Friday, December 12, 2008

Beavecreek: How It Grew

Beavercreek! Dayton's Orange County. With all the interest, almost obession, in the local blogosphere over developments "south" (i.e Austin Road and Warren County) the real development story is negletcted. And that story is in Greene County, in Beavercreek and Sugarcreek/Bellbrook.

So what is Beavercreek anyway?

Well, its a city (without city income tax, a real selling point) and a township. But it's mostly a centerless urban sprawl occuring east of the Montgomery County line, mostly east of the I-675 bypass....

Or it seems at first glance. But there is ..well not exactley a method to the sprawly madness, but maybe a bit of structure. Lets take a look....

Early Beavercreek

Pre-suburban Beavercreek with its grid of country roads and rural villages. One wonders how long they spoke German in New Germany, a name nearly lost to us now that New Germany Road has become Pentagon Parkway. One of these, Alpha, is actually somewhat intact and rather quaint. It was the site of the first Greene County court, before Xenia became county seat.

The main transport arteries w the Dayton-Xenia Road, cut through before the War of 1812, later a turnpike, then the Dayton, Xenia, and Belpre railroad of the 1850s (which never got past Jamestown), later part of the Pennsylvania System.

By the early 1900s the pull of Dayton was felt stronger due to two competing interurban railroads passing through on their way to Xenia. One, the D-X, survived into the 1930s. Oddly enough the one with the most direct connection into Dayton, the Xenia Rapid Transit, failed early. I think the D-X had a profitable streetcar service in Dayton proper, which caused it to survive longer.

Perhaps the interurbans stimulated some consideration of suburban living out here, or maybe it was paved roads leading people to drive east out of Dayton, but by 1940 there was already subdivision activity, and construction, in Beaver Creek Township. This map shows what was actually developed by the mid 1940s, but I think platting might have extended beyond what's shown here.

The subdivision shown here are additions to Alpha and the first sections of Knollwood

Postwar Development

By 1952 we see a cluster of subdivisions in the northern half of Beavercreek, growing up around Knollwood and the Zimmerman area. This was a mix of wartime and early postwar growth.

Though rail transit to Xenia ended in 1940, the D-X or its sucessor maintained frequent bus service (over 20 runs per weekday) through the area between Dayton/Xenia. Pardoxically a less populated 1940s/early 50s Beavercreek was better served by transit than the modern boomburb.

As one can see from this 1952 Dayton planning map (demonstrating an early reach toward regional thinking), Wright Field was close by as a possible employment center. What's also interesting is how the old State Hospital Farm, "Bergamo" and a country club sort of acted as a barrier between Beavercreek and Dayton, with Linden-Dayton/Xenia Pike being the main artery into the city (though one suspects Kemp Road might have been used, too)

Beavercreek might have been an early suburban extention of Dayton's eastward growth.

By 1960 platting continued, but one can see how the county line did form sort of a barrier.
This was partly due to the lack of utilities. Though this appears to be a growing suburban area there was no centralized water or sewer systems. Yes, houses in Beavercreek had private water wells on the same lot as spetic tank leach fields, unless there was a private "plat water system" for a specific subdivision.

By 1960, the US 35 expressway (really a quasi-expressway) was built between Xenia and near the county line, relieving traffic on Dayton-Xenia Road. There was still bus service though the area to Xenia during this era.

Recall in the I-675 history posts there was an argument of an "immediate need" for a highway to Indian Ripple in the early 1960s. Well, this was maybe in perperation for development as Beavercreek really didn't have the infrastructure in place for intensive suburbanization yet.

The central part of Beavercreek was first sewerd in the mid 1960s. In 1965 the I-675 alignment was set, and in the early 1970s the state disposed of the State Hospital Farm, which became the Miami Valley Research Park. There was a proposal for a centralized, community wide water in system in the late 1960s but this was opposed. Private wells and plat water systems continued to be the source of potable water into the 1970s.

In the 1960s US 35 was finally cut through Dayton to US 75, giving Beavercreek indirect access to the interstate system.

Plat water systems worked until the 1970s, when overdrafts were causing wells to go dry. After 1975 Beavercreek finally began to install a centralized water system, laying the last foundation stone for signifigant suburban sprawl.

The I-675 Era

With water and sewer in place and I-675 finally approved and under construction (open in 1987) Beavercreek was poised for a boom, which was already underway by 1988.

The boom continued into the 1990s and 2000s. Beavercreek became a small version of boomburbs and edge cities found all around the the US during this era. The northern part of the suburb filled in, and development jumped the Beaver Creek and Little Miami valleys to the east.

By 2005 Beavercreek had developed into a New Kettering, replacing that older suburbs role as the brave new world for the Dayton region. The county line/I-675 axis became a psychological barrier as there was nearly no reason to travel beyond it.


Becuase by 2005 Beavercreek was self-sufficient. No longer just a bedroom community, Beavercreek had signifigant employment centers at Research Park and in the new Fairfield Commons/Colonel Glenn edge city. Shopping was available in this area (Fairfield Commons Mall) and in The Greene, which is developing office space, too.

Perhaps Indian Ripple will be the next hot commercial corridor. Or maybe the car dealer strip of US 35 toward Xenia.

It is perfectly possible to work, live, shop, worship, and play in Beavercreek without ever having to cross west over the county line.

What's also noticeable on the map, though, are the blocks of open space, like the one along Kemp Road between Grange Hall and I-675.

Or this one along Indian Ripple. The iconic rural landscape: red barn, cornfields, cows, a country graveyard with the tombstones of pioneer settlers, and forest in the background, set in a broad valley.

What you don't see or know is the subdivision beyond the trees, or the one behind the camera lens. Or the planned unit development zoning on the farmland beyond the cemetary, or the highway relocated to improve traffic flow.

So that pix is sort of the blue pill for those who want to believe the bright and shining lie that Beavercreek is still in "the country" , or close to it (with all the attendant cultural baggage). The cold fact is that this area is on the cutting edge of globalism and technology due to its connections with the defense community, and a key player as a job and retail center in the Dayton regional economy.

Today's Beavercreek draws in commuters and shoppers as much as provides them.

1 comment:

Brad Bowman said...

I love what you are doing on this blog. I am writing a story that takes place from the 1920s up through around 1995 and your blog helped me correct some errors.

I also am a history buff and really enjoy getting to know about the history of the area in which I live. Keep up the good work.