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Author Topic: From Market House to Bus Hub: 179 Years of Market Place (Dayton)(long)  (Read 48 times)

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Offline Jeffrey

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This started out as a simple then and now set

But the recent thread at Dayton Most Metro and the DDN news article about the groundbreaking for the new RTA bus load/unload area downtown was impetus for me to finally get off finish up some desultory pix taking and research on a special little spot in downtown Dayton.

Probably familiar to the UOers who’ve been downtown here, it’s that little green space near Center City Building and the RTA hub.  So here’s an analyses of the evolution of urban morphology of Market Place, how decisions made through time became palimpsest for 179 years of urbanism.

First, to set the stage, three historical accounts of the relocation and early development of Dayton’s first public market.

Early Dayton, Robert W & Mary Steele

On July 27, 1829, it was decided that the new market-house, which the city was about to build, should be located in the alley running from Jefferson Street to Main, between Third and Fourth streets.  For the purpose of widening the market-space, property costing one thousand one hundred and ninety-six dollars was purchased by Council.  A small building was put up on Main Street, which was extended to Jefferson Street in 1836.  All the space east of the market-house of 1829 to Jefferson Street was given up to the market-wagons.  The old market-house on Second Street was abandoned April 24, 1830.

History of Dayton,  Harvey W Crew 

In October, 1829, the building committee of the new market-house were authorized by the council to build, in addition to, the market-house of two hundred feet, a council house on the west end of the market space fronting on Main Street, to be of brick, 20x16 feet, surmounted by a cupola. On September 14, 1830, the old market-house on Second Street was sold and the new one occupied, and in 1836 this was extended through to Jefferson Street.

Pioneer Life in Dayton & Vicinity 1796-1840, John F Edgar

The first intention was to erect the building in the middle of Main Street, south of Third; but many were so dissatisfied with this plan that nothing was done until July 27, 1829, when it was decided to place the building in its present location.  The additional property necessary to widen the alley was purchased for $1,196.20, and the Main Street end built first, the space toward Jefferson Street being reserved for market wagons. In 1836 the building was extended to Jefferson Street, and in 1845 a second story was added to the west half, to be used by Council, and for City Hall and Library. The building was used until 1876, when the present city buildings were contracted for

So, one can see the original concept at the first market house site on 2nd Street and the initial proposal for the south-of-Third site was for a mid-street market. 

The mid-street market is what happened in Louisville as Market Street in that city had street market halls every few blocks.  The solution here in Dayton was more akin to the original Fountain Square and Findlay Market in Cincinnati, with a widened street (in this case alley) and market house in the middle.  In Dayton’s case the market house was also city hall.

Market house and streets 1829-1959

Four diagrams tracing the evolution of the block, based on the historical accounts.

The market when nearly new, on an 1839 map.  Note the large lots of the original Dayton plat.

And an image of Main Street showing an early version of the market house.  I am not sure this was the first structure on the site, but it might date at least to the 1840s…

…as it bears a certain family resemblance to the 1840s Market House in Miamisburg .  The Miamisburg market house is probably the sole surviving antebellum market house in SW Ohio.

The 1869 Titus map shows the market house and how the block developed to that time.  Note that the built-up part of downtown was confined north of 4th Street, with what looks like houses south of 4th

What’s also noticeable in this enlargement is the building pattern, how the block interior was being developed with structures facing the market house.  This is again akin to Findlay Market area, with its flanking commercial buildings.

The 1870s replacement structure had identical second empire head houses on the Main and Jefferson Street sides with a large market hall stretching between.  City Hall was on the top floor until relocating to the present location in the early 20th century.  The police department stayed until the Safety Building was opened in the 1950s.   

The Jefferson Street view from the Lutzenberger Collection permits a bit of  a view down the side of the structure, showing the arches on the ground floor, again reminiscent of the Miamisburg market house, and the articulation of the central bay, similar to the arrangement of Findlay Market.

…the start of a “street market” is also visible with the little stall being set up directly on Jefferson.

