Some local historians are offering a unique look into the vibrancy of a city’s past, and the possibilities of an exciting, expansive future.
Leon Bey and Nancy Roach, of Gem City Circle Walking Tours, have recently begun their fifth season of walking tours for downtown Dayton, highlighting the famous and not-so-famous aspects of Dayton history.
Bey and Roach met five years ago in a manner that Roach characterized as “fate.”
“It was meant to be,” said Roach. “I was doing research in the local history room at the [Dayton Metro] library. I asked the librarian down there if he could help me with some of the information. It was Leon, who just happened to be working as a substitute that day.
“We starting talking about our interest in the community. So I asked him, ‘Would you like to research with me and do a walking tour of downtown?’ He looked at me and said, ‘I have a walk and I’m looking for someone to do it with me!'”
The walks were born on that day.
The duo’s excitement and enthusiasm for Dayton’s rich heritage is evident to anyone who goes “walkin’ and talkin'” with them on one of their leisurely downtown walking tours, which are given on the first and last weekends of the month.
Bey and Roach weave together historical accounts, personal recollections and photographic images to create a vivid experience. That experience is often reciprocated when local residents share recollections of their own visits to downtown theaters, department stores and businesses long gone. “Some of the people on the tours, the older people, they have great memories,” said Bey.
The tours, however, do more than simply highlight the city’s past – they also offer glimpses into possible strategic re-uses of some of downtown’s historic structures like the Dayton Arcade, which was purchased last year by two developers who are intent on restoring the beautiful, five-building complex to its former glory. (Leon Bey founded “Friends of the Dayton Arcade”, a non-profit group dedicated to raising awareness and money for the future development of the Dayton Arcade.)
Far from just revisiting the glories of days gone by, the walks also examine the cultural, social and economic contributions of various ethnic groups and nationalities in the area. The tours provide a very street-level perspective of Dayton history. Many topics are discussed: The 1913 Dayton Flood, Abraham Lincoln’s visit to Dayton and the history of department stores founded in Dayton are explored.
Gem City Circle Walking Tours offers these programs (partial listing):
- Oregon Arts District
- Ghosts, Cemeteries and Murders
- Miami & Erie Canal Walk of Downtown Dayton
- Historic Downtown Dayton’s Main Street
- Ludlow Street
The fee for each walk is $10. Tours are approximately 3 hours long, with scheduled breaks, including an hour for lunch. Advance reservations are required. Groups are welcome.
For walk reservations or additional information, contact Leon Bey at 937-274-4749 or firstname.lastname@example.org.