Editor’s note: In the aftermath of the tragic Dayton mass shooting on Aug. 4, 2019, we came across this story we wrote about Dayton’s entertainment destination, the Oregon District, in 2015. Those were the 10 reasons we loved Fifth Street and the Oregon District then. And these still hold true today. This story originally published Oct. 1, 2015.

Stroll, bike or drive down Fifth Street on a busy night, and it is hard to imagine that it and the rest of the Oregon District came close to meeting the wrecking ball just a few decades ago. 

Without an influx of neighbors and business owners willing to roll up their sleeves and reinvent the place, Michael Martin, an Oregon District resident and president of its business association, said so-called urban renewal would have meant the end for the Oregon just as it did the nearby and long-gone Haymarket section of town.

“In the ’70s, the city was going to bulldoze it all,” Martin said.

Good thing that didn’t happen. Today’s Oregon District is among the Gem City’s shiniest jewels. 

Thanks to the American Planning Association, the nation found out what we already knew: Fifth Street is pretty boss. In 2015, the organization named Fifth between South Patterson Boulevard and Wayne Avenue to its Great Streets on its annual “Great Places in America” list. 

APA has recognized more than 200 neighborhoods, streets and public spaces around the country since launching the program in 2007. They include Hyde Park in Cincinnati, German Village in Columbus, and Shaker Boulevard and the West Side Market in Cleveland.

“Places are selected annually and represent the gold standard in terms of having a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement and a vision for the future,” according to an APA news release. 

Fifth Street’s name is on the honor, but Martin said the street’s success is also due to the whole Oregon District and its partners in city government and the community. 

That being said, here’s why we can’t get enough of the Oregon District and Fifth Street, and why you should love it, too:

So much sustenance

Salar Restaurant and Lounge has been closed since a December fire. The restaurant in Dayton Oregon District is celebrating its reopening with event Sept 27 to 30, 2018. Salar's Warm Causa with grilled shrimp is pictured.
Photo: Amelia Robinson

Food, food and more food calls your name. 

Smack your mom across the face with good cheese, bacon-ey fries at Dublin Pub; winner, winner Sunday chicken dinner at Lily’s Bistro; Dayton square-cut pizza at Oregon Express; the pork chop at Roost Modern Italian, the late-night slab at Smokin BBQ; the delicioso porchetta at Wheat Penny Oven & Bar; the ginger stir-fry at Thai 9; the world famous spaghetti at Franco’s Ristorante Italiano; the poutine at Corner Kitchen, the stuffed burgers at Blind Bob’s, po’boy at Trolley Stop … we could go on and on and on.

The Theaters

The Neon movie theater, 130 E. Fifth St. in downtown Dayton. (Photo source: Facebook)
Photo: HANDOUT

The Oregon District has both kinds and a comedy club in Wiley’s. 

Dayton movie aficionado Jonathan McNeal and his crew at the Neon go to great lengths to bring the best independent and art house flicks to town. 

The Dayton Theatre Guild actors keep us all laughing, thinking and crying. Sometimes it happens at the same time.

Drink!

Wheat Penny Bartender Brock McKibben with the summer cocktail Autopilot. Made with Hendrick's Gin, House Made Cucumber Mint Basil Syrup, Creme De Violette, Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice, Cucumber Garnish. JIM WITMER/STAFF
Photo: JIM WITMER

You can find everything from a PBR (Blind Bob’s) or Old Style tall boy (Hole in the Wall) to a Moscow Mule (Salar Restaurant and Lounge) that could make the folks at the Kremlin dream of life in the states. 

Grab a pint made at Toxic Brew Company or get your craft beer fix at the Trolley Stop, Blind Bob’s, Lucky’s Taproom and Eatery or Thai 9.

Mixologists make it look easy at Lily’s, Salar and Wheat Penny, and there are old school, perfectly poured Manhattans and other cocktails at Jay’s Seafood Restaurant. You’ll find all the wine you could possible need at Jay’s and Deaf Monty’s Wine.

Sip on something delicious while enjoying the view of city at View 162 Rooftop Restaurant at The Crowne Plaza Dayton 

Tour Belle of Dayton and check out its Van Buren Room cocktail lounge. 

If that’s not enough, you must visit Fifth Street BrewPub. It is up the street from the district in the St. Anne’s neighborhood. Warped Wing Brewing is just around the corner from East Fifth Street. Branch & Bone is just up the street on Wayne Avenue.

Those looking for something non-boozy can turn to the good people at Press or Reza’s Downtown or Wholly Grounds, all on Wayne Avenue. 

The Sound of Music

The Dayton live music scene is headquartered in the district. There are street musicians and other performers outside and everything from rock to reggae inside at place likes Blind Bob’s, OE, Trolley, the Dublin Pub…. 

It's easy on the eye

The American Planning Association didn’t miss how nice the Oregon District looks, and neither have we. 

The district that dates back to 1829 teems with charm. 

Martin said hundreds of thousands of dollars have been invested in curbs, sidewalks, street lights and landscaping on Fifth Street and on Wayne Avenue since 2010. Volunteers and businesses take pride in making the district look great, he said.

Perfect patios

Lily’s Bistro (CONTRIBUTED)

Dayton has an abundance of great patios, and several of them are right on Fifth Street. 

Get your people-watching on at one of Lily’s three patios, or see humanity stroll by from the OE’s above-ground patio. There is so much humanity waiting to be seen. 

Chill and/or be seen on the patio at Roost, Trolley, Salar, Wheat Penny, Tumbleweed Connection or Thai 9. 

The neighborhood

It is nearly impossible to talk about the Oregon business district without mention of the 220 residential homes behind it. 

Business and residential are technically in in different voting precincts now, but Martin said they are partners. 

“Without each other, we are nothing,” he said. 

Many of the district’s shopkeepers and employees live on Fifth Street in the residential neighborhood, downtown or one of Dayton’s other historic neighborhoods. 

With its large collection of historic buildings, the Oregon District is the city’s oldest neighborhood and the first of its 14 historic districts. 

One of the first-known references to the neighborhood related to its name came in an 1845 ad placed by David Z. Pierce in the Dayton Journal & Advertiser that read, “I have laid out and offered for sale on terms to suit purchasers, 80 desirable building lots on that part of the city known as Oregon,” according to the neighborhood’s website. 

The neighborhood is now the size of 12 city blocks bordered to the north by Fifth Street, the east by Wayne Avenue, the south by U.S. 35 and to the west by Patterson Boulevard. 

Dayton created what is now the Oregon District in 1972. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Most of the historic buildings and homes are federal- to Queen-Anne-style homes. 

Note: Amelia Robinson lives in the Oregon District, but loved it long before buying her house there.

Unique shopping

FACEBOOK/BRIM
Photo: Staff Writer

Fat chance you’ll find a blender, but the district is the place to go for unique items. 

There are more than 100 businesses in the district from art galleries to a porn shop.

Anyone who says there’s not shopping is misguided. 

“The Oregon is more like it was in its heyday than it ever was,” Martin said. 

A trip to Fifth Street would not be complete without a visit to Clash, Feathers Vintage Clothing, Omega Music, Spice Paradise, Eclectic Essentials, Bonnett’s Book Store or Brim on Fifth hat store. The Goodwill store is also pretty fun. 

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