Tag Archives: historic houses

Visiting Kindred Spirits in St. Anne’s Hill

This past weekend, I attended a holiday homes tour in the St. Anne’s Hill historic district of Dayton. They hold their “Dickens of a Christmas Holiday Home Tour” fundraiser every other year (and in the other year they do a spring tour). You have a guided tour through the neighborhood, along with admittance to 6 or so beautifully decorated and cared for historic homes, mostly Victorian era. The tour wraps up with delicious bread pudding inside the well-known Bossler Mansion on Dutoit Street.

I had been on the Christmas tour once before (in 2011, I think it was), but the homes change from year to year, and it is worth repeating. I was particularly enticed to attend the tour this year because it was approximately 60 degrees, unlike the chilling cold and snow/freezing rain that I walked in last time. (Our poor tour guides in their Victorian winter dresses and capes were sweating it though!) I also chose a daytime tour this time, instead of an evening one, which made it easier to see what I was looking at outside!

I’m not going to tell you all about everything, and I don’t even have many pictures to share with you. After all, these are people’s homes, and although we were told that we could ask to take pictures and see if the owners would approve, I was just thrilled to be allowed inside at all..and quite frankly, I probably spend too much of my “tourist” experience looking through a camera lens, so in a way it was nice to just “be.”

You’re probably wondering what I came here to write about, if I’m not going to tell-all on tour details or show you photos of these gorgeous old houses in all their magnificence.

Well, there were a few snippets I want to share — these things that have stuck with me, following the tour. Most of these things have to do with the homes’ “stories” (you know how I love stories). In the interest of privacy, I will try not to “out” the owners or the house precisely, though if you were part of the tour (or are a member of the close-knit neighborhood), you’d likely be able to figure it out.

When you first enter each home, the owners usually have a brief introduction to share with you about the house — what they know about its history, what has been done to restore it, etc.

In one of these stories, the owner mentioned that his home had been lived in for several decades by a pair of unmarried sisters, prior to his acquisition of it. He said they didn’t do anything to the house for most of that time. So, on the one hand, they hadn’t made any improvements, but on the other hand, they also didn’t do anything BAD either. They just didn’t do anything, really…so they didn’t screw it up!

This story made me think of my Dad. I feel like I’ve heard him make a similar statement. The historic home I lived in when I was little (described in the previous blog post) had been occupied for decades only by two spinster sisters, whose father had the house built so it had only ever been in 1 family for its entire life of about 80 years. When my Dad got it, not a lot had been done to it over the years. Nothing good. But also nothing bad.

People do a lot of interesting things to houses, historic or not. The older the house, the wider the window of opportunity has been for someone to have done something interesting to it. Now, my high school best friend and I had an inside joke about the word “interesting.” One of us would say something was “interesting,” and the other would say, “Interesting like chocolate-covered grasshoppers, or interesting like So-and-So’s hair?” One was good, the other bad. (I’ll let you guess which was which.) But the point is, yes…sometimes people do good things to houses, and sometimes people do bad things.

Now of course, the homes we saw on the tour were all full of interesting good things. They’ve been loved — and lived in, some for 150+ years. Some had been “rescue” jobs, but they’re looking pretty good now (wonderful even!). Anyway, the point is — all of these homes, whatever their past, they are now being lovingly cared for by people who wanted a historic house to love and care for.

Believe it or not, that’s actually not quite where I’m going with my whole “kindred spirits” thing. I love old houses…to look at. I love to look at them. But I’m not sure I would love many of the realities of actually living in one. I want insulation and drywall and central air and brand new electric. Yeah yeah, I know you can put all these things into old houses, but it’s a lot harder.

Although, at least one couple on the tour actually did all that. When they purchased their house (for less than $10,000) several years ago, they said it was the neighborhood eyesore. It had not been well-loved for many years, and it needed a total gut-job (truly). (By the way, they bought it like 8 years ago and just moved in.) They kept a lot of it looking old — and even managed to keep a few original features, like the 1850s stair railing — but they also have drywall. (I know I probably seem to have this fixation with drywall, but let’s just say I’ve had enough of plaster walls from my 1949 Cape Cod, thankyouverymuch.)

