118 years ago, a huge three-day party opened the celebrated Dayton Arcade

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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The Dayton Arcade, which opened in 1904, was built as a home for shops and a farmers market as well as offices and apartments.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Dayton began one of its biggest celebrations to open the highly anticipated Dayton Arcade 118 years ago.

Described as “one of the country’s most modern and complete structures of its kind,” in a Dayton Daily News story published March 3, 1904, marking the event, the front page story described the interior as “a veritable bower of beauty and entertainment.”

The Arcade then officially opened on March 4, 1904.

Inside the Arcade, numerous booths were set up in the interest of “sweet charity.” Visitors of all ages snacked on fruit, popcorn, candy, ice cream and cake.

Near the Fourth Street entrance, a vaudeville show kept guests entertained while a wild animal show with performing bears on loan from the Cincinnati Zoo thrilled.

Music and flowers were there “in a wealth of abundance,” according to newspaper coverage. The Third Regiment Band, National Cash Register Band and the Soldiers Home Band performed in the afternoon and evenings.

The structure was designed by Frank Mills Andrews, an Iowa-born architect who honed his skills in Chicago and New York before setting up offices in Dayton’s Conover Building at Third and Main Streets.

During his career, Andrews designed compelling homes, Kentucky’s state capitol and the National Cash Register factory buildings.

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Construction of the two distinct arcade buildings designed by Andrews took place from 1902-04. It was built as a home for shops and a farmers market as well as offices and apartments. In following years additional buildings were added to the complex.

A grand three-and-a-half story, Flemish-style facade dominates the main entrance on Third Street.

Stone corbels, carved lion heads and the mask of a Dutch girl in the keystone position over the entrance are among the architectural details tucked among the turreted four-story projected windows overlooking Courthouse Square.

At the opposite side of the Arcade, the centerpiece of the five-story Fourth Street building designed in the Renaissance Revival style is the glass-domed rotunda.

The three-story dome, 90 feet in diameter by 70 feet high, is supported by 16 bays of iron pillars with semi-circular and semi-elliptical arches that spanned the original indoor market.

“Words fail to convey a perfect idea for the wonderful beauty of the gentlemen who in this Arcade have given to Dayton a building which for completeness, elegance, and artistic as well as practical value, cannot be duplicated in this country and probably not in the world,” crowed the Dayton Daily News.

Vendors sold a variety of goods from over 200 stalls under the glass dome, according to “The Dayton Arcade: Crown Jewel of the Gem City,” written by Dayton historian Curt Dalton. Exotic Jamaica bananas, Messina lemons as well as parakeets and canaries were sold alongside coffee, pies, breads and ice cream.

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