On The Beat: 11/22

More historical ‘gems’ in the gem city

By Jim Bucher

A couple weeks back, I wrote about the “House on the Hill” next to Miami Valley Hospital.

The Rudolph Pretzinger Home, designed by his famous architect brother Albert. As you head south on Main and Apple Streets, just look up to the left—you can’t miss it.

The hospital is now the caretaker, and it’s not going anywhere, unlike so many of the big, beautiful homes that graced the center city downtown.

The story brought back a flood of memories for me to a time in my early TV career.

In the 1980s, the city was recruiting developers to invest downtown. One of the first projects was the Landing next to the YMCA: unfortunately, the historic treasure was in the way of urban renewal.

The Huffman House on Monument Avenue: talk at the time was to demolish and move on, but, as I recall, some preservationists cried foul. And good thing they did.

This early century treasure was saved, but what to do with it?

The solution–literally pick up the home from its foundation and move it directly across the street next to another architectural treasure, the Pollack House.

Now, at the time, I was a producer/director for the fledgling Access 30 Dayton, a public access channel on the local cable system.

We needed programing to fill our schedule. So, the decision was made to document the move.

The local news stations covered it with a 30-second story, but being commercial-free and not needing to fit a half-hour time slot, we could do much more. We could go for as long as it took to tell the story.

We had a slew of cameras covering the weekend-long event, with traffic nonexistent for the most part.

My idea was to set up a video tape camera in the middle of Monument and take a few frames of video every 10 minutes or so.

When sped up, the two-day move was compacted to 50 seconds. I think I still have a copy somewhere… but most probably on a format I can’t play.

The history of the home is a dandy.

Built by the John Hanitch family in 1868, the Hanitch-Huffman House, as its technically called, was later occupied by Colonel Frank T. Huffman. If that name sounds familiar, it should. He was the owner of the Huffman Manufacturing Company, later named Huffy Bicycles.

The home remained in the family until 1945, when the Knights of Columbus purchased it as their meeting and gathering place. Facing dwindling membership, the Knights sold the property to the YMCA, which made it clear it no longer wanted the property.

A law firm was searching for an office facility, and on Aug. 1, 1982, picked up the tab on the huge undertaking, moving the house an inch at a time to its present location at 214 W. Monument.

Now on the National Registry of Historic Places, it’s safe, sound, and a permanent fixture downtown.

Its next door neighbor, the Isaac Pollack House, has a storied past. Built in 1876, originally at 319 W. Third St., it too was moved in 1979 to avoid demolition.

Isaac was a prominent Dayton businessman involved in the liquor trade.

It ceased to be a residence in 1913 when Fenton T. Bott purchased the home, converting to the Bott Dancing Academy, which remained in business until 1941.

Fifteen years later, the Montgomery County Board of Elections began a 20-year period of using it for their offices.

After the move, another law firm set up shop. And in 2005, it became the home of the International Peace Museum. And, we’re glad they’re there.

By the way, two weeks before Christmas in 1974, the Pollack House was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, qualifying, like the Huffman House, due to its architecture and former ownership by a prominent local citizen.

Now, check this out: on Monument Avenue alone, there are four on the registry; these two gems, the YMCA, and Engineers Club.

One may wonder how many of these marvelous, historical structures got away from us. Perhaps no forward thinking or too high a cost to save at the time…

But again, looking at the glass half full instead of the other way around, good to know we still have these pieces of our past.

You gotta know where you came from to see where you’re going.

Cheers and amen to that!

Buch

 

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Jim Bucher
For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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