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Halls Are Decked - Dressed Up for the Holidays

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News
on December 12, 1992


by Roz Young


            Everybody around this part of the country will surely want to make a trip downtown to visit the Arcade. For generations the Arcade has been central to downtown Dayton life, and here it is, back again!

            When Eugene J. Barney and Michael J. Gibbons first developed the idea for the Arcade in 1900, they conceived of it as a community market and food center like the world-famous one in Covent Garden in London. Barney and Gibbons, H.N. Reynolds and E.F. Kimmel formed the Arcade Company, and construction began in 1902.

            Such an opening of a building was never before seen in Dayton history when the Arcade began business in April 1904. It was all due to a brilliant decision on the part of the organizers to appoint everybody in Dayton who was anybody at all to a committee.

            "We are going to hold a three-day festival," the owners said, "and all the proceeds will go to four Dayton organizations, the Miami Valley Hospital, St. Elizabeth Hospital, the Woman's Christian Association and the Young Women's League." They asked the two women's organizations to form committees to get all the ideas for the festival and enlist volunteers to do the work.

            Dayton has always been a wonderful town for committees, and the ladies did their work with zest. It took 52 column inches of 6-point type in the News to list all the committee members. At 17 names per inch, about 884 members of the creme de la creme of Dayton society worked on the opening.

            The general committee list reads like an index to Dayton history: S.H. Carr, chairman, John W. Stoddard, Ezra F. Kimmel, Alfred A. Thresher, Mrs. William D. Bickham, Mrs. Stephen J. Patterson, John E. Weiffenbach, Mrs. Charles Insco Williams, Mrs. Charles H. Kumler, John L. Theobald, Mrs. William B. Iddings, Harvey Conover, Mrs. C.J. Ferneding, Mrs. F.J. McCormick and John P. Breen.

            H.L. Ferneding was chairman of the publicity committee. Other committee chairman were music, John P. Breen; admissions, Wood Patton; refreshments, Mrs. William Plautfutt; country store, Mrs. P.J. Rotterman; fancy work booth, Mrs. Daniel C. Larkin; sniff booth, Mrs. Henry Unverferth; handkerchief booth, Katie Hasenstab; fish pond, Mrs. George M. Strattner; lily pond, Irene Kramer; Panama booth, Elizabeth McCormick; ice cream, Mrs. William Lett; cigar booth, Benjamin Ebbing; combination tickets, Henry Focke.

            One sub-committee was assigned the task of planning an exhibit to interest children. They enlisted the help of the Cincinnati Zoo, which sent cages of many kinds of animals, mostly bears and monkeys. These were exhibited in the center of the floor under the dome.

            "Here one gets a glimpse of the sunny South in the exquisite orange grove and palm gardens," wrote the News reporter.

            "In another place one is transported into a veritable garden where thousands of tulips in the richest colors are growing in beds of beauty. Stepping from the beds of rich color, one finds himself in a dainty old-fashioned New England kitchen.

            ". . . Red and white are the prevailing colors in the general decoration scheme, planned by the decorating department of the National Cash Register Company. . . Around the galleries and just beneath the dome are festoons of red and white bunting, falling in graceful folds. The supporting pillars are covered with the same colors, and flags of all nations add to the picturesque scenes. A band of music blends with the merry voices of the gathering.

            And now it's open again.

            Come on downtown and walk through this historic old Dayton spot and marvel at its architecture, buy presents in its shops, have something to eat and enjoy the festive holiday air. Given enough encouragement, this grand old place, even now pulsing with new life, can give vigor to our renewed downtown. It would be a great gift to the city if someone can find a way to keep it open.