The Grant-Deneau Tower, Dayton’s first modern skyscraper, played a pioneering role in re-imagining downtown office space.
“The late ’60s and early ’70s were an anxious time for downtown development,” said Tony Kroeger, city of Dayton planner. The newly completed I-75 was funneling workers to businesses outside of the city limits as new malls and office buildings were built in the suburbs.
The city was losing population for the first time in its history. “Anxiety was high and suddenly much of downtown felt old and antiquated and built for a previous time,” said Kroeger.
Developers Richard H. Grant Jr., chairman of the board of the Reynolds and Reynolds Co. and Paul H. Deneau, an architect and president of the Dayton Inn Corp. stepped up with an idea to rejuvenate the downtown core.Deneau drew up plans for a 22-story building with a glass curtain wall and metal framing they believed would usher in the modern age.
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Progressive for its time, the tower combined Miesian and New Formalism styles of architecture. Early renderings of the building depict symmetrical concrete columns soaring toward the roof line and merging with concrete arches.
“Paul Deneau was a fantastic architect that could have done work anywhere,” said Kroeger. “He saw Dayton as a city of opportunity. He never hesitated to say what great opportunity there was in downtown Dayton.”
Construction began in 1968 at Fourth and Ludlow streets, the site of the Keith theater building built in 1922. The plans for the first high-rise built in decades would make it the tallest building in Dayton.
Promotional materials described the building as “destined to be the landmark office building in the heart of the new Dayton.” A sales brochure highlighted new features tailored to businessmen that included six high speed elevators, a phone answering service and a “secretarial bay.”
“It was new and modern and there hadn’t been a high rise building constructed of more than 15 floors since 1931,” said Kroeger. “Just that fact made it pioneering and it was also a statement of confidence in downtown development. Here we had private sector guys putting it on the line at Fourth and Ludlow when it may have been easier to build in the suburbs.”
The sleek new building garnered high interest from the public. Newspaper photographs documented construction progress over a two-year period. One headline read “How High the Moon? Climb Officer Tower” when construction reached the 13th floor.
Dayton’s first skyscraper opened in 1969 and topped out at 331 feet. It was later eclipsed by the Winters Bank Tower in 1971, (now the Kettering Tower) at 405 feet tall.
Most recently known as the 40 West Fourth Centre, tenants have included Third National Bank, The Dayton Visual Arts Center and Premier Health Partners. Today it is nearly empty.
Recently the tower, now owned by the Matrix Group in New York, has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places making it eligible for historic tax credits which could lead to renovation.
“I think it’s interesting that the building could play another pioneering role,” said Kroeger. “It was pioneering when it was constructed in the ’60s and now, especially with its listing on the National Register, it has the potential to be redeveloped as a mixed-use or residential building. It would still be a pioneering role for a building of that size to be redeveloped.”
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HISTORY EXTRA is a weekly pictorial history feature showcasing the Miami Valley’s rich heritage. If you have a unique set of historic photos found in your parents’ or grandparents’ attic that depicts the past in the Miami Valley, contact Lisa Powell at 937-225-2229 or at Lisa.Powell@coxinc.com.