One thing I remember thinking in that house was how much fun I think my uncles would have if I turned them loose on creating beautiful ornate woodwork that was actually new but made to look old. (Now would probably be a good time to tell you that my uncles are extremely talented finish carpenters as well as general contractors.) Or, maybe they would look at me like I was crazy. We’ll probably never know.

The house with the drywall and the 1850s staircase also featured a Christmas tree with a train running in a circle under it. The man said his father bought him that train for Christmas in 1949. “I was seven months old,” he said with a grin, “so you tell me who really wanted to play with a train.” That reminded me of Dad. And as if I needed another reason to like these people who had brought a 150-year-old house back from the brink and made it beautiful again, I noticed a copy of David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers on an end table. Kindred spirits, indeed.

At another house, addressing us from a few steps up the staircase (as most of them did if there was a staircase in the front hall, which was many of them), the owner started off by saying that when they agreed to be part of the tour, they actually didn’t really know anything about the home’s history (and they hadn’t been the ones to restore it either), so she wasn’t sure what she would tell us for the introduction.

I was just making a mental note to approach her later to let her know that the library (either the one where I work at the university or the public library where I used to work) had plenty of great resources to help them learn more about their house, if they wanted to…when whipped out a piece of paper and continued, “…but then we received this letter in the mail.”

Out of the blue, the great-granddaughter of some previous owners, who had lived in the home for 50 years and raised several children there, had written to them, with memories of the house and pictures.

Of course everyone in the room, including myself, ooh’d and ahh’d. I mean, what an awesome thing to receive a letter like that! What an awesome thing to have thought to write it. I would love a letter like that. “Here, have some history of a place that’s now special to you, that has also been special to me.” (Of course you can see why I would love something like that, even just a story about such a thing; seeing as how I basically wrote a love letter to my childhood home in my previous post.)

But not everybody would care about something like that. Some people might not be interested in receiving such a thing. And far more people would even think to write such a thing, let alone actually do it. Some might even call it crazy.

But not me. And not that woman telling us the story from her staircase. And I dare say not the other 30 or so tour-goers standing around me, making the same murmurs of awe that I was making.

So, standing in that crowded living room, hearing that story and mentally telling myself don’t cry in public don’t cry in public (and I succeeded), I think that was the moment that gave me the “kindred spirits” feeling I used in the title.

Historic homes people? People who love them and live in them? People who love them enough to drop $22 for a chance to see inside just a few? Yep, these are my people, and this is our jam.

I should have probably saved that revelation for the end, but I’m writing this as it comes to me, with very few notes ahead of time. And the last two items come at or near the end of the tour, so…

At one of the last houses on the tour, the couple who lived there had actually gotten into character, portraying the Victorian doctor and his wife who had previously lived in their house. That in and of itself was great, and they both looked fantastic. They even had a little exhibit on “quack” Victorian medicine!

But something about the wife kept giving me this de ja vu feeling. I couldn’t figure out what it was. Even her name seemed familiar to me. I noticed a certificate on the wall with her name on it and checked it out to see what it was for, thinking perhaps she was a fellow library professional or something like that, who I might have heard of somewhere. Nope, totally different profession. I thought maybe she was someone I had helped when I worked at Dayton Metro Library, as I did a lot more reference desk work there than I do now; I saw a lot more people, I’m sure.

It came to me a couple of days later, while I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep (isn’t that always the way?). She had been a library patron, but at the university library where I work now, not at the public library. (Well, I expect she went there too, but it’s not where I met her…) I looked in our researcher log to confirm. Yes, that was it! She looked so familiar to me because she had come in last summer to research for this house tour—she mentioned it specifically. (I wonder now if she recognized me. She probably just wondered why I kept staring at her.)

It’s a pretty cool experience any time you get to see the amazing results of something that you, as a librarian or archivist, “helped” with — whether it’s a published book, a school project, or in this case…a performance!

That was actually the anecdote that first occurred to me as something I wanted to write about here…and then I thought of the others.

