The Hanitch-Huffman Homestead bears the name of John Hanitch, but in fact he never lived in the house. He was born on August 24, 1814, and came to America when he was 12 and before his home was completed, he passed. His wife and nine children lived in this home until 1894.
The home was built in 1868. The cost of the house was $17,266.35, a very sizable sum for 1868.
The house was auctioned when John’s widow Mary Hanitch passed in 1894. John McIntyre purchase the home for his daughter Ada and her husband Colonel Frank Huffman. Colonel Huffman, with a partner, Charles A. Simms, purchased a newspaper known as the Dayton Daily Times which eventually became the Dayton Daily News.
Colonel Huffman was a man of many ventures. In 1895 he became the treasurer of the Davis Sewing Machine Company, and became the president in 1898. Under his leadership, the Davis Sewing Machine Company thrived. In 1921 the company was sold to business interests in New York City. Colonel Huffman then formed the Huffman Manufacturing Company, which then made its mark with the Huffy Bicycle.
Colonel Huffman passed in 1933 and Ada Huffman passed in 1942. The death of Ada Huffman marked the end of the last mansion on Monument Avenue to be maintained as a private family residence.
The house remained empty for a short time and then was leased to a Mrs. Murphy for several years who rented rooms to business women and office girls working the downtown area. In 1945 the property was purchased from the Huffman estate by the Dayton Council 500 of the Knights of Columbus for clubroom purposes. They had their dedication on November 3, 1946. For 35 years they conducted their meetings and social functions from this site. By the late 1970’s, the membership was dwindling and the adjacent YMCA had made known their interest in the land on which the house stood. The Council decided it was best to sell the property to the YMCA.
The YMCA made no secret of the fact that it planned to demolish the building for expanded parking, but was willing to cooperate with any party interested in moving the building to a new location in order to save it.
We had been looking for several years for a downtown property to purchase and in which to locate offices. The first time we walked into this grand, old house, it was love at first sight. We knew our search had ended for a downtown building to house our law firm.
There were a few small details to be worked out. The building was setting on land owned by the YMCA, which intended to demolish the building to make room for more parking. Where do you go with a building that is one hundred and fourteen years old and weighs one-and-a-half million pounds? Not very far!
Fortunately, there was a vacant lot on the corner of Monument and Perry Streets. It was owned by the City of Dayton and might be available if the City approved the project. To its credit, the City of Dayton was as enthusiastic as we were. A tentative deal was struck for the land. But was this old house sturdy enough to move? And who could move a structure this big? With the help of Endeco Corporation and Tom Dues, we located a building mover by the name of Elmer Buchta, Inc. of Otwell, Indiana.
Because of the length and weight of the building, it was necessary to use the newest technology involving hydraulic jacks on a series of wheels. On the morning of Saturday, July 31, 1982, the Hanitch-Huffman Homestead began inching its way across Monument Avenue to its new resting ground. The move took all day Saturday, Sunday and until noon on Monday before it was positioned over its new foundation. Monument Avenue had been closed to traffic. Streetlights, traffic lights, trolley wires, and parking meters all had to be taken down and then put back up. However, the move was made without even a cracked window.
After the move was accomplished, the task of remodeling and renovation began. Some of the structure required extensive work. The entire second story had only three rooms; a huge ballroom, a mens’ restroom and a ladies’ restroom. The foyer, waiting room and front stairway were in excellent condition and needed little more than a fresh coat of varnish.
The Hanitch-Huffman Homestead has been designated a Dayton landmark by the United States Department of Interior, which placed it on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. We moved in on December 31, 1982.
Many thanks are due to the Ohio Historical Society, the City of Dayton, Endeco Corporation, Knights of Columbus and the IRS for providing tax incentives. Most of all we thank our many clients, without your continued support we would never have dared to attempt such a project.