Friday, July 17, 2009

Steele's Hill-Grafton Hill Historic District

The "Statement of Significance (in one paragraph)" for the Grafton Hill historic district taken from the National Register of Historic Places nomination form:
The GRAFTON HILL HISTORIC DISTRICT is significant for both historical and architectural reasons. Architecturally, this relatively small area constitutes an excellent grouping of high style residences which date roughly from the 1880's to the early twentieth century and which display a remarkable degree of integrity. A number of them are among the finest of their style in Dayton. Of those neighborhoods within the city limits, the district's Queen Annes, Jacobethans, and Craftsman houses are unrivaled in scale and detail. Historically, the district is a reminder of Dayton's earliest suburban development, of the movement of population from the center of the city outward, north of the Miami River. The proposed district is part of the much larger area generally known as Dayton View and represents part of the first successful development of Dayton across the river. A Dayton View Historic District nomination was submitted and accepted to the National Register earlier this year but included only that neighborhood west of Salem Avenue, a major thoroughfare which bisects North Dayton. Grafton Hill is located east of Salem, and while similar to its western counterpart in development pattern and architectural style, has always been considered a separate entity even though its development and was concurrent with that of Dayton View west of Salem. Before this time, no successful expansion of Dayton, north across the river, had taken place. This expansion was secured after Dayton's 1913 Flood since Dayton View and Grafton Hill is on some of the highest ground in the city. Both before and after the Flood, this residential area was created by and for a generation of rising professionals and businessmen who were the leaders of their rapidly growing industrial city. Its houses reflect in their architectural variety the tastes of the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Thus, the district remains today as a physical link to an important segment of Dayton's development history.

Here's a map with the approximate boundaries of the district. The houses listed in the historic nomination form are marked. The early, distinguished owners are noted in the place description in the map (click the marker). The Dayton Art Institute and Masonic Temple are marked in green.

View Grafton Hill: NPS Inventory in a larger map
The nomination form goes on about the two large structures at the south of the district.
The early residents of this district continued to be among the entrepreneurs of the Dayton business and professional class. The district's dominance was further enhanced by the construction of the Dayton Art Institute (DAI) and the Masonic Temple on the section of the hill from which downtown Dayton can be viewed. These two structures were built in the district because of the social and economic prominance of the district and its inhabitant as well as the prime "viewability" of the location. Also, of equal importance, is the fact that Mrs. Carnell, the Dayton benefactress responsible for the building of the DAI, and Mr. Charles Underwood, president of the Masonic Temple, were residents of the district at the time of the buildings' construction.

The short write-up on wikipedia for the district.

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