And finally, without further adieu, no post centering on the St. Anne’s Hill Dickens of a Christmas holiday homes tour would be complete without a mention of the spectacular Bossler Mansion. And that I have a couple of pictures of.

Bossler Mansion on Dutoit Street in St. Anne's Hill Historic District, Dayton, Ohio, Dec. 13, 2015 (photo by the author) (click to view larger)

Bossler Mansion on Dutoit Street in St. Anne’s Hill Historic District, Dayton, Ohio, Dec. 13, 2015 (photo by the author) (click to view larger)

As we were standing on the sidewalk in front of the home, one of the things our tour guide said about the house was that she had a special connection to it herself. In a previous life, the mansion had been converted into a multi-unit apartment building (this being an example of the “interesting” things people sometimes do to old houses). And during that era, her grandmother and her toddler-age mother had lived in one of the apartments. She said it was very emotional the first time she visited the room (yes, room, singular) that had been their apartment, and she got a little choked up just mentioning it to us. (Seriously people, stop making me almost-cry in public!)

So that’s the anecdote I have to share about the Bossler house. The true highlight of this stop on the tour, however, is the bread pudding (omigod, seriously so delicious) and the view of downtown Dayton out the little round west-facing window in the 4th story cupola. (Another reason I’m glad I chose a daytime tour this year!)

View of downtown Dayton, Ohio, as seen through the 4th story cupola of the Bossler Mansion, Dec. 13, 2015 (photo by the author)

View of downtown Dayton, Ohio, as seen through the 4th story cupola of the Bossler Mansion, Dec. 13, 2015 (photo by the author) (click to view larger)

So I’ll just leave you with that.

We keep this love in a photograph

It’s been so long, I think I’ll open with something light, before I even attempt to explain the title, the cryptic detail photographs, and this post that’s been ruminating since July.

brick road

brick road

So you’ve all probably seen those amusing picture+words images on Facebook. This morning, I saw this one that had a picture of an ordinary looking house and text that said this: I went by the house I grew up in and asked if I could go in and look around. They said no and slammed the door… Parents can be real jerks.

Ba-dum ching, right?

doorknob

doorknob

Lucky me, I don’t actually have that problem – neither the parents who are jerks nor the inability to re-visit my childhood homes, because my parents still own them both. (Actually, my mom once pointed out that my father currently owns every house he’s ever lived in, with the exception of the fraternity house at college…

stairs

stairs

When I saw that thing on Facebook this morning, I got inspired to finally sit the frick down and attempt to write this post I’ve been meaning to write since July. Trouble was, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to say or how I wanted to say it. To be honest, I’m still not; but I’m sitting here, and I’m writing it, so that’s something.

I say I’ve been meaning to write it since July because that was when I was last able to re-visit my first childhood home. The second one, my parents currently live in; I know I’m welcome there any time, with or without warning, and I have my own key. Now the first one, where I lived from birth until age almost-11, is a different story. Yes, I said my parents still own it, but they don’t just keep it on hand, sitting empty, for funsies; they rent it out. And I don’t know all the ins and outs of the landlord/renter relationship, but I get that it’s not really kosher to just randomly traipse people through the place even if you do own it. So, I had to wait until the place was unoccupied for my parents to take me there, and that time came this summer. The place was between renters, and it stayed empty for a few weeks while some work was being done on it, and stars (and schedules) aligned and I was able to get in and see it again.

transom

transom

Kicking back to the rumination — as I said, I’ve been filing things away for this post for months — I am reminded of a presentation I saw my supervisor give a couple of weeks ago. She was speaking to a group of college freshmen about local history, “reading” photographs, and “sense of place.” She led them in a story circle exercise, asking them questions like: Where were you born? Where are you from? and What do you consider ‘home’? (These questions all sound very similar, but they have different connotations and may elicit 3 totally different answers from the same person.) In opening up the story circle portion, she showed two photographs on the screen – an historical photograph (circa 1900) of her grandparents’ farm in Indiana and then a more contemporary photo of the same house, courtesy of Google Maps streetview. When she showed the older picture, she said that it looked more like what she remembered, and then going to the newer photo she added, “I think I’d probably cry if I saw the place today.” You, too, huh?

