From the classic Georgian exterior to the Tudor and Federal interior, the Engineers Club building is an architectural landmark in Dayton, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • “Isn’t it astonishing that all these secrets have been preserved for so many years just so that we could discover them!”

    -Orville Wright
  • "Posterity, who are to reap the blessings, will scarcely be able to conceive the hardships and sufferings of their ancestors."
    - Abigail Adams
  • "When the waters were dried and the Earth did appear,     The Lord He created The Engineer."

    - Rudyard Kipling

A pre-historic site

  • Dayton settlement began in 1796 almost precisely where the present-day Engineers Club now sits. The very first boat traveling up from Cincinnati landed here. Some accounts claim the first person to step on dry land was Catherine Van Cleve Thompson, destined to be the great-great-grandmother to the Wright brothers. One piroque, or flat-bottomed boat, was “re-engineered” to become the first temporary shelter at St. Clair and Water Street, now Monument Avenue, at the other end of the block from today’s Engineers Club of Dayton.   
  • The rich river bottomland had attracted farming centuries before whites arrived, as archaeologists have relearned at the nearby Sunwatch Indian Village site. Long before GPS, this juncture of five rivers proved an easy-to-locate strategic point of navigation. Two of the first ten cabins in Dayton rose on this same spot. 
  • Pioneer resident Daniel Cooper homesteaded the east half of the present club’s site. That’s only fitting, as he also happened to be an engineer who surveyed the settlement and later built water-powered mills and distilleries.   The western half of the site was a men’s dorm owned by a General Brown, retired from the war of 1812. 
  • The Engineers Club stands on lots 5-8 of Daniel Cooper’s original platting. Dayton was wilderness to begin with, a collision of cultures. East of Cooper stood the Van Cleve cabin on their “in lot.”  The father farmed his nearby “out lot”; until he was scalped there. When the suspected Indian perpetrator was caught, his hand was cut off. 
  • Some time later Indians gathered in front of the house in a menacing manner. A daughter escaped out the back of the cabin to alert men at Newcom’s tavern on west Main

The Wright Brothers ~ In Flight

  • Aviation pioneer Orville Wright was a founding member of the Engineers Club of Dayton and served as its 4th president. Witness footage from some of the world’s first public flights during 1908-1909 in Virginia, France and Italy. Includes the earliest motion pictures ever taken from an airplane. 
  • ©MartelArt.com. Edited by Kate Hagenbuch Martel for the Engineers Club of Dayton Foundation. 

After the 1913 flood

The city could have withered. Local industries could have abandoned Dayton and sought higher ground. Instead something extraordinary happened. The collective brain power behind those thousand competing factories banded together to rebuild their city and tame the river for good.  
Dayton became a technocracy, led by its most capable scientific problem solvers. National Cash Register (NCR) was instrumental in flood rescue and later recovery efforts, raising $2.15 million. Assistant General Manager (and engineer) Edward A. Deeds was put in charge of the flood prevention program and saw completion of the innovative dams of the Miami Conservancy District.
While at NCR Deeds had hired an exceptional young engineer, Charles F. Kettering, to help electrify the cash register. The two struck it rich, assembling a “Barn Gang” of moonlighting engineers into the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company, or Delco.

1914 Engineers Club Founded

Thirty years prior, Thomas Edison had created the first industrial research lab. The idea spread like electricity. As Deeds put it, “men ought to hunt together,” and he and Kettering replicated this group concept in many forms. Deeds helped create McCook Field, which grew into the Air Force’s main R&D lab, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Delco was sold to GM, founding the General Motors Research Corporation with Kettering in charge.
After their initial Delco success, Deeds and Kettering organized another group, a forum for engineers from across Dayton. On Feb. 20. 1914, they proposed an Engineers Club to the local technical community so that Dayton’s engineers and scientists could have the “educational advantages and fellowship facilities they had so greatly missed in their earlier days.” Members and potential employers (like Deeds and Kettering) could also evaluate one another more freely.
Initially the club met in a house owned by Delco a few blocks away at 2nd and Madison. But both club and Delco quickly outgrew the arrangement. Within five years a new club building rose at 110 E. Monument, funded by Deeds and Kettering. 
The site was near “ground zero” of the flood, and may have been available due to the resulting damage. Deeds’ involvement with The Miami Conservancy District, which built right across Jefferson St., may also have factored into the site 
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High tech fixtures

