By Amelia Robinson
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 were on a hit list.
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 taken out 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 is finding out what we already knew: Fifth Street is pretty boss.
The organization named Fifth between South Patterson Boulevard and Wayne Avenue to its Great Streets on its annual Great Places in America list.
Third Street in McMinnville, Ore.; Laura Street in Jacksonville, Fla.; Lexington Avenue in Asheville, N.C.; and Olvera Street in Los Angeles also were honored on the prestigious list.
APA has recognized 245 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 a news release.
Fifth Streets’ 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:
Food, food and more food calls your name.
Smack your mom across the face with good cheese, bacon-ey fries at Dublin Pub, the undisputed Champ sandwich at Fifth Street Wine and Deli, 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 Nine, the random food trucks near Toxic Brew Company, at , 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 Oregon District has both kinds and a comedy club in Wiley’s.
The Dayton Theatre Guild actors keep us all laughing, thinking and crying. Sometimes it happens at the same time.
You can find everything from a $1.50 PBR (Blind Bob’s) or Old Style tall boy (Hanks Hole in the Wall) to a Moscow Mule (Salar) that could make the folks at the Kremlin dream of life in the states.
They will even fill your growlers or howlers with take-home brew.
Mixologists make it look easy at Lily’s, Salar and Wheat Penny, and there is 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, Deaf Monty’s Wine or Fifth Street 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 tasting room.
Those looking for something non-boozey can turn to the good people at Press.
It won’t be a waste of bean. Press coffee is a big deal and has been acknowledged here and there.
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 Bob’s, Hank’s, OE, Trolley, the Dublin Pub….
It would be silly if we didn’t mention Gilly’s Jazz.
Jerry Gillotti has been bringing legendary jazz, R&B, rock and folk artists to his club at 131 S. Jefferson since 1977. It is still a great place to hear live music and groove to hits spun by a DJ.
Fifth Street and the rest of the district are walkable, and there are Link Dayton Ride Share stations at both ends of Fifth Street.
Getting around will be that much easier any day now. Martin said the business district funded free shuttle service will start Oct. 9.
Designed to make parking and getting around easier for patrons, the 26-passenger shuttle will operate 5:30 to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday from Dayton’s transportation center near the Dayton Convention Center.
The business association just entered an agreement for patron use of the parking lot behind Dayton Metropolitan Housing off Wayne Avenue.
People can park there for free from 5:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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 more than $500,000 has been invested in curbs, sidewalks, street lights and landscaping on Fifth Street since 2010. Another $300,000 has been used on Wayne Avenue.
Martin said volunteers and businesses take pride in making the district look great.
Fifth Street is the place to be on weekends and really pops during special events like First Friday, Taste of all Things Oregon District and the upcoming event Hauntfest.
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 Nine.
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 into different districts, 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 US 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.
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 the EPA to Oregon Tails Pet Salon to art galleries like painter and photographer Loretta Puncer’s Gallery 510 Fine Art . Even the porn shop, Exotic Fantasies, keeps it creative.
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.
If you are lucky, Butters the goat will be there during your visit to Eclectic Essentials.