Judging from her inflection in that statement about crying over the current state of a beloved childhood place, I think I was crying for that same reason when I saw my old house in July. I’ll not go into details, because for one, my father wouldn’t want me to, and for another, that’s really not what this post is about. Point being, though, this most recent time, I don’t think it would confuse anyone as to why I might have been sad.

pocket door

pocket door

But this wasn’t the first time I had seen it since we moved out. I know I visited it once when I was about 12 or so (a year or two after we left). And I had been inside again once a few years ago. Both of those times, there actually were renters in it, but Mom knew I’d been wanting to see the place again, so she asked, and they assured her they didn’t mind.

Now, I don’t remember being sad or how I felt at all that time when I was 12. But the time a few years ago, the place looked perfectly fine. In fact, it was Christmas time, and the placed was all decked out with meticulously done holiday decorations, and there was literally a beautiful Christmas tree in each room of the first floor. And yet I still started sobbing in the middle of the dining room. What the hell, right?

They even asked me – I can’t remember if it was my mother or my husband – why I was crying, and I remember saying, “I don’t know.” I also remember that I knew I would cry before I went, but I couldn’t put words to why.

fireplace

fireplace

So, going back to today and that joke image about visiting your childhood home. I didn’t include the image itself in this post (except to link to it) partially because copyright (boo) and partially because I didn’t care for the look and feel of it. I spent about 20 seconds Googling “the house I grew up in” to see if I could find something similar but more attractive, but I blew that off because I “saw a butterfly” in the search results. It was another image, explaining the Welsh word “hiraeth”:

hiraeth

hiraeth

What is this? A word that sort of explains missing times and places that don’t really exist anymore? (OK, obviously the house still exists, but the house as my house, the house of my childhood no longer does.) A little more Googling on the Welsh hiraeth also led to Portuguese saudade, as well. I think both of these are probably tinged with a bit more cultural nostalgia than what I’m attempting to express, but I thought they were both pretty interesting words that are at least as close as I’ve seen, if not quite right. (I should really cease being surprised every time I have a “there’s a word for that?!” moment. I’m sure there is a word for everything; I just don’t happen to know them all.)

fireplace details

fireplace details

So what’s with all the cryptic architectural detail photos? In case you hadn’t guesses, these are from the photos I took at my old house that day this summer. (Did you really think I wouldn’t want to take a few — or a few hundred — photos of the place? Have you met me? OK, well, actually, most of you maybe haven’t…but anyway. Yeah I like photos.) The house is over 100 years old, so it has some pretty neat woodwork and other things going on, so in addition to the wide shots of every room (EVERY room), I wanted some close-ups as well.

Finally getting to the point of all the things: what does the title of this entry have to do with anything? You probably recognized it as a line from the recent Ed Sheerhan hit, aptly called “Photograph” (lyrics, music video).

The day I went to see my old house, I got off work early (so I could get there before it got too late in the evening- as this house is 2 hours from where I currently live), and of course as I was starting up the car, I was thinking of what I’d be doing that afternoon, and the first song that came on the radio as I was driving away was that song. Now, I don’t think the song is actually about a house, in any way, but when I hear these lines, I think of that moment, and I think of my house:

We keep this love in this photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Our hearts were never broken
Time’s forever frozen still

The time you can’t visit anymore? The place you maybe can’t visit anymore? At least, not as it was then; it can never be just as it was then, ever again, even if the physical space remains.

We keep this love in a photograph.

Dining room door to kitchen (2015), overlaid with Dad & me in 1983

Dining room door to kitchen (2015), overlaid with Dad & me in 1983

Please forgive my epically amateur Photoshopping skills.

Looking through the dining room to the front hall (2015), overlaid with Mom & me in 1983

Looking through the dining room to the front hall (2015), overlaid with Mom & me in 1983

I haven’t scanned a lot of my mom’s photos – mostly only my grandparents’ – so I didn’t have tons to work with already on my computer…

Dining room (2015), overlaid with my sister's baptism day in 1984

Dining room (2015), overlaid with my sister’s baptism day in 1984

…but you get the idea.

