Protecting Dayton’s valuables: The Bimm Fireproof Warehouse

The building has been added to National Register of Historic Places.


If you owned a grand piano, glamorous furs, or valuable paintings in the early 1900s, you would only entrust their care to Bimm Fireproof Warehouse.

The building, completed in 1912, was a marvel for its time.

Builders used the latest trends in reinforced concrete to embed eight tons of steel within the 16-inch-thick concrete walls and floors of the six-story building on East First Street.

>>> PHOTOS: Bimm Fireproof Warehouse

In July the Bimm Fireproof Warehouse, which opened for business Nov. 5, 1914, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The building is an excellent example of the Commercial style in Dayton and one that, following the Great Flood and several devastating fires in Webster Station, incorporated all of the latest trends in the use of structural reinforced concrete, essentially making it indestructible,” said Rachel Bankowitz, preservation planner with the City of Dayton.

 

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“It also happens to be the oldest extant example of a multi-story storage warehouse in Dayton, especially one still operating in its original use.”

The business was the brainchild of two Dayton brothers, Joseph and Henry Bimm, the sons of Ezra Bimm, a prominent Dayton businessman.

The brothers built their state-of-the art building at 313-315 East First Street near the Miami and Erie Canal, the railroad line and Dayton’s downtown.

A family shipping its belongings to fast-growing Dayton by train or canal boat would find the Bimm Fireproof Warehouse on arrival and store their household goods while searching for a home to settle in.

An ad in the Dayton Journal boasted the building was “absolutely fire-proof” and had electric light, a “steam heated even temperature piano room” and a “burglar-proof” vault.

The vault, according to Jeffery L. Peace, President and CEO of Lincoln Storage and Moving, and current owner of the historic building, was constructed in 1916. Located on the first floor of the building, the vast vault is fitted with double bank doors and timed locks for “articles of extraordinary value.”

When the wealthy of Oakwood and Dayton View would leave for European cruises or to summer in another part of the country, they would bring their silver, coin and gun collections downtown and store them in the impenetrable vault guarded overnight by dogs.

“All the valuables of all the leading citizens who could afford that kind of storage stored them here,” said Peace.

The floors above held rooms for art, rugs and furs.

Pianos, paintings, statuary and expensive mirrors were housed in the art rooms, which were kept at an even temperature, according to research done by Bankowitz. The rug and fur rooms were “moth proof” and held vacuum cleaning equipment for the carpets and upholstered furniture.

Illness forced Henry Bimm to retire in 1916, and the Bimm Fireproof Warehouse was sold to Lincoln Fireproof Storage Company, a Cleveland-based company.

The Pattersons, the Ketterings and the Berrys are among the notable family names Peace can list that have used the moving and storage business.

Ohio Governor James M. Cox hired the Lincoln Fireproof Storage Co. to empty out rooms full of furniture at his Trails End mansion to make room for his annual New Year’s Eve party.

Virginia Kettering rented an entire floor of the building so her furniture would not be stacked.

And, according to Peace, Wilbur and Orville Wright stored an airplane engine in the building for decades.

Take a trip to East First Street today and little has changed about the site now known as the Lincoln Storage and Moving Company Building.

“In an era when suburban competition is fierce, they enjoy their downtown location and continue to play an active role in the development of Webster Station,” Bankowitz said.



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