On the hillsides overlooking the city of Dayton are the southeastern neighborhoods of Linden Heights and Walnut Hills. Once a rural landscape of farms, orchards and a large stone quarry, the area took on a more urban character at the turn of the century as city dwellers followed the streetcar lines out to build new, modern homes on the edge. The appeal of these neighborhoods increased with the 1913 flood which gave prospective residents a deep appreciation for the high and dry home sites to be found in these growing residential sections.
The growth of Walnut Hills, named for its many walnut trees, focused on Wayne Avenue which offered convenient streetcar service to neighborhood residents. The area west of Wayne Avenue was first known as Stewart Hills, while the eastern section of the neighborhood was known as Ohmer Park. The latter was named by noted Dayton businessman and horticulturist Nicholas Ohmer, who platted his land for urban development in the late nineteenth century. Bounded by Wayne, Highland, Wyoming and Pursell, Ohmer Park still retains a strong sense of identity among residents and older Daytonians. Linden Heights was first known as Mount Anthony after the area’s main anchor, St. Anthony Catholic Church. The neighborhood later became known as Linden Heights, taking its name from a small area platted in 1909 in the northern part of the neighborhood.
These southern neighborhoods became home to workers at NCR, Delco and Frigidaire, as well as other members of the Dayton community. Served by many mom and pop businesses and connected to downtown by several streetcar lines, residents enjoyed a close-knit community life. Churches such as St. Anthony Catholic Church and Ohmer Park Methodist Episcopal Church met the spiritual needs of many neighborhood residents, while Walnut Hills Park, Cleveland Park and The Commons (later Highland Park) met their recreational needs.
Although Dayton’s population began to decrease in the 1960’s, the population of Linden Heights and Walnut Hills remained stable. Like many neighborhoods, however, they faced their share of challenges. In those years, Walnut Hills residents organized to deal with the challenges posed by the increasing numbers of multifamily rental properties. Successful in achieving the passage of single family zoning, residents formed the Walnut Hills Civic Association, which later came to include the residents of Ohmer Park and Stewart Hills. Linden Heights Community Council organized in response to the construction of U.S. 35 which cut through the East End, dividing neighborhoods and erasing familiar landmarks.
In the 1980’s, these two neighborhood associations came together to successfully oppose the proposed extension of the Hamilton-Wyoming Connector, now Steve Whalen Boulevard. In December 1988, the Linden Heights Community Council decided to change the negative impression presented by the six-lane, quarter mile strip of 55 mph concrete highway and took the lead in working with five adjoining neighborhoods and the City of Dayton to introduce a multi-phase project to convert it to a proper gateway for the neighborhoods. As a result, the Connector has been transformed into a 35 mph, landscaped boulevard named as a tribute to slain Dayton police officer Steve Whalen.
Today, Walnut Hills and Linden Heights continue to draw on their rich community history to retain their strong traditions of stable family living.
Points of Interest in Linden Heights and Walnut Hills
MICHAEL OHMER HOUSE, 1421 Phillips Street, was built from 1858 to 1863. It was originally home to Michael Ohmer, owner of a cabinetmaking company in Dayton. Much of his expert cabinet work is seen throughout the home.
NICHOLAS OHMER HOUSE, 1350 Creighton Avenue. This elegant Victorian home was built in 1864 by leading Dayton businessman, civic leader and horticulturist Nicholas Ohmer. The area surrounding the house was subdivided for residential development in 1889 and called Ohmer Park Ohmer descendants continued to occupy the house until 1990 when it was purchased by Robert and Lola Signom, who restored this elegant city landmark to its original grandeur. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
OHMER PARK UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, 1357 Arbor Avenue, grew out of a small neighborhood group which began to meet in 1911. Their first official meeting place was a building on Wayne between Arbor and Carlisle Avenues, which was built as a saloon, but never opened due to neighborhood opposition. In 1912, the newly formed congregation became the Ohmer Park Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1914, their first church building was dedicated at the corner of Arbor and Clarence streets. The congregation continued to grow, necessitating construction of the present larger building, which was dedicated on February 27, 1927.