The interesting thing about this space is the mid block urban fabric, showing how Dayton’s large downtown blocks and lots lent themselves to re-subdivision.  We’ve seen this in the Power Blocks thread, and it’s quite evident here. Too

Starting with the 1875 Combination Atlas plat map of the city, one can see the subdivision of the original lots perhaps reflected the construction of buildings facing the market, both north and south. There might also have been some through-block buildings that had two business fronts, one on market the other on, say Third.   Also note the appearance of a mid-block alley between Fourth and South Market, which survived into our time

The 1889 Sanborn for this block is the first look at actual structures, and perhaps we are seeing here some of the original buildings.  I say this because they conform somewhat to the lot lines on the 1871 Combination Atlas, are somewhat small in scale, seem to be oriented parallel to the street,  and have sloped roof lines. 

Based on Lutzenberger pix and the surviving antebellum structures early Dayton was built with sloped and hip roofs, with flat and monopitch roofs coming a bit later.  There is also some  photographic evidence of these streets which we’ll see in a bit.  So, I speculate that some of the buildings shown might date these to the 1830s to 1850s.

Also, by the building shape, notes of balconies and porches, and the names of the businesses on the Sanborns, one can speculate that some of the structures were inns of some sort.  Perhaps at first places for farmers to overnight while they traded at the market, as travel times were quite slow prior to railroads (as an example it took a full day by stage coach to get from Dayton to Hamilton).   

Maybe these inns or hotels were akin to this building in Miamisburg, facing the canal, with its L-form, rear porches, and one story appurtenance

From this enlargement, the bottom structure maybe more given the apparent symmetry about a central hall or corridor.  U form, but maybe an evolution from the L form….

…Or, since they are three stories, the Florentine Hotel in Germantown might be similar as it has the L form like the one on the top.

Also note that the mid block alley shown on the 1875 plat map reappears on the Sanborn, and is partially bridged by a building facing 4th Street.  Again, this development of a secondary alley or lane is akin to what happened elsewhere downtown.

By 1898, evidence of building substitution as older buildings are being replaced, and the mid-block rabbit warren of sheds, outbuildings, courts and yards is filling in.

By 1919 one sees most of the earlier 19th century buildings replaced as the scale of downtown construction increases.  What’s noticeable is perhaps the change in character that this implies, where north and south market become more alleys and less business places.   We are also starting to see buildings that survive into our own era.

Some visual evidence of the business side of North and South Market. One can just glimpse some of the older buildings in these blow-ups of pix of the market house

(note the “Billiards” sign on the left one, which appears as a pool hall in the 1919 Sanborn.  Salvation Army is upstairs…saints and sinners).

And this lucky find in the Lutzenberger Collection, showing three of the oldest surviving interior block buildings, on South Market (one can also see the curb cut for the mid-block alley to 4th).   Probably before 1925? (Car buffs might be able to ID the make parked here, I can’t)

The two near two story buildings seem to have sloped roofs, as one can barely see a dormer on one.  Lutzenbergers caption for the farther three story one says it’s “very old” .

Here is the building group through time, via the Sanborns.

Perhaps some of these of these were rooming houses or little hotels or earlier inns with market-related business on the ground floor.  Some of these are named on the Sanborns, and sound hotel-like . One building was named ‘Galt House’, which was a well-known hotel in Louisville, perhaps even known in Dayton, thus the inspiration for the name?

Moving into the 20th century, say 1930s or early 40s.  This pic is from the historic display and monument in the present park space.  It looks like it was taken from the Lindsey building, and by the car styles, probably in the 1930s.  One can get a glimpse of the scale of the market building here, as well as what was happening on the flanking streets.

(Joy Shop, to the right, was an early womens clothing store chain, like Lerners and to the left is the Home Store department store, later Beermans. The Joy Shop building is still there, but modernized).

