What’s next for this empty building on Dayton’s West Side?

Published: Tuesday, June 06, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

Exterior of the Central Motors Building on 800 W. 3rd St. in Dayton, March 9, 2017. PHOTO / Tom Gilliam
Tom Gilliam
Exterior of the Central Motors Building on 800 W. 3rd St. in Dayton, March 9, 2017. PHOTO / Tom Gilliam(Tom Gilliam)

Did you know that there’s a two story building in Dayton with a ramp in the center that makes it possible for cars to drive between the first and second floors?  

Interior of the Central Motors Building on 800 W. 3rd St. in Dayton, February 16, 2017. PHOTO / Tom Gilliam(Tom Gilliam)

This week on The Buildings of Dayton, I'm going to tell you the story of the Central Motors Building, located at 800 W. Third St. right outside of the Wright Dunbar Historic Business District, also known as the West Third Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.  

>> PHOTOS: See inside the vacant Central Motors Building in Dayton

Interior of the Central Motors Building on 800 W. 3rd St. in Dayton, February 16, 2017. PHOTO / Tom Gilliam(Tom Gilliam)

Built in 1926, very little information exists about the Central Motors Building. The 1927 Dayton Williams Directory lists The Central Motor Sales Co. as selling Oldsmobiles, Sedans, Coupes, Touring Cars and Roadsters, plus providing sales and service at 800 to 812 W. 3rd St.   

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Cars inside the Central Motors Building, November 2, 1960. From the collections of Dayton History.

Colleen Harrigan Staver was 7 years old when her father Tom Harrigan started his dealership in the building.

"It was the late summer of 1975 when my family moved to Dayton from Louisville,” Staver said. “My father was given the opportunity to purchase the Oldsmobile franchise from Mr. Dick Swartzel and he leased the building on W. Third St. from Mr. Swartzel.”

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The dealership was then renamed Tom Harrigan Oldsmobile. Swartzel's father was the founder of Central Motors, which was one of several GM dealer distribution centers in the United States. Every Oldsmobile that was sold in this area was first cleared through Central Motors.  

>> PHOTOS: Look inside Miamisburg’s historic Plaza Theatre

Employee using followmatic machine inside the Central Motors Building, November 2, 1960. From the collections of Dayton History.

Staver remembers how large the building appeared to her.

"You would enter through a door on the left side of the building and be immediately in a huge showroom. My father said that they were able to get 30 cars in at one time and this was the age of the 70's full size sedan and the era of the land yacht!” she said. “Other memories of the massive showroom were the sales offices along the back wall, where my father was in the sales manager office and a gentleman by the name of Dee Birdsall had the other larger office as he was in charge of fleet purchases. On the left side was the customer waiting room and behind it was the accounting office. These were the two rooms I spent the most time in with my sister who was two years my junior. So here we are, (ages) 7 and 5, playing in these two rooms where I guess they felt we could do the least damage."   

>> What is the oldest bar in Dayton?

Interior of the Central Motors Building on 800 W. 3rd St. in Dayton, February 16, 2017. PHOTO / Tom Gilliam(Tom Gilliam)

"One of the most memorable features was this giant ramp that went from the back of the main level of the showroom to a service department on the second story,” Staver said. “I still to this day have never seen another dealership with a service department on the second floor. It was very unique and quite large even by today's standards. In speaking with my father he said in addition to the service department there was a body shop as well with 15 service bays and 10-15 body shop bays," said Staver.  

>> What Dayton building was called ‘the Grecian lady’?

Interior of the Central Motors Building on 800 W. 3rd St. in Dayton, February 16, 2017. PHOTO / Tom Gilliam(Tom Gilliam)

There was also a time when the dealership had a visit from a local celebrity.

"I liked the waiting room because there were vending machines. It was also in this area that we were introduced to a Dayton legend, Dr. Creep,” Staver said. “My father, trying to start his new business, was running various promotions and one time through Channel 22, he had Dr. Creep make a special appearance. It was so exciting! Dr. Creep was one of the nicest people you could ever meet and he made us feel special. I will never forget it," she said.  

