Among the miscellaneous papers in the Historical Society archives was this description of an ambitious project related to Yellow Springs history drafted in the mid-1990s. There is so far no indication that it ever got beyond the description stage, and sadly, most of the individuals involved are no longer with us to share their passion for the project.
As worthy a project as it is, it is also beyond the scope of what the current Yellow Springs Historical Society board can accomplish, but it may serve as inspiration, perhaps for a school project.
Excerpt of 1910 Sanborn map showing downtown Yellow Springs
LOTS OF DOWNTOWN HISTORY
Preliminary formulation of the documentation of the history of the downtown business area of Yellow Springs, Ohio.
After some lunch hour discussions between Frank Betcher, Irwin Inman, and Paula Spier, Vice-President of the Yellow Springs Historical Society, a meeting was set up between the above three, and with Julie Overton, President of the Yellow Springs Historical Society, to begin to formulate a plan to document the history of downtown Yellow Springs, Ohio. The meeting was held at Paula Spier’s house on January 7, 1994, at 11 a.m.
A tremendous amount of thoughts were presented and discussed during the initial meeting, and the followng description is based largely on that meeting, plus an after-meeting discussion between Frank Betcher and Julie Overton. The information cited below, based largely on the initial meeting’s discussion and consensus, was typed by Julie Overton that same afternoon, Jan. 7.
PARTICIPANTS SO FAR:
Frank Betcher (research); Irwin Inman (photogrpahy); Julie Overton (Coordiniation); Paula Spier (compuiter work). George Dewey has also indicated willingness to help during later stages of writing and researching. The Board of the Yellow Springs Historical Society has formally agreed to back the project, and to pay for initial costs involved, such as photographic materials and developing, and initial copying fees as needed.
The ultimate goal of this project is to be able to describe the history of the businesses and owners of all downtown lots as identified in the SCOPE paragraph.
The descriptions would be based on information from public documents (deeds, telephone books, etc.), published information (newspapers, etc.), unpublished written records (diaries, letters, scrapbooks, etc.), and oral interviews, either those which have already been done, or interviews conducted during the project.
The photographic record would cover as many downtown sites as possible; sources of images might be old postcards, family photographs, newspaper publications, published sources, current and recent photographs as taken by Irwin Inman and other village residents, artistic renderings or copies thereof, etc.
The format, if any, of a finial “project”, has not been determined. Possible formats would be a published project of photographs and descriptive history, permanent display information at one or more public sites, collection of archival and photographic materials into one holding, or other possibilities; the one or more final formats will depend upon how much material is collected, what other ideas come up, etc.
Being an ongoing project, there is no deadline set at this time.
The geographic area to be included in this project is being proposed as follows:
Xenia Ave., starting on the north end where Dayton St. intersects, and ending at the Limestone St. crossing. Both sides of Xenia Ave. would be included.
Dayton St., starting on the north where it intersects Xenia Ave. (extended), and continuing southwest to the Walnut St. intersection; both sides of Dayton St., would be included up to Walnut St.
Corry St., both sides, from Dayton St., southeast to Kieth’s Alley, including Ehman’s.
Walnut St., east side only, from Dayton St. down to Limestone St.
All buildings or businesses along the described streets, (Walnut St. along the east side only) or inside the “downtown” area will be included in the project, whether it is a business or a dwelling.
The research will proceed in terms of Yellow Springs lot numbers, those being the one constant known at this point. Each lot will be considered as a research unit, and all research notes, photographs, etc. will be organized according to those lot numbers. The lots in the triangle formed by Xenia Ave., Walnut st., and Short St., will be indicated as 1A through 9A, the others simply with the lot number. The use of the lot number as the constant delineator will help the researcher focus on one area that is (hopefully) clearly defined, and will also serve as a quick way to pull miscellaneous information together as it is collected.
The “street scape” will be considered as a separate entity, but not forgotten. Thus information about the electric trams, sidewalks, street lights, cisterns, etc., can be included. These “areas” will be designated as XA, DS, SS, WS, CS and KA.
- The lots will be measured and will be matched with current (1994) street numbers. If there is some way each lot can be marked “on site”, it will be done clearly but unobtrusively. All maps. Photographs, and historical materials will be keyed into the lot number via a computer data base program.
- A sort of “adopt a lot” program will be initiated, especially for the research portion. A person, persons, or group, will adopt a particular lot and conduct research on the current and past owners and/or renters. All research materials will be keyed to the particular lot; information collected “accidentally” about other lots will be noted and keyed to the other lot number for later reference and research.
