A little love for Dayton and its Arcade

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

This commentary from Community Impact Amelia Robinson appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Sunday, Feb. 14.

The Arcade dazzled me when I arrived for my first day of work at the Dayton Daily News 21 years ago last week in a green, faux velvet New York & Company skirt suit, tights and chunky black shoes.

The Arcade was a grand queen, even though it was shuttered then for more than a decade.

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In awe of the building’s architecture, I imagined the greatest of the community that saw its construction.

“They do not make buildings like that anymore,” I thought.

Turns out there is no city like Dayton.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

I often tell people that I’ve stayed here so long because I fell in love with a Dayton boy who made me fall in love with his city.

That’s not exactly true.

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I love Dayton for Dayton’s sake. The Dayton boy ― a man actually ― makes my love of the city all the sweeter.

There are few symbols of the Dayton that Dayton is as epic as the five-building Arcade complex.

Its cool glass-domed rotunda deserves all the wonder it has inspired.

“Words fail to convey a perfect idea for the wonderful beauty of the gentlemen who in this Arcade have given to Dayton a building which for completeness, elegance, and artistic as well as practical value, cannot be duplicated in this country and probably not in the world,” reads the gushing front page article the Dayton Daily News published about the March 3, 1904, Arcade Charity Festival.

All this is why one cannot overstate how Dayton it is that there is life again at the “dead mall” at the heart of downtown.

More than that, it is in high demand.

Anchor tenants have moved in and there is a plan for a hotel. Being knocked down, but never knocked out is the story of the Arcade.

It is so very, very Dayton.

As with the city itself, many ― myself included ― have from time to time written the Arcade’s obituary and wondered if it was just a choke around the city’s neck that need cut.


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The Arcade’s personality shined when I first laid eyes on it as it does now, 31 years after it last closed to the public in 1990.

It is special and I am smitten.

I can say the same for Dayton itself.

That’s love for you.

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