Nicknamed the “Gem City”, Dayton, Ohio, garners national recognition from its association with its most famous native sons—Orville and Wilbur Wright. The Wright Brothers were not only born in Dayton, but also grew up, lived, and worked there for most of their lives. As the accomplishments of these men and many other less famous citizens reflect, Dayton has had a rich history in innovation and creativity. With the construction of the Miami and Erie Canal in the 1830s, Dayton grew in wealth, people, and reputation. By 1870, Dayton ranked fifth in the nation, and in 1890, it ranked first, in the number of federally-granted patents.
Tecumseh Street, near the district’s west boundary, features some of the best examples of Dayton’s early-19th century residential architecture. Unpretentious two-story brick Federal and Greek Revival detached houses illustrate the modest lifestyles of the earliest residents. Hitching posts recall the days of simpler transportation. Tobacco dealer Salvatore Schaeffer built his brick house at 24 Tecumseh in 1842, with uniquely narrow 1/1 windows and a simple entablature door surround with a recessed transom.
When facing east on Fifth, a mid-19th-century, 100-foot, two-story Greek Revival building dominates the block on the right, a former cracker factory that now houses a popular restaurant and small shops. Further down, at the southeast corner of Fifth and Jackson, stands the Moses Glas Building, a former wholesale tobacco dealership constructed in 1876. Three stories tall, the white brick, High Victorian Italianate Moses Glas building features a prominent corner entrance, embellished window lintels, highly decorated brackets, a paneled frieze, and a rounded-corner cornice.
Turning right from Fifth Street onto Jackson, a trio of houses exhibits the district’s architectural and economic progression. Constructed around 1864 for a prolific building contractor, the John Butt House at 126 Jackson has a distinctive cruciform plan and a graceful cornice with embellished brackets at the primary façade. Its Greek Revival style is evident with the pedimented door surround and recessed entry. Sandwiched between 126 and 134 Jackson is the 19-foot wide, high-style Italianate house of German-born Dr. Julius Maetke. Built in 1881, 132 Jackson showcases metalwork detailing at the cornice of both its first floor bay and its top floor, work attributed to the local McHose and Lyon factory. The Ann Wade House at 134 Jackson, built in 1850, features Greek Revival styling, seven bays, a porch with Doric columns, and a fine example of the iron fencing common in the District.
Flemish-influenced Queen Anne built in 1899 for William Eckert, a founder of Eckert Brothers Meat and Grocery. The house features Flemish-bond, red brick walls, a corner porch with “Golden Oak”-detailed wood pilasters, and a shaped, parapeted front gable, bordered in limestone. At the gutter above the second floor, small, delightful animal-head-shaped gargoyles allow water to drain through their gaping mouths. For a fine example of the American-bond brickwork common in the Oregon District, see its next-door neighbor at 27 Van Buren Street.
In addition to these commercial and residential buildings, the Oregon District has four churches, all with ties to its historically German community. Perhaps the most recognizable is St. Paul’s Lutheran, located on Wayne Avenue, near Jackson Street. The congregation formed in 1852, and the church was constructed in 1869. In 1883, the distinctive spire and three bells were added, followed in 1909 by the stucco finish on the exterior walls. Together with the tall spire, the pointed arch art glass windows and the decorative frieze work emphasize the verticality of the structure, anchoring the building as an imposing landmark at the district’s east boundary.