  

The new club building incorporated a number of innovations. A built-in master vacuum cleaning system bore similarities to Orville Wright’s self-designed system at the Wright mansion, Hawthorn Hill. 

A pneumatic system synchronized the club’s clocks through a bellows, which advanced the minutes & hours via suction or puffs of air. Buttons for the servant enunciator network are still visible around the building.


Then and now

  • Even before the building was erected, prices rose. In 1916 lunches jumped to $0.35! Five years later membership had expanded to include those who worked with engineers, and women were granted most club privileges. The club soon installed its first “wireless” or radio set, and the new library shelved its first thousand books.

Dining room in early days 

Adaptable to many functions, the dining room seats 130, and can expand to 200.Two tables reveal the personalities of their former occupants. Orville Wright sat alone in the corner while Boss Kett surrounded himself with others. Deeds sat anywhere.

Dining in 1949

Chef Bill Sanders serves up a buffet in 1949. Photo by Bill Hagenbuch.

English room in 1921

In 1921 the English room served as the Men's Lounge.  Image courtesy of Engineers Club of Dayton.

English room in 2009

Today's English Room hosts the Barn Gang luncheons and a variety of speakers and presentations. Photos of past presidents including Edward Deeds and Orville Wright line the walls beneath historical African hunting trophies. Image courtesy of National Park Service/Ed Roach.

Game room, 1920's

The downstairs Wright Room was dedicated to billiards and pool for many years. Photo courtesy of Engineers Club of Dayton

Wright room, 2009

Originally a pool room, the Wright Room now serves as a mid-size meeting room and extra dining hall at the Engineers's Club. The building's different spaces were designed to accommodate groups of all sizes, from a handful to several hundred. Photo courtesy of National Park Service/Ed Roach.

Weathering the Great Depression

  • In 1929 the club title transferred to the members with an estimated value of $405,000.  The library by then held 3200 books. 
  • With the onset of the depression, membership dropped by 10%. But the club survived, and by the 1936 had accepted its first female member, Maude Gardner. 
  • During the same years Charles Kettering co-invented Freon 12 refrigerant gas, and several other members worked on related technology at the Frigidaire plant in town. So it was fitting that air conditioning was installed in the club in 1937.
  • The lower level was developed as the French & Italian rooms. By the time of Pearl Harbor membership had climbed to 1000 members. 
  • Though war rationing restricted vacations and celebrations, the club found ways to provide some fun and relief to the growing membership working on the war efforts.

1935 Film - Engineers Club of Dayton

  • Take a walking tour of the early Engineers Club, preserved in this 1935 motion picture. Enjoy a front row seat to history as founders Edward Deeds and Charles Kettering reminisce about the club. The reclusive Orville Wright makes a brief cameo and even speaks! 
  • Courtesy of the NCR archive at Dayton History.

Wedgewood room

  • Originally the ladies' lounge, the renamed Wedgwood Room features neoclassical decorations similar to the famous potter's designs. Josiah Wedgwood would have fit the Engineer's Club surprisingly well. He was among the first tycoons of the industrial revolution, and pioneered marketing, manufacturing, and industrial research, as well as the progressive treatment of his workers. He also belonged to the Lunar Society—the first club for scientists and engineers. Photo by Mark Martel.

For the ladies at the Club

  • Club membership grew more inclusive over the decades, welcoming women and minorities. Some traditional roles continued though, like this 1976 event “for the ladies” which introduced them to microwave cooking. Image courtesy of the Engineers Club of Dayton.

