Since the 1800s, Dayton, Ohio has been to innovation, mechanics, and engineering, what New York City is to music, art, and film.
There were more patents per capita in Dayton by the start of the 1900s than anywhere else in the country, earning it the name “Invention Capital of the U.S.”
Wright, Patterson, Kettering, Deeds, and many other big names were just knocking it out of the park, so to speak.
Things that were invented in Dayton include airplanes, aviation, flight simulators, a plethora of mechanical functions and gadgets for air and automobile travel, square-cut pizza, Cheez-its, pop-top soda tabs, electric cash registers, electric lights and ignition switches for cars, spark plugs, Freon, folding step ladders, Statoscopes, electric wheelchairs, artificial hearts and kidneys, mood rings, card readers, film projectors… lord just do a Google search and prepare to be amazed.
It makes perfect sense that someone would want to curate a means to preserve and honour all of the significant elements and experiences of our lives and history. That is basically the sentiment behind this travel/history blog, but on a drastically smaller scale compared to the Carillon Historical Park.
The information I will share below about the Carillon Historical Park came directly from the park’s self-guided tour brochure, and/or what was on display in the park itself.
There are over forty exhibits on site, and I do not want to give it all away, but here are some highlights.
Colonel Edward A. Deeds was the National Cash Register Chairman, co-founder of DELCO, a successful industrialist, and a passionate history buff. His wife Edith Walton Deeds was a huge music fan and became especially inspired by some carillon music she heard in Belgium.
Carillon Historical Park was built at her behest, dedicated in 1941, and finally open to the public in 1950. It is one of the most extensive collections of Dayton regional history, and its ripple effect across the globe.
The carillon itself is 151 feet tall and has 57 bells, making it the largest carillon in Ohio. It plays recorded music at scheduled intervals each day, but sometimes the park’s Carillon player performs special live events.
My primary goal for visiting the Wright Brothers National Museum. It is owned and operated by the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park. You can read more about that and other Wright Brothers-related history here (in progress).
This Wright Cycle Company building is a replica of the Wright Brothers’ original shop at 1127 W. Third Street in Dayton, where Orville and Wilbur Wright designed and constructed their first three airplanes.
The brothers moved their printing and bicycle business into the building in 1897 and closed the shop to the public in nine years later. It was used as one of their labs for nearly another decade, and twenty years later, Henry Ford bought the original building and had it transported to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.
Colonel Deeds asked Orville Wright about creating a replica of his and Wilbur Wright’s 1903 Flyer, but Orville decided to restore the original and display it instead.
This plane was the first practical airplane in the world, and later became a National Historic Landmark.
Each building is full of Wright Brothers info and memorability, as well as their connection to Paul Laurence Dunbar.
My second favourite exhibit was about the Great Dayton Flood of 1913 that destroyed Dayton with over 18 feet of water.
Things were so dire that the Ohio National Guard was called in by General George H. Wood, and he declared Martial Law.
Passes were required to enter the flood zone and tent cities were set up on higher ground, largely provided by John Patterson, owner of the National Cash Register Company.
This exhibit also features the Rubicon which was used as a switch engine in the NCR factory between 1909 and 1961.
There is an exhibit on Dayton’s famous criminals and outlaws that included the story of John Dillinger and his connections to Dayton, as well as Dayton’s own “Bonnie & Clyde” couple, Betty Austin and Raymond Rex “Bus” Epperson.
Unlike Bonnie and Clyde, this couple miraculously survived their shootouts and crashes, and later paid dues for their crimes.
There is a huge collection of National Cash Register models, filling up an entire room from floor to ceiling.
I really enjoyed the collection of steins and other historic drinking memorabilia in connection with southern Ohio’s beer brewing history.
Outside, the Gem City Letterpress is a working print shop from the 1930s that is still operational, and the park administrators give live demonstrations.
The 1924-era Sun Oil Station below was originally located at the intersection of Warren and Brown Streets in Dayton.
People used to fill glass cylinders with gasoline and then pour them into the gas tank of vehicles back then, which is wild because I have been told my entire life not to do that under any circumstances.
John Patterson was one of Dayton’s most successful entrepreneurs. His grandfather, Robert, owned several mills of various industries, over 50 of them by 1823.
The grist mill replica below is based on his Staley’s Mill in New Carlisle, chosen for its overshot water wheel.
Newcom Tavern was built in 1796 by Robert Edgar, after Colonel George Newcom commissioned him to build the best house in Dayton. He paid Edgar seventy-five cents a day and provided him with room and board while the home was being built.
Newcom and his family were among the first settlers to arrive in Dayton in April, 1796, and this is the oldest standing home in Dayton.
The right side of the building was the family’s home; the left side was the tavern. For about 65 cents per night, a traveler could have a meal and lodging for himself and his horse.
Central to community life, the tavern also served as Dayton’s first jail, church, general store, and Montgomery County’s first court house. Newcom was the town sheriff and was known to lock prisoners in his dry well.
