You’ve been to the Dayton Art Institute, right? Maybe on Christmas Day? An exhibit, or a concert, or maybe a party or wedding? Greekfest? Or the Oktoberfest, perhaps? (The Oktoberfest is Sept 24-26, 2010- Go. Go!) How do you get to the DAI? Riverview? Yes, probably the most common way to get there, and unless you live in the downtown area, or are a real HouseNerd ( I just made that term up, but you can steal it) you most likely don’t spend time driving around the DAI neighborhood? I’m going to suggest you rethink that. One of the most interesting neighborhoods in the Greater Dayton Area is home to both the DAI, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, and the Masonic Temple- the historic neighborhood known as Grafton Hill.
This morning, my business partner and I were talking to Grafton Hill neighbors about the community, and one of them told us, “Grafton Hill is Dayton’s best kept secret. It’s a community, but it’s more than community, it’s family.” That neighbor is not the only GH resident who feels that way, it’s a sentiment we have heard over and over by both the long term residents, and the newer residents, and by the way, long term in Grafton Hill is 40 plus years. I don’t know about where you live, but I do know there are very few neighborhoods in Dayton that can really claim to be family with multi-generations of unrelated neighbors who look out for each other, and multiple generations in the same family who are neighbors, all working together to make their neighborhood become the neighborhood of their dreams.
There is something unique about Grafton Hill. The story I heard from our clients, and two of the oldest neighbors- or, sorry Ed and Phyllis, I should say two of the longest-term residents- is that they each drove through the neighborhood and “fell in love”. And how can you not? This neighborhood is a HouseNerd’s heaven. Grafton Hill is one of those historic Dayton neighborhoods that was home to some of the wealthiest Daytonians at the turn of century. The Art Institute anchored the neighborhood as an area of affluence, but it’s in the homes that we can still see how wealth translated into distinct, custom-built homes, each unique and lovely its own right. It’s impossible for a HouseNerd to drive through the neighborhood without being gobsmacked by these homes. Not only is each home unique in style, they are huge! 2500-3900 square feet is not at all unusual, and some homes are much bigger.
Phyllis has lived in Grafton Hill since the 1960’s. “The same home?” I asked. “Oh no. I’ve moved several times.” Same with Ed, he’s lived in several different homes in Grafton Hill over the years. To understand how remarkable this is, you need to know that the historic district is only about an 18 block area. The home Phyllis lives in now sustained damage by a fire years ago and has had to undergo much rebuilding. To these residents though, the homes in Grafton Hill are treasures to be lovingly cared for, improved upon, and polished until they “shine like the gems they are” as our client likes to say. Any current owners are simply caretakers during this moment in time- well, I shouldn’t say “simply”. As one neighbor told me, “few people realize how much work is involved”. The phrase “labor of love” comes to mind.
Still, while the homes may draw new people into the Dayton Ohio historic district, when we ask residents what was their favorite thing about living in Grafton Hill, the consistent answer is, “the neighbors”. Now I know that regardless of where you live, there are very few neighborhoods anywhere in the country where the majority of neighbors could say that about each other. The very fact that both renters and home owners really enjoy and look out for each other says enormous amounts about the sense of community you find in Grafton Hill.
Next weekend, before you head into the DAI Oktoberfest, or, next month, at Halloween, take a drive through this beautiful neighborhood, or during the Holidays if Grafton Hill is holding a Home Tour- Go. You’ll be awestruck, gobsmacked, and who knows, maybe even you too will fall in love.
Photos: Teri Lussier