In 1892, the brick building at 1005 West Third Street had several large windows that allowed residents of Dayton, Ohio to peek inside and see the Wright Brothers, who were still years away. become the pioneers of aviation, manage their bicycle shop.
Now the windows are gone, the plywood is in its place, and the building may soon be demolished.
The Dayton Zoning Appeal Board on Tuesday approved the city’s request to demolish the building where state legends Wilbur and Orville Wright opened his first successful bicycle business. City officials plan to review developers’ proposals for the space and then decide who should be awarded the property.
The building, all parties agree, is run down. But its potential demolition pits some officials, who say the building is dangerous and a nuisance to neighbors, against conservatives, who argue it has historical significance and, if redeveloped, could qualify for tax credits. .
“We have lost so much heritage, we have lost so much history – we should be working to save every building we can,” said Monica Snow, president of Preservation Dayton Inc on Sunday.
The debate in Dayton echoes those in other parts of the country, in which conservatives, developers and city officials have argued over the future of local properties with strong historical ties.
On an island off Miami Beach, residents and city officials were divided over whether to raze Al Capone’s former mansion. On Astor Row in Harlem, an 1883 house that had been declared a monument was unceremoniously razed last month.
In Dayton, public meetings were held. Letters have been sent. After the monuments commission rejected the city’s demolition request because it wanted the city to try to preserve the facade of the building, the city appealed and won a decision by the zoning appeals commission, which voted 5 to 1 to overturn the refusal.
The Wright brothers became important figures in aviation history when they created a fragile machine in 1903 that supported flight, cementing them as the first people to successfully fly an airplane.
Before obtaining this status, however, they were working from home, bicycle repair and assembly. Soon they were successful enough to open their own store on West Third Street – one of the many over time on that street – where they continued selling and assembling bikes. Through their work, they honed their mechanical skills, which propelled them to become titans in the field of aeronautics.
“I don’t want us to be portrayed as anti-Wright brothers,” Todd Kinskey, director of planning, neighborhoods and development for Dayton said Sunday. He added that “if the Wright brothers could get back in time, they wouldn’t recognize the building.”
Indeed, the structure of the building and its role in the community have evolved over the course of a century: a new facade was added in 1928, around the time it became the Gem City Ice Cream Building. The building was bought by the city in 1998 and declared a public nuisance in 2008.
The national parks service said in a letter to the city’s historical commission in September that “little, if any, of the structure” that the Wright brothers occupied still existed. The building is part of the Third Street West Historic District, depending on the service.
Ms Snow said the city was “responsible for the deplorable condition” of the building as it had done little to prevent further disrepair since acquiring the property.
She said Preservation Dayton Inc. had met developers who “aren’t exhausted with hair on fire,” believing the building could be saved.
Mr Kinskey said Dayton could not redevelop the building in previous years because the city was in financial difficulty following the 2008 financial crisis. He added that many engineering studies the mandated city had shown that the building was in danger of collapsing, in particular the facade, which could separate and fall on the street. A few bricks have already come loose, he said.
Whether the building is demolished or not, Mr Kinskey and Ms Snow said the space has the potential to become a housing complex. Both said they would agree to this outcome.
“If a developer shows up and actually has a plan to redevelop and conserve the building, then we will consider it for sure,” Kinskey said.
Residents who live near the building offered mixed views: A letter from a neighborhood association said he supported the shaving of the building, while others said at public meetings that they support the renovation.
The space is in an area with a lot of foot traffic. The only difference in what happens to her, said Ms Snow, is whether people will recognize or remember the importance of those who once worked there.