Back yard (2015), overlaid with me and Grandpa on the swingset in 1985

Back yard (2015), overlaid with me and Grandpa on the swingset in 1985

This one might be my favorite overlay:

family room (2015), overlaid with my 3rd birthday (1985) - aka the only picture of me in my underwear that you will ever find on the Internet. also, my dad built those bookcases.

family room (2015), overlaid with my 3rd birthday (1985) – aka the only picture of me in my underwear that you will ever find on the Internet. also, my dad built those bookcases.

Not an overlay but I’m sharing anyway:

Christmas 1986 (no overlay - I didn't have a shot of this particular corner but I loved this picture so I'm sharing anyway)

Christmas 1986 (no overlay – I didn’t have a shot of this particular corner but I loved this picture so I’m sharing anyway)

We made these memories for ourselves.

I have this thing hanging in my living room that says: “Home is where your story begins.” I was thinking about that this morning, in trying to figure out what I wanted to say in this post as well. I remember thinking, “That’s not necessarily accurate, depending on how you interpret it.” (Cue ridiculously pedantic explanation.) Going back to the whole story circles thing from earlier, what you currently consider “home” may or may not be the same place that your story begins, especially depending on how you choose to begin or define “your story.” I wasn’t thinking about it that hard when I bought it, and so I interpreted it that your story (your life) begins (began) at a place you consider(ed) home. Home is where a lot of your life happens (or happened).

exterior of my childhood home, 2015

exterior of my childhood home, 2015

So, that place was home. That house was the backdrop for a lot of the moments of our lives, for a lot of years. In fact, before my parents even lived there, before they were even married, the house is literally the backdrop for some important moments, such as the following, because my mom grew up in the house next-door (the one on the right):

Left, Mom on high school graduation day; middle, Mom & Dad on Mom's graduation day; right, Mom showing off her engagement ring.

Left, Mom on high school graduation day; middle, Mom & Dad on Mom’s graduation day; right, Mom showing off her engagement ring.

And because my grandparents lived next-door to that house for several years, in a longer story I won’t get into right now, my grandmother had these photos showing the house shortly after it was first built and the family who lived in it for the first 70 years:

circa 1910?

circa 1910?

original family, circa 1910?

original family, circa 1910?

I wonder what they would think of the house today? I wonder what they might have thought about the house when we lived in it? It has certainly changed a lot over the last 100 years.

So. I wanted to write a little something to commemorate my recent visit to my childhood home. And par for the course, I instead wrote a lot of something. (Again, have you met me?) I couldn’t put my finger on what it is about the place that makes me feel the way I feel about it. A bit of “neat old house,” a lot of memories and nostalgia, a lot of just me being hyper-emotional about all things micro-history (and oh god, if we’re talking about my own personal micro-history).

I think I’m all poured out. I’ll leave you with one last questionable Photoshop job, and I think I’ll peace out:

exterior 2015, overlaid with historical photo ca. 1910

exterior 2015, overlaid with historical photo ca. 1910

Ex post facto reference: John H. Patterson’s house

It’s time for more “ex post facto reference,” where I answer a question that someone apparently had, because it showed up on my blog stats under the Search Terms section.

Today’s reference question came from someone who, in the past week, was apparently interested in: “ncr’s john h patterson house in dayton ohio” and “john patterson house in dayton ohio”.

I was a bit intrigued by this question because it caused me the realization that I didn’t actually know what they were asking about. I mean, sure, I know about John H. Patterson, the founder of National Cash Register. But the question made me realize that I had no idea where in Dayton he had lived.

