If you’re like me, perhaps you lived here a while before learning about Oakwood’s history… or maybe you still have yet to make this discovery. Oakwood was originally founded in 1872, but at this time the city was considered a failure, because it was too far removed from Dayton. The modes of transportation at the time were not fast enough or reliable enough to entice Daytonians to move here.
It wasn’t until 1908, that people started to reconsider moving to the suburb (There is ongoing debate about whether its eventual progress was due to the increased reliability of public transportation or the effects of the 1913 flood in Dayton – most likely a combination of the two). Oakwood was roughly triangular with points at 5-Corners, Park & Oakwood Aves, and Harman & Far Hills Aves. It was also around this time that the Wright brothers started looking for a place to settle and to build their estate.
Originally, the Wright brothers had purchased a piece of land in the Dayton View neighborhood, as that was at the time the IT neighborhood in Dayton. However, the Wrights liked the privacy of Oakwood, so in 1911 they abandoned their Dayton View lot, and started building in Oakwood. It didn’t hurt that some of their business associates also lived in Oakwood. Sadly, Wilbur died in 1912 before the completion of Hawthorn Hill, so in 1913, Orville moved in with his sister, Katharine, and their father, Milton.
Another resident who had significant influence on the development of Oakwood (thus dubbed the “Father of Oakwood”) was John H. Patterson, cofounder of NCR (National Cash Register). John was the grandson of Col. Robert Patterson, who built the Patterson Homestead (just over the border in Dayton) and had a hand in the establishment of Dayton. John and his brother, Frank were of the last generation of Pattersons to be born and raised at the homestead, and together they started their business.
Carrying on after Frank’s passing, part of NCR’s success stemmed from the particular care John took of his employees. He created Sugar Camp (named such as it was where the Patterson family had harvested sugar), a training facility for NCR employees, located on the north side of West Schantz Avenue. He also donated the land and developed Hills & Dales park (now part of the Dayton Metroparks). He established the East Oakwood Club (now the Oakwood Community Center). He built his summer home north of what is now Thruston Blvd, at what he called “The Far Hills” as it overlooked NCR. The home was built in a Swiss chalet style, but his son, Frederick had other ideas. In 1924, Frederick tore down his father’s home to build a much more grand English Normandy style home. This building stills stands and today is part of Lutheran Church of Our Savior.
Over the years, Oakwood developed plat by plat, when local land owners (mostly farmers) sold off pieces of land for the development of homes. You’ll also still find some of the old farm houses tucked away (I love the one across the street from me!). You may hear some of these plat names used here and there (i.e. Mayfield, Schantz Park, Shafor Heights, etc.) as well as Estate names (some of the larger, grander homes were known by name rather than address, i.e. Hawthorn Hill, Five Porches, etc.). I once attended a presentation given by the Oakwood Historical Society (as part of their Far Hills Speaker Series, which I highly recommend) about the development of the city by plat over time. Once you understand the timing of the plats’ developments, you’ll understand more of the changes in housing stock from street to street, block to block, and sometimes house to house.
Most of Oakwood was settled through the 1920s and 30s, though you will also find the occasional newer home built here and there (usually when larger estates were broken up at later dates than when the surrounding homes were built). The exception to this is at the northern end of town in Pointe Oakwood where you will find a whole crop of new builds, often with similar home styles to rest of town.
If you’re interested in learning more about Oakwood’s history, check out the Oakwood Historical Society, visit Hawthorn Hill (now owned by Dayton History), or stay tuned as I continue to unravel our past!