Dayton was founded in 1796 on the banks of the Great Miami River by Israel Ludlow who surveyed the site and drew up plans for a town. It had a rather inauspicious start because the land proved to be prone to flooding and poor surveying resulted in many disputes between early settlers. The town was named after the land owner Jonathan Dayton,  a captain in the American Revolutionary War and a signatory of the U.S. Constitution. When Ohio became a state in 1803, Dayton became the county seat of Montgomery County. The town remained relatively small until the War of 1812 when it became a base for American attacks on Canada. The completion of the Miami and Erie Canal in 1829 linked Dayton to Cincinnati and triggered more growth. By the 1880s Dayton was a thriving industrial town, including the National Cash Register Company (now NCR Corporation) which was founded by John Henry Patterson. It also became a centre of innovation with more patents granted per capita in 1890 than any other U.S. city. Perhaps the best known innovators were the Wright Brothers who went from running a bicycle business to inventing the first successful powered aeroplane. In 1913 Dayton discovered that the flooding problems of its early years had not gone away when the Great Miami River breached the levees protecting the city. Around 360 people died in the Great Flood and most buildings in Dayton were destroyed or seriously damaged. It took many years to recover from the flood and it left the city with few historic buildings.



Big House, SunWatch Indian Village & Archaeological Park

In the 1960s amateur archaeologists found some ancient relics on a site by the Great Miami River. In 1971 the City of Dayton decided to build a sewage treatment works on the site, so professional archaeologists from the Dayton Museum of Natural History were called in to recover any remaining artefacts before the site was destroyed. They found many more artefacts and the foundations of an 12th century  stockaded village that they called ‘Fort Ancient’. The discovery persuaded the City to change its plans so that the site would not be destroyed. After 17 years of excavation and research by the Dayton Society of Natural History, the site was opened to the public in 1988 as SunWatch Indian Village & Archeological Park. The name SunWatch comes from a complex of post holes in the plaza that appear to be related to astronomical measurements. A number of the structures identified during the excavations have been reconstructed on their original sites. The Big House is one of five reconstructed lath and daub structures with grass thatch roofs. Part of the stockade has also been reconstructed, together with a a native garden with plants typical of the period. Some of the artefacts are on show at SunWatch, but there is a more comprehensive display at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton. Click Tab 2 to see the interior of one of the replica buildings.

 Wright Cycle Store, Dayton Aviation Heritage NHS

Fortunately the Great Flood of 1913 didn’t rob Dayton of all of its heritage. Orville and Wilbur Wright set up a bicycle repair business in 1892 then In 1896 they began manufacturing and selling bicycles of their own design. Between 1892 and 1908 they traded from five different locations in Dayton and fortunately the building at 22 South Williams Street that housed their main store between 1895 and 1897 survived the Great Flood. The Wright Brothers used the resources and profits from their bicycle business to support their experiments with powered flight, so it is appropriate that their former Cycle Store should form part of the Dayton Aviation National Historical Site which covers several sites in and around Dayton linked to the Wright.Brothers. Above the shop the brothers also ran a print  shop.  In 1909 the Wright Brothers converted their final Cycle Store at at 1127 West Third Street into a machine shop for manufacturing aeroplane parts. Shortly afterwards they sold their remaining stocks of bicycle parts and the rights to their bicycle brands. Click Tab 2 to see a reconstruction of the bicycle workshop at the Wright Cycle Store.

Wright Flyer III, Carillion Park

One part of the Dayton Aviation National Historical Site that is located in Carillion Historical Park is a museum that houses the Wrights Brothers’ third aircraft the Wright Flyer III. Their original aeroplane, The Wright Flyer, managed only short hops off the ground. The Wright Flyer II was a considerable improvement, occasionally managing to stay airborne long enough to complete a full circle. The improvements that they made when they built the Wright Flyer III made it the first truly practical aircraft. On October 5, 1905 Wilbur made a circling flight of 39 kilometres (24 miles) at Huffman Prairie near Dayton, a single flight that was longer than the total duration of all their flights in 1903 and 1904. On May 14, 1908 at Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina Wilbur flew the Wright Flyer III with mechanic Charles Furnas on board making Furnas the first ever airline passenger. Wilbur had a minor crash in the plane later that day while flying solo which wrecked the front elevator. The damaged aeroplane was left in a hangar until in 1911 it was sent on loan to the Berkshire Museum of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. It stayed there in its damaged state until in 1946 Orville Wright requested its return to become a centrepiece of the Carillion Historical Park. By 1950 the Wright Flyer III had been restored. The fabric covering of the plane all had to be replaced, but it is estimated that between 60 and 85% of the aircraft  is original material.

