Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chopping Away at Hills & Dales

Hills & Dales Park was in the news last week due to some restoration work underway. Unfortunatly they can't restore the park to its former glory. Becuase too much was lost.

What we know today as Hills & Dales is a rump. A fragment of a much larger open space that would have been one of the great urban parks of Ohio, had it survived.

And here is a map of Hills & Dales at its greatest extend, with some surrounding roads labled for orientation. This park did not have a golf course, but it did have polo fields. And it did have extensive tracts south of Dorothy Lane.

An interesting "Olmstead" feature was Southern Boulevard, which was apparently planned to extend from Patterson Boulevard (into the city) to Alex-Bell Road (the southern part of this open space system is not shown here). An excellent demonstration of the parkway concept, which the Olmstead firm helped pioneer (this firm designed Hills & Dales and adjacent properties).

By the 1920s Hills & Dales was still mostly intact, adding features like an Open Air Theatre and some 'camp' features (Maplewood Camp and Big Hill) south of Dorothy Lane. The land hogging golf course appears, but the impact is mitigated by the extensive open space to the south and north (the golf course then was half as large as today).

The plan to extend Southern Boulevard apparently had been dropped by now, but a connecting road was exetended from Far Hills Avenue into the park (Park Road). The nice feature are the extensions to Far Hills and South Dixie Drive, acting as a forest preserve/park/greenbelt framing the developing southern suburbs.

By the early 1930s it was all gone. When Patterson (or his heirs) donated the park to the city they only donated a part of the orginal park, reserving the southern half. And note the east (right) side of the park has been eaten away by estate subdivisions; todays Ridgeway and adjacent streets.

A close-up showing how certain features of the 1930s (polo fields and open air theatre) disappear via the expansion of the golf course, leaving a rump of a park along the ridgeline directly east of the golf course.

But the greatest loss was the southern half, which would have provided park space for todays Moraine area and a greenbelt/forest preserve along Far Hills across from todays Fairmont school grounds.

Instead of donating the complete park the Pattersons apparently kept this half and subdivided the property. In the 1930s some of the old park roads can still be seen. This was a ghost plat as next to nothing was built (it must have been platted very close to the 1929 crash). The area was replatted after the Depression and there are more roads here now.

Researching this an interesting find was how Hills & Dales was eroded to the east. Apparently the original eastern boundary went deeper into Oakwood.

..but was whittled back to provide an estate subdivision, which is todays Ridgeway neighborhood. Some features apparenlty were not gifted to the city as a public park, as the Old Barn Club and Hills & Dales Camp do not show as park property in the 1930s map.

And, indeed they were not, as they ended up subdivided, as shown on the modern map from the Auditors website (right hand map). Also note the disappearance of some park roads, especially the Park Road connector to Far Hills.

All thats left of a massive belt of open space that would have defined suburban growth patterns if intact was chopped back to a rump, the landscaped fringes of a big golf course.

Just another example of how things never quite pan out right here in Dayton.

Or maybe an example of spin on the local notables who turn out to be keeping an eye out for the main chance. Yes the park is "donated", but only half, since the other half was an opportunity to cash in on real estate development in a boom time for real estate (the Roaring 20s). This would have especially been the case for the Ridgeway area as primo estate sites facing what was left of the park.

Which makes the park not just a leftover landscaping for the golf course but a landscaped backdrop for an exclusive estate district for the rich of Dayton.


Joe Lacey said...

Dayton Public Schools is having an open house today at noon for the Fitch house at Fourth and Williams in Wright-Dunbar. The antebellum house was renovated by the Dayton Home Builders Association, Habitat for Humanity and Dayton Public Schools construction technology students.

Unknown said...

Jeffrey-I agree H&D is just a small part of what it was and what it was intended to be, but it's still beautiful. Even with the golf course. I really like what they've done with the restoration of the camp sites and trails. What I'll be interested to see is how Dayton History handles Old River. They're announcing that they intend to highlight the park system Patterson and Deeds envisioned and that Old River blends with Sugar Camp. Well, Sugar Camp is now a Sandy Mendelson development, so I wonder if Old River will connect some way with what's left with the Sugar Camp park environment. The city parks around Riverside Drive and DeWeese Parkway were also Olmsted projects; and according to John Gower at City Hall, the park system as envisioned by Olmsted in 1911 is "a work in progress," especially around the rivers. A key piece that will help bring us into the park system and the rivers is the final spur of the bike trail between Eastwood Park and Huffman Metropark. This will finally connect the string of parks along the Mad River connecting Greene County with Montogomery County's bike trails through downtown and beyond.

Jefferey said...

I was indifferent to that Sugar Camp development until just a few days ago when I drove by & saw the site construction.

Then I saw it as a real missed opportunity for a park development since that was an extensive wooded tract..right next to Old River. One could have easily seen an overlook over the city built into the site if it was a park, similar to Iroquois Park in Louisville.

Deweese Parkway and the park at Wergezyn Gardens expanded northwards along the Stillwater. There is a good opportunity to do something with the Stillwater valley as theres still a lot of open land there. Maybe not as parkland per se, but some mix of open space zoning, smaller parks, and bikeways.

As you note the Mad River cooridor is also pretty close to having a possible parkway/bikeway system out into the country.

Jefferey said...

Dayton Public Schools is having an open house today at noon for the Fitch house at Fourth and Williams in Wright-Dunbar.

.....thanks, Joe. Unfortunatly that noon viewing is really inconvient to people at work who might be interested. Still, the Fitch House is perhaps one of the oldest houses in the innerwest era, actually one of the oldest in the city...from the 1840s or 50s, I belieive? A big thanks to DPS and the others who helped save this house.

Unknown said...

I was blown over by the restoration. Quite well done. What a huge kitchen! My hat is off to DPS for the work they did. I was saddened earlier in the week by the broken windows on the south side of the house. What a bunch of low lifes. Hopefully, they've been restored. What's next? Will it be an auction or is there already a buyer? Btw, the history of the house is fascinating. Is there a tunnel?

Unknown said...

You guys act like greedy land barrons stole the park away. It was never public property to begin with! If not for Patterson's love of the game of golf and gifting the property to the city under condition it could never be re-developed, there would be nothing left at all. As a golf course more than 64,000 people have been enjoying that property every year for the last 80 years!