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For a couple years now I’ve tried to figure out why there is a Prairie House in the Style of Frank Lloyd Wright on South Main among a neighborhood of Victorians. The house gives off clues to it’s origins but nothing has ever been concretely verified. Was it designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wrights draftsman?
Looking through Dayton’s Blueprint for Rehabilitation I came across this:
Schenck and Williams was an interesting clue and the similarities between the properties are striking. A bit of research into Schenck details quite the impressive list of buildings under his belt including Orville Wright’s Oakwood Mansion.
A Dayton native, Harry Schenck was a principal in Schenck and Williams, one of Dayton’s most important architectural firms.
Harris Gowdy says the Cornell University grad was in many ways the true architect of Oakwood.
He started the City of Oakwood’s Planning Commission and designed Oakwood High School Junior High School, Smith School, Oakwood City Building, Wright Library, Hawthorn Hill and several of the city’s other prominent homes.
Harry Schenck was born in Dayton, OH. After graduating high school, he enrolled in the Architecture department at Cornell, where he graduated in 1903. In 1906 he formed an architectural firm, Schenck and Williams, with college friend Harry Williams, with whom he had worked when the two were draftsmen in the office of Frank Mills Andrews, a Dayton architect. Together they designed several well-known Dayton buildings, including several schools and libraries. The two were also charter members of the Engineering Society at Dayton.
The firm continued until 1941, when Mr. Williams moved to Palm Springs, CA to work with his sons. Mr. Schenck continued the firm under the same name until his death in 1956.
So I looked up 148 Squirrel Road and went to take a look. The 5 Oaks historic district is nearly impossible to navigate because of old barriers that were put into place to stop car traffic going thru the neighborhood sometime in the 1980’s. It’s picturesque at this point though and every street is a cul-de-sac! Regardless I found the house in question and since it was empty I was able to get a closer look.
Here is 614 S. Main St for reference:
614 South Main / 148 Squirrel Garages:
There were a ton of neat similarities but I wasn’t 100% sold these two shared the same architect. One of the architects that worked for Schenck was William Briedenback, in 1922 William went to work for Pretzinger and Musselman another prominent Dayton architect. Albert Pretzinger was responsible for the Sorg Mansion renovations, 214 S. Main and 300 S. Main in Middletown, Ohio. Pretzinger is well known for several projects in Middletown, mainly related to the Sorg Mansion and The Sorg paper factory. The Ohio inventory sheet for 614 shows a build date of 1910. Another twist to the story is that Anthony Walburg, Paul Sorg’s attorney, nephew and business manager lived directly next to 614 and had a working relationship with Albert Pretzinger. I ran into a home owner on Squirrel ( Marcia – 160 ) and landed a tour of her house. 160 Squirrel was a Schenck design, which made the trip all the more interesting. Marcia is 2 doors down from the Prairie house. As I was walking around I noticed a lot of similar interior details to 614 S. Main that peaked my interest.
160 Squirrel Road:
The house just had a feel to it, the different elevations inside, multiple sunrooms, stair cases match etc. Lots of details line up that these houses just might share the same designer.
Marcia gave me information on a few other neighborhoods around Dayton to check out while I was there. One that she raved about was Grafton Hill. Grafton Hill is located behind the Dayton Art institute and the Dayton Masonic Lodge ( The giant one you can see from I75 ). Grafton hill is documented to have several Schenck designed homes. When I pulled onto the street I found this gem at 221 Belmonte Park E:
Twins separated at birth. The window massing are nearly identical, the architectural trim and the window style ( casement ) are scary identical. The soffits are constructed the same although Belmonte appears to have it’s original gutters.
Schenck’s personal residence 33 Stoddard Ave:
It’s fair to say that 614 S. Main St was most likely designed by Schenck and Williams. As I locate more information I’ll update this post. Is it entirely possible Pretzinger or one of his architects / draftsman came from Schenck and designed Prairie homes while working for Pretzinger? All of Pretzinger’s work that I’ve seen is High Victorian / Gothic in style. Wikipedia documents some employees from Schenck and Williams going to work for Pretzinger and Mussleman. Hard to say without blueprints.
Thanks to Harrison Gowdy – Oakwood Historical Soceity for helping me fill in some of the missing blanks.
South Main Historic Association