West 3rd and South Main Streets
Dayton, Ohio

Ohio's Gem City played host to the state's second enclosed shopping gallery, which followed an earlier complex completed, in Cleveland, in 1890. A 3.7 acre downtown Dayton plot was chosen, with construction commencing in 1902. Existing structures, such as the 3rd Street Presbyterian Church, Kuhns Building and Phillips Hotel, were worked into a 4-level, 250,000 square foot retail, office and residential center, designed by Frank Mills Andrews and the firm of Schenck & Williams.

The DAYTON ARCADE was developed by E.J. Barney and Michael J. Gibbons. It consisted of a 2-level, glass covered corridor extending from the Main Entrance on 3rd Street to a 3-level, glass-enclosed Rotunda, which was 70 feet high and 90 feet in diameter.

The Main Entrance was patterned after an Amsterdam guild hall. The dome of the Rotunda was decorated with depictions of fruits and vegetables indigenous to Ohio, as well as acorns and ram's heads. Each framing member of the dome structure was accented by a large turkey.

On both sides of the 3rd Street corridor was a single-level block of retail shops. Above the western block were 4-levels of apartments; the eastern block was topped by 3 residential levels. Surrounding the Rotunda was 1 level of retail, with 2 upper floors of office spaces.

The DAYTON ARCADE was appointed with all of the latest 20th century conveniences, such as elevators, central heating, a power plant and lower level cold storage area. At its official grand opening, held March 3, 1904, animals were brought in from the Cincinnati Zoo.

Merchants in operation at the dedication of the DAYTON ARCADE included Vince's Fruit Shop, a barber shop and Disher's Delicatessen. The floor of the Rotunda was filled by a Food Market of fifty vendors.

Office buildings were built at the site that connected into the complex. The Commercial Building, on the southwest corner, was completed in 1909. The Miami Savings Bank (later Lindsey) Building opened in 1917.

A 2-level (37,000 square foot) J.G. McCrory 5 & 10, and associated office building, opened in 1924. This was also the year that the 3rd Street Presbyterian Church, on the northwest corner of the site, was demolished and replaced with an office building. A Dayton-based Liberal supermarket was in operation, on its first floor, by the 1940s.

By the 1960s, suburban shopping centers were cutting into business at the ARCADE. Its glass roofs, which had started to leak, were covered with shingles, making the interior dark and uninviting.

Shops and services in operation at this time included the aforementioned McCrory's and Liberal grocery as well as The Arcade Health Center, Culp's Cafeteria, Arcade Seafoods, Eden's Meats, Walker's Fresh Fruit Drinks, The Jewel Box, Nu-Way Bakery, Steppe-Inn Lounge, Tasty Bird Farms Bar-B-Q and Sybil Hat Shop.

In 1977, the complex, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, was sold to an entity known as Arcade Partners. They proceeded to evict all retail and residential tenants, save for McCrory's and the Liberal grocery.

A 14 million dollar renovation got underway, which included the installation of a glass-enclosed elevator, and set of escalators, in the Rotunda. All roof coverings were removed and the ceilings, once more, opened to the skies.

The renewed retail center, known as ARCADE SQUARE, debuted -with six shops- on May 10, 1980. By year's end, there would be thirty-three. Tenants included Rinaldo's Bake Shop, Casual Corner, Red Cross Shoes, Waldenbooks, The American Way Sandwich Shop, Charlie's Crab Restaurant and the Coca-Cola Museum.

In 1986, the floor of the rotunda was taken out and a lower level The Menu Food Court installed. Among its offerings were Gold Star Chili, Potato King, the Great Steak & Fry Company, Roma Pizza and Mandarin Kitchen.

4 years later, the Phillips Hotel structure, comprising the northeast corner of the complex, was razed and replaced by the 20-story Dayton Arcade Center office tower. The building housing the Metro (nee' Liberal) supermarket was also replaced by a parking garage, which included new quarters for the grocery on its first level.

Unfortunately, the ARCADE SQUARE reinvention proved to be less than successful. Its location, in downtown Dayton, was considered unsafe. Also, parking was at a premium. The early 1990s vacancy created by the shuttering of McCrory's, the primary anchor store, was never filled.

Moreover, patrons at The Menu Food Court were hassled by security staff if they remained seated for too long. This severely reduced the lunchtime trade at ARCADE SQUARE eateries. In March 1991, the complex closed its doors. Three tenants, out of twenty-eight, would remain in business, as they had exterior entries.

A plan was put forward in 1994 to re-utilize the shuttered structure as a mega-museum complex, featuring a National Aviation Hall of Fame, Children's Museum and operative of the Montgomery County Historical Society. This initiative failed.

By this time, the complex had gone through four owners and been auctioned off for back taxes. The current owner, the Dayton-based Danis Building Construction Company, donated the structure to a charity organization in 2004. It continued to languish until being purchased by two Wisconsin-based investors, in May 2009.

Gunther Berg and Wendell Strutz discovered the ARCADE SQUARE property during an online auction on E-Bay. They travelled to Dayton, assessed the structure, and ended up buying it.

A thorough renovation was planned, but never got off the ground. Meanwhile, the complex, which had been vacant since 1991, continued to deteriorate. By October 2013, ARCADE owners were in arrears for over 300 thousand dollars in unpaid property taxes. 

In September 2015, city commissioners approved a 700,000 dollar contract to pay for much-needed roof repairs to the ARCADE. These would be performed to prevent any further water damage to the structure while a renovation plan was put together.

Two Cleveland-based architectural firms had been brought in to assess the ARCADE and recommend the best plan for its reinvention. They concluded that renovation into a residential complex of small-to-medium-sized apartments, student housing, artist loft spaces and, perhaps, a "boutique upscale hotel" would be the most practical reuse of the property. 


"Dayton Arcade" article on / Post by Mike Kottler (Urban Ohio Forum, "Jeffrey" webmaster) (Dayton History BooksOnline / Dayton Arcade Photographs / Robert Thaman, photographer)
Dayton Daily News