Let's Go On A Little Visit To Dayton View
by Howard Burba
[transcription of article]
(Editor's Note: While at no time has the city of Dayton laid claim in a "boom" and does not court one. It can be truthfully said that during the past few years her growth has been phenomenal. Yet none, possibly, have been so slow to realize this as Dayton citizens. Those who enjoy motoring into every section of the city and its suburbs, however, quickly realize the great transformation that has come about, and know from actual observation that activities far greater than the average resident suspects are under way. It is with a view to acquainting those who have not had an opportunity to watch and study Dayton's remarkable growth that this, the first of a series of similar articles, has been prepared.)
Coming in on a train from the south a short time ago a lady passenger in one of the Pullman's, a stranger to the middle west, gazed from the car window as the train sped past the modern factory buildings in Moraine City, the plant of the Dayton Power and Light Co., and on across the Miami river toward the union station. As the train came to a halt she leaned toward the aisle of the car and addressing a passenger who was gathering his baggage preparatory to alighting, inquired:
"What city is this?"
"This is Dayton, Ohio," was the polite answer.
"Oh, is this Dayton?" she exclaimed, seemingly both glad and surprised. "I have heard so much about Dayton. I think it is the only town that I've never heard knocked."
Someone has said that success quite often grows out of failure. Those who know the history and development of that part of the city of Dayton indicted on maps as "Dayton View" realize the truthfulness of this statement. For it was the failure of one of the greatest projects ever planned by local citizens that lead to the successful development of this magnificent residential section of the city. It was the collapse of this carefully-laid scheme, of which we shall soon write in detail, that caused that part of the city in which the greatest building activity is now in progress to receive an impetus that has never halted and that is, on the contrary, growing in magnitude every working day of the year.
As far back as 1806, when Dayton showed on the map as little more than "a wide place in the road," an ambitious Presbyterian minister, Rev. James Welsh, south to establish a rival town and one which he claimed, would be more ideally located than the original site, especially so since the Miami river had an age-old habit of growing out of its banks at most unexpected and inopportune times. With David Reid, Elizabeth Parker and William George he secured grants to Sections 27 and 28, extending from what is now N. Main st., west to Wolf Creek.
He established a settlement near the present site of Riverview park, and gave it the name of "North Dayton." He constructed a ferry between the foot of First st. and the present end of Salem av., and advertised to all the world that all that section lying north and west of the river would find it far more convenient to trade, since they would be saved the necessity of crossing the stream. But in 1827, the pastor heard the "call" of a congregation that, we have reason to believe, was a little better off financially, than the one he was serving, as he removed from the neighborhood.
In the [illegible word] year shortly before he removed to other parts, he filed papers to have that plat vacated and sold his land to S. W. Davies and Thomas D. Carneal. With the building of the Bridge st (Monument av.) bridge in 1819 another attempt was made to establish a town west of the river. Accordingly it was laid out at the end of the bridge, and christened "Pearson." Two years later this plan failed, the plat was vacated, and the same year, 1821, the lands passed the heirs of Joseph Pierce sr., and James Steele.
The latter sold to his brother, Samuel, a part interest. Samuel Steele's contribution to his home town was the erection of a dam across the Miami river at a point just south of the present Island park, and from this, by means of a hydraulic canal of circular shape, and now traversed by the Great Miami Boulevard, he secured power for the operation of several early industrial plants. One of these, known in early Dayton history as the old Stilwell-Bierce mill, was located on the present site of McKinley park, and enjoyed a wide reputation as the largest plant in the middle west producing turbine water wheels. Samuel Steele met death in a saw mill which he operated on this site in 1839.
In 1845, P. P. Lowe platted some land between Salem av., and Easton st., which took the name of "Holt's Gardens," and of which Holt st was about the center. Two years later John Steele opened a plat of several lots north of the present Riverside drive and extending east and west from what is now Central av. He gave it the name of "Dayton View," which obtains to this day.
In the spring of 1869 William A. Barnet and J. O. Arnold wiped out this plat by extending it still farther east and west, and to the north almost as far as the present intersection of Grand and Salem avs. It is recorded that a high rim extended along the river at the southern boundary of the new "Dayton View," and that lands back of it were swampy and apparently of little worth. It was necessary to dig huge ditches to drain these areas, and while that particular development was in progress one prominent member of the enterprise withdrew with the declaration that "Dayton View" would never be a success since a poor man couldn't afford to live over there and a rich man wouldn't.
But the wisdom of men like Pierce and Barnet and Arnold prevailed, with the result that the foundation of a beautiful residence suburb was deeply planted, and Dayton View grew with the city. The Oakwood street car system was extended across the river and out Salem av., to a point just a short distance north of Lexington av. At the time this line was placed in operation there was little save farming lands beyond its terminus. Not many years elapsed, however, until there was a sufficient number of home-owners on beyond the carline to make an extension of the line desirable. Mr. Clarles Clegg was offered the sum of $10,000 by those residents to extend the line. He refused. How a competing line, entering Dayton View by way of Forest av. burrowed its way through the Pierce Woods, over Neal av. and out Five Oaks and emerged a square north of the Oakwood line, shutting it off forever from territory that would have greatly enriched its earnings, is too well known for repetition here.
Practically all of the land from the end of the Oakwood car line west to the Philadelphia road and north along the pike leading to the village of Salem, as far out as the present line of Fountain and Cornell avs., was known as the Harries farm. And it was the proposed development of this farm and subsequent incidents that forms the romance and the real start of Dayton View.
Along about 1902, E. S. Lorenz conceived the idea of bringing Otterbein university from Westervile to Dayton. He visioned a great "university settlement," with the college as the magnet, and composed of hundreds of beautiful homes set upon the rolling Harries acres, far above the commercial district.