>> PHOTOS: The Old Post Office Building in Dayton

Interior of the Central Motors Building on 800 W. 3rd St. in Dayton, February 16, 2017. PHOTO / Tom Gilliam(Tom Gilliam)

In 1976, Harrigan moved his dealership across town.

"We were only at that location for 18 months before moving the Oldsmobile franchise to Salem Avenue across from the Salem Mall, but even in that short time it made a big impression on me," Staver said.   

>> What makes Dayton’s Ludlow Place building such a success?

Wright Dunbar, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to the management and development of the historic Wright Dunbar Business District has owned the building since January 2010. Prior to the purchase, it was used as a recycling company.

Current commercial real estate listings call the building "West Side Chevy.”

Future adaptive reuse rendering of the Central Motors Building. Courtesy of Wright Dunbar Inc.

"We'd love to see this as a brewery or restaurants or even creative collaborative space. We'd love something that would spur foot traffic, not storage or a warehouse. I think the building could even be awesome lofts," said Erica Hubler, Director of Real Estate/Property Management at Wright Dunbar, Inc.  

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John Gower, Wright Dunbar Inc. Board Member and Urban Design Director at CityWide Development spoke with me about the vision for this building’s future.

“I think that we could describe our vision with this historic building is to first seek a reuse which will reactivate it on a daily basis. We would like to see the building sensitively rehabilitated, re-establish the storefronts and large display windows along Third Street and have uses in the building that will create vibrant comings and goings throughout any day of the week.”  

>> 5 little-known facts about the Keyes Building in Dayton

Special thanks to Tony Kroeger & Amy Walbridge from the City of Dayton's Planning Department, Erica Hubler & John Gower from Wright Dunbar, Inc. and Colleen Harrigan Staver for providing historical information and additional resources for this article. 










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The epic beards on these Dayton mayors will put yours to shame

Published: Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 6:00 AM

There have been Dayton mayors with skin seemingly as smooth as a baby's bottom. Then there are the mayors that give hipsters a run for their money. Video by Amelia Robinson

Kind-faced Dayton Mayor Lawrence Butz may have died eons ago, but the mark his facial hair left on this city will live forever. 

>> What you should know about the history of Dayton’s mayors

Butz’s simply beard-tastic photo is among the impressive collection of beard-tastic photos hanging in Dayton City Hall, 101 W Third St., downtown. 

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Lawrence Butz Dayton mayor 1875, 1878-79

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Stand down, hipsters -- you can’t compete. The beard on Butz is not even the best beard. 

THAT BEARD, in our assessment, belongs to E.C. Ellis, Dayton mayor in 1864 and 1867. 

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Give that boy a barrel of bourbon and see what he can do. 

There are plenty of smooth faces among the images of Dayton’s mayor, but for the purposes of this report, we will ignore them. 

As it turns out, Francis M. Hosier’s bushy all-business beard and mustache is far more interesting. 

We vote yes. 

>> Dayton’s Fire Blocks faces deadline, could lose $4.5M in funds

Francis M. Hosier, Dayton mayor 1880-81

The bulk of the beards cover the faces of Dayton’s first mayors. See for yourself in the video above.

E.C. Ellis, Dayton mayor 1864, 1867

Butz, the first to enroll in St. Mary's School for Boys (the foundation for what is now The University of Dayton), for instance, was Dayton’s mayor in 1875 and from 1878 to 1879. 

>> 7 historical facts about the University of Dayton

We are sure the ladies thought he was styling. 

All that said, the city’s bearded mayors don’t stop there.

Richard Clay Dixon, mayor  from 1987 to 1992, and James H. McGee, mayor in 1970 and 1981, represent the 20th century with magical facial hair of wonder.

>> James H. McGee, Dayton's trailblazing mayor

Richard Clay Dixon, Dayton mayor 1987-92

Though his face is clean-shaven for his City Hall photo, Gary Leitzell, Dayton mayor from 2010 to 2013, was known to have a little facial scruff, but it was no William H. Sigman. 

>> 3 things to know about Dayton’s historic, ‘handsome’ Union Station

Fun Fact: the leader of Dayton’s council didn't hold the title of "mayor" until 1829.

