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

2:20 p.m Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 Homepage

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 Callahan Bank Building at Third and Main streets in downtown Dayton as it looked when if was built in 1892. DAYTON METRO LIBRARY LUTZENBERGER PICTURE COLLECTION

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. 

DDN archive
The Gem City Savings building, with clock on top, at the corner of Third and Main streets photographed in 1962. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

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 Gem City Clock is taken across the Stewart Street bridge in 2006 en route to its new home at Carillon Historical Park. Staff Photo by Chris Stewart

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.”