Sunday, April 19, 2009

Oregon as Urban Blight /Dover Block

Occasionally one comes across images that makes one realize how much as been lost in Dayton and that the city is almost not worth saving, from an urban design and historic preservation point of view.

This image appeared in the early 1950s Harlan Bartholomew master plan. It pretty much reflected the local planning and housing officials opinion of the Oregon and adjacent Haymarket districts, that it was a "blighted area" requiring slum clearance.

For us modern viewers it is a fascinating record in detail (as much detail, that is, that can be ascertained from aerial photography) of this part of the city. The modern Trolley Stop is shown for reference.
(click on the image to enlarge)

One gets a tantalizing glimpse of the a portion of the old Haymarket, which looks here like the double of the Oregon district. What a loss.

What's even more a loss is the Dover Block at the intersection of Fifth and Wayne. This intersection was a true urban crossing, almost like what would find in the Pilsen or Wicker Park areas of Chicago, or Over the Rhine in Cincinnati, with three of the four corners solidly built up. The fourth (northeast) corner had a 1930s-era "Tasty Boy" prefabricated porcelain enamel diner, akin to the White Towers and Wympee.

Boxed in red, the mass of buidlings that made up the Dover Block.

And what it looked like, from a 19th century photo. Aside from being an imposing yet lively bit of red brick victorian commercial archicture this building was a key urban design element. Perhaps something the archictect or builder realized when composing the corner treatment, with the angle and tower.

The little diagram at the lower right illustrates why.

5th Street comes into the intersection at an angle. So any building at this corner has the opportunity to terminate the vista down 5th creating a more defined urban space. In this case the Dover Block was designed exactley in that way, to become the controlling visual element for the urban space of 5th, which is a "main street" space street lined with commercial buildings.

Presumably the sides of the block would have been visible from back on 5th, since this was a quasi-flatiron building. The effect would have been to lead the eye deeper into the city along Wayne or Fifth, perhaps creating an illusion of a bigger city, the urban busy street of 5th would continue on and on (actually this was the case to some degree, along Wayne).

Alas, the Dover Block, along with nearly all of the Haymarket, was removed and replaced with a gas station, which has since been remodeled into the Dublin Pub.

Nothing against the Dublin Pub, but wouldn't it have been great if it was in the ground floor of this building?

1 comment:

BonK! said...


I realize that's the least important part of this article, but I was trying to remember the name of that place the other day and simply couldn't pry it loose.

My favorite chocolate milkshakes came from Tasty Boy. Can't seem to get 'em like that anymore, and I've tried.

Ouch. My nostalgia's actin' up again.