by: Joel Michael
stored in: General

My hundreds of trips walking, running, biking, and driving through the Fifth and Keowee intersection started me thinking about Dayton’s evolution as it has been influenced by transportation. I knew the intersection had been reconfigured to accommodate large amounts of car traffic, but it wasn’t until after researching what the intersection used to be that made me consider how Dayton has adapted to change. Our neighborhood is an example.

Despite nearby changes to roads for automobiles, Huffman’s biggest changes resulted from other forms of transportation. The Miami Erie Canal and railroads through the mid 1800s to the early 1900s, and in a different way, the nearby manufacture of bicycles brought prosperity to the east side of the city.

The railroad that passes along the edge of Huffman played a fairly obvious role. Many of the cottages near the track were homes to railroad workers and the line linked the neighborhood to the Davis Sewing Machine factory – the Huffman family’s enterprise. Another Huffman family venture, the Third Street Railway, made for a quick trip downtown for our early residents.

But, as I’ve been learning about Huffman’s earliest inhabitants, it was probably the canal that made the land we know as Huffman desirable. I think most Dayton history buffs know that the Miami Erie Canal cut through downtown roughly where Patterson Boulevard runs today. However, the Mad River Feeder Canal branched north-eastward to reach the factories that were popping up north of Third Street around Front Street well before most of our houses were built. This industry across Third Street would have provided many jobs to workers who could afford housing along the edge of town.

For the Huffman family, it would have been an easy decision to acquire and develop land adjacent to this growing and well-connected industrial area. They had already proven themselves to be savvy business people. As they profited from their east Dayton investments, it is easy to see how they would have factored rail access and bicycle production into their future decisions regarding the Davis plant.

As residents, we easily appreciate that the Huffman family developed our neighborhood. But recognizing that our neighborhood was part of a greater business plan highlights just how thoughtful their decisions really were. Just as they prospered from new forms of transportation, so did the city prosper and change as a result of their decisions.

Historical resources:

1872 map

Early Article 1
Early Article 2

Industrial Article 1
Industrial Article 2

Canal maps

Sanborn maps

General history

One Response to “Planning for growth. Growing to plan.”

  1. Joanie Amato Spain Says:

    Wow! Thanks for all the research. I do enjoy learning more about the authentic history of our neighborhood. The context has changed some–the industrial sector and the railroad are no longer prominent drivers–but Historic Huffman is still in a prime location. It is interesting to think about how we could, once again, capitalize on the strengths of our location and re-purpose our resources in the context of 2010 Dayton!

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