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Ohio building with ties to Wright brothers eroding

CINCINNATI (AP) – An Ohio structure containing remnants of a two-story building where the Wright brothers rented space for their first bicycle shop has been declared a public nuisance and may eventually be demolished despite residents’ efforts to preserve it.

Orville and Wilbur Wright, who became famous for making the first airplane flight near Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903, sold, built and repaired bicycles in their hometown of Dayton and had several shop locations through the years.

The brothers rented space for their first shop from 1892 to 1893 at the site where a vacant building now stands, according to Edward Roach, historian with the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

The city-owned structure _ the Gem City Ice Cream Co. building _ contains three exterior walls of the two-story building that housed the brothers’ shop, said Roane Smothers, principal planner for Dayton and part of its Landmark Commission staff.

Dayton officials say demolition of the Gem City building might be necessary because it is falling apart and attempts to find someone to provide the money and a viable plan to rehabilitate it have been unsuccessful.

The Gem City building is considered a contributing structure to the city’s West Third Street Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The ice cream company started expanding and building additions at the site in 1914 and put a new facade on it, Smothers said.

“The building has deteriorated, and if something is not done it will fall apart,” Smothers said. “At this point, the city is trying to get information out about it, and maybe someone will come forward with the money needed to save it.”

He estimates rehabilitation would cost more than $1 million.

Dayton resident Michael Perkins, who is leading the effort to save the building, said he believes much more of the original 1890s building exists than just three exterior walls. Perkins said interior walls and floors, arches and mosaic tiles remain from the original building. But Smothers said he has no evidence of that and the building’s physical history would have to be researched.

Perkins is proposing redevelopment, including restoring the Wright section to what it may have looked like when the brothers were there and adding Victorian-style businesses, including an old-fashioned ice cream shop.

Monica Snow, a vice president for Preservation Dayton Inc., said the group supports saving the building.

“We are hoping to convince the city to use any funds for stabilizing the building, instead of tearing it down,” Snow said.

Numerous other Dayton sites associated with the Wrights have been preserved. Those sites include: their fourth shop, a former home of Orville Wright, and the flying field where the brothers did their Dayton-area flight testing. All are part of the Dayton Aviation park.

The fifth and final shop, where the Wrights built their first plane, was transported to automaker Henry Ford’s living-history museum in Dearborn, Mich., in 1936, Roach said.

The city scheduled a public hearing Wednesday night as the first step in an 18-month process required before any demolition can proceed.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)