Before it was a neighborhood…or even a park…it was a house. Five Oaks was the name that Jeremiah H. Peirce, a local lard oil manufacturer and later lumber dealer, gave to his 1854 home, apparently naming the estate after “five stately oak trees” situated on the four-acre property (Dayton History; Burroughs; FONIA).
I thought I would share some photos and information about the Five Oaks estate, as a nice, light entry for around the holidays.
This annotated map shows the location of the J. H. Peirce and boundaries estate in 1875. A lot of these old maps don’t show street names, so I’ve added the (current) street names to help you get your bearings in the map:
(You can view a high resolution version of the original Harrison Township map on Dayton Remembers, Dayton Metro Library’s digital images collection.)
Charles Sullivan, well-known in the Montgomery County Historical Society (now Dayton History) many decades ago, reminisced about the area in the late 19th century, mentioning two homes in particular that were off the west side of Forest Avenue (or, Tate’s Mill Road, in early accounts):
Opposite Shaw ave. a lane ran up to the home of Samuel Forrer, a two story brick, still standing. He was a well known civil engineer… He had six children and the descendants are still  in the locality.
Opposite Neal ave. was the lane running up the hill to “Five Oaks” the residence of J. H. Peirce, a son-in-law of Samuel Forrer. He had 8 children and was in the lumber industry at the corner of Wayne and State now a railroad yard.
Here is a current Google Map showing the area now known as Five Oaks. The little green splotch of Five Oaks Park (northwest corner of 5 Oaks Avenue and Squirrel Road) is where the Five Oaks estate was originally. Samuel Forrer’s home was located on part of the Grandview Medical Center property.
And now for the really good stuff: pictures!
Since many of us probably have gingerbread on the brain right now, I thought it might be fun to share a different kind of “gingerbread house” — gingerbread in the sense of Victorian architectural embellishments. The Five Oaks house had some really neat “gingerbread” around its eaves, as you will see.
This photo, probably from the late 1860s or early 1870s — I suspect those two little boys are Jeremiah’s two youngest children, J. Elliot and Howard; the woman, probably his wife Elizabeth (who died in 1874) — shows what the Five Oaks mansion looked like in its early days:
About 1890, an addition, including a tower, was built on the north end of the house:Here’s a wonderful cyanotypephotograph, showing roughly the same view but from a little further back, so you can see the trees:
After the tower was added, people sometimes referred to the Peirce house as “The Castle on the Hill” (Dayton History).
In a 1980 article about the Five Oaks neighborhood, long-time resident George Loney had this to say about the Peirce homestead (quoted from Burroughs):
There was still a lot of open land around here when I was a kid, and I sure remember that old Peirce castle. It really was a castle. The stones had been imported from Europe, there was a turret and what looked like a dungeon underneath. It was all hidden in the woods and surrounded by three ponds. Mr. Peirce used to hang a rope with a noose on it in the woods to scare us off. I guess we did get on his nerves–all the kids in the neighborhood used to sneak around there. Of course, the castle’s gone now…
The “Mr. Peirce” of this anecdote must refer to J. Elliot Peirce, the only “Mr. Peirce” that Loney could have known in his childhood. J. H. Peirce died in 1889; J. Elliot was his son. Members of the Peirce family lived at Five Oaks until the 1930s: J. H.’s second wife Mary lived there until 1929 along with two of J. H.’s unmarried daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth, both of whom died in 1930. I don’t think J. Elliot actually lived at Five Oaks with his family — Mary, Sarah, and Elizabeth lived there — but according to city directories, he did live very nearby for a while, at 551 N. Old Orchard Ave., according to a 1919-20 directory; that same directory lists the others at “nec [northeast corner] Five Oaks and Old Orchard Ave.”
In 1946, the four-acre was purchased by the city for a park, and the house was razed (Burroughs; Dayton History). Five Oaks Park now occupies the land.
For more information on Five Oaks or the Peirce family, come see us at the Dayton Metro Library, Local History Room (basement of Main); or feel free to leave a comment on this blog. If photos are what you’re after, check out our Flickr set about the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection.
This post was written in advance on Dec. 17, 2011.
Burroughs, Virginia. “Diversity helps keep Five Oaks neighborhood vital.” Dayton Daily News, 8 Aug. 1980, p. Z6-15. Available in Dayton Local History Room, Clippings File #3908 (Neighborhoods–Five Oaks).
Dayton City Directories. Available at the Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio.
Dayton History. “Five Oaks.” Accessed 15 Dec. 2011.
Everts, L. H. Combination Atlas Map of Montgomery County, Ohio. Philadelphia : Hunter Press, 1875. Dayton Remembers: Preserving the History of the Miami Valley. Accessed 17 Dec. 2011 through Dayton Remembers:
; or, find in a library.
Five Oaks Neighborhood Improvement Association (FONIA). “Five Oaks History.” Accessed 3 Dec. 2011.
Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. This collection is publicly available for research at the Dayton Metro Library, Main Library, Local History Room, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402. Many photos from the collection can be seen at the DML Flickr site,
Lutzenberger, William. “The Peirce Homestead.” Photo #0541. Lutzenberger Collection (MS-024), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. Photo available online:
Sullivan, Charles F. “The Covington Pike” (15 Sept. 1943). In Sullivan’s Papers, 425-437. Dayton, OH: Dayton & Montgomery County Public Library, 1995?. Available at the Dayton Metro Library, call no. 977.173 S949S. Transcription accessed, 15 Dec. 2011, at: