A storage company that the rich and Dayton famous had long entrusted with their art, pianos and silver is still in business today and operates as it did in 1916.
Lincoln Storage and Moving’s century-old headquarters at 315 E. First St. is now surrounded by newcomers as new construction and rehabilitation continues to transform the Webster Station neighborhood on the eastern edge of downtown.
“We like to call ourselves the historical anchor,” said Jeffery Peace, president and CEO of Lincoln Storage and Moving.
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Peace said in the 1980s, the definition of “downtown” often stopped at Patterson Boulevard.
“We would try to join a downtown association and they’d say ‘you’re not downtown.’ Well we’re downtown now, though the building stayed in the same place, oddly enough, because all this improvement,” Peace said.
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Peace loves to tell the stories of how Virginia Kettering rented an entire floor of the building so her furniture would not be stacked; how Wilbur and Orville Wright stored an airplane engine in the building; and how former Ohio Gov. James Cox, the founder of the Dayton Daily News, had the company haul and store furniture from his Trails End mansion to make room for his annual New Year’s Eve party.
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Over the years Fifth Third Field was built and the Water Street District expanded near the storage business. Delco Lofts were recently built out on one side and a proposal for more apartments on the grassy lot on the other side.
As development of apartments and retail continues around the building, Peace said he knows there might be interest in his six-story, 56,000-square-foot building. He said he’s open to listening to offers and has had in the past received proposals for turning the first floor into a restaurant or a coffee shop.
But he said the business has to also keep access secured for the sensitive documents it stores and would be leery of having a restaurant kitchen downstairs leading to smoke or fire damage.
“It was nothing that made any sense for us financially. Security is our main issue. If customers don’t feel that our place is secure, I don’t have that business,” he said.
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In 2016, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The registry opens up eligibility for historic tax credits for redevelopment — a common financing tool for other Dayton projects — though Peace said he sought to put it on the registry to recognize the history of the building.
The downtown Dayton building is engraved with its original name the Bimm Fireproof Warehouse, and was built like a fortress after a fire devastated large swaths of downtown Dayton.
Rachel Bankowitz, preservation planner with the city of Dayton, who worked on the application to the registry, had said at the time that the building incorporated all of the latest trends in the use of structural reinforced concrete, built to be almost indestructible in light of the Great Flood and several devastating fires in the neighborhood.
The building still has a first floor vault built to be an impenetrable safe to store the valuables of Dayton’s elite, and had been guarded by watch dogs that roamed the premises overnight, guarding their silver, furs and coins all stashed in the vault.
“We had rich people. They had stuff. They went on cruises. They went on vacation. There wasn’t any security alarms,” Peace said.
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Peace said he bought the business from a previous owner whose first job at Lincoln every morning was to clean up after the dogs in the morning. The vault is still in use today, protecting documents, art other valuables for Dayton companies.
Today, most of the company’s storage and moving business happens off-site down the street from its main office.
Peace, who today is semi retired, started in the storage and moving business at age 15 working at a moving company he could walk to from his childhood home on the west side of Dayton. He stayed in the industry, working up to sales, management and 1990 named president of Lincoln and four years later purchased the company.
The business has evolved over time. Lincoln has expanded to new cities, broadened services, picked up new business lines and adopted new technology, such as switching from hand written letters labeling shelves to barcodes.
“We’ve seen everything. We’ve helped everyone. We’ve paid an awful lot of taxes in 102 years,” Peace said. “We’ve had thousands of employees and millions of moves, from everyone from the upper and elite and to just anybody that needed a move.
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Celebrating 120 years
The Dayton Daily News is celebrating 120 years of service to the community. In 1898, James Middleton Cox, age 28, bought the Dayton Evening Herald at age 28. Soon after, he changed the name to the Dayton Daily News and created the foundation for a media company that has been part of this region ever since. We will continue to profile area companies in the next year that have been in business more than 100 years. Know of one? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your company.
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