Dayton, Ohio




Dayton Daily News - June 30, 1985, The Magazine, Pages 7-10

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

How The Past Was Paved
by Adele Koehnen


[transcription of article]

In the late 1700's, several pioneer families built log cabins along the banks of the Miami River, where they had landed in riverboats. The first street at that site was appropriately dubbed Water Street. At the same time, Colonel George Newcom and his party came by land from Cincinnati and built the first tavern there. It is now preserved at Carillon Park.

Water Street was changed to Monument Avenue when in 1884 an 85-foot-tall monument honoring the Civil War veterans was erected at the intersection at Main Street. By 1948 it blocked the flow of automobile traffic to and from the Main Street Bridge and it became necessary to move the monument to Riverview Park overlooking the city.

Colonel Israel Ludlow and his friend, Daniel C. Cooper, laid out the town in 1794 and named it Dayton after General Jonathan Dayton, a fellow continental Army officer. Ludlow was satisfied to have a street named for him. A park adjacent to the library was named for Cooper, who was responsible for Dayton's wide streets..."wide enough for a coach and eight horses to turn around."

St. Clair Street was named for General Arthur St. Clair, who served in the French and Indian Wars and was later appointed governor of the Northwest Territory in 1787 by President George Washington. General James Wilkinson fought with Mad Anthony Wayne and was later court-martialed as a co-conspirator of Aaron Burr.

Since St. Clair, Wilkinson and Ludlow streets were named for the owners of the land, was Jefferson Street named after President Thomas Jefferson? Only as a compromise was it named for the president, since proprietors of the land were Federalists.

Why the numerically named east and west streets were chosen may have been for clarity or simply from lack of imagination. Hazelnut bushes obscured everything but First and Second streets to the south. A narrow wagon road was cut out of the whole length of Main Street to Water Street leading across a wooden bridge over the Mad River, nearly opposite what is now Webster Street, leading north to towns called Livingston, Stauton and Piqua. This road and the Cincinnati Road coming into Main Street from the south were the only roads for many years. Of course, they were not paved as they are today, and were almost impassable when the weather was inclement. The horses' feet would become stuck in mud holes and consequently travelers were often delayed for hours.

The War of 1812 brought troops through Main Street and this road was at least kept in tolerable condition. Perry Street was named after Commodore Oliver H. Perry of the War of 1812 fame. Years before it was on the town's maps as Cherry Lane because of Cherry trees lining the street.

Floods plagued the early settlers in 1805 and again in 1814..."a canoe could be floated at the intersection of Main and St. Clair...only two dry spots in the whole city." Dayton really developed in commerce and population when the canal from Cincinnati was open for navigation in January 1829. Today, Patterson Boulevard marks the route of that canal.

Hardly a man or woman is alive who remembers the old, old streets of Dayton: Lodwick, Blind, Joe, Dock, Hope, Ophelia, Roe, Newcom, Spratt and Zizzag...long gone as victims of progress. The first city directory published by James Odell, Jr., in 1850 lists them as important streets, offshoots of the east, west numbered tributaries then extended to Six Street.

The desire to cross the Miami River to the north resulted in the construction of a covered wooden bridge in 1817. It washed away in 1852. Another covered bridge, a toll bridge, took its place in 1856 and pedestrians paid two cents; wagons, six and one-half cents, and a man and horse, nine cents.

This bridge extended to a road stretching to the southwest crossing Wolf Creek and continuing to old Eaton Road in the neighborhood of now Germantown Street. This served as an outlet for travel from west and south as well as north.

In 1895, the bridge did not go to now Salem Avenue, instead it continued west along now Riverview Avenue until it reached Broadway, then turned north and ran to the old town of Salem. When Dayton View was opened, Salem Avenue was constructed and for years it was known as the New Salem Pike.

J. O. Arnold built a lovely home in Dayton View and was instrumental in developing the new area. He was known as the father of Dayton View. Arnold Place was named for him. He penned a scrapbook in which he told of the Old Ford, a point in the Miami River which contained a solid gravel bottom. Buffalo, deer, bear, small game and Indians found the Old Ford a quick crossing to the other bank of the river.

