Dayton’s South Park Historic District & The Wayne Avenue Coffee Trail

Dayton, Ohio’s Historic South Park neighbourhood is one of the city’s several historic districts. It was first platted out by the Perrine family in 1870 and later developed by John H. Patterson, the owner of the National Cash Register (NCR) company.

Patterson and his wife opened up the NCR in what was called Slidertown back then, a ran-down place full of dilapidated shack houses and trash piles. The couple wanted to improve the neighbourhood where they lived and operated their business, so they recruited a gang of restless local boys and challenged them to work in the community gardens.

The Pattersons created contests, gave out awards and incentives to residents for most beautiful homes and landscaping, and sponsored social clubs and events to improve community spirit. 


Patterson had a beloved cameo design that he used on all of these awards. An artist named Tom Ostendorf recreated Patterson’s South Park Lady cameo image in the 1970s and you will see it all around the neighbourhood now.

Ostendorf also owned several properties in the neighbourhood, and served as President of  the South Park Improvement Counsel. He founded the South Park Historical Preservation Society in 1978 and spearheaded the movement to make South Park an officially recognized historic district. 


South Park District is a 24-block residential neighbourhood, framed by Warren Street to the west and Wayne Avenue to the east.

From just below the Oregon District at Buckeye Avenue, South Park stretches down to Woodland Cemetery, and holds more than 700 original homes and buildings.


South Park Historic District is the largest in Ohio and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1984, but was declared a historic district by the City of Dayton in 1981.

South Park is managed by the City of Dayton’s Landmark Commission which has a very specific set of rules laid out in this guide in order to promote historic preservation, like a Home Owners Association for the entire district.


For homeowners in South Park, this means the exteriors of their homes, paint colours, windows, chimneys, trim, and other features of each historic home must be maintained to suit its original integrity and design.

There is a detailed process for any renovations, if approved, though the LMC does not dictate every single property in the district. 


South Park is full of  High Victorian Italianate, Queen Anne, Second Empire, Federal, Vernacular, Cottage, Romanesque Revival and other architectural styles.


Park Drive is the most picturesque street here but the whole area is embellished with Little Library and Tiny Food Pantry boxes, dog waste stations, and gardens.


The neighbourhood watch encourages residents to sit out on their porches and talk to people each day, or to gather in the parks and gazebos within Park Drive’s wide boulevard. 


One step into Historic South Park and you can see that the people living here have carried on Patterson’s traditions with the pride they take in keeping their community clean and attractive.


Residents are within walking distance to the historic Oregon District, the University of Dayton campus, and other important parts of town. RTA’s The Flyer free shuttle and Link bike shares have well-established and reliable routes here to encourage the use of public and alternative transportation.


Wayne Avenue, South Park’s eastern boundary, has some of the best coffee shops in the city. 



Wholly Grounds is one of my favourites. It is a Black-owned coffee shop, bakery, and café, and they offer catering and a rental space for special events. 


The mission at Wholly Grounds is to provide locally and ethically sourced, organic nutrition and the menu rotates frequently to reflect changes in those sources and trends. 

I try to avoid sugar and sweets, but their cookies are to die for. 


Ghostlight Coffee is one place that I keep returning to in Dayton.


They opened in 2011, and now have a second location in the Midtown part of Dayton. 


The décor is eclectic just as much as it is elegant, and it has so much natural light for what appears to be an old haunted blue house from the outside. 


Ghostlight’s spicy, slow-burn, chocolatey Miel Cacao is my new drink of choice here, though it is not always on the menu. They work closely with Deeper Roots Coffee, but also roast an ever-changing collection of beans from other providers. 


In-house bakers create a mix of handmade pastries, most notably their “pop-tarts” that read dry store-bought pastries to filth. 


Ghostlight has swept its competition each year in local awards like best bakery, best coffee house, you name it. The staff are laid back and steady, and welcoming each visit. 


Reza’s Coffee Roasters recently closed their Wayne Avenue location, but you can still visit their Beavercreek location about eight miles away.  


This site will be used for grinding beans and production still, but the community must surely miss the elegant space.



Branch & Bone Artisan Ales is one of the neighbourhood’s major social hubs, especially for the evening crowd.


South Park Pizza Tavern is the essential place to eat when you visit. 


For lighter fare, visit Smales Pretzel Bakery just a few blocks outside the main drag.

From the road, the bakery looks like most of the homes on that street, and there is a narrow driveway leading to a small parking lot by the entrance. 


Smales has been baking its famous pretzels for over a century, just the same as they did in the beginning, using only flour, water, yeast, and salt.

This was truly an adorable find. 


Wayne Avenue continues down to Wyoming Street and Woodland Cemetery, with many other fun businesses on the way. 


Warren Street, which eventually becomes Brown Street heading south, is South Park’s western boundary.


You can find a plethora of restaurants like Coco’s Bistro, Biggby Coffee, Jimmie’s Ladder 11 Grill, Bourbon Street Grill, Ginger & Spice Asian Bistro, Hickory BBQ, Hunny Bee’s, Fusian, BIBIBOP, and others traveling toward the University of Dayton campus.

This part of Brown Street is generally accepted as part of the South Park neighbourhood outside the square perimeter. 


Butter Café is an award-winning organic restaurant near the historic South Park neighbourhood that gets my vote for most decadent food. Paula Dean would have lose her cool over this menu, for certain.

Just look at this half-portion of B&G and see why they call this place Butter. 


I sampled their corned beef hash as well, which was nice and herby.


Butter has a cute interior, with minimal natural elements added to the sturdy bones of an old house. 


Peek through the window, or walk around to the back of the building to see this mural full of sweets and flowers.


A new business called Bird of Paradise Plant Collective had a pop-up event last time I was in town, and I am so excited to see them flourish!

Burns-Jackson Park and Blommel Park are the two neighbourhood parks.
The South Park Historic District hosts multiple annual community events, its most famous being A Prohibition Scandal, a 1920s Murder Mystery home tour.
Check out the Historic South Park Instagram account for an insider’s view of daily life in South Park.

In the area for a while? Follow me to some of Dayton’s other historic districts, St. Anne’s Hill, Huffman Historic District, and the Oregon District (in progress).


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3 thoughts on “Dayton’s South Park Historic District & The Wayne Avenue Coffee Trail

  1. Pingback: Of Course It’s A German Neighbourhood; Dayton Ohio’s Historic St Anne’s Hill | Fernweh

  2. Pingback: Dayton, Ohio’s Historic Huffman District | Fernweh

  3. Pingback: Carillon & Kettering; Serious History, a Witch Tower, Foodie Heaven, and… Heavy Metal. Alright, alright. | Fernweh

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