Newcom House, on the other hand, is a mystery. There is no record that Colonel George Newcom ever actually lived in this house, but it was built on his land, and thus called the Newcom House. The houses’s original location was at Volkenand Farm in the Walnut Hills community of Dayton.
It was built in 1841 in the Greek Revival style. In order to give the wood siding the appearance of stone, vertical grooves were cut into it, and sand was mixed in with the paint. Dayton’s Old Court House was also built in this same fashion.
William Morris was a Revolutionary War veteran who came to the area in 1806. He later bought a 20-acre farm near Centerville, the house’s original location.
In 1831, he married his super young wife Patsy Hillian and she gave birth to a son four years later. William was 74 years old.
Locust Grove School #12 is a one room school house where all children grades one through eight were taught together. It was originally built near Springfield in 1896 and used until 1929.
Some famous Ohioans once taught in one-room schoolhouses like this one, including Charles Kettering, John Patterson, Edward Deeds (coincidence?), and three U.S. Presidents; Rutherford B Hayes, James A Garfield, and Warren G Harding.
Carillon Brewing Company is a fully-functional 1850s style brewing and café, much like the ones operating in Dayton and Cincinnati’s early days. It was a real bummer that they were closed during my visit, after I called to confirm they would be open that day.
Ask anyone who has been to Carillon Park what their favourite thing about it is, and they will likely tell you “You HAVE to ride the Carousel!” It lives up to its reputation, being popular among children and adults.
Each detail on the carousel was personally designed, carved, and/or painted to depict an aspect of Dayton or regional history.
So, the Carillon Historical Park is not in Kettering, but it is very close. Kettering is an inner suburb of Dayton, just a few miles southeast of downtown and a short drive from Carillon. It is named after the famous industrial scientist and inventor, Charles Kettering, and thought it apropos to see the town named after the man who invented like half of what I just saw.
Here are three awesome places in Kettering that you must visit:
Hills & Dales MetroPark
The Hills & Dales MetroPark is part of Ohio’s Five Rivers MetroParks system, and I have yet to visit one of those parks that was anything short of amazing.
John Patterson bought 500 acres in 1906 and facilitated the creation of this park and golf course, complete with trails, stables, campgrounds, gardens, ponds, and a clubhouse.
Patterson later donated more than half of his land to the city, holding back the rest to build residential homes. Over the years, new additions like sculptures and monuments and groves have been added to the park, and it has gone through many territorial changes.
Five Rivers MetroParks took over its management in 1999 and quickly set to restoring its original structures, pond, and landscape designs. The Patterson Monument stands to honour John Patterson for all of his contributions.
Hills & Dales is known to be an eerie and allegedly haunted place, though much of its lore has been proven false. Many of these legends are centered around a 56 feet tall turret-style stone tower that was built in 1940. It is known as the Witch’s Tower, Frankenstein’s Castle, or just “the Tower” and comes with every type of scary story imaginable.
This tower has been permanently sealed since 1967, after a fatal accident took place inside. A local teenager named Peggy and her boyfriend Ronnie sought shelter from a heavy storm inside the tower, which had no roof, and when lightning struck the tower it killed Peggy instantly. Ronnie was left with severe injuries.
Locals started claiming they saw burned impressions of the two teenagers inside the tower’s walls, which drew an overwhelming amount of visitors to the tower, and ultimately led to its closure.
There is a cool defunct water tower there too, although a normal person might suggest you spend your time walking the beautiful Adirondack Trail nearly two miles through the park.
Dorothy Lane Market
Recently, a client essentially threatened me if I did not stop at Dorothy Lane Market next time I was in Dayton, so that is how I ended up here for the first time.
I picked up an original brownie (above), and a couple sampler boxes for myself and some friends/family back home. These brownies are delicious and have a lot of different layers and flavours going on at the same time. I have certainly gained about ten pounds from the experience but it was worth it.
Luckily, Dorothy Lane Market also has an enormous fresh produce department with a buffet of various salads and mixed vegetable dishes, fruit cups, and build-your-own healthy options.
Dorothy Lane Market is similar to Whole Foods and Earth Fare, but with a little more of a local flair. They only have a couple locations in the Dayton area, instead of being a nationwide chain.
If you can not find what you are looking for here, you don’t need it.
3. Catacomb Records
I know that not everyone is a fan of metal music, but I am, and this place is cool.
Catacomb Records just recently opened, with a mission to be the Dayton-area’s one stop shop for all things metal and horror. In addition to the usual metal selection, they strive to carry all the new releases and host in-store listening parties.
You can also find DVDs about the music, shirts, patches, action figures, and other memorabilia. Customers can buy, sell, or trade.
Catacomb’s staff also carries a collection of accessories and handmade battle jackets and vests. Just walk in and tell them what you want, and they will customize one to your specifications.
Some hardcore metalheads might say that it is not metal to buy a pre-made vest, but why bother with all that sewing and ironing for it to look like a kid made it, when you can pay someone else to do it right and leave you looking like a real Billy Badass?
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