Tiny But Classic

 

This article appeared in the Journal Herald on April 7, 1986

Tiny, but classic: Efforts resuming to save Greek Revival-style house
By Vince McKelvey

            Efforts are under way to save a small East Dayton house that recently had been ravaged by vandals, scroungers and careless tenants.
            The house at 53 Sherman St. – an example of Greek Revival Temple Style architecture – is believed to have been owned by pioneer tavern keeper George Newcom.
            It has been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places, and approval is expected this summer.
            “It’s a fantastic little building,” said Loren S. Gannon, director of preservation services for the Montgomery County Historical Society. “What we’ve got is a cottage that looks just like the Old Courthouse . . . You just don’t find cute little temples like that sticking out in the countryside.”
            There is only one other example of a residential Greek Revival Temple building in this area, Gannon said, and that is in Troy.
            Gannon estimates the Sherman Street house was built between 1840 and 1850, about the same time as the Old Courthouse, which he placed at 1846 to 1850, and may have even been worked on by the same workers.
            If this proposed restoration flies, it will be the third attempt on the house in the last 12 years.
            Owner and preservationist Rus Kindrick first bought the house in 1968 for $7,000 and said he spent $20,000 restoring it.
            He purchased it to preserve it, not to live in it, but could not convince officials at that time that the building was historically significant. He sold it in 1971 “at a substantial loss” and moved from the Dayton area.
            But two years ago, he learned the building had been battered and was condemned to be razed, so he returned and began negotiations to re-purchase the house.
            The second restoration attempt ended last summer when the home was apparently hit by scroungers in search of the newly installed electric wiring and copper plumbing.
             The incident left Kindrick frustrated and disheartened.
            “I just walked out,” said Kindrick, who had spent $6,000 in that restoration. “I thought twice ought to be enough for any building. I abandoned it.
            “But,” he added, “I never could (give it up).”
            Now he is looking at plans to relocate the house before restoring it again.
            One plan, being coordinated by John Roberts, president of St. Anne’s Hill Historical Society, entails moving the home to Josie Street.
            Historical society officials said moving the home into a designated historic district, where other restoration efforts are going on, would give the home a better showcase and enhance its chances of survival.
            Kindrick said that move and restoration would cost about $20,000, and Roberts said area banks have shown a willingness to back the project with loans. Negotiations for the Josie Street lot, however, have yet to begin in earnest.
            In the meantime, Kindrick said he is also considering a lot on Parkview Avenue – outside of the St. Anne’s Hill District.
            And he said he’s had two offers from preservationists on the East Coast to move the home there. “It’s some sort of misbegotten notion to keep the home in the town where it was built that keeps me from doing it,” he said.
            Precisely where and when the home was built remains a mystery, in spite of “long and painful research effort” by the county historical society, Gannon said.
            The house does not appear on maps made in 1851 and 1868.

            However, Col. George Newcom did own 100 acres in that area and tax records indicate he made a significant improvement in 1841 that could have been the Sherman Street home, Gannon said.
            In 1850, he built a house on Linden Avenue – this building appears on an 1851 map – which he gave to his widowed daughter-in-law.
            There are some indications that the Sherman Street house may have been moved to its current lot, Gannon said, so it may be the Widow Newcom’s home.
            Or, he said, it may be “a completely disassociated structure … I don’t think we’ll ever know the answer.”
            What is known is that Newcom, one of Dayton’s first settlers, didn’t live there.
            Newcom served the area as sheriff, and as state representative and senator before his death in 1853.
            And like many settlers, Gannon said, Newcom speculated on land.
            The Sherman Street area was just one of the many properties he owned. “Col. George mad a pile of money in town and out of town,” Gannon said.