Downtown Dayton Walking Tour
This tour begins at a historical marker commemorating the Great 1913 Flood and ends at the Biltmore Hotel. Stops in between include the Victoria Theatre, the Funk Music Hall of Fame, and the Dayton Arcade.
The Biltmore Hotel was constructed on the eve of the Great Depression in 1929. It was designed by architect Frederick Hughes in the Second Renaissance Revival style. Though its splendor has long since faded, it remains one of the tallest buildings in Dayton and was considered one of the finest hotels in America. It hosted some of the nation’s most famous celebrities from John F. Kennedy to Elvis Presley. Today, it is home to 230 apartments for senior citizens.
The Victoria Theatre dates back to 1866 when it opened as the Turner Opera House. The theater was rebuilt twice following destructive fires in 1896 and 1918. When the theater reopened in 1919, it was renamed the Victory Theatre in honor of World War I veterans. The Victory operated as a movie theater until it closed in 1970s. Although the Victoria could not compete with the suburban multiplexes, local preservationists saw its potential and worked to prevent its demolition. Thanks to these efforts, the theater was restored in the 1980s and reopened as the Victoria Theater in 1989 as a live performance venue. The theater also shows films on special occasions, including the “Cool Movie Series” in the summers.
Liberty Tower was originally constructed as the Mutual Home and Savings Association Building in 1931. It was designed to appear modern and professional, with touches such as marble, steel, and some of the latest technology. At 285 feet tall, the building was the tallest in Dayton until 1969. Though it has changed hands and even names since its erection, Liberty Tower still stands as an office space today.
This small plaque on the side of the Edwin Smith House in downtown Dayton commemorates the Great Flood of 1913 and illustrates the extent of the flooding in the downtown area. The Great Dayton Flood began on March 21 in 1913, two days before Easter, as late winter storms produced high winds and heavy rains in the area. By Sunday, the soil had become so saturated that it could not absorb more water, caused a 90-percent runoff into the Great Miami River as well as the headwaters of Scioto River and the Muskingum River. Near 8 to 11 inches of rain fell before Monday, March 24th, and by the next day, the levees failed and about 20 feet of water flooded throughout Downtown Dayton, causing 360 deaths, 20,000 destroyed homes, 65,000 displaced people, and over $100 million in property damage (equivalent to almost $2.4 billion in 2015). The aftermath of the devastation led to the creation of the Miami Conservancy District, one of the first flood control districts that would later serve as a model for Indiana, New Mexico, Colorado, and other states.
Built in 1902, the Dayton Arcade is a historic complex of five connected buildings. It is perhaps best known for its ornate facade, which exhibits Renaissance Revival and Dutch architecture and many interesting elements such as oak leaves, ram heads, and garlands of grain. The arcade is also known for its central enclave that is topped by a 90-foot diameter glass dome. It was designed by architect Frank M. Andrews, who designed other buildings in the city. The idea for the arcade originated with Eugene J. Barney of the Barney & Smith Car Company, a railroad company based in Dayton. When it opened, the arcade, was state-of-the-art, featuring a cold storage plant, elevators, and its own power plant. The upper floors were used for housing, office and retail space, and the larger spaces were used for a farmer's market. As of July 2018, plans are in the works to revive the arcade, led by a partnership of three developers. They plan to offer a mix of housing, retail, and public space. An innovation center and a culinary kitchen incubator program will be included as well.
This statue of Abraham Lincoln, sculpted by artist Mike Major, commemorates the speech Lincoln gave near the Old Court House (then only nine years old) on September 17, 1859. The eleven-foot-tall statue stands on a four-foot base and weighs about 1,300 pounds. It was commissioned by the Lincoln Society of Dayton, which raised funds for the bronze statue to be waxed and buffed at least once a year. Major has said that he hopes his statue portrays the “strength, intelligence, control, and perhaps humility and attentiveness” of President Lincoln.
The Old Court House building is one of Dayton's treasured landmarks. It was built in 1847 in the Greek Revival style and as such is the recognized as one of the country's best examples of this style of architecture. Several presidents have campaigned here including Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. It has been an important focal point for the city, being the location where residents learned about updates during the Civil War (via the telegraph), and during WWII, where bond drives took place. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building can be rented for private events.
Opened in December 2017, the Funk Music Hall of Fame & Exhibition Center is dedicated to honoring the legacy funk music has played in American culture. It is located in Dayton because this is where the genre originated and where many of Funk's top acts came from, including the Ohio Players, Heatwave, and Slave. The museum features many Funk-related artifacts and memorabilia including outfits and instruments. The museum plans to continue to grow its collection, operate a performance venue, and offer educational outreach programs. An important goal is to teach children how to play instruments and instill in them a love of music and the arts.