“Rosetta Stone of Dayton,” “Treasures of The Arcade,” “Secrets of Wright Dunbar” and “Lost Dayton” all sound like they could be upcoming sequels to the Indiana Jones movie franchise — if Jones was from a certain city in Ohio.
Instead, the titles are real names of episodes of Decoding Dayton, an original docuseries from The Indigo Life Network, shot entirely in the Dayton area and produced by Daytonians, or “Daytopians,” as they prefer to be called. There are currently 32 episodes available, all under or around 15 minutes long.
The series explores the lesser-known history of the Gem City and adds new, lively perspective to some of its greatest accomplishments. Episodes are focused, concise and packed with insider knowledge able to be told only by someone who has, at times, held the equivalent of the keys to the city.
“When you’re in biology (class), why do you dissect something? To understand the parts and then have a full understanding of how these parts go back together again as you’re moving forward,” said John Gower, Decoding Dayton co-host. “So maybe another word for decoding is dissection. You really need to dissect it and understand the context of the time, the people, the personalities.”
Gower currently serves as urban design director for CityWide, a non-profit organization with a mission to strengthen Dayton through strategic economic and community development. During his career, Gower has worked as Dayton’s downtown planner, director of community development, urban design coordinator, and as re-imaging strategist. The lifelong Dayton resident has devoted his career to urban planning and making Dayton a better place to live.
In fall of 2016, Lauren and Andrew White, Indigo Life Media founders and producers, were listening to Gower tell stories of Dayton in his back yard. The three had met during a tour of The Dayton Arcade.
“I can’t even tell you what we were talking about that night, but there was one of his family members who was there and made a comment, ‘What are we going to do when John leaves this planet and all these stories are gone?’” Lauren White said. “He knows a lot of these stories that nobody else knows, because they’ve been passed down.”
In that moment, Andrew White said, the light bulbs went off, and they all decided to create a show.
The series digs deep below the surface of Dayton’s history — literally — as the Decoding Dayton crew takes viewers to the top of downtown’s tallest buildings not usually accessible to the public, through underground tunnels, through Houdini’s trap door at the Victoria Theatre, and more.
Jason Antonick is the second half of the Decoding Dayton co-host team. Antonick is currently the Vice President of PNC in Dayton and previously served as the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce’s manager of business and economic development.
“At the time, I felt like there was definitely a need to get the word out about Dayton,” Antonick said. “We’re kind of at the center of the universe. We really are. We have so much going for us, you know. The cost of living here is fantastic … we’ve invented so many great things, we’ve got great people and a great workforce, and it’s the birthplace of aviation. Just all these incredible things going for us, and there should be some kind of show. We should do something about it.”
Together, Gower and Antonick use their combined wisdom and passion for Dayton to document the Gem City like it’s never been documented before.
“We drive by the Victoria Theatre, we drive by the Arcade, we drive by all these abandoned buildings, but we don’t really know the essence of it,” Andrew White said. “So that was a big turning point of the show is to say, ‘We need to decode the stories that nobody knows.’ I’ve been in Dayton my whole life, and all I’d hear about was the cash register and the Wright Brothers, and that’s cool, that’s awesome. But there is so much more here that allows us to see the depth of our city.”
With four seasons available to stream for free on https://indigo.life, the ability to binge-watch the series while staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic makes this an opportune time to become a Dayton history buff.
The series could also help renew a sense of wonder that may have withered as stay-at-home advisories have sabotaged planned trips to glamorous destinations.
“I think of this concept as like, ‘Grow where you’re planted,’” Lauren White said. “The grass is never greener. It’s green where you water it. And so each story is almost kind of like a root system that can help us get grounded and say ‘This is where I am right now. Instead of putting my energy into escapism, which I know all too well, into my current environment, I’ll find as many ways as possible to connect with it.’”
The Whites said details of season 5 of Decoding Dayton will be announced soon.
About the Author