Close to Columbus: The Oregon District
Boutique shops, art galleries, historic buildings, coffee roasteries and plenty of bars and restaurants. No, I’m not talking about The Short North… I’m talking about The Oregon District in Dayton, Ohio.
The Oregon District is a small 60-acre triangle-shaped neighborhood located immediately southeast of Downtown Dayton. The neighborhood feels distinctly divided into three separate sections: a small collection of warehouse buildings on the northern edge, several blocks of tree-lined residential streets on the southern end, and the commercial corridor of East Fifth Street that bisects the two and largely defines the neighborhood to visitors.
The section of East Fifth Street running through the Oregon District is only a short two or three blocks long, but offers a slice of hip urban living complete with a diverse lineup of restaurants (Roost Modern Italian, Thai 9 and The Trolley Stop to name a few), vintage clothing shops, the huge Omega Music store, several art galleries, plenty of bars and the Press Coffee Bar right around the corner on Wayne Avenue. The narrow brick street is cobbled together nicely with sidewalk bumpouts for pedestrian gathering points, plenty of raised planters, street trees and some unique Air Force themed sculptures hanging overhead from light posts. That’s not to say that the street doesn’t have some grit. There’s tattoo parlors and a couple of adult video/toy/novelty stores sprinkled in between the bistros and bars. A large Goodwill store anchors the corner of Jackson and Fifth providing a reminder that this is solidly a mixed-income part of town.
We made sure to visit on the first Friday of the month, which is when the Oregon District celebrates with a Gallery Hop style event from 5pm to 10pm, aptly called “First Friday”. During this event, galleries open their new exhibitions, stores offer sales and discounts to late night shoppers, bars host live music and entertainers take to the streets. The official website boasts that over 30,000 people attend each month, but the November edition saw much fewer than that. To put it in perspective, Independents’ Day drew roughly 15,000 this year over the span of twelve hours, so compare photos from that event to the ones below during First Friday. Regardless, First Friday was still an enjoyable outing with a couple of street performers to be found and a busy crowd at Lucky’s Taproom, a Tip-Top-esque joint where we decided to eat dinner (great sweet potato fries, great pear grilled cheese sandwich, but could have done without all the tvs tuned to sports).
The next morning we toured through the residential streets of the Oregon District to admire the large stately homes that were mostly well maintained and manicured. The architectural styles were quite diverse, ranging from Queen Anne mansions to working-class Italianate homes to Greek Revival and colonial-style Federal buildings. This walkable neighborhood certainly holds its own compared to Olde Towne East, Victorian Village or Italian Village in Columbus, though on a much smaller scale.
North of East Fifth Street is a small area where you’ll find much of the parking hidden behind the retail buildings along the main drag. Additionally, there’s a few larger warehouse buildings here, one of which houses multiple radio station offices and the ground-floor Wiley’s Comedy Club. A reminder of Dayton’s rust belt past is present here as the bordering elevated railroad tracks rumble frequently with passing freight trains. If you venture just west of the railroad bridge on East Fifth Avenue, you’ll find the Dayton Convention Center and The Neon movie theater playing indie and art house films right outside of the district.
Located just a short 75 minute drive west of Downtown Columbus, The Oregon District is well worth a quick weekend visit. It’s an easy way to absorb some neighboring urban culture from a fellow Ohio city that has quite a bit of the charm you’re used to in Columbus neighborhoods with some unique twists all of its own. Oh, and don’t forget to take a quick detour to the 2nd Street Market when you go.
More information can be found online at www.oregondistrict.org.
Additional photos of the Oregon District can be found below. Click to enlarge.