Mr. Lorenz's plan met with the approval of a number of Otterbein graduates, men like Dr. W. R. Funk, Rev. Dr. Huber, the late E. L. S [illegible word] and others. It was agreed that the profits from all operations for a stipulated number of years should go to the university. He quickly secured the cooperation of the United Brethren denomination in this section, organized The College Park Improvement Co., platted the lands, leaving a generous and beautiful site for Otterbein university--and then went after the prize.
The enterprise was a failure insofar as securing a transfer of the big educational institution was concerned, but an overwhelming success from the standpoint of residential development. For a good many years after the plan fell through the stockholders, discouraged, remained inactive and refused to promote their interests further than shifting their holdings from time to time among themselves. Many withdrew their money and permitted their lots to revert to the company. A few held on, unshaken in the belief of their leader, E. S. Lorenz, that time would reveal the wisdom of the purchase. Dayton View began to push on out beyond the old Oakwood car barn. That part of the Harries' farm on which Grace M. E. church now stands, and to the west and south, was in demand, and building activities took a spurt that is to this day historic. New streets were made, and what had but a few years before been a paper plat was transformed into an actual development.
Men who hung on to their College Park investments realized profits that even the high-powered realtor of southern Florida would not today turn his back upon. I am personally acquainted with one man who, after much urging invested $2000 in College Park realty. And to my own knowledge he has already sold off $22,000 worth of it and still has remaining five lots for which he has been offered $5000 each. All from his original investment of $2000.
The extension of the Dayton Street Railway company's line on out Salem av., and the building of the "Green Line" north on Broadway and west on Lexington av. to still another new addition, "Vernon Place," started a campaign of home building in Dayton View that has known no cessation. Sensing the trend of development still another large holding company was formed, The Upper Dayton View Realty Co., now under the direct management of W. A. Keyes. This organization secured farms adjoining the old Harries' estate, totalling some 266 acres. Into their hands passed the old "Hat" Long farm and the Gabriel Durst farm.
It may be written here that tragedy, along with failure, has marked the development of Dayton View. Within a few days after they had received a comfortable fortune for the farm upon which they had toiled for long years, Gabriel Durst and his good wife were found lying dead on Salem av., at a point near Grace M. E. church. They were walking over to the city one night to visit friends when, presumably, they were struck by an automobile. The exact manner in which they met death has never been determined.
The old Simon-Mumma farm was also secured by the Upper Dayton View Co., a tract that had been conveyed to Andrew McCalla by President James Monroe in 1811, and which had subsequently passed into the hands of Hannah Flickerger and then on to the Mumma's. The old Harriet Long property, another grant from President Madison, in the year 1810, was among those taken over to complete the proposed development. On these lands was laid out Mr. Auburn, and still later Upper Dayton View.
Drive out Salem av. any evening to Grace M. E. church, turn on W. Harvard blvd. and drive into the wonderful suburb that has really been developed within the memory of any high school pupil in Dayton. Or go through Vernon Place, at the extreme western end of Lexington av., glimpse the scores of beautiful homes erected there within the past two or three years. Pass on to Philadelphia dr.--now paved from Wolf creek entirely through to the Salem pike just south of Ft. McKinley. On each side are new sub-divisions, College Park, Cornell Heights, Upper Dayton View, Chadwick Heights--and not dozens but hundreds of homes erected within the past four years, and no less than fifty now under construction.
Pass back down Salem av. from Philadelphia dr. and turn east on Catalpa dr. Pause for a view out across the city and far into the green hills of Oakwood on the south. Then marvel at square after square of new and modern homes, practically all occupied, on streets that did not exist, even on paper, as recently as six years ago. Here Grant Nicholas has developed as through by magic.
Bear south on one of these new streets into what was within the past four years corn fields and apple orchards, and deep ravines and water-washed hillsides. You are on paved streets in Marathon Hills, a magnificent new sub-division opened less than three years ago by Dr. C. H. Breidenback, George W. Mearick, and their associates.
Note the type of houses being built. There is a price range of from $6000 to $60,000 in the newer Dayton View, yet regardless of cost, each and every one is "Home." Each and every one, built within a half dozen years, is serving to bring scores of others--the whole refuting any statement by anyone at anytime that Dayton is standing still.
In Upper Dayton View alone 300 our of 570 lots have been sold since it was opened four years ago. The Nicholas, Mearick, Breidenback and Herzstam holdings, while not so extensive, show development fully as rapid. In fact, if you were in Dayton View only last summer, go back now and you will marvel at the transformation that has come about in so short a time. But it has not ended here. On vacant lots widely scattered and not included in any special development, new homes have been completed within the past twelve months, or they are no under construction. In fact, instead of halting at the Oakwood car barn, as Dayton halted less than 20 years ago, it is today built almost solidly to Fort McKinley, it extends in an unbroken line of improved residence sites, new homes, and paved streets, the entire distance from Salem av. to Philadelphia dr.--and on beyond and east across to the Covington pike.
This is not written with a view to disposing of realty in Dayton View. If it does that, then it must be to someone's interest other than the writer's. The magical development of this section of your city, however, is entitled to recognition, not only at the hands of your newspaper but to your own personal recognition. But no one can bring you to realize, through word or picture, the actual progress that has been made in Dayton View within the past five or six years. You must go into it, into all parts of it, you must visualize for yourself the vast transformation that my feeble words cannot convey.
And when you have done this you will be rewarded with a deeper feeling of pride in Dayton than you have yet possessed. Any you will be, too, in position to stand squarely before the man who says that Dayton is lagging and tell him that he lies.