History Extra: Main Street, pictures within a picture

Details within a look at 1920s city life.


Imagine if you were crossing Main Street in the mid-1920s and you paused for a moment in the middle of the street.

Look to the north at the intersection with Fifth Street and this is the Dayton panorama you would see.

I study photographs of the city each week in the Dayton Metro Library’s William Lutzenberger Picture Collection. The details within this streetscape caught my eye.

At first glance, the scene is familiar, and many of the prominent buildings still exist. But study the elements within the frame, and you will be transported back in time.

>>> PHOTOS: Pictures within a photograph detail earlier Dayton

The brick streets are crisscrossed with rails used by interurban and streetcars while a spider web of electric lines spark their travel above.

Look to the left of the photograph at the bustling west side of Main Street. Women wearing cloche style hats and men in straw boaters crowd the sidewalk in front of the F.W. Woolworth 5 and 10 Cent Store.

At the corner several men stand over stacks of newspapers. The boy at the left wearing knickers and a cap makes change with a coin holder around his waist.

Scan across the photograph to the center of the street where the number 5 streetcar is headed to Oakwood. If you look closely to the right side of the car, a woman wearing hat and heels has just stepped off.

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The details within this photograph are a portal to everyday life in an earlier version of the city.

Head over to the east side of Main and follow the line of automobiles down the block. A sign for the Apollo theatre says the program changes three times a week. Closer to the photographer, the marquee for the New Lyceum heralds “photoplays.”

Below that sign for motion pictures, a man stands on the corner with his hand on his chin. He might be fascinated by the scene in front of him or simply lost in thought.

The signage within this photograph is an interesting study of the times.

Two suits could be purchased for $32.50. The Greenfield Dentists, located at 140 ½ Main St., are next door to Aman & Co. Cut Rate Jewelers. And several stories above the street Chesterfield’s are “the fastest-growing cigarette in the United States.”

Today, if you stand where the photographer did, you will still see the peaked roof of the United Brethren Publishing House tower completed in 1924 and the Kuhn’s Building across the street (a 1945 fire cost it the top floor).

This pictorial scene is a stunning image of an earlier downtown Dayton. Its fine points are the window to our history.



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