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Must-see photos: This cherished piece of Dayton history was part of downtown’s skyline for more than a century


The historic Callahan clock was the centerpiece of downtown Dayton for more than a century. 

The clock was the crown on top of the Callahan Building, sometimes referred to as Dayton’s first skyscraper. Located at the northeast corner of Third and Main streets, the original building, with a sharply peaked roofline, was completed in 1892. 

The prominent downtown office building was built by William P. Callahan, an Irish immigrant who became a prominent banker and manufacturer in the Gem City. 

As a young man, Dayton poet Paul Laurence Dunbar worked as an elevator operator in the building crafting poetry from observations he made about the riders he took from the ground floor to the clock tower. 

Originally built with Swiss-made wooden works inside, the clock was wound weekly, according to a Callahan descendent who spoke to the Dayton Daily News in 2006. It also served as a beacon for travelers navigating to the center of the city at night. 

A downtown institution, the City Trust and Savings Bank, kept offices in the building. For many years a sign for “City Bank” took up prominent space on the tiled clock tower. 

In the 1920s the Gem City Savings Co. took control of the building. The aging clock was refurbished and became known to Daytonians as the Gem City clock. 

Plans were made to raze the Callahan Building in 1978 to make way for a new modern structure designed by famed architect I.M. Pei. 

Reynolds and Reynolds stepped up to preserve the iconic time piece and moved the 35-foot-tall clock with a 15-foot spire to a new perch at the company’s complex on Germantown Street. 

The clock was a prominent sight to commuters traveling Interstate 75 until 2006. Reynolds and Reynolds relocated its headquarters, and the clock made its final move to Carillon Historical Park. 

The clock will now become an anchor on the museum’s 65-acre park. 

A $500,000 gift from the Brethren Foundation will be used to construct a tower to “lift the historic Callahan Clock into the air and return this well-known landmark to Dayton’s skyline.”


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