The Dayton Arcade has sat empty and quiet for more than 25 years but may be on the cusp of a renaissance.Though deserted for two and a half decades, wandering through the silent buildings is still a marvelous and mysterious trip back in time.

This is how Dayton partied to open the brand-new Arcade in 1904

We recently highlighted a number of the city’s greatest bashes in our feature, “Dayton loves a party: 7 of the city’s best celebrations. ” 

This week we have another party to talk about. The three-day Arcade Charity Festival that marked the opening of the Dayton Arcade happened this week in 1904.

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This early photogaph of the Dayton Arcade shows shopping stalls and shoppers in the rotunda. The building, which opened in 1904, was designed to house shops and farmers markets on the first floor while offices and apartments were located above. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE
Photo: Handout

“ARCADE OPENED WITH A GORGEOUS FESTIVAL IN INTERESTS OF PHILANTHROPY,” read a headline on the front page of the Dayton Daily News. “WILLING WOMEN HAVE BEEN HARD AT WORK.” 

» RELATED: The Arcade: Dayton’s crowning jewel

» RELATED: Latest Dayton Arcade plans seek to blend past and future

This picture postcard postmarked in 1907 shows the main entrance of the Dayton Arcade. The Flemish style facade faces Third Street. DAYTON METRO LIBRARY

The festival drew large crowds eager to see “one of the country’s most modern and complete structures of its kind.” The charity festival, with representatives from St. Elizabeth and Miami Valley hospitals on hand, helped promote the city’s jubilee and its causes. 

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Inside the Arcade, numerous booths were set up in the interest of “sweet charity.” Visitors of all ages snacked on fruit, popcorn, candy, ice cream and cake.

Near the Fourth Street entrance, a vaudeville show kept guests entertained while a wild animal show with performing bears on loan from the Cincinnati Zoo thrilled. 

» RELATED: Then & Now: Where Dayton gathered under the Arcade rotunda

Music and flowers were there “in a wealth of abundance,” according to newspaper coverage. The Third Regiment Band, National Cash Register Band and the Soldiers Home Band performed in the afternoon and evenings.

This photograph was taken at the time the Dayton Arcade opened in 1904. The photograph includes Mrs. Harry Ferneding, Marie Durst, Mrs. Michael J. Gibbons, the wife of the co-developer M.J. Gibbons, and Mrs. Frank McCormick. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

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