William H. Sigman, Dayton mayor 1873-74


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Craigslist killer appeals death sentence to Ohio Supreme Court

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 2:10 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 2:10 PM

            Richard Beasley addresses the court after sentencing in his capital murder case by Summit Common Pleas Judge Lynne S. Callahan on April 04, 2013 in Akron. Beasley was given the death sentence on three counts and jail time for other counts. (Akron Beacon Journal file photo)
Richard Beasley addresses the court after sentencing in his capital murder case by Summit Common Pleas Judge Lynne S. Callahan on April 04, 2013 in Akron. Beasley was given the death sentence on three counts and jail time for other counts. (Akron Beacon Journal file photo)

The Craigslist Killer is appealing his death sentence to the Ohio Supreme Court, saying the huge swell of national publicity deprived him of a fair trial in Summit County.

The high court will hear oral arguments next week from Richard Beasley, one of two people convicted in the murders of three men lured to a southeastern Ohio farm with job postings on Craigslist.org in 2011.

Beasley was convicted in 2013 of three murders, attempted murder of another man, robbery, kidnapping and other charges and sentenced to death. His co-defendant Brogan Rafferty, who was a minor at the time, was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Beasley advertised a farm caretaker job on Craiglist. When Ralph Geiger of Akron, David Pauley of Virginia and Tim Kern of Massillon responded to the job ad, Beasley shot them in the head.

A fourth man, Scott Davis, of South Carolina, escaped when he was shot in the elbow. Davis ran for help and police began investigating.

In his appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, Beasley is making 11 legal arguments to challenge his convictions and sentence, including improper use of hearsay testimony against him and pre-trial publicity prejudiced the jury in the case.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office maintains that the hearsay evidence was admissible and Beasley never raised concerns at the time of trial about the publicity surrounding the case.

Related: Trooper advertised traffic stop sex on Craigslist

The case, which was investigated by the FBI, generated international headlines.

Rafferty, now 22, is incarcerated at Mansfield Correctional Institution. Beasley, 58, is on Death Row at Chillicothe Correctional Institution.

Related: Ohio executes killer convicted in 1992 homicides

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See the gravesites of these Dayton dames involved in the city’s most gruesome murders 

Published: Wednesday, October 25, 2017 @ 10:43 AM

Woodland Cemetery, one of the nation's oldest garden cemeteries, is marking its 175th year.

What better place for a spooky good time during Halloween than a cemetery?

Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum, located at 118 Woodland Ave., Dayton, just released an app that makes it easier to visit the 109,000 people buried there since it opened in 1841. 

The free “Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum” mobile app is available for Apple and Android devices. 

>> HISTORICAL CRIMES:  This former cop committed one of Dayton's most notorious crimes of passion — and you decide his fate

Lookout Tower at Woodland Cemetery - known as one of Dayton’s most haunted sites - as photographed in 1898. ARCHIVED PHOTOS(Staff Writer)

Users can search by name: first, last or both. They can also take a pre-designed tour. Thus far, only Woodland’s 45-minute self-guided historical tour has been added.

Angie Hoschouer, the cemetery’s development and marketing manager, said self-guided versions of several other tours, including those featured on the sold-out and extremely popular History, Mystery, Mayhem and Murder Tour, will be added as well. Those featured on the tour can be found on the app. 

Homicide victim Bessie Little. Little was 23, nearly three years older than Albert Frantz, when the two met. Her body was found in the Stillwater River and closer examination revealed two bullet wounds in her left ear. ARTICLE: Dayton’s Ridge Avenue Bridge has haunted history as site of notorious 19th century murder

Below are four bone-chilling gravesites you should visit. Details on the gravesites and individuals buried there is from Woodland Cemetery, Dayton History Online and the Dayton Daily News archive. 


Deceased: Christina Kett

Section 100 | Lot 2179 | Tier 3 | Grave 13 

Death: March 9, 1884 at age 65 

The mystery of who killed pretty 18-year-old Christine Kett Jun. 11, 1867 lingered for 17 years. 

Suspects had included Christine’s brother, a neighborhood teenager, a stranger seen in the area when the murder was committed, her boyfriend and even her own mother, Christina. 

