The Dayton Board of Zoning Appeals has approved the Ohio city’s request to tear down a 129-year-old historic building. For some, such a demolition of any historic building would be bad enough. But this one was the site of Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first bike shop.
The Wright brothers are famous for being aviation pioneers. They are generally credited with building the world’s first working airplane—simply called then a “flying machine.” They started their work on flight several years after they built the Dayton shop that will be razed.
The brothers’ business was originally called the Wright Cycle Exchange. It began as a bicycle repair, rental, parts, and sales business in 1892 at 1005 West Third Street in Dayton, Ohio.
When the brothers opened the shop, a Wright bicycle cost between $40 and $100—quite pricey for the time. Only five of those bicycles remain in existence, all in museums. The Wrights moved their shop to two other addresses on West Third Street. All the while, the shops helped them fund their study of another method of travel: flight.
Soon after the Wrights left their first shop, the Gem City Ice Cream Co. bought the property. That company owned it until 1975 when it was sold again.
Years after a wide array of owners, the city attempted to sell the rundown property to developers, but it failed inspection tests. The building was deemed structurally damaged and in danger of collapse.
Dayton city officials want to demolish the structure. The building has deteriorated to a point where it can no longer be maintained and redeveloped, reports the Dayton Daily News. Some folks have cited public safety concerns.
Decay and collapse are ways God reminds humans of the passing nature of life on Earth—and encourages us to long instead for a place “whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10)
While agreeing that most of the building should be demolished, the Dayton Landmarks Commission at first rejected the demolition request in September. The panel recommended that the city re-advertise the property and encourage its renovation in a way that preserves the historic façade (front).
Preservation groups also opposed the city’s plan to demolish. They argued that keeping the building’s façade and incorporating it into a redevelopment project would make the project eligible for historic tax credits.
City officials had previously sought approval to bulldoze the property, but they did not move forward after hearing community concerns. However, the building continued to be a problem and an eyesore.
The city appealed the landmarks commission’s decision to the zoning appeals board. Last week, the board voted five to one to reverse the commission’s save-the-building decision. It gave the city permission to raze the historic building. The property’s bumpy ride is finally over.
What do you think about tearing down historic sites? Who should get to make the decision about what stays and what goes?
(In this undated photo, a sign notes the site of the Wright brothers’ bike shop outside the former Gem City Ice Cream building in Dayton, Ohio. Ty Greenlees/Dayton Daily News via AP)