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Author Topic: The Road To Sprawl I: Interurban Suburbia... Carrmonte & Berkley Heights  (Read 22 times)

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Offline Jeff

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From the Sullivan Papers...

"...a company was formed to build and operate a line to run from here to Miamisburg.  This was ridiculed, and no one expected it to be a sucess for there were two railroads already in operation between these places and they did not haul enough people to pay to make the stops demanded of them.

"A double track was laid in the city but a single track from there on, and the first cars where quite small, single trucks and the capacity of about 20 seated and plenty of standing room

"These cars were soon filled to overflowing and larger cars were demanded and the next cars were double truck and carried a seated load of about fifty and as many standing.  It was not long until it was found necessary to run them double header or two close together, during rush hours, with the line ending at Miamisburg. 

"It was found that many people living in the 'burg were getting jobs in Dayton and going back and forth every day, which was a suprise for all."

The Dayton/Miamisburg corridor is a good place to study the evolution of commuter suburbia as ite evolved on the way to modern sprawl.  This was one of seven interurban cooridors radiating from Dayton, but was the first to also see industrial suburbanization.  This corridor also had, during the 1920s at least, a steam commuter run to Moraine City as well...a reverse commute for city workers to suburban industrial plants.

The above map shows what where probably early stops on the line, with later stops denoted by the double circles, which correspond to this timetable.  The interurban connected rural villages (Alexandersville) and pre-exisitng industrial towns (West Carrolton and Miamisburg) as well as leading to the developement of new suburban settlements: Carrmont, Berkley Heights, and Moraine City, though Moraine City was more of an industrial suburb.

This was probably the kind of car used for local and rush hour service in this corridor (the line was eventually extended south to Winton Place, in Cincinnati, via Hamilton and Middletown)

Though the interurban kicked off suburbia, the automobile also helped.  By 1931 there where a number of plats in the area, not all associated with the interurban.

This thread will look at two early interurban suburbs that are closer to Dayton, Carrmonte and Berkley Heights (better known nowadays, collectively, as Southern Hills).
Lets take the interurban south to Carrmonte.  Street running from the station at Third and Patterson, on Fourth and Main, southward to south of NCR, where it enters private ROW

Here is a northbound train, about to leave private right-of-way at Main and Sawmill, curving around the base of the hill just below Sugar Camp. This line will climb the hill and emerge in Carrmonte on "Traction Avenue".

A 1920s (on the left) and 1910s (on the right) map of the twin suburbs.  Both where subdivided sometime between 1895 and 1906.

An aeriel view from the 1920s or 30s

(image courtesy of the WSU Archives and Special Collections Dept)

...same view, labled

Note that, except for a short stretch in Carrmonte, the interurban ran on private ROW, with a branch to Southern Blvd and Oakwood parallelling Dorothy Lane.  Originally single track the line was eventually double tracked to beyond Moraine, and regraded to remove the hilly sections.  It paralled the Cincinatti-Dayton Pike, which eventually was renamed South Dixie Drive as it was a leg on the transcontinental Dixie Highway.  Cin-Day Pike is to the left. 

Also note the quarrying operations and the new Kettering Blvd at the bottom of the image.

An example of the double track line in Southern Hills (note the car is signed for Southern Hills, indicating this is a local run)
Also note the chicken stand on Dixie Drive, to the left.."Chicken in the Ruff", illustrating that even at this early date chicken was a key component of the local economy.

(image courtesy of WSU Archives and Special Collections Dept.)

Lets take a close up look at Carrmonte.  This was probably the earliest suburban plat on this line, and developed as sort of a generic Dayton city "neighborhood", but remote from the city.  The Carr in Carrmonte was the original landowner. 

Note that Patterson Blvd was a late addition to this neighborhood.

"Downtown Carrmonte" per a 1950 Sanborn map...the interurban came down the middle of Traction Ave (here renamed Dixie Drive)....

...which may have been rather picturesque, with what appears to be an set of rowhouses with a corner store and a turret over the corner, a restuarant (the original Neil's Heritage House) and another corner store, which is the sole survivor of this little neighborhood downtown.  The expansion of Neil's and other changes have suburbanized this once traditional "buisness corner"

Perhaps an interesting angle to the developement of this suburb was Calvary Cemetery, Dayton's Catholic cemetery.  The interurban probably meant quite a bit of funeral traffic to this stop.  Whether this line ran funeral trains like they did in Chicago is a good question.


Lets take a tour of Carrmonte, as it is today.

The Carillon Tower is the dominant presence in the neighborhood.  The foreground would be a good "neotradtional" redevelopment opportunity to increase density.

Local landmark Neil's Heritage House, now closed.  Tired menue led to a decline, and  a new chef couldn't save the place.  Sort of unusual + offices.

  It was sort of the death star too, having wiped out a block of older houses, on "Hertiage Pointe Drive"...what used to be Traction Avenue.  The interurban came into Carrmonte down the middle of this street, which has the oldest houses here.

Traction Avenue houses

Although the street ends, the railroad ROW would have continued into the wooded area, going down the hill and then on to Main Street.

Side street

Schantz...this is the old Cincinnati-Dayton Pike, and heads east into Oakwood, ending at Main.

Two streets from old Carrmonte.  Willow Grove and Avalon.

Willow Grove

Wrought iron and rubble stone facade.  Interesting.

Avalon, the Isle of the Blest.

Just some nice little bungalows around here....