A deathbed murder confession revealed the truth. 

Before taking her final breath, Christina Kett told her son that she bludgeoned Christine in the head with a short-handed axe when the young woman did not come home on time to make dinner. 

In an attempt to cover what was considered the city’s “most horrible and fiendish” crime at time, Kett place her daughter’s fingers in the powder flask of her son’s revolver and smeared the Christine’s face with powder. 

She reportedly told her son that that the young woman’s image haunted her from that day forward. 

>> RELATED: What you need to know about the Queen of Dayton's Red Light District


Deceased: Maggie Lehman

 City Lot | Lot #1 | Tier 20 | Grave 18

Death: Sept. 19, 1891 at age 36

The blue-eyed and blond “lady of the night” had four children and made a vow to turn her life around after they were taken away and placed in the Children’s Home. 

Jacob Harvey, the pimp and boyfriend Maggie had met in the brothel formerly owned by famed Dayton madam Lib Hedges, was having none of this. 

He abused Maggie, and was sent to the Dayton Workhouse for 60 days. 

Maggie eventually got her children back, but Jacob would not go away -- even after Maggie claimed to have a new boyfriend, Newton Chubb, a bartender at the brothel which by then was called “the Abbey.”   

Jacob beat Maggie again when she refused to leave Newton and date him again. He was sentenced again to the workhouse. 

While in jail, Jacob told officers and other prisoners he would escape and kill Maggie and her new boyfriend. 

They laughed, but he did just that. 

Jacob escaped and left the area, only to come back to town to find Maggie at the Abbey. 

He was seen dragging the woman from the brothel’s porch and shot her behind the ear with a revolver, according to Woodland’s description of the crime. 

After the shooting,  Jacob walked to the Point saloon and asked the owner, Al Bloch, for a glass of beer. Then, living a cigar, he remarked, “I just killed a damned bitch down there. I shot her twice.” Harvey then went on to relate the rest of the particulars of the crime to the astounded barkeeper.  

Jacob Harvey was hung on June 28, 1892. 

>> MORE: 5 of Dayton's most shocking murders


The old Ridge Avenue Bridge where Bessie Little was murdered as it appeared around 1910. It was replaced by the current bridge in 1927, which will soon be demolished. ARTICLE: Dayton’s Ridge Avenue Bridge has haunted history as site of notorious 19th century murder

Deceased: Bessie Little

Section 111 |  Lot #3009 | Tier 3 | Grave 15

Death: Sept. 2, 1896 at age 23

Albert J. Frantz was accused of shooting his pregnant lover Bessie Little on the Ridge Avenue Bridge on Aug. 27, 1896, and trying to pass her death off as a suicide.

Bessie's decomposed body was found floating in the Stillwater River. Prosecutors argued that Albert murdered the 23-year-old because he did not want to marry her. 

According to a piece titled “The Story of the Bessie Little Bridge” by former Dayton Daily News columnist and local historian Roz Young, then-Dayton Chief Farrell “testified at the preliminary hearing that Frantz told him he had taken Bessie for a ride in his rig and that as they approached the bridge, she shot herself twice in the head. He panicked when he realized he might be blamed for her death and threw her body into the river.” 

Prosecutors said the first bullet killed Bessie, so there was no way she could have shot herself that second time in the head. 

Her head was brought into the courtroom on the second day of the trial causing many to faint. Coroner Lee Corbin removed it from the jar it was stored in to show jurors the path of the bullets. 

The jury didn’t believe the whole "she shot herself twice in the right ear" defense. They found Albert guilty after six days and more than 100 witnesses. He professed his innocence until the day he was executed by the state on Nov. 19, 1897. Albert was only the fourth man in Ohio history to meet death in the electric chair after the current was turned on and off five times. He could be heard groaning after each turn. Disowned by her adopted family due to her pregnancy, Bessie was at first buried in Potter’s Field. 

The family had the body moved to Woodland Cemetery shortly after Albert’s execution. 

Bessie’s ghost is said to haunt the Ridge Avenue Bridge, which is nicknamed the Bessie Little Bridge. The bridge she died on was replaced in 1927. That bridge was demolished in 2014 as part of a $5.2 million Ridge Avenue Bridge project. A new bridge took its place. 

