DAYTON, Ohio — The Dayton Board of Zoning Appeals has approved the city’s request to demolish a 129-year-old historic building that once was the site of the Wright brothers’ first bike shop.
The city wants to tear down the site because the building has deteriorated to a point where it can no longer be maintained and redeveloped, the Dayton Daily News has reported. Public safety concerns have also been raised by some who fear the building could collapse.
While agreeing that most of the building should be demolished, the Dayton Landmarks Commission rejected the demolition request in September. The panel instead recommended that the city re-advertise the property and encourage its renovation in a way that preserves the historic facade.
Preservation groups had also opposed the city’s plan. They argued that keeping the building’s facade and incorporating it into a redevelopment project would make the project eligible for historic tax credits.
The city appealed the landmarks commission’s decision to the zoning appeals board, claiming it erred in its application of architectural design standards. The board voted 5 to 1 this week to reverse the commission’s decision and gave the city permission to raze the property.
The shop was first built in 1892 to serve as the Wright brothers’ first bike shop. Soon thereafter, Gem City Ice Cream bought the property and housed it until 1975 until it was sold to another company.
Years after a wide array of owners, the city attempted to sell the rundown property to developers but it failed inspection tests. The building was deemed structurally damaged and in danger of collapse.
City officials had also previously attempted to receive approval to bulldoze the property but did not move forward after hearing community concerns.
The Wright brothers, Wilbur and younger sibling Orville, were aviation pioneers and are generally credited with building the first airplane. They started their work on flight several years after they built the shop that will be razed.
The brothers made their initial powered flight with the Wright Flyer in December 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, then came home to Dayton to work the bugs out. A memorial stands at Huffman Prairie, where they made flights in 1904-05 and really learned to control the plane.