This article appeared in the City of Dayton Annual Report for 1940
A MODERN HIGHWAY REPLACES A STATE CANAL
by FRED O. EICHELBERGER
PATTERSON BOULEVARD, carrying U. S. 25 through Dayton, a dream twenty-five years ago, is now practically a full-fledged realization. True, one obstruction remains at Fifth and Stone Streets, but even that is on the way out. To the uninformed, let us say that the greater portion of this important highway is constructed upon the bed of the old Miami and Erie Canal.
This canal, built many years ago, was the property of the State of Ohio, and although it had long since ceased to serve navigation, it did accommodate certain industries with water supply for manufacturing and condensing purposes. It also became the repository of divers trade wastes, sundry household cast-offs and plain sewage. Having degenerated to such an obnoxious [photograph: The Old Canal] [p. 62] condition, its former usefulness and romanticism forgotten, the canal became the object of public indignation, harsh censure, and general disgust. In due time this feeling shifted from the canal to those responsible for its continued existence, and we began to lay siege about the State Capitol building, with the object of having canal abandonment legislation enacted.
With the help of the State Department of Public Works an abandonment bill was prepared and passed by both branches of the Legislature, only to be vetoed by the Governor for reasons which appear to be without reason. This was in 1923. So with five months of legislative lobbying effort quashed by one stroke of the gubernatorial pen, there was nothing to do but begin all over again at the next session of the Legislature two years thereafter, and in the meantime convince the Governor that Dayton people really meant to have the canal abandoned.
During the 1925 legislative session the abandonment bill was passed and this time approved by the Governor. It permitted the City of Dayton to perpetually lease all canal property within and immediately adjoining its boundaries at an annual rental of four per cent of its (the Canal’s) appraised value. Three appraisers appointed by the Governor fixed the value at about three quarters of [photograph: The New Boulevard] [p. 63] a million dollars, which meant Dayton must pay about thirty thousand dollars a year rent to the State. The bill also permitted existing occupants of canal property to convert their short-term leases into perpetual leases. Practically all lessees took advantage of this provision of the law, which meant that if the City of Dayton needed the property so leased (and we did need most of it), we would have to deal with these lessees. This required many years of dickering and in the meantime grade crossing elimination entered the picture. The elevated railroad tracks were planned to occupy a portion of the canal property and it took two sessions of the Legislature, covering four years time, to remove some of the restrictions of the abandonment act so that track elevation could proceed. Two years later, in 1931, the fifth and final act of the Legislature relieved Dayton of paying rent to the State for any portion of the canal used for public purposes.
While this was going on all sorts of legal problems had to be straightened out with various claimants, true and false. But gradually, bit by bit, the future Patterson Boulevard began to take form. Extensive drainage works had to be constructed; a storm water pumping station built; two railroad grade crossings eliminated; and then here and there surface paving began to appear, climaxing in the ultra modern State-Federal Aid Project extending from Stout Street to Southern Hills. This section, which provides an approach to the city from the south, is undoubtedly destined to become one of the heaviest traveled highways in the State because of its unusual setting. On one side is the beautiful Old River Park owned by the National Cash Register Company and used as a recreation center by the Company’s employees. On the other side is the site of the magnificent Deeds Carillon, now under construction, which, with its 35-acre public park, will round out a scene of inspiring beauty.
Lest we forget, we reproduce herewith two pictures taken from the same spot. One shows part of the old canal and the other a section of the boulevard which replaced it.