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Preserve America is a national initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

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Preserve America Community:
Dayton, Ohio

Dayton, Ohio (population 166,179), has a rich history. First settled in 1796, the community's historic legacy is evident in its 10 locally designated historic districts. The city is working with the private sector to encourage both economic development and tourism that focuses on the city's heritage assets.

Dayton is often called the "Birthplace of Aviation." It was here that Orville and Wilbur Wright developed the airplane in which they made the world's first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903. Dayton was also the site of the brothers' later efforts to perfect a dependable and fully controllable airplane.

Paul Lawrence Dunbar State Memorial, Dayton, Ohio
Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial, Dayton, OH

Much of the Wright brothers' early work took place in the neighborhood now known as Wright-Dunbar Village, which was home to poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar (1872-1906), a son of former slaves and a schoolmate of Orville Wright, was the first internationally renowned African-American poet and writer.

By the 1990s, Wright-Dunbar Village was severely deteriorated, and the city partnered with Federal, State, and private entities to transform the area.

They created the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, which provides a focal point for interpretation and tourism. The city sold vacant homes for a dollar to encourage rehabilitation.

In addition, empty lots were sold to developers to create compatible in-fill housing, and the new buildings were showcased during a public tour program called "Citirama." Wright Dunbar, Inc., a certified National Main Street program, was created to foster revitalization of the area's historic commercial core.

Altogether, about $75 million of public and private investment has transformed the area, including Federal assistance through the Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant program, Save America's Treasures grants, transportation enhancements funding, and historic rehabilitation tax credits.

In historic areas throughout Dayton, the city encourages reinvestment through a 10-year tax abatement for property improvements and a historic design service that provides property owners with up to $750 of exterior design work.

The city is also a partner in a public-private initiative known as "Rehabarama." Abandoned or severely dilapidated historic homes are acquired, rehabilitated, furnished by local decorators, opened for a public tour, and then sold.

The program's success at sparking interest and reinvestment in Dayton's historic neighborhoods led the National Trust for Historic Preservation to recognize Rehabarama with a National Preservation Award in 1995.

For more information

City of Dayton: www.cityofdayton.org

Dayton/Montgomery County Convention and Visitors Bureau: www.daytoncvb.com

Wright Dunbar, Inc.: www.wright-dunbar.org

Preservation Dayton, Inc.: www.preservationdayton.com

National Register Travel Itinerary: www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/aviation

Posted May 12, 2009

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