An elegant couple

Mr. and Mrs. Joe Volz struck an elegant pose on the main staircase of the Engineers Club in 1949. The Club's elegance remains timeless, though our habits have thankfully improved over time. (Note the cigarette butts at bottom.) Photo by Bill Hagenbuch.

A Costly Crisis

  • January of 1985 saw sudden flooding of the club building from top to bottom. A bitter cold snap broke a third floor water pipe, which flowed down through the floors, destroying the club’s last pool table and much carpeting, peeling paint but miraculously missing the south wing, library and wooden paneling in the Ivory Room. Fortunately the club carried good insurance. The adjuster estimated $30,000 damage initially.   
  • Other long-term problems would call for larger efforts. By 1996 the Foundation was positioned to accept tax-deductible donations for the required renovation. This involved revising the Foundation’s charter to allow for financial interaction with the club property and still remain within IRS regulations for a non-profit. An earlier success at the Masonic Temple pointed the way.   
  • Soon a full $3.5 million building restoration was underway, a joint effort of Club’s Board of Governors and the Foundation called Renaissance 96. The restoration/modernization touched all areas of structure and grounds including structure integrity, assessing hazards like lead paint, a complete electrical modernization, enhanced security, and making a conversion to internal steam heat due to a DP&L phase-out downtown.   
  • Recent renovations include replacing the roof, upgrading third floor electrical system, restoring the Library, new carpets and drapes, fixing the dining room window walls and a full upgrade of the auditorium.

A Charitable Mission

  • The non-profit Engineers Club of Dayton Foundation formed in 1972 with 501 (C) (3) tax-exempt status. Its original mission was to spread knowledge of science and engineering, sponsor public meetings and make grants to students. Beginning with $5400, within five years its net worth grew to nearly $27,000. 
  • By then the Foundation was co-sponsoring yearly all-day Edison-Science Youth Days for Dayton and area high school students, contributing to the Dayton Museum of Natural History and the Honors Seminar of Metropolitan Dayton, and making a $500 grant to a college Engineering student. A web search reveals that one recipient passed on the favor by teaching college math.   
  •  More recently the Foundation obtained and supplemented an Engineering and Science Foundation  grant to provide Math and Science Teaching Workshops to approximately 300 Miami Valley teachers in 16 school systems.

Education and Community Outreach

  • Over the years the Foundation has supported local science fairs, TechFest for primary grade students, Teachers Science Seminar, the Kettering Fund for outstanding senior Engineering student, awards for technical papers by undergrad and graduate student, Rube Goldberg Contest, The Science Enrichment for Minorities program, teacher support programs, Mathematics Collaborative, the Odyssey of the Mind and Women in Engineering – a weeklong experience for high school women, STEM Initiatives, and the Ropewalk documentary film.   
  • The Ropewalk film is among the most successful education projects sponsored by the Foundation, having won state and national awards and online distribution through Netflix. Over 500 free copies were sent to schools, museums, libraries, historical societies and sail training tall ships. Today the film is viewed and downloaded at the Internet Archive.
  • The Dayton Innovation Legacy project tells the stories of Dayton’s unsung inventors and innovators in their own words through a multimedia website.

Expanded mission

  • After the 1995 water damage to the Club building, the Foundation added historic preservation to its mission. Public educational events held at the Club helped meet the new charter and make the club eligible for funds. Soon an endowment was also established to save for a rainy day.   
  • Foundation funds have since been used to update the Club’s electrical system, lighting, and to install boilers. We have washed and cleaned the building exterior, painted, performed a building review, and begun a long-term roof fund.    
  • Today's pressing needs include funds to preserve the historic site, meet the special needs of the disabled and elderly, reduce operating costs through greater efficiencies, create a place for discussion and exchange, expand internet access, and attract younger members and facilities rentals.
  • Concurrently the Foundation seeks to build the endowment to achieve permanent financial viability.    



The Engineers Club of Dayton Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization.

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    Dayton, OH  454
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