The Dayton Canoe Club
by Jen Stoecker
In Dayton, boathouses, clubhouses and dancehalls developed along its rivers -- the Great Miami, the Stillwater and the Mad-- and river recreation became a popular pastime.
The Dayton Canoe Club at 1020 Riverside Drive, on the Great Miami River in Montgomery County, provides a rare glimpse of a time when the river was one of the primary meeting places for friends and family. Still operating as the Dayton Canoe Club, this building serves as a present day example of the shift that occurred as Americans living in cities began to recognize organized outdoor recreation and exercise as a way to spend their leisure time.
“The Dayton Canoe Club, first originated in 1912, must get the credit for putting boating, especially canoeing, on the pedestal of popularity which it now occupies,” the Dayton Journal declared in 1915. Reaching out and sharing enthusiasm for canoeing with the larger community separated the Dayton Canoe Club from other canoe clubs in the area. One such group was the Stillwater Canoe Club, whose charter membership and former Commodore, Charles W. Shaeffer, had a vision for a new club. Shaeffer envisioned a clubhouse that offered more than simply a place for canoe storage. His vision included a building that offered a ballroom, a veranda overlooking the river, and a club room for games and other activities.
Though no architect can be specifically attributed to the original design of the Dayton Canoe Club, Oliver Ritzert of Dayton, Ohio, was likely involved. The Club was built in the Prairie Style with its horizontal nature appearing to emerge naturally from the banks of the river.
Just four months after the 1913 Dayton Flood, the Dayton Canoe Club was finished at a cost of $15,000, including furnishings. Members marveled at the convenience of having 42 dry storage lockers only a few feet away from the Great Miami River and a dock that ran the entire length of the clubhouse.
Ritzert was tapped in 1919 to design an addition for the facility. His office was located in the Callahan Bank Building in downtown Dayton. The rendering he designed still hangs above the fireplace in the Club Room of the Dayton Canoe Club today.