Demolition is expected to begin on about 22 buildings at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds site on South Main Street next week, which will be the first visible signs of work to redevelop the property. After 165 years in Dayton, the Montgomery County Fair moved to a new home in Jefferson Twp. last year. This round barn will remain on the property. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

Former fairgrounds demolition work starting: ‘We are preparing for the future’

The Montgomery County Fair is celebrating its second year at its new home in Jefferson Twp., and pretty soon, few traces will be left of the site it occupied for more than 160 years in southern Dayton.

Demolition is expected to begin July 22 on about 22 buildings at the former Montgomery County Fairgrounds on South Main Street, which will be the first real visible signs of work to redevelop the property, other than the ongoing disassembly of a historic barn that will be moved and preserved.

Many local residents and officials for decades talked about relocating the fair from 1043 S. Main St. and transforming the property into new and more active uses, better suited for an urban setting.

MORE: Looking back at the Montgomery County Fair, whose origins stretch back 180 years

“Removal of the existing structures sets the groundwork for new development to take place,” said Buddy LaChance, CEO of onMain, which is developing the project. “Although it may still be some time before the first buildings come out of the ground, preparing the site sends the message we are preparing for the future, and it’s not that far off.”

The Montgomery County Fair last year moved to a new home in Jefferson Twp. The 167th fair, which began July 8, runs through Sunday.

The University of Dayton and Premier Health have teamed up to redevelop the 38-acre Dayton property, creating a new group called onMain to lead the project.

onMain has submitted about 22 wrecking permits for nearly all of the structures and buildings on the fairgrounds property, including the grandstand, coliseum, barns, stables, exhibit facilities, milking facilities, petting zoo, ticket booth, offices and former antique stores.

MORE: Have ideas for the former Montgomery County fairgrounds? Here’s how to tell onMain

O’Rourke Wrecking Company, the demolition contractor, will begin mobilizing on the site next week, and the grandstand will be the first structure taken down, LaChance said.

The demolition work at the fairgrounds should take about five months, which will eliminate the vast majority aging structures and return the site to pre-construction conditions, largely seed and straw, LaChance said.

Demolition activities originally were expected to get underway sometime around the end of May.

But delays arose because crews were tied up dealing with the aftermath of the devastating tornadoes that tore through the region Memorial Day.

Two of the oldest buildings on the fairgrounds site will be preserved, including the historic roundhouse that will remain and will be restored and converted into a new use.

MORE: Developers sought for former fairgrounds in Dayton

Also, a horse-stable built in the late 19th century will be moved to Carillon Historical Park.

The nearly 8,000-square-foot barn is unique to the fairgrounds property with four gables, each featuring a palladium window, said Brady Kress, president and CEO of Dayton History.

“We are saving this particular building because it is one of the oldest, and because it can help tell the very unique stories from the fairgrounds,” Kress said. “That property witnessed many historic events far beyond the county fair.”

The barn’s original roof lath, rafters and rafter tails have been tagged, removed and bundled for the move to Carillon, he said.

The removal of the wooden pegs and disassembly of the timber-framing should begin within weeks, he said.

Once relocated, new vertical board, batten siding and standing seam metal roofing will be re-affixed, and the barn will be installed near the Carillon Boulevard levee, in the hopes of encouraging visitors to explore deeper into that section of the park, Kress said.

The building’s relocation is being funded by the James and Mary Houtz Family Foundation.

Large projects like the fairgrounds redevelopment tend to have many milestones, since they take years to complete.

Other major milestones in the future include work beginning on the new infrastructure and the construction of the first new building. The site needs utilities and streets and sidewalks.

The fairgrounds has two committed institutions that are taking the long view and will make sure that the development will be high quality, contributing, sustainable, distinctive and connects with and catalyzes the surrounding areas, including the southern gateway into downtown, said John Gower, place-making engineer with the city of Dayton and CityWide.

“They are going to be careful to make sure they engage the community, so whatever they are going to do here is going to be good,” he said.

Officials held a community workshop about the fairgrounds on June 27. A follow-up meeting is expected in early August.

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