Newcom Tavern (1796), Carillion Historical Park

Dayton’s history and technological innovation are celebrated at Carillion Historical Park, a 26 hectare (65 acre) park and museum.  The Newcom Tavern, or ‘Old Cabin’, dates right back to 1796 just after Dayton was founded. It was built by one of the first settlers in the town, Colonel George Newcom. It was originally located on the corner of  Main Street and Monument Avenue. It was originally a single room downstairs and upstairs, but two years after it was built it was doubled in size. Apart from offering food and lodging, Newcom Tavern also served as Dayton's first school, first church, courthouse and council chamber. In 1838 it was converted into a general store known as ‘Shaffer's Store’ and it continued in this role until 1894 when it bought for redevelopment. The log cabin had long been covered by clapboards, and when these were removed it was realised that the old store was an historic building. The owner offered the building to the City provided it was removed from the site. John H. Patterson, founder of The National Cash Register Company, paid for it to be moved to Van Cleve Park. It stayed there until 1964 when it was moved to Carillon Historical Park, the oldest of several historical buildings from Dayton on show there.  Click Tab 2 to see another historic Dayton building, the  William Morris House, built around 1815.

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Patterson Homestead

Revolutionary War veteran Colonel Robert Patterson and his wife Elizabeth Lindsay Patterson built this Federal-style farmhouse  around 1816. Originally known as Rubicon Farm, it was updated and enlarged as the family grew both in size and prosperity. In 1840, ownership passed to their son and daughter-in-law Jefferson and Julia Johnston Patterson. In 1884 two of their nine children, John H. and Frank J. Patterson, co-founded The National Cash Register Company (now NCR Corporation) and they build the first NCR factory on the northern fields of the farm. In 1953 the Patterson family donated the homestead complete with 18th and 19th century antiques, several original pieces of family furniture and 3.5 hectares (8.5 acres) of surrounding land to the City of Dayton. The Patterson Homestead is now open as a house museum, but when we tried to visit it we found a sign saying that it had closed early that day. A meeting room added to the Homestead in 1955 can be rented for events such as wedding receptions.

Memorial Hall

Every city needs a memorial to those who gave their lives in war, and through a competition in Dayton chose two local architects William Earl Russ and Albert Pretzinger to design their memorial to the local soldiers who served in the Civil and Spanish-American Wars. Russ and Pretzinge designed a Memorial Hall in the French Renaissance style. Construction work started in 1907 and the hall was dedicated in January 1910.   The entrance atrium of Memorial Hall is filled with bronze plaques, relief sculptures and paintings that depict the region’s military history and the fašade bears the names of Civil War battles in which Montgomery County’s soldiers saw action. The interior of the building houses an auditorium, meeting hall and museum.



- Carillion Historical Park provides a wonderful insight into the history and innovation of Dayton.
- We didn’t get to see all of Dayton Aviation National Historical Site, but what we saw we liked.
- Courtesy of the 1913 Great Flood there isn’t too much of interest in the downtown area.
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 Wright Cycle Store, Dayton Aviation Heritage NHS, Dayton, OH, USA.jpg
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 Newcom Tavern (1796), Carillion Historical Park, Dayton, OH, USA
Wright Flyer III, Carillion Park, Dayton, OH, USA
 Patterson Homestead, Dayton, OH, USA
 Big House, SunWatch Indian Village & Archaeological Park , Dayton, OH, USA
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 Memorial Hall, Dayton, OH, USA
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