That Odd Stone Church

I haven’t written here in months, and I’m sorry for that. Any completely truthful explanation I could give you is going to be a long story and, to be perfectly honest, one I probably shouldn’t tell here. But I’d like to be back.

However, when I’ve tried to think about writing some great “comeback” post to get back on track, it doesn’t happen. So I thought maybe I’d start with something small. Just an interesting snippet of history that I was reminded of earlier today.

My friend Collette and I attended a home and garden tour in one of Dayton’s historic neighborhoods, Grafton Hill, this afternoon. I really enjoyed it — such beautifully restored historic homes and carefully tended gardens. I even love seeing the neighborhood homes that aren’t actually “on” the tour and maybe still need some TLC.

I was delighted to see that at least two of the homes on the tour had proudly displayed binders containing their house histories, researched and written by a friend and fellow local historian, Betsy Wilson. (I was totally hogging the “history tables” at these homes. I knew Betsy must do good work, but I’d never actually seen one of her house histories. That. Was. Awesome.)

Anyway. At one of the stops, I overheard one tour-goer talking to a homeowner about the neighborhood with regards to Dayton’s Great Flood of 1913 — or, okay, we usually just call it “the 1913 flood.” But in all seriousness, it was a big deal. If you want to know more about the flood itself, I’m going to shamelessly direct you to a variety of posts we wrote about the 1913 flood on the blog at the archive where I work (several of which were indeed written by yours truly), but honestly for a quick and dirty summary, just see Wikipedia.

But so anyway, this gentleman was talking about a church just down the street, and that he had seen a picture of people getting out of rescue boats at the edge of the church. This was included as evidence supporting the statement that no, the neighborhood was not flooded because it was on high ground, as demonstrated by this photo that people were getting OUT of rescue boats at the edge of the neighborhood, at that church. I swear I wasn’t “eavesdropping,” per se, but it was pretty hard for my ears not to perk up at the mention of the 1913 flood…or, ok, anything history-related, really.

But this in particular caught my attention because I knew exactly what photo the man was describing.

A few years ago (May 2011), I made geo-tagged maps of all the 1913 flood photographs and postcards in the collections of the Dayton Metro Library, where I used to work. I am saddened to see that those maps no longer seem to exist on the site “GeoSlideshow.” But in any event, in making that map—and trying to figure out where all the photos were taken, so I could “drop” them at the appropriate spot on the map,…well, let’s just say I stared at some of those photos for a long time.

He was talking about this:

“Rescue Boats.” Caption from the back: “Depth of water at that odd stone church, Grand Avenue.” 1913 Flood Postcard #206 (image identifier flp_206a1), courtesy of Dayton Metro Library digital collections (also on Flickr).

I love it when that happens. When somebody mentions something off the cuff about Dayton’s history and it’s like being reminded of an old friend.

(Note that the caption from the back of the original postcard said: “Depth of water at that odd stone church, Grand Avenue.” Hence, the title of this post. It certainly is an unusual looking church.)

We took a little drive around the neighborhood after the official tour time was over, and we happened to drive by that church. We got stuck at a red light, so I whipped out my camera for this awful through-the-windshield photo:

Presbyterian church, northwest corner of Forest and Grand avenues, Dayton, Ohio. Photo by the author, July 11, 2015.

Presbyterian church, northwest corner of Forest and Grand avenues, Dayton, Ohio. Photo by the author, July 11, 2015. (View on Flickr)

It’s not a great angle for seeing that it is in fact the same church, but trust me, it is. The historical photo was taken near what is the left-hand side of today’s photo. You can see the tiled roof and part of that arched window.

It seems to be called either Northminster Presbyterian Church or Forest Avenue Presbyterian Church. I can’t seem to find a web site or much online about it.

And that’s not really the point of this entry anyway — to give you a history of the church or to even really know what it’s called.

I just….ran into an “old friend” today and thought I’d share.

I’ve actually got some better, recent stories about spending time with “old friends” in Dayton’s history, but those may have to wait a while, for various reasons.

10 responses to “That Odd Stone Church

  1. The muse sometimes takes a vacation… don’t push her, just roll with it… anyway, you do just fine by yourself…

  2. Welcome back, you have been missed.

  3. Heinrich Beil

    Lisa, I found you on twitter while looking for an archivist who might be able to help me with something, I noticed you were from Dayton Ohio which may or may not be of help but is important to what I am doing. Can you contact me heinrich@heinrichbeil.com so I can ask you a question? Its a archival document pertaining to the Wright Brothers.

  4. Glad to see you back, Lisa. I always enjoy your blogs.
    Gillian.

  5. Forest Ave. Presbyterian was the home church for my Scottish Dayton ancestors, the Wallaces and Whytes. Whytes were mostly stonecutters/masons and probably worked the red sandstone when the church was built (1901). We have proof that William Whyte fabricated and installed all the plaster moldings and ornamentation on the interior of the church. See his obituary in Dayton Daily News Dec. 1903. The Whytes lived on Lawn Street near the river, and the Wallaces lived on both McOwen St. and E. Helena St., just a few blocks north of Lawn and near the Dayton Canoe Club. I’m told the sandstone came from a quarry in Piqua. I’ve seen the photo of the boats at the church during the flood. Several family members were privileged to tour the church in 2005. My mother, who was 94 at the time, enjoyed showing my husband all around the building and telling him stories of her youth experiences at Forest Ave. Other families attending were the Chattertons, Strachans, Switzers (Jess was first mayor of Dayton), all good friends of the Wallaces and the Whytes. Both Jesse Switzer and my great-grandfather James R. Wallace were trustees of the church when they took out a mortgage to expand prior to 1905. I have the original of that mortgage and love seeing the signatures of both Jess (who married Margaret Whyte) and James. Ann Cummings.

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