A Mansion for Peace
Peace- that was the other name for home. Kathleen Norris
Welcome to the home of the Dayton International Peace Museum. Like a peace movement, places are defined by their diverse character and deeply rooted history. So, you can imagine the excitement when dedicated supporters were able to acquire the Isaac Pollack House, a National Historic landmark at 208 Monument Avenue, Dayton, Ohio as our permanent home.
The Isaac Pollack House exemplifies a history of economic development and changes for Dayton and America since the mid-1800s. That history began with Jewish immigrants Isaac Pollack (1836-1908) from Riedseltz, France and Solomon Rauh (1840-1919) from Essingen, Bavaria. After arrival to Dayton in 1854, they began a long-time business partnership as whiskey and wine dealers from a West Third Street warehouse that contributed to the economic development of the city and their individual prosperity. By 1862, Isaac Pollack was considered a Civil War hero for his service as a corporal in a civilian group, the Squirrel Hunters, who defended Cincinnati from Confederate attack. Both Isaac Pollack and Solomon Rauh are recognized for their service to the local Dayton community.
Following the Civil War in 1865, Pollack and Rauh began the construction of two identical homes on then unpaved Third Street in Dayton’s city center. People came from all over to watch the progression of these architectural masterpieces rooted in the Second French Empire with 17th-century Renaissance foundations, a notably Baroque style, and very characteristic mansard roofs with elaborate dormer windows. Their interiors were graced with hand-carved stone, expensive bricks, rich hardwood accents, oak floors, hard-worked brass hinges and doorknobs, and elaborate 12-foot ceilings. The partners and friends flipped a coin that gave the Rauh family 321 and the Pollack family 319 West Third Avenue. Their business partnership continued until 1893.
By 1899, Solomon Rauh and Sons shifted from distribution to production in a distilling business at 107 East Third. Their building nearly burned to the ground in the memorable 1913 Great Flood. Some of their bottles, buried under what is now Don’s Pawn Shop, contribute to just some of the legends captured in the Belle of Dayton distillery. Isaac Pollack, older and retired at the time, moved from the Pollack House in 1903 and passed away shortly thereafter in 1908 at age 82.
By 1913, the Pollack House gained a new purpose as the home and dance studio of Fenton and Jessie K. Bott. The Botts kept much of the interior grandeur and even added a ballroom at the rear. According to former Montgomery County Historian John Drake, “the mark of culture was to attend there, learning social graces as well at a dance.” Social graces and dance continued after Mrs. Bott retired in 1949 by Mr. and Mrs. Donald Miller, but the home was already purchased by Montgomery County for $78,000 and new plans for a civic center threatened the two homes at 319 and 321 West Third Street.
Dayton was expanding and the need for new public offices put pressure on residential properties in the city center. By 1954, the Millers were issued an eviction notice and 319 West Third was turned over to the County Board of Elections. The twin “Rauh” home at 321 was demolished, making
space for Dayton’s Safety Building.
The County Board of Elections essentially kept the home standing until 1975. City plans for development stood in conflict with a rising conviction for historic preservation. In 1974, the Isaac Pollack house was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in a proposal supported by the significance of the “person,” Isaac Pollack, and as the last remaining “high Victorian architecture” in Dayton.
Debate, however, rages on about demolishment of the Isaac Pollack house when by fortune the building is purchased in 1977 by Thomas Lee Dues, president of Endeco Corporation. As an architectural-engineering consultant, he worked with the river corridor revitalization planners and Montgomery County to move the building five blocks to Monument Avenue.
In 1979, after months of preparation, a 32 wheel flatbed truck hauled the home along Perry Avenue to its new home with surprisingly very little damage. The estimated weight of the house was 300 tons! The move took an entire Sunday and attracted hundreds of onlookers. The move, along with the building’s four-month restoration, is estimated to have cost $260,000.
In 2005, the Pollack House became the permanent home for the Dayton International Peace Museum. Come visit the Pollack house and check out the permanent and temporary educational exhibits in this beautiful Mansion for Peace.