>> HISTORICAL CRIMES: This Dayton landlady helped nab infamous bank robber John Dillinger 


Deceased: Mary Knight 

Dayton State Hospital Section 

Death: 1940 

Last year, Dayton History staged a re-enactment of Mary Knight’s 1895 murder trial.

Mary would not win the world’s greatest daughter award. This only child with an “appetite for strong drink” was tried for the bloody death of her mother Catherine “Grandmother Hark” Hark.

The supposed murder weapon: the cross-piece of a stove top covered in hair and blood.

Mary moved into her mother’s cottage on North Urbana Street after she and her husband had a violent fight. The women fought often due to Mary’s drinking, and neighbors often walked into the house to try to make peace between them. 

Screams broke out the morning of May 10, 1895, and neighbors debated in their front yards if they should call police. 

Mary walked out of the house and stumbled down the street. Neighbors assumed she was “drunk again,” and went back into their own homes. 

A short time later, a man spotted Mary standing on the porch looking into the window. 

“Horrible! Horrible! Look,” she screamed, according to Woodland’s account. 

Mary denied killing her mother, but was convicted on what the judge called “circumstantial evidence.”

She received just a year in prison, and many in Dayton doubted her guilt. 

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P&G war: What happens now?

Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 1:30 PM

Procter & Gamble CEO David Taylor answers questions at a news conference following P&G’s shareholder vote, Tuesday. (Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)
Procter & Gamble CEO David Taylor answers questions at a news conference following P&G’s shareholder vote, Tuesday. (Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)

What happens when history’s biggest corporate boardroom battle ends with one side declaring victory and the other side saying, “Not so fast”?

We’ll find out.

After Tuesday’s shareholders meeting and vote, David Taylor, chief executive of P&G, said shareholders voted to reject hedge fund boss’ Nelson Peltz’s bid for a seat on the Cincinnati company’s board of directors.

RELATEDProcter & Gamble vote: Peltz rejected, but doesn’t concede

But neither Taylor, nor anyone else at P&G, is offering any numbers or percentages tied to the vote result.

Peltz, for his part, doesn’t sound convinced. He told media he was going to return home and would wait for certified vote results.

And when will the vote count be certified?

RELATEDWho is the activist investor waging war against Procter & Gamble?

“It’s going to be multiple weeks before the independent inspector of elections, IVS Associates, has fully certified totals,” P&G spokeswoman Jennifer Corso said Wednesday. “We want to ensure every vote is counted.”

For his part, Peltz said he felt the company should place him on the board regardless of the vote outcome, given how close he estimates that margin to be.

Some investors may feel similarly. Shares of P&G (NYSE: PG) have fallen from about $92.52 a share to $91.58 in the past five days.

RELATEDIt’s crunch time in Procter & Gamble fight

“The vote on a best-case basis is one percent for them, one percent against them,” Peltz said Tuesday after the shareholders session in Cincinnati. “That’s the margin we’ve estimated.”

The New York Times quoted him as saying: “Think about it. I mean, everybody but the current employees voted for us up and down the line.”

Peltz and his company, Trian Partners, remains one of the P&G’s biggest investors, with a $3.5 billion stake. Taylor pledged that he would “listen” to Peltz.

“I am open to listening to, and we are open to listening to, ideas from wherever they may come,” Taylor said at a press conference after the meeting.

Given that P&G spokespeople argued that local jobs could be a stake with the vote, the episode was an important one for the Dayton-Cincinnati corridor and Ohio.

P&G and its distribution partners have about 760 workers total at a Union distribution hub. More than a third of P&G’s products move through that center.

The company also has about 1,500 employees at a Mason complex.

With $65 billion in revenue and a $235 billion market cap, P&G also has about 10,000 employees in the Cincinnati area and about 3,400 in downtown Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, P&G says its corporate “transformation” continues, with the company having cut 170 brands to 65, with 12 of those brands — including Bounty paper towels, Crest toothpaste, Dawn dish soap and others — ranked No. 1 in their markets.

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