Preserve America Community:
Piqua (pop. 20,738) was founded ca. 1793, when Gen. Anthony Wayne built Fort Piqua. The village began in 1807 and operated under the control of Washington Township and was called the village of Washington. This name was unpopular with the settlers, so in 1816, the state legislature was petitioned to restore the town to its Indian name, Piqua. By the year 1823, the village formed a city government, and the city of Piqua (located in west central Ohio, 25 miles north of Dayton) was incorporated. It boasted a newspaper, several mills, a post office, and a population of 350.
In 1837, the Miami Erie Canal reached Piqua, and the community remained the terminus of the canal until 1842. During the canal’s most active period during the 1850s, goods and passengers traveled to Piqua from as far south as Cincinnati and as far north as Toledo.
The first railroad traveled through Piqua in 1858, along a Columbus to Indiana route. A second route was established in 1854 connecting Dayton to Michigan. Electric power was private until 1933 when the Piqua Municipal Power Plant went on line. The community went nuclear from 1963 through 1966 with the construction of the nation’s first municipally owned atomic power plant.
Throughout the years, the community had a rich history of textile mills, once being called the “underwear capital of the world.” Fifteen different companies manufactured underwear and knitwear there from the late 1880s to the mid-1980s. These industries changed the economics of Piqua as they became a major employer of local women, providing families with multiple incomes. Women also created social clubs based on their factory employers, and the high school offered classes related to textile manufacturing.
Today, Piqua residents offer downtown walking tours; a 23-block section of the downtown is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. A key project showing the city’s preservation ethic is the current restoration of the Fort Piqua Hotel, built in 1891. The development plan is for 45,000 square feet of the 85,000 square foot structure to be occupied by the Flesh Public Library. The project will include restoration of the former grand ballroom into a community banquet facility, with commercial space on the ground floor. Substantial federal preservation tax credits have been combined with local fund-raising and state grants for this project.
The hotel has been the focal point of the downtown since its opening. In addition to its architectural grandeur, the hotel has a rich history of providing shelter to presidents and other famous people including Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding, John Philip Sousa, and Harry Houdini. It was a meeting place for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League during Prohibition. Later, it became the site of a 1947 NAACP-staged sit-in at the lunch counter that resulted in the end of restaurant segregation in the entire city.
For more information
City of Piqua www.piquaoh.org
Posted February 19, 2009