Huffman Historic Area History Summary
William P. Huffman had a vision of an economically diverse, tightly knit community, one in which social luminaries and city leaders would walk the same streets with factory workers and artisans. He built that community in the late 1800s on rural land he owned just outside of the Dayton city limits.
The heart of that area is known today as the Huffman Historic Area, a community listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Mr. Huffman started his community by building homes in a remarkable collection of styles that is a cross section of the late 1800s -- everything from the most ornate Victorian and Queen Anne mansions to smaller homes of simple, classic design.
Mr. Huffman offered those homes to employees of his company, the Davis Sewing Machine Company (the forebear of today's Huffy Bicycle Company). To provide easy access to downtown, he built a horse cart trolley along East Third Street. (Incidentally, the Wright Brothers rode over that same trolley line every day to their hangar at Huffman Prairie.)
A Dramatic Comeback
During the middle part of the 20th Century, the neighborhood began to literally disintegrate -- what some have called demolition by neglect. By the early 1980s, nearly one-quarter of the residential structures in the area were vacant and uninhabitable. Crime rates were among the highest in the city. Neighborhood residents became alarmed. At the rate things were going, the neighborhood would soon be but a distant memory.
Historic District Status
In 1981, the Dayton City Commission declared the area an historic district, enacting tough zoning laws that forced absentee landowners to either contribute to the neighborhood or get out. Today, most of those formerly vacant homes are occupied by families who safely stroll Huffman's tree-lined streets. Success stories like this have earned Dayton praise across the country for its progressive and aggressive protection of its historic areas. The Huffman Historic Area is a remarkable example of the success of Dayton's groundbreaking historic district protection laws.
Today, the Huffman Historic Area is one of seven historic districts that the City's Commissioners have vowed to protect. The others are: Oregon (1972), St. Anne's Hill (1974), McPherson Town (1978), Dayton View (1978), South Park (1981) and Grafton Hill (1988).
More detailed historical information may be found in Huffman's National Historic Register Documents.