Those who travel on a regular basis or even from time to time on the highway between Xenia and Dayton (U. S. 35/Main Street) might be surprised to know that at one time, the major route to Dayton was Dayton-Xenia Road.
Main Street stopped where Dayton-Xenia turns and there were homes which were built at the end of what is now Main Street. Thus when you came to Dayton Avenue, there were houses in front of the vehicles as one turned onto Dayton Avenue.
The State of Ohio wanted more direct routes in various parts of the state and wider, more easily accessible traffic lanes, thus the land was purchased; the houses were razed and a new street four lanes wide was constructed.
Houses were not the only victims of the street improvement. A sycamore tree which had quite a long history also was removed. The tree was planted in 1853 on West Main Street.
The 2020 national election will go down in the books as being a time when the citizens were not informed on the day of election the name of the newly-elected president of the United States. In 1852, the news traveled very slowly so it was some weeks before the residents of Greene County, Ohio had knowledge of which man had won the election. Finally, word was received that Franklin Pierce had been elected to a term beginning in 1853.
The supporters were enthusiastic about the news. A barbecue was held at the Bayless home, located on West Main Street just west of the railroad crossing. They planted a sycamore tree, on the property to commemorate the event. Today bicycle riders cross Main Street on that route. The tree grew strong and healthy, providing shade in the summer for passersby, but in order to complete the new highway the tree was removed
Other parts of the project included new bridges. Two across Little Beaver Creek, one over the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad tracks, and one over the Little Miami River.
The city had agreed to re-locate the water lines which ran throughout that portion of town. The contract was signed in July 1954 with the state’s contractor. The city was under the impression that there would be ample time to move or otherwise reconstruct the water mains before the major construction began, but the contractor arrived 60 days prior to the original plan which caused a great many problems.
The Xenia Herald reported on May 25, 1955 that “Xenia City officials, representatives of the State Highway Department and officials of the V. N. Holderman and Sons, Inc., general contractor, have resolved that this city’s West Main Street situation is the result of ‘normal operations problems.’ ”
It seems that the Holderman Company created a major problem when a two-inch city water main was snapped leaving 136 homes without water for a day. The next day, repairs were made but that meant that the same houses were without water a second day.
The city manager wrote a letter to the State Highway Department stating that “We feel the state has given us inadequate notice.” The city expected a 60-day notice before the contractor began tearing up the street with the heavy equipment in order to work on the water mains. The city was not notified of the impending construction until May 6 with construction set to begin May 16. Actually the contractor arrived on May 12. City officials stated that that was not an adequate amount of time to get all the mains rerouted.
The contract called for the city to lower the water mains at Main and Orange, a job the city stated would demand three or four weeks work. Workmen were called in from other jobs to get the work completed.
Not all the damage to the water lines was caused by the contractor. City crews “discovered” a water main which was not marked on the city maps. The water spewed from the broken line as high as the nearby houses before being controlled.
Aside from the problems with the water mains, the work went along very well and in a timely fashion. The railroad tracks presented another problem. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad owned the tracks and negotiations were underway to get the storm sewers under the tracks without delaying the trains. An agreement was reached which worked well for all.
Home owners were advised that any shrubbery which was in the way would be dug up and replanted by the contractor if the homeowner so desired.
A project which had been planned for fall was delayed until spring for the convenience of the homeowners. A five-foot gravel sidewalk was placed along West Main Street to alleviate the mud and dust problems.
The street was to be graded higher between Dayton Avenue and the railroad tracks and lowered at Orange Street to make a smoother ride
Once the major work was completed an aggregate base of crush stone and gravel was placed in order that the road could be paved. It was expected that paving would be completed at the rate of a mile a day of 12-foot wide, nine-inch deep concrete. Paving was expected to last between 40 and 50 days. Upon completion of the paving, trees and grass would be planted along the route.
Obviously, a considerable amount of time and effort went into the project, but the final result is enjoyed today.
Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.