One North Market one can see perhaps a surviving mid-19th century building (with sloped roof) facing the market, but the street has mostly taken on an alley character by this time

On South Market one can see the start of demolitions for parking.  The buildings in the Lutzenberger pix are now gone, perhaps torn down in the later 1920s.

A map from a downtown planning study showing the demolitions over time as parking begins to erode the block.

The 1955 Sanborn, showing how the block eroded away via expansion of parking.

The intersection of Jefferson and Fourth (north side of Fourth and west side of Jefferson) showing how things eroded away leaving individual buildings, and then finally nothing.  One can also see how the market house fit into the streetscape on Jefferson.  Scroll up to the 19th century Sanborns to see that some of the property facing 4th was originally livery stables, but apparently was redeveloped as one story commercial buildings by the time this pix was taken.

By the end of the 1950s the market house and much of the surrounding building on South Market was gone.  I think the market house was torn down in 1957. Based on the city directories it still had active market stalls up to the time of demolition. 

Site of the market house

North side of Fourth/west side of Jefferson.

From the enlargements of these pix one can see how the Third Street buildings still had some openings onto North Market, including a side entrance for the Home Store.  (incidentally the Herles’ mens’ store in these pix is still in business at Town & Country in Kettering)

Mall Park to Market Place

In 1959 the city published a planning study for this block, envisioning the market space as little shopping mall, but also had some low rise buildings extending across the mall between 3rd & 4th , infilling the surface parking and bridging the mall to 3rd street, including an upper-level restaurant overlooking the mall.

The concept actually resembled some European urban retail schemes of the 1950s and early 60s more than contemporary US designs.

After this, there was a private sector plan to redevelop the site.  Based on the study available in the Dayton Metro Library history collection the Schantz interests were the  proponents (apparently still active in downtown real estate as late as the early 1960s),  The first phase was Mall Park Garage, replacing the parking lot at 4th & Jefferson….”A Beautiful New Shopping Area!”… according to this prospectus:

And a rendering of the structure.  What’s nice about this, in principle, is the ground level retail (with canopy).  In practice the place never did rent out as hoped as it opened on the downslope of downtown retail.

(and note the populuxe modernist design tricks going on with the canopy, including vertical illuminated “parking “ sign.

The structure today, no longer public parking and mostly vacant on the ground floor facing 4th.  Cold Beer & Cheesburgers does a good job of activating the Jefferson Street streetscape, though.

The parking garage was part of a larger plan, “Mall Park Shops”, which transformed the market space into a little vest pocket park, leading to a shopping structure and dramatized entrance to the parking garage.  The Home Store, later Elder-Beerman department store (building to the left) had a side entrance directly across North Market from “Mall Park”, so one could imagine quite a bit of foot traffic across the mall area from the parking garage.

Let’s take a closer look this was a simple but effective design. 

The glass enclosed staircase, if it was properly illuminated, would’ve been a dramatic, eye-catching feature . Though appearing functional, this was really a decorative feature as people would really be using the elevators 

The design used a side wall to block out the North Market alley, creating a somewhat sheltered space at the entrance to the shopping structure and garage and screening the alley entrances on North Market, but stopping short of the Home Store side entrance,  This was a deceptively small design move that really changes the character of the space as one moves deeper into it. 

The side wall design feature was actually carried out when the park was built, as a serpentine wall, but inexplicably demolished in the 1990s.

The statuary and fountain would have added some visual interest and human scale to the space.

The entrance to these was developed in a sort of modernist style, too, with show windows working to create an entry condition.   In some ways the design is reminiscent of the storefront designs of Victor Gruen and Morris Lapidus.

(red arrow shows how one would exit the garage and elevators to the mall )
The shopping structure ground floor plan shows escalators (which stop at the second floor), so this might have been intended as a largish specialty store (but 5 floors?).  This aspect of the concept wasn’t well thought out

Perhaps a later rendering, showing a lower-rise commercial building.  This would have been more realistic for a single retail tenant.

Another interesting aspect of these plans is that it envisioned the Joy Shop having show windows and an entrance facing Mall Park.  As far as I can tell this never happened.

