Monday, January 26, 2009

Building Subsitution on South Ludlow Street.

Ludlow is the the most "streetlike" street left downtown, particularly south of Third. The street was residential throughout the 19th century but became an westward through the activities of The Estate of Adam Schantz (and associates of the Schantz interests) during the first two decades of the 2oth century. So there is a sort of consistency to the architecture here. Buildings were replaced and altered, but these moves mostly held the street line.

Since there is a concentration of terra cotta facades the intersection of Ludlow and Fifth is called the Terra Cotta District.

The before and after pix are all keyed to this building removals map, which is small so you might have to click on it to enlarge.

Fourth and Ludlow

First group. The Metropolitan eventually relocated to Main Street, but the storefront remained active in the early 2000s.
All the buildings in the above pix survive today, but wrapped in plastic. Plastic in this case being a "exterior finisih and insulation system". A cladding technology imported from Europe in the late 1970s, which would date the renovation to the early 1980s?
There is a sort of form follows function concept here, as there is one big tenant that did the renovation: Reynolds & Reynolds. This was their corporate headquarters until they moved to suburbia in the early 2000s and sold the buildings to the school board.

Though R&R was here, the ground floor corner store was Wilkies' bookstore until the school board evicted the store and blanked-out the storefront.


A true Dayton original, the oldest bookstore in Ohio was really more of a very enhanced magazine stand. They carried books, and a lot of deep discount remainderd ones, but the attraction was the wall of magazines of all sorts, including obscure things like German Liebesroman, English street-style fashion mags, all sorts of hobbyist stuff, and even a porn section discretely located at the rear of the store.

And the newspapers. A long row of blue-painted wood bins with the Sunday papers of every major metro area in the US. Including the San Franisco Chronicle/Examiner and the Sacramento Bee. Yer humble host, homesick for Califas, used to buy these papers here every week for awhile.


Vaudeville! So said the big sign on the corner. This big white building (terra cotta facade?) across the street from the Metropolitan was Keith's Theatre, but the theatre itself was buried in a multi-use office and retail building. Before that there was a Methodist church, an apartment building, and some old frame houses on the site.

Behind the camera, on Ludlow and closer to Main, was the Schwind Hotel which was a favorite for vaudeville and theatrical performers. Among the guests was Laurel and Hardy.

Keith was replaced in the late 1960s by the Grant-Deneau Tower and its parking garage annex, renamed the Miami Valley Tower in the 1970's and renamed again 40 West 4th in the 2000's. Pretty deadly street wall that once was livened up a bit by the DVAC art gallery (now on north Jefferson).

Fifth and Ludlow

The northeast corner was yet another theatre, the Colony or Colonial, which looks like a big jewel box. But one can see the fire escape from the balcony level on the side.

Replaced by this Lutheran church. Why a downtown church is anyones guess as there hasn't been much residential in the area aside from some subsidized housing to the west on Fifth.

Next door to the Colony (the blank wall of the stage fly in the background) on the north side of Fifth was the gaggle of buildings, including the Savoy Hotel (Fireproof). We are a block from Union Station, so perhaps one of a collection of railroad hotels that sprang up in the area (including the large Holden, now subsidized housing).

But the atmosphere here is more skid row (the true skid row was along the railroad on 6th, but probably included this area too): cheap rooms, pool halls, lunch counters, and the Sally just up the street.

Skid row no more. Nearly the entire block has been leveled.

Also on Fifth, but kittycorner from the Colony, was this collection. All these except the corner building are gone. A good example of building substitution as houses are replaced by commercial buildings.

Today the two houses have been replaced by what is today the Old Spaghetti Warehouse. The pool hall was modernized (maybe) or replaced and is now a barbers college. The Spaghetti Warhouse, Spaghouse for short, is one of only three restaurants downtown open after business hours and on weekends. The place also has a connection with the local gay community via the Friends of the Italian Opera dinner circle, who have been dining here every Tuesday for the past 20 years.

The corner building has some signifigance to labor history as it was the center of Daytons trade union movement, with multiple unions having their offices in the upper floors. Ground floor was the home of the Living City Project, sort of a storefront gallery/studio/meeting place during the late 1980s/early 1990s, evangelizing for urbanism and downtown revival. Today it's Seattle East coffee shop.

The northeast corner, across from the Spaghetti Warehouse, is really two buildings. The Ludlow Building on the corner (made to look like three buildings) and the Wurlizter Building further down the street.

The Wurlitzer (to the left) is more visible in the modern pix.

All these buildings were renovated in 1994-1996 for Reynolds & Reynolds training center and offices ($5.2M, or $100/Sf in then-year prices). This is one of the best examples of urban renovation downtown, and is a model on how to develop an urban "campus" of different buildings (recall R&R's headquarters was across the street) for one occupant.

Unfortunatly R&R was also expanding in the sbururbs, and decided for the suburban option in the early 2000's, vacating their Ludlow campus and selling the property to the school board.

Before Reynolds and Reynolds

Between, say, 1989 and 1994 this group of buildings was some of the last of old-school downtown. The Wurlizter Building had Marx dancewear and a photography studio/gallery that specialized in dance photography. Marx eventually relocated to Washtington Township. Upstairs was a big dance studio. The corner was a downtown drugstore. But not any old drugstore. This one sold things like dreambooks and voodoo-esque potions as well as the usuall drugstore things.

Then, around the corner to the right (across the street from the Spaghouse) was Changes gay bar, which has the distinction of being the fist Dayton gay bar visited by yer humble host. In the 1970s(?) the space was a live music place that I've been told was a precursor to Canal Street Tavern. Then two drag queens took over and wanted to turn it into a drag show bar, but were stymied by the Lutheran church on the corner.

Finally the place became Changes, a sort of street-queen bar in the spirit of 5th Streets' skid row past. Yet it wasn't really that divey. It had a postage stamp sized stage and dancefloor and the most pathetic light system you ever saw (yes, it had a glitter ball). There was big skylight at the rear, under which one could get enough light to read the San Fran Sunday paper one just bought at Wilkies, before crossing the street for dinner at the Spaghouse.

Changes had more than a clientele relationship with the Spaghetti Warehouse across the street as some of the waitstaff also tended bar and did drag at Changes.

When R&R took over and closed the street level businesses Changes was partially relocated as the Wright Corner (east Third Street "Merchants Row"), physically relocated as parts of the old bar were actually taken out and reinstalled in the new space.

Too Much Information?

I can see readers asking themselves "why is this guy bothering with all this homo stuff"" Well, don't look at it thatway. Look at it as a way of "using" downtown or inhabiting the city. A practice which, if one sticks around long enough, will develop a layer of memory and association which gives a place more depth and a history which is personal not just read in books and articles.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Thanks for keeping some history of Dayton alive.