Here is some information about the houses where John H. Patterson lived at various times in his life. Since I’m not sure “which” house the person was referring to (although I suspect the third one), I’ll go ahead and include a quick blurb about the three that I found:

House #1: Rubicon Farm on Brown Street, south end of Dayton

Patterson Homestead at Rubicon Farm

Patterson Homestead at Rubicon Farm (Dayton Metro Library, Lutzenberger Photograph Collection, photo # 0103)

As a child, John H. Patterson lived on the Patterson Homestead at Rubicon Farm, south of Dayton. This was the house built by John’s grandfather, Col. Robert Patterson, and later passed down to John’s father Jefferson Patterson. Even as an adult, John kept Rubicon Farm as his summer home until he later built a new rural estate in Oakwood.

[For more info on Col. Robert Patterson and additional pictures of Rubicon Farm, check out my Bio Sketch of Robert Patterson.]

House #2:  Northeast corner First and Ludlow, downtown Dayton

John H. Patterson mansion, northeast corner First and Ludlow, Dayton

John H. Patterson mansion, northeast corner First and Ludlow, Dayton (Dayton Metro Library, Lutzenberger Photograph Collection, photo # 0271A)

Like many wealthy Daytonians of that time, John H. Patterson had a fabulous mansion in downtown Dayton. His particular mansion was located on the northeast corner of First and Ludlow Streets. The Patterson house was razed in 1934 and a filling station built on the site. Presently, the site is occupied by the Soin Building.

House #3: “Far Hills” estate, Oakwood

John H. Patterson's mansion Far Hills, Oakwood

John H. Patterson’s mansion Far Hills, Oakwood (Dayton Metro Library postcard #0372)

And, like many wealthy Daytonians of that slightly later time, John H. Patterson eventually built a bigger and more fabulous mansion in nearby Oakwood, south of downtown Dayton. He built his new country home in 1896 and called it “Far Hills.” This Swiss chalet-style home was located on the north side of Thruston Boulevard, where Wood Road meets it. John lived at “Far Hills” until his death in 1922. Then, his son Frederick B. Patterson had the house torn down and replaced with a French style mansion on the same site. Fred Patterson’s mansion still exists as part of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior.

Bibliography

In addition to the Dayton Metro Library’s digital image collections (and their corresponding descriptions), I also consulted the following in writing this post:

“Far Hills,” The John H. Patterson Home, 1909. Postcard image and description by Steve Koons. Accessed 14 Aug. 2012, http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/k/o/o/Steven-D-Koons/PHOTO/0067photo.html.

Google Maps. Street View. Accessed 14 Aug. 2012, http://maps.google.com.

Oakwood Historical Society. “A Brief Oakwood History.” Accessed 14 Aug. 2012, http://www.oakwoodhistory.org/2_oh_brief_history.htm.

Oakwood Historical Society. “The Town of Oakwood, 1872-1908: A Self-Guided Walking Tour.” Accessed 14 Aug. 2012, http://www.oakwoodhistory.org/Downloads/Town_of_Oakwood.pdf.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Oakwood, Ohio, Feb. 1941. Accessed 14 Aug. 2012, http://dmc.ohiolink.edu/oplinmap.htm.

Five Oaks

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:

Location of Five Oaks, 1875

Location of Five Oaks, 1875

(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 [1943] 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:

Five Oaks, before the tower was built

Five Oaks, before the tower was built (Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection)

About 1890, an addition, including a tower, was built on the north end of the house:

Peirce Homestead [Five Oaks]

Peirce Homestead (Lutzenberger Collection)

Here’s a wonderful cyanotypephotograph, showing roughly the same view but from a little further back, so you can see the trees:

Five Oaks cyanotype

Five Oaks (Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection)

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.

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Bibliography

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.  http://www.daytonhistory.org/archives/who_fiveoaks.htm.

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: http://content.daytonmetrolibrary.org/cdm/; or, find in a library.

Five Oaks Neighborhood Improvement Association (FONIA). “Five Oaks History.” Accessed 3 Dec. 2011. http://www.fiveoaksdayton.com/credits.html.

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, http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmlhistory/.

Lutzenberger, William. “The Peirce Homestead.” Photo #0541. Lutzenberger Collection (MS-024), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. Photo available online: http://content.daytonmetrolibrary.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/lutzenberge/id/630.

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: http://www.daytonhistorybooks.com/covington_pike.html.