Mall Park Shops also never happened.  Retail was not built, probably reflecting the realization that downtowns’ days were numbered as a retail destination, or that this wasn’t a good retail site.

Instead, in 1966, the Mall Park Motor Hotel went up, the first high rise downtown since the Talbot Tower of the mid 1950s, and the first top floor restaurant, offering a view over the city.   

Probably around this time the little vest pocket park was built, incorporating some of the features of the original 1961 design.  This park was named Market Place.

Architecturally the hotel was a pastiche of various 1960s design fads…brick infill from the British “New Brutalism” and white concrete arches and screens from the Minoru Yamasaki/Phillip Johnson school of decorative classicizing modernism (think Lincoln Center).

Period advertising from the 1966-1967 Yellow Pages:

The restaurant was a branch of the Chicago-based Henrici’s (which was expanding a bit during this era),  adding a bit of big-city glamour.  The hotel apparently was affiliated with Master Hosts, which I think was a version of the Best Western “chain of independents” concept.

To situate Market Place in design history context, the vest pocket park was popular in the 1960s, with some of the best examples in dense urban environments, like Paley Park in Manhattan, offering an oasis from busy city streets.

Unfortunately the Mall Park Motor Hotel/Admiral Benbow was an awful design, not really taking advantage of the space (once could imagine a nice little sidewalk café here, served from the hotel).  And a visually appealing parking garage entrance was never developed (though the garage did have an entrance to the mall). 

Yet bad as it was the hotel did define Market Place as a space, closing off the southern end of the mall

The hotel was closed and abandoned by 1988 and demolished in 2007.  Renovation was not feasible as the utilities had not been pickled when the hotel closed, resulting in the mechanical system and interiors being destroyed by freezing and split pipes.  Another act of urban vandalism by irresponsible greedheads.

In the 1990s the Wright Stop RTA bus pass booth and hot dog stand opened, blocking off the park area a bit from Main Street, actually an improvement as it made the space a bit more private

Between 1970 and the early 1990s most of the buildings on the north side of Market Street were torn down.  So instead of a big surface parking lot south of Market in the late 1950s, there was big surface parking area north of Market by the end of the 1990s.

Touring Market Place

Lets take a look at the space today:

Wright Stop, with the little clock tower. 

Landscaped area closer to Main,  in winter and summer

Looking back to Wright Stop

The greenery is closer to Main, and helps to separate Main Street from the more plaza-like area deeper in the block.

The historical monument. The thing at the top is a carved animal head that was on the ground floor arches of the market headhouses (scroll up to the old picks and you can see them). Somehow it survived from the 1950s demolition to be reinstalled here in the 1990s.

I really like the architecture here, it has a nice human scale, even the taller building (maybe the old UB printing plant, dating from 1907, which would have made for great lofts) and a bit of whimsy with that wrought iron balcony/canopy.

I have no idea how old this one is, but the bay windows are on the 1919 Sanborn, not on the earlier ones, which doesn’t say much as the earlier Sanborns omit some architecture detail found on later ones.

Sometimes things in Dayton just make one smile instead of cry…

Looking toward the parking garage entrance

The storefront was an Ethiopian restaurant in the early 1990s, and the door at the extreme right led to the Center City building, which had a shopping “arcade” on the ground floor (now mostly empty)

Recall from the 19th century maps the mid block alley between South Market and Fourth.  The alley remains, blocked off from Market Place, but still being bridged on the 4th Street side (in this case by a wing of the Center City Building)

And a farewell glance back at Market Place from the garage entrance.   

End Game for Market Place

Not clear on this chronology,  but from what I recall….

….in the later 1990s the RTA acquired adjacent properties to the north of Market Place and developed a plan for a transit hub.  This plan evolved into relocating Main Street bus stops to a loading/unloading facility on the site of the Admiral Benbow and Market Place, with property to the north being developed as an indoor waiting room and small shopping concourse.  As part of the plan RTA acquired and then demolished the vacant Admiral Benbow, removing an eyesore from downtown.

