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Sixteen minutes in Dayton

2006.02.01 — Culture | Postcards | Travel | by Derek Jensen

Greek Revival courthouse

The old court house, a Greek Revival work from 1850. (hi res)

Hey, I've got a little time and the sun is kind of out. I'll be passing Dayton in a minute. Let's look at the map. Should I go ahead and take the junction with I-70 and bypass it again or take I-75 straight south into downtown and try to get some pictures of the county courthouse and other Dayton landmarks? Dayton has landmarks, right? Home of the Wright Brothers, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, some flight museum... gotta be something worth taking pictures of. Heck, okay, I'll do it. But only fifteen minutes.


Old building

An old building. (hi res)

The problem with a town of Dayton's size is that, never having been downtown before, I can't be sure if it's easy to navigate, and I can get in and out easily. It may be one of those complicated towns with all one-way streets and bad signage, like Columbus.


First ill omen: a traffic snarl in the northbound lanes on I-75 about a mile past the junction with I-70. The cops have the road completely blocked, and traffic is backed up for at least a mile. Great. I'll have to find a different way out.


City Hall

City Hall. (hi res)

My main objective is the courthouse. That is something I can add to my courthouse page as well as upload to Wikipedia to illustrate the sad and sickly Dayton, Ohio page. But I take pictures of anything that's interesting, never actually getting out of the car, and just try to keep my bearings to figure out how to get back north.


I take a random exit that looks downtown-ish and swing into the city. Bingo: the heart of Dayton. A couple of semi-interesting buildings go by. The sun has ducked behind a cloud, but there's no time to wait for it. I snap my first pic at 1:23 PM.


Interesting door

An interesting door. (hi res)

I pass what looks like a Greek temple and take a hard stare. I've never seen a Greek Revival courthouse, and it's a very small building, but the JUDICAE inscription ensures that it is no mistake.


No place to park, tho, so I swing around the block and come at it a different way. I keep an eye out for a modern Hall of Justice building where the courts reside now. And then, bang: City Hall.


There is a tangled mess of electric trolley lines in downtown Dayton. I'm sure the trolleys are picturesque, but I don't see anything but the rat's nest of cables overhead, crisscrossing my view of buildings. With a few more cables in the right places, I bet you could install a drop-ceiling over the whole downtown.


Flyover sculpture

Flyover, a sculpture that traces the path of the first powered flight. (hi res)

Around a couple of lefts, and I'm heading back towards the Greek temple. Suddenly, the sun comes out and illuminates the street. While I wait on a light, I snap an ornate doorway. Much of the architecture downtown looks to be this same ornate late-19th century style, more or less Italianate.


When I slip onto Main Street headed north again toward the temple, I find myself under what appears to be an aluminum dinosaur skeleton. It's wavy and shiny and kind of graceful, mounted in the median in the middle of the street. The plaque at the end says "Flyover."


Civil War memorial

Civil War memorial. (hi res)

Later research reveals that this is a 1996 sculpture by David Evans Black emulating the short, unsteady flight of the Wright Brothers' bi-wing airplane on its very first flight. The locals think it looks like a dinosaur skeleton too.


When I get to the temple, I'm in just the right spot as the light brings traffic to a halt. I snap one pic front-on, creep forward, and take a couple more. This seems to be a popular bus stop, however, and the front has a few unsightly human beings in it. Worse, tho, is the dull cloud-laden sky now hiding the sun continuously. I get my pics of the building, which later research confirms is the old courthouse built in 1850.


Continuing on, I start looking for my route out. Then I come upon the Montgomery County Civil War memorial. It's a Civil War soldier standing alone atop a tall tower. It's nice enough, but it's in kind of an odd place in town. I expected to find a big traffic circle surrounded by important buildings like the city post office, but didn't find any such thing.


Dayton skyline

Dayton skyline, such as it is. (hi res)

I find myself on 48 North, which is good fortune, and cross a bridge over the Great Miami River. I need to check my map, tho, to be sure of my route, so I hang a left and park. On my left is a steep levy, so I take a moment to dash up the slope and take a couple of pics of the downtown area from across the river, including the bridge I just crossed.


I find the route out that I need and get turned around. As I sit at the light, I snap a couple of pics of an interesting building across the street, a weird upside-down ziggurat. I manage to wind my way north, fork off toward SR 4 and get headed back north, leaving Dayton behind. Last picture: 1:39 PM—sixteen minutes in Dayton.


Interesting building

An interesting building. (hi res)

When I got a look at my pics later, I was disappointed that I didn't get much sun. But it's still winter, after all, and January in the Midwest means heavy cloud cover about 95% of the time.


For posting on Wikipedia and here, I lightened all the images and replaced the sky completely in the courthouse and City Hall pics. I got the sky from a nice sunny day a couple of years ago.


Overall, Dayton was a nice enough place to visit. Maybe on a sunnier day I'll stop by again for sixteen minutes.


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