This also could be considered an early road or passageway since three great highways diverged from this point: One up Wolf Creek Valley to Ft. Greenville; the other two toward Covington, Ft. Recovery and Celina. These highways with their lateral branches formed a network of roads over highlands and hillsides because lowlands were usually impassable.

Wolf Creek Road was named after the treacherous creek. Arnold stated in his scrapbook, "When a goodwife would start on horseback to town with her basket of maple sugar, eggs, and wild honey, anxiety would be felt since thunderstorms were frequent. The Wolf Creek, aptly named, would be high and many times her horse would have to swim the creek."

Out of the old trails in Dayton View came winding, tree-bordered boulevards lined with beautiful majestic houses. The streets were named Forest, Grand, and Superior to capture the elegance. A college atmosphere resulted with the establishment of Bonebrake Seminary, now United Theological Seminary. Builders took the seminary's lead and named the new streets University, Oxford, Cambridge, Campus, Amherst, Yale, Otterbein, Earlham, Cornell, Harvard, Dartmouth, Bryn Mawr and Princeton.

In other directions Dayton streets were named for a variety of reasons. Gettysburg Avenue received its name because of the cyclorama of the Battle of Gettysburg, which was located in a round-house near the Soldiers Home.

The name of Hoover Avenue had nothing to do with President Hoover but rather with the Hoover Plat that developed around 1917. Two names that had a bearing on the naming were Oliver P. Hoover and Samuel Hoover. Western Avenue just happened to be the city's western corporation line.

The eighth stop out of Dayton on the old interurban line operated by the Dayton and Troy Electric Railway became Stop Eight Road.

McCook Avenue naturally received its name from McCook Field, a U.S. Signal Corp venture for research and experimentation beginning in 1917. The 254-acre land tract had been owned by General Anson McCook. The family boasted 15 commissioned officers in the United States military.

A group of New York Shakers named Watervliet, who lived and practiced their cult in the Belmont area at the turn of the century, gave that avenue its name.

Two important streets were named for early Daytonians who were manufacturers and visionaries. In 1812 William Huffman came to Dayton from New Jersey and became a merchant and speculator in real estate. He built the first stone residence in Dayton at the corner of Third and Jefferson streets. Jonathan Harshman arrived in Montgomery County from Maryland in 1806 at the age of 24. He purchased 40 acres of land, which is now Mad River Township.

The development of Dayton's southern boundary got its start with Daniel C. Cooper's 1,000 acre hog farm in 1799. On this land he also built a distillery and a sawmill and later a corn cracker, north of the present Oakwood corporation line. He sold it to Colonel Robert Patterson, a Revolutionary War soldier and Indian fighter, who operated a grist mill, a cloth processing mill and a sawmill. It was all destroyed by fire in 1815.

Today, Stonemill and Sawmill Roads take their names from Cooper's and Patterson's ventures. Patterson built his family's homestead, a two-story brick house and named it Rubicon, now on the National Register of Historic Places. A street adjacent to the house took the name of the homestead.

Brown Street, dedicated in 1848, was named after Thomas Brown, who moved from Lebanon to Xenia in 1825 and to Dayton in 1828. He was a member of the first Dayton Board of Education and also served in the Ohio Assembly. He was a director of the state prison from 1848 to 1851. His occupation, however, was as a brick maker and contractor and in those capacities he was responsible for many homes in the Oregon District.

It took longer for this area south of Main Street to reach its potential for people and business even though the National Cash Register Company and the Montgomery County Fairgrounds drew the populace for work and pleasure. People did not consider making their homes so far from the center of town. Except for a horse and buggy ride to enjoy the pure, native wines at Kramer Pleasure Gardens, now the site of the Dayton Country Club, the dense woodlands were thought of as country in the early 1900s. Kramer Road was named for this social center.

Plats did spring up and men like Adam Schantz, John Shroyer and Gabriel B. Harman rightfully deserved to have streets named for them since they saw the future in "the bluffs" as it was known before it became Oakwood. Harman planted trees along the early streets and built his home on then Lebanon Turnpike, now the site of Oakwood High School.

Other men of vision went still farther south to Van Buren Township, Washington Township and Centerville. Contractors named the streets in their developments after their wives or daughters.

This page maintained by Carolyn Johnson Burns.

You are the 711
visitor since March 17, 2005.