The first 150 years of West Dayton is subject of new book



A new book about Dayton history, “The Land Across the River: The First 150 Years of the West Side of Dayton,” chronicles the people, places and businesses that helped build the city.

For nearly three decades, local author Curt Dalton has written dozens of books about the history of the Gem City. In this book, he focuses on the area that is now known as the West Third Street Historic District.

“A book with 10 times as many pages as this one could have been written and would still barely have touched the amazing history of the West Side,” he wrote in the introduction.

The book begins in 1799 when William King settled his family in a cabin west of the Great Miami River with only a dollar to his name. King would eventually purchase 1,000 acres, much of it the area we know today as the West Side.

“I like his story because he started with nothing just like a lot of people who have come to Dayton,” Dalton said. “King really made a success of himself and the West Side with the help of other people.”

Dalton has filled the book with interesting anecdotes of Dayton history.

  • Chartered in 1920 as one of eight Negro League Baseball Teams. The Dayton Marcos played its first game at Westwood Field on Western Avenue, now James H. McGee Blvd.
  • Travelers came from across the state to visit the zoo and stroll through the beautiful gardens of the National Home for Disabled Soldiers, now the site of the Dayton VA Medical Center.

  • Gem City Ice Cream created the Klondyke Sundae-Ette in 1922. The treat was a layer of brick ice cream sandwiched between two crisp, sweet wafers and covered with chocolate. The fad only lasted a year.
  • Dayton’s favorite potato chip maker, Mikesell’s, started out at 142 S. Williams St. The founder, D.W. Mikesell, made chips from his home and was soon selling faster than he could produce them. He bought the first Ford panel delivery truck in Dayton to make his rounds.
  • The Midget Theater opened at 1019 W. Third St. in 1913 and was managed by Sherman Potterf, a short-statured man who was 38 inches tall. It’s advertising slogan read, “Nothing small about the Midget – Only the manager.”



  • The Classic Theater opened in 1927 and is believed to be the first Black built, operated and owned theater in the United States. Movies were shown on the first floor while upstairs in the ballroom Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie performed live.

The book doesn’t forget the accomplishments of famed aviators Orville and Wilbur Wright and poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, all famously associated with West Dayton.

Dalton said he hopes his look at Dayton history will encourage others to continue researching the west side.

“I tried to make it about the people who built the city even though we don’t know many of their names,” he said.

“It’s not just John H. Patterson; it’s not just Edward Deeds. It’s the smaller people who were extremely important in getting the West Side built in the first place.”

The book costs $14.95 and can be purchased at Carillon Historical Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd., or from Amazon.

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