- Visual images will be collected or copied, and, again, keyed to the lot number(s) shown in the image.
All efforts will be on a volunteer basis, the individuals cited at the beginning of this overview serving as the initial core.; More individuals will be enlisted as possible and as needed, and will always be assigned to a particular lot; Julie Overton, as Coordinator, will keep track of the efforts “on behalf of” each lot number as volunteers sign up.
In order to be as effective as possible, Julie Overton will alert the public to the project by first making a presentation, if allowed, to the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce. In that manner, all downtown businesses will be informed of the project; their help may be enlisted; they may also be aware of source materials pertaining to their business or structure which could be of benefit to the project. The formal backing of the YSC of C will be asked for.
At the same time, it would be announced that the project would like to have a temporary “headquarters” in the downtown area, so that researchers would have a central place to spread out maps, compare photographs, or to interview current or past business owners or residents. Room for a large table, a few chairs, and perhaps a filing cabinet or two would be needed. The Yellow Springs Historical Society is registered as a not-for-profit organization, and thus any “rental fee” for space an owner might allow to be used could be tax-deductible.
The Yellow Springs NEWS will be contacted to see if they would be willing to run short articles about particular lots, as the research is begun. A photograph of the site, and/or perhaps of the Sanborn map layout might be included. The article would give a brief description/history of the lot and would ask for information or volunteer help in getting that lot number described in words and images.
The YSHS booth at the Sidewalk Sale might be utilized to make the village residents aware of the project, and additional volunteers might be recruited as well. Residents might also be able to bring in photographs to be copied, or could drop off written information they happen to have about a particular lot’s history.
The material needed to develop a full history of each lot number can be found in a number of places. The following is only a beginning list – further resources will undoubtedly be identified.
SANBORN mapss: these insurance maps date from 1895 until the 1940’s; these maps show the outine of all buildings in the downtown area; the early onesidentify the type of business being conducted; later the structure use is only either Dwelling or Store. (GCR; JO; PS; FB)
DEEDS: The Greene Co. Recorder’s Office has deeds for the entire county; the Yellow Springs deeds start about 1851 when William Mills sold land off as individual lots. (GCRO; GCR).
NEWSPAPERS: The history of Yellow Springs is documented both in the Yellow Springs News, and the Xenia Gazette, as well as other area newspapers, although to a lesser extent. (ACA; GCR)
DIRECTORIES: These cover largely pre-1900 information (GCR)
TELEPHONE BOOKS: The names and addresses of the residents and businesses are included in the white pages; the yellow page have additional information. (GCR)
ORAL HISTORY: This is an invaluable source, and is scattered around the county. Individuals still have their information “in their head”; taped oral interviews are also available (GCR, YSL).
CENSUS RECORDS (1850-1920): although the information was collected street by street, family by family, the areas covering the project can be identified, and the families thus abstracted (GCR, WSU).
ARCHIVAL MATERIALS: This includes scrapbooks, letters, and other miscellaneous written materials. (GCR, WSU, GR)
ATLASES: Greene County atlases were published for 1855, 1874, and 1896; these maps give good detail about the downtown Yellow Springs area, and serve as foundation information. (GCR; YSL; WSU; GH; JO; other residents).
It is entirely possible that, once the project gets started, individual research/photography volunteers will need a copy of the resources they might be able to tap into, thus a separate “Sources” list will probably have to be compiled; the list would be based on the above information, and expanded as additional sources become known’/available. They might also get a “starting packet” of the basic information already known via the Sanborn maps.
As lots are completed, a full write-up could be done. A synopsis of that history could be given to the current business owners who could use it for publicity flyers, etc. Credit for the researchers, photographers, writers and/or editors would be cited at all times.
Plaques might be developed which individual business owners could post (inside? outside?) with a historical abstract.
The lot numbers might be made into weather-proof tiles/markers which could be posted on the outside of the buildings. This could sreve both as an identifier for the research, and/or as an enticement for residents and visitors to learn more about our downtown history.,
Programs could be held about particular lots; these programs could present information about the lot “in focus”, and could also serve as “memory meetings”, in which individuals could relate personal information about the lot, and/or bring pertinent photographs.
Other areas of the village could be approached in the same way. The lot numbers for the “old” Yellow Springs area (bounded by Corry St., Herman St., High St. (both sides), and Dayton St.) are consecutive and continue numerically after the downtown area lot numbers; thus they would be ready-made research parcels. The Oakwood Addition (north of Dayton St., between High St., and Railroad St., over to Fairfield Piike), although surveyed before 1874, was numbered separately.