The waiting area/concourse have already been built and the groundbreaking for the loading/unloading area was in June, so Market Place is going away, replaced by this design a semi-covered bus loading and unloading area.

I am ambivalent as I see this as a pleasant, intimate space that needed some improvement, not removal. 

One could easily see residential conversion for the two buildings that front the space, especially loft housing for the1907 building, with those big windows.  The Admiral Benbow site could have been redeveloped as a string of row houses, North Market widened to provide dedicated on-street parking for the row houses, and a portion of the parking garage set aside for additional dedicated parking for the townhouses and lofts.  The ground floor spaces facing the park could have been developed as maybe little restaurants, coffee shops or taverns with beer gardens and sidewalk cafes, perhaps with outdoor live music programming in warmer months.  And if wishes were horses beggars would ride.


One of the interlocutors at the DMM thread commented to the effect that this hub concept is a “big social experiment” which is a good point in the context of that discussion, which was as much about the people waiting for the bus as it was about mass transit.  In fact the crime prevention outcome of the hub was made clear in this post:

” The new bus hub will allow RTA to control the crowds and make sure that only those who are truly there to catch a bus are allowed to congregate there.  It will be private property - easier to control than public property.  Not only will criminal activity not be tolerated in the hub area, the RTA will actually be able to require a bit of decorum by trespassing those who are disruptive.  And despite what MRICEAVE said, it does stand to reason that with crowds diminished on the sidewalks there will be less "cover" for those who are there to sell drugs.  Since there will no longer be a valid reason to loiter on the public sidewalks, it will be easier for police to pick out those who are breaking the law.”

So Market Place and its possibilities are sacrificed…for what? 

Transit efficiency, or is it really social engineering?  Yes I know a suspicious and sour note to end this thread, but I liked that space and am not convinced that it had to go.

« Last Edit: July 07, 2008, 10:49:49 AM by Jeffrey »

Online ink

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Excellent research.

It is always amazing how some former nexuses of activity have lost all clues of their once vibrant past.

Offline mrnyc

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excellent job as always -- this story might as well be a basic history of all american cities in a nutshell. i am hopeful that the best outcome of high gas prices will be the revitalization of our downtowns and the reversal of decades of their utter disregard.

Offline Jeffrey

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have lost all clues of their once vibrant past.

I wouldnt say "all clues", as one of the points of this thread was how the past leaves traces and sort of a framework for the present.   In a way I see the market square of 1829 and later market house as sort of like those Roman things in Europe that disappear away but leave their pattern or mark in later construction.

excellent job as always -- this story might as well be a basic history of all american cities in a nutshell

Thanks. I know there is a certain parochialism to this board, but I hope that these Dayton storys can be interesting in their own right, beyond mere "Dayton",  seeing how big trends in urban history/development plays out in a small place.

Online ColDayMan

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Thanks for the informative post.
"You don't just walk into a bar and mix it up by calling a girl fat" - buildingcincinnati speaking about new forumers

Offline Robert Pence

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Thanks, Jeffrey, for another remarkable piece of research.

Offline Jeffrey

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Re: From Market House to Bus Hub: 179 Years of Market Place (Dayton)(long)
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2008, 09:24:27 AM »
Progress on the demolition of Market Place...all gone except for the dirt.  Note the funky wrought iron balconies are removed from one of the buildings.

Offline Eigth and State

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Re: From Market House to Bus Hub: 179 Years of Market Place (Dayton)(long)
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2008, 02:16:33 PM »

    Excellent. Thanks again.

   Cincinnati had 6 markets. Findley Market is of course still there. The others were the Pearl Street Market, located about where the football stadium is now; Court Street Market, which became one of the more attractive and functional parking lots, and still hosts some street vendors; the Sixth Street market, which became a highway ramp and part of the convention center; Piatt Park; and the Fifth Street Market, which became the Government Square transit facility and part of Fountain Square plaza. So, all 6 still hold some kind of public function.