The kids’ book about “the little engine that could” is a parable for the South Park neighborhood in Dayton Ohio. The largest historic district in the city, South Park is a neighborhood defined not by its vast mix of homes, from manses to miniature (there is one house, the “Gingerbread cottage” that is smaller than most garages) but by a spirit of the people that takes on all challenges and then some.
From a neighborhood production of Shakespeare in the park (2 years running) to starting a for-profit development corporation to reclaim a troublesome bar, the people of South Park are willing to try almost anything to create a place where people know each other- and care about each other.
Today’s Dayton Daily News has a front page story as an introduction to our home tour this weekend about my neighbors Bill and Amy Kennedy and their house that love rebuilt- it starts like this:
Amy Kennedy put the word out on Facebook: She needed help decorating for the Historic South Park Holiday Home Tour.Within minutes, it seemed, neighbors were knocking on her door with ornaments, decorations, and helping hands.Within hours, the house had been transformed into a glittering Victorian Christmas showplace.“That’s just the kind of neighborhood it is,” said Amy, a Stebbins High School biology teacher.
I was there the night the house burned, It was a bad fire. My friend and neighbor Loni Podiak, was there performing mouth to mouth resuscitation on some of the cats that the firemen had rescued, The house was written off by its owner as totaled. That anyone was interested in buying it was amazing to the last owner (a client of mine, who had it as a duplex or triplex rental).
If you think some of the “demolition structures” that Commissioner Nan Whaley seems so anxious to tear down– this one had them beat hands down. Which brings me to the real story in Dayton- is that no amount of building new homes, or fixing old ones will fix our problems. What fixes problems is motivated people. If we spent more time working on building neighborhood organizations and supporting the communities, people like Bill and Amy will solve your housing problems- because they want to, not because they have to.
It’s a lesson the whole city could learn, from the little neighborhood that can.
Please come to our home tour and get a better idea of what this neighborhood represents- but instead of paying attention to the homes, pay attention to the owners and the neighbors who are volunteering. They are what makes South Park a great neighborhood, not the bricks and mortar, or in the Kennedys’ case, lumber and shake shingles.
Historic South Park Holiday Home Tour
Saturday, December 5, 2009 12N-7P
Tickets $15 day of tour, $10 in advance
The day of the tour, pick up your tickets at Hope Lutheran Church, 500 Hickory St., across from the Emerson Academy. (Turn west off Wayne Avenue onto Hickory. Enter through the church parking lot.)