Historic Downtown Dayton Building Then and Now
It’s 1912- the nation just elected a new president, World War I was looming on the horizon, and a sleepy little town in Tennessee named Dayton would soon gain national recognition during the famous Monkey Trial. This little town was growing fast, and buildings were being constructed contributing to Dayton’s growth thanks to a man named W. C. Gardenhire.
Gardenhire was born in 1838 in Roane County. In 1884, he relocated to the town of Dayton. He became very instrumental in the construction of many of the buildings that are still standing in downtown today.
One of those buildings is the historic old Dayton Bank building located on the northeast corner of Main and Market Street. The two-story brick structure has a rich history and has been the site of many prominent businesses and offices.
Around 1912, the north side of the building housed the Crawford and Robinson Drug Store. This is where F.E. Robinson got his start in the pharmacy business. This coincided at about the same time that R.N. Gillespie sold the south side of the building to the new Dayton Bank and Trust Company, and the upstairs was rented to local doctors and dentists. After the Crawford and Robinson drug store closed, F.E. Robinson opened Robinson’s Drug Store at a location on west Main Street, and Dayton Bank took possession of the entire building.
Sometime in 1924, the complete building was remodeled with a new facial facade to make the building look as it still does today. After the remodel, a portion of the upstairs was rented to the South-Central Bell Telephone Exchange. Soon after this N.D. Reed occupied the north half of the building and established Reed and Son’s Clothing Store.
In 1938, Mr. Brown Swafford and his partner Glen Woodlee set up a new law practice upstairs, while the bank and clothing store remained downstairs. It was soon after this that C.P. Swafford joined the law firm’s partnership.
Mr. Sam Reed purchased the entire building in 1965. Over the last several decades, the building has housed many businesses that came and went. The building still remains in the Reed Family’s possession today. It was passed down to Elosie Reed and later to her daughter Donna Reed Taylor and her husband Tom. Donna and Tom still own the building today.
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