Then & Now: Images capture a vintage Gem City

It’s always fascinating to look back at historic photographs of downtown Dayton and compare the scenes today.

Here’s a “then and now” look at 6 Gem City locations:

Two courthouses, standing side by side, encompassed a block of downtown Dayton for many years.

Construction on the Old Court House was completed in 1850 at a cost of $100,000. Known as one of the finest examples of Greek-Revival architecture in the nation, it was constructed from stone cut from Dayton and Centerville quarries.

A new larger courthouse opened in 1884. It was demolished in the early 1970s as part of a downtown revitalization project.

Today the location of the former building is Courthouse Square, a popular downtown spot for live entertainment, food trucks and community gatherings.

The Miami Erie Canal divided an early industrial section of Dayton. Today Patterson Boulevard intersects the buildings.

On the left, N.B. Brown & Co., a manufacturer of carriage parts for streetcars and trains, the Dayton Dyeing Company and a laundry and clothing repair shop flanked the waterway.

Across the canal, the Sachs-Pruden Brewing Company — which introduced its first product, Diamond Brand Pale Ale in 1889 — spans the east bank.

In more recent years, the Hauer Music Co. was housed in the historic brewery. Today it is owned by the Dayton Metro Library.

The Third National Bank Building, a landmark in downtown Dayton, was built in 1926. The 14-story structure is located on Main Street in the hub of downtown across from Courthouse Square.

The building was designed by Dayton architectural firm Schenck & Williams. The elegant interior was finished with imported marble and mahogany woodwork.

It later became the Society Bank Building and then KeyBank. In more recent years, the building came into the hands of a self-proclaimed Hindu mystic. Today the historic building is ready for new development.

Dayton Firehouse No. 4 was built in 1887 at the intersection of Main Street and Monument Avenue along the Great Miami River.

An early photograph captures two teams of horses with firefighters posing in front of two bays of the brick building.

The firehouse was torn down prior to construction of the current fire station in 1961.

Steele High School is the centerpiece of a view of the south side of the Great Miami River photographed in 1897.

The early Dayton high school, located at the corner of Main and Monument streets, was named for Robert Steele, a Dayton educator. The structure was razed in 1955 to make room for a parking garage.

At the far left of the photograph is Newcom Tavern, one of Dayton’s earliest structures. Originally built in 1796 at the southwest corner of Main and Water (now Monument) streets, the building was moved to the levee along the river when a new apartment building (far right) was built in 1894.

Today the CareSource building stands in place of the high school and Newcom Tavern is on display at Carillon Park.

The new Dayton Free Public Library building opened to the community in January 1888.

The Dayton Daily Herald referred to the structure as the “finest library in the West” when the doors opened. Previously the city’s collection of books had been housed in various spaces around town.

Located in Cooper Park, next to the Miami and Erie Canal, the building was constructed out of Dayton limestone with Marquette red sandstone trim and topped by a red slate roof.

Today, the new, sleek Dayton Metro Library, stands in the same spot.


History Extra is a weekly pictorial history feature showcasing the Miami Valley’s rich heritage. If you have a unique set of historic photos found in your parents’ or grandparents’ attic that depicts the past in the Miami Valley, contact Lisa Powell at 937-225-2229 or at

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