a little father west like Garland) as the divider, had fought hard against annexation and did what Southern Hills did in the 1930's 40's & 50's. Would we have a Kettering type suburb in East Montgomery County that would have predated today’s Goliath, Beavercreek? This Belmont/Mad River City would have been a home to Base workers and support services as well as commerce related to it. It seems that only recently, and even now sparingly, area people are, in a large way, hitching their wagons to Wright-Patt. I know that unincorporated land sat at Dayton's doorstep in Mad River Township along Linden Ave and north on Spinning to Wright-Patt’s doorstep for decades. The City of Riverside came to be only 13 years ago. I wonder how different things would be if the East Side had fought for their own city and schools in Belmont and Mad River Township.

Jefferey said...

The reason Kettering is so big is that a consultant recommended that Southern Hills incorporate the entire township, which was opposed by other parts of Van Buren Township. One part, Moraine, won the battle to seperate.

In the case of Belmont, in 1930, most likely just the built up part of Belmont would have incorporated, and then maybe annexed out. You would have had something like Lakewood and Cleveland Heights, or Berwyn and Cicreo up in Chicago..a mostly older suburb with a real downtown (at Smithville & Watervliet).