CLEVELAND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL FOR THE ARTS, 1102 Pursell Avenue, began as Ohmer Park School in 1903. The present building, erected in 1917 after the first frame building burned, was named for President Grover Cleveland. Today, Cleveland is the largest elementary school in Dayton.
SCHLIENTZ & MOORE FUNERAL HOME, 1632 Wayne Avenue. This beautiful Victorian home was built by Samuel Edgar in the 1860’s for his daughter, Marianna. Gertrude Moore and her children moved to Dayton in 1914 following the death of her husband, a cabinet and coffin maker. The first woman to graduate from embalming school, Gertrude and her second husband, Fred Schlientz, opened Schlientz & Moore Funeral Home in 1921 at 2600 Wayne Avenue, relocating to the former Edgar home in 1936. It is still operated by the founders’ descendants.
WESTBROCK FUNERAL HOME, 1712 Wayne Avenue. This elegant homestead was built in 1866 by Samuel Edgar as a wedding present for his daughter, Margaret. In 1922, it became the first funeral home in Dayton. Before the 1920’s, undertakers operated out of storefronts and wakes were held in the homes of the deceased. Ben Westbrock, following a new national trend, transformed the old home into a full-service funeral facility. Westbrock began as an assistant to undertaker Peter Meyers before opening his own business in 1892. Today, the business is operated by the third and fourth generations of the Westbrock family. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
ESTHER PRICE CANDY & GIFTS, 1709 Wayne Avenue, grew from a fudge recipe learned in Home Economics at Schiller School (later Lincoln School) to one of Dayton’s most cherished businesses. Esther Rose Rohman, born in 1904, first began making fudge as a girl in her home at Dover and Wyoming Streets. After her marriage to Ralph Price in 1924 and the birth of twins in 1926, Esther supplemented the family income by selling her candy to downtown businesses and department stores from their house on Fauver Avenue. The superior quality of her candy was immediately recognized and her home business grew rapidly. In 1952, she moved her business to the present location on Wayne Avenue. In 1976, James Day and Ralph Schmidt bought the business and continue Esther Price’s tradition of excellence.
COLORADO AVENUE BAPTIST CHURCH, 101 Heaton Avenue. In 1903, the Baptist Union purchased a lot in Walnut Hills. Three years later, when the Third Street Baptist Church moved to a new building, the old edifice was dismantled and moved to this empty lot at Colorado and Heaton Avenues. The building was used for a Sunday school mission of the Linden Avenue Baptist Church until 1913 when the congregation organized as the Colorado Avenue Baptist Church. The present building was erected in 1916.
FIRST UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST, 321 Edgar Avenue, was the product of a 1930 union of the First Christian Church (established in 1828) and the Walnut Hills Christian Church (established in 1907). The resulting First Congregational Church located in the Edgar Avenue church building, which had been erected by the Walnut Hills congregation in 1924. When the United Church of Christ was formed nationally in 1957, First Congregational was one of the first churches in Dayton to adopt the new denomination, becoming the First United Church of Christ in 1959. The congregation formally dissolved in 1996, and the building was sold to the Kettering Assembly of God who uses it as a children’s mission.
WALNUT HILLS PARK, between Wayne and Buchanan Avenues, was established in 1926 as a municipal park by the City of Dayton. It offers a spectacular view of Dayton and the surrounding area from a recently constructed viewing platform and stage.
ST. ANTHONY CATHOLIC CHURCH AND SCHOOL
ST. ANTHONY CATHOLIC CHURCH AND SCHOOL, 820 Bowen Avenue. St. Anthony Parish was established in September 1913 in response to the rapid growth of southeast Dayton after the 1913 flood. The first church, a small frame building, was completed by December of that year, and the school opened in the fall of 1914. The congregation quickly outgrew the small frame building, and from 1924 until the present building was completed in late 1954, they worshipped in the auditorium of the expanded parish school. The present church was dedicated on May 8, 1955.