...and the ubiquitous four square

Commuter rail lasted here till 1941, then the former ROW was turned into another set of lanes for Dixie Drive (US 25).  The intersection of Patterson, Dixie, and Schantz was pretty much we are sort of looking down the old rail ROW..south out of town...

Old church, predating WWI...and neighboring houses.

Rowhouses. An indication on how this suburb was sort of a recreation of a city neighborhood, using housing types found in town.

Houses on Dixie Drive, and on dead-end side streets running west of Dixie, ending at Calvary Cemetery.

..and a few modern office buildings, near the entry to Calvary Cem.

Sacramento Street climbing a hill, with a few California Bungalows. 

Along Dixie Drive

And this is an instructive pix.  The two outbound lanes to the left, was the original Cincinnati-Dayton Pike, and the dual-track interurban line ran in a slight cutting below.  One can sort of envision what this could have been like in modern times in an alternative transit-freindly universe, with a light rail line running out to suburbia on the ROW, instead of two more lanes of traffic.

More houses on Dixie

And a peek down the side streets running to the east, into Hills and Dales Park. One of the very nice things about this area is its hilly, and that its surrounded on one side by a park

Another view of Dixie, showing how the old interurban ROW ran at a lower level created by cutting, so as to minimze grade and permit higher speed operation.

Side streets of Carrmont, south of the Dixie/Patterson/Schantz interchange

..the old school. This was built by Van Buren Township, around the same time the Belmont schools where being built. This is now a church.

Apartments.  The design of this one is vaguely deco/moderne. The sloped roof is a later addition.

Hills and rooftops give a slightly villagesque vibe.

Bungalows to die for.  A bit of Pasadena in Dayton (though there already is a "Pasadena" in Kettering)

..closer to Hills and Dales the housing becomes a bit more tudor/doll house cottage.  The Berkeley hills or Carmel By the Sea done up midwestern....

I love this one, the way it plays with scale (that window!)

..and the neighborhoods begin to curve, the neighborhood blending into Hills & Dales.  Perhaps the hand of the Olmstead firm can be detected here a bit?

Berkley Heights

Berkley Heights was platted around the same time as Carrmonte, or shortly thereafter.  It was definetly subdivided by 1906, with some early streets appearing on this old topo, though the neighborhood is not labled.

By the 1920s and 30s the neighborhood streets have pretty much been layed out, running up to Hills & Dales.  The part nearer the interurban mainline appears to have been developed earlier, and is more wooded.  The parts closer to Hills and Dales was more sparsely developed and wasn't really filled in until WWII and the early postwar era. 

This is sort of a tranistional development, part being more the streetcar suburb, the other being an early automobile suburb.

On the aeriel the interurban branch line to Southern Blvd and Oakwood can be seen (red arrows), as well as a big billboard at the intersection of Dorothy Lane and S. Dixie Drive.   No buisiness district, but a little neighborhood store does survive.

The older park of Berkley Heights is built up more in the bungalow style, and is an early curvy-street subdivision for Dayton...

Though this looks like a traditional pedestrian-freindly neighborhood, suburban space is not far away, as S. Dixie is, here, pretty much developing as a commercial strip, with a big Wal-Mart across the street.  Looking south on S. Dixie.

Back into Berkley Heights, some older apartments

...and this pix tells the story of the neighborhood as one gets further from the old interurban route...a scattering of pre WWII construction mixed in with mostly postwar or wartime housing.

Tiny bungalow (more what one might find in Drexel)

..and this interesting modern thing. A circular house.

More Berkley Heights side street scenes

Another comparison. Wartime or immediate postwar housing with a 1920s foursquare

Standing in 1920s bungalowland, and looking out into the wide-open spaces of auto-sububria....(looking west toward Dorthoy Lane)

Dont you just love the huge window in the dormer on this bungalow?  It has to be floor-top-ceiling.

Modest but nice

The wood screen work on the one to the right is interesting.

...this almost looks like a Chicago-style bungalow, but not done in brick like they are in Chicago.

...Hlls and Dales park boundary

WWI memorial in Hills and Dales Park.

And Hills and Dales Park itself. The great amenity for this neighborhood.


Though these are, to me, fairly different communities, no one calls them "Carrmonte" or "Berkley Heights" anymore.  They are all "Southern Hills" and are, believe it or not, part of Kettering.

In fact, this was where Kettering was born.

Dayton was doing a big annexation push in the late 1920s, annexing the suburban parts of Van Buren Township that are known today as Belmont, and trying to annex Oakwood (though the Oakwood story is a bit more nuanced ).

For some reason Dayton did not try to annex Southern Hills at that time.  Which was a big mistake, as when Dayton did make a move on this area after WWII, the Southern Hills community association decided to push for the incorporation...of not just Southern Hills but of all of Van Buren Township, effectively foreclosing any further annexation attempts by Dayton (and Oakwood) to the south.  This new suburban entity was to be called "Kettering", after its most famous resident.

This was rather controversial at the time, and led to three de-annexation attempts by various parts of Van Buren Township.  Only one was sucessfull, which led to the creation of Moraine.

So one can say the beginnings of postwar suburbia as something "seperate" from the city was here, as was the political beginnings of Kettering.


Next thread will continue further south on the interurban line: next stop, Moraine City.

« Last Edit: June 17, 2006, 12:46:13 AM by Jeff »

Online ColDayMan

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Offline Robert Pence

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Some rather charming neighborhoods still. Great piece of detailed research, Jeff; it makes me look forward to the day when that ROW will be reclaimed for rail.

Offline OTRFAN

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you should submit this for a masters thesis (unless you already have one)...   wow.   thanks