More than a building

Troy walking history tours offer a deeper look

By Don Hurst

On Friday April 29, Downtown Troy’s past will come alive when Troy Main Street and the Troy Local History Library partner to present the Troy Streets Alive Walking History Tour. The guided exploration visits local businesses that occupy buildings almost 200 years old. Historians trace the stories of these prominent buildings and show their importance to the development of Troy.

The tours depart from the Troy Local History Library, located at 100 W. Main St., at 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. The walks will last around 45 minutes and will stop at five to six historical buildings. Visitors can choose from three routes that view different locations. Along the way walkers can refuel with appetizers, desserts and snacks. The tour culminates with an exploration of the Troy Masonic Lodge. Tickets cost $15 and include all three tours.

Patrick Kennedy, an archivist at the Local History Library and one of the tour guides, researches the origins and the stories of Troy’s downtown. Boasting over a dozen of National Register of Historical Places sites, keeping track of Troy’s history is not an easy task. While preparing for the tours Kennedy still has his archivist duties to perform. He assists amateur genealogists examining records to build their family histories and writers calling him to track down obscure details for their books.

The variety of history in Troy has Kennedy examining birth records one minute and then the next minute, digging up clues to Troy’s connection to the theft of North Carolina’s original copy of the Bill of Rights during the Civil War. That may seem surprising since no world famous people call Troy home. There are no pivotal battlefields, none of the usual draws for history tourists, but history was not created solely by the famous names in textbooks. Ordinary men and women drove our country forward through their everyday struggles don’t receive a lot of attention.

Troy encapsulates what the echoing actions of those ordinary Americans acting together over generations can achieve. Revolutionary War veterans and their families looking for space to spread out incorporated Troy in 1814. Soon after the city helped trade flourish and encouraged westward expansion as a transportation hub for the Miami-Erie canal.

Troy not only facilitated the movement of goods but also slaves escaping from the South. The Underground Railroad operated several stations in the city. Abolitionists used churches, homes and businesses to hide the escapees from slave catchers. Many of the buildings remain today. The Troy Main Street association has a list of Underground Railroad stops on its website so you can build your own walking tour.

Troy businesses even helped defeat Nazi Germany during World War II. Barnstorming stunt pilots went from flying biplanes to building them. The Waco Aircraft Company was the largest manufacturer of civilian aircraft in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The Royal Air Force and the U.S. military used Waco gliders for airborne operations during the Invasion of Normandy. You can see these historic aircraft at Waco Airfield Museum along with a large collection of biplanes.

Despite the fact that history is everywhere you look in Troy, Kennedy does not want any to feel intimidated by the length of the tour.

“The walks will be a relaxing time, not too strenuous. It will be a casual evening,” he says.

During the tour guests will have plenty of opportunities to view Troy’s postcard worthy Public Square, which is also on the National Register of Historic Places. Throughout its history and into present day, Troy’s city planners have kept the large public area a sacred place. The activity of downtown radiates from the square where people can enjoy its fountains and sculptures.

Historic buildings surround the square, looking much like it did over 100 years ago. The current occupants represent a diverse mix of commerce. Walkers will see an award-winning Italian restaurant, a vintage furniture rental shop, a fishing and hunting gear workshop, a bar and an art studio, among many other types of businesses.

Kennedy believes that’s one reason why Troy is interesting. Boards don’t cover the windows of vacant shops. People live and work there. They eat there. They shop there. They build businesses there.

“The energy of the city surprises visitors,” Kennedy says. “The downtown is lively and vibrant.”

One of Kennedy’s favorite stops is the La Piazza building. It’s a survivor. The structure has stood for over a century. Floods have tried to drown it. Fires have threatened to consume it. Through it all the building has remained standing. And it serves some amazing Italian food.

Troy Walking History Tours take place at 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 29 and meet at the Local History Library at 100 W. Main St. in Troy. Tickets cost $15. Pre-sale tickets are available for purchase at the Troy Main Street office, located at 405 SW Public Square, Suite 231.  For additional information, please visit troymainstreet.org or call Troy Main Street at 937.339.5455.

Don Hurst is a combat vet and a former police officer. He now lives in Dayton where he writes novels and plays. Reach DCP freelance writer Don Hurst at DonHurst@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Don Hurst
Don Hurst is a combat vet and a former police officer. He now lives in Dayton where he writes novels and plays. Reach DCP freelance writer Don Hurst at DonHurst@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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