The Traxler Mansion was built between 1910 and 1912 for Louis Traxler – a very successful and wealthy businessman who owned a mercantile company in Dayton. The family moved in in 1911, but construction would not be complete until the following year. The mansion was crafted in the French Chateauesque architectural style – the same style as the Biltmore house in Asheville, North Carolina.
The home is made up of three bays sat atop a stone foundation. The bricks which make up the structure were laid in flemish bond. Stone stairs lead directly to the center bay of the home, from the sidewalk to the main door. The beautiful segmented front door is complemented by a glass canopy above, which hangs from chains anchored within the mouths of two lion masks. The home features three stories, with a full ballroom on the top floor, and a separated carriage house on the side.
Louis Traxler was born in Austria in 1864, and came to the United States in 1883 with his father, Philip. He settled first in Butler, Pennsylvania, and started a small store there in 1889. He would go on to run this store for the next five years. Traxler saw promise with the oil and gas boom, which was developing in the vicinity of Anderson, Indiana, and decided to sell his business in Butler, and relocate to Anderson in 1894. He lived there for a few years, and even operated a small store with a friend for a short time before leaving for Dayton, Ohio in the late 1890s. For a short time, his business in Indiana was quite prosperous, but then came a sharp decline of the oil and gas industry in this area nearing the turn of the century. This decline was due to wasteful practices depleting the gas field, with output from the wells seeing a huge drop. It has been said that as much as 90% of the natural gas had been wasted in flambeau displays. Traxler set out to seek relocation at the very first sight of this decline, and sold his store when he decided to move to Dayton.
After arriving in Dayton, Louis ventured into a new business, and started a department store called Traxler’s Department Store. Louis Traxler’s company had quickly become the largest and most popular department store in the city of Dayton, gaining immense popularity between 1899 and 1927.
His department store was originally located at the corner of Main and Fifth Streets of downtown Dayton. In 1904, Louis moved the business to 29 South Main Street, where the McCrory Building now stands. At this time, the back of the store extended into the Gibbon’s Arcade, where customers were able to enter from. His store was destroyed during the Dayton floods of 1913, but a new, larger store was built, and the old one was demolished. In 1922, the company was moved from its location to six floors of the United Brethren Building at 4th and Main Street, now known as the Centre City Building. The former building was razed in 1923, and the site then became home to McCrory’s and Rogers & Company Jewelers.
By 1927, Traxler’s department store had declined sharply into failure. Louis filed for bankruptcy, retired from operating Traxler’s Department Store, and Adler’s Department Store took over the space. The family remained in the mansion until 1929. By this time, their children were grown and moved into apartments. The home was sold in 1929 to David Pickrell Jr., owner of the Pickrell Plumbing Company and president of the North Dayton Savings Bank.
Traxler would go on to open various businesses, including Dixie Furniture Co., which he had opened in 1937, located at 32 West Fifth Street. Upon moving to Florida in 1946, he sold the business to his son, Louis Jr.
Traxler lived in Miami Beach, Florida for a year before his death on April 29, 1947. He died at the age of 85. After Louis’ death, his son continued to operate Dixie Furniture Co. in Dayton.
In 1932, David Pickrell Jr. sold the mansion to Lillian Baker and her husband Frank, who at the time worked as a salesman. In 1933, Frank opened his own restaurant downtown.
During the 1940s, the house was converted to apartments, offering 22 different spaces, and by 1941 had become a boarding house. During these years, many of the home’s original fixtures slowly began to disappear. Perhaps many were sold off, or even taken by tenants over time. Between 1940 through 1977, the home had five other various owners. In 1977, the home was put up in an auction due to accumulated property taxes. It was purchased from the auction by Dayton attorney Gerald Callahan for just $34,000, and in hopes of bringing it back to its original grandeur, went on to put $150,000 into restoring it between 1977 and 1980.
For several years, Callahan resided within the home, eventually selling it to Virginia Stull, a Physician from Centerville. Stull lived in the home until 1990, when she sold it to William and Doris Moore. William worked as a pastor of the Santa Clara Apostolic Temple in Dayton. He and his wife, along with their two children, aged 5 and 3 at the time, hoped to share their home with the community in mind. They aimed to use the mansion as a foster home, also offering an outreach program to help the elderly transitioning between home and retirement home.
Moore and his family had big plans, and looked forward to bringing a community together, and extending help to anyone in need. One of the first events Moore offered the home for was held from April 28 through May 19, 1991. The Dayton Philharmonic Women’s Association, in cooperation with the First National Bank of Dayton, brought together Dayton area artists to decorate and landscape the home in preparation for their seventh Designers’ Show House event. The Traxler Mansion offered a perfect space for interior designers and landscape artists participating in the event. The Designers’ Show House VII also featured a tea room and boutique, with proceeds going to the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and various educational programs sponsored by the Dayton Philharmonic Women’s Association.
The Moore family continued to operate the house this way for nearly the next 20 years, but over time it had become increasingly difficult to keep up maintenance on the old home. Old homes can be a huge task to take on when it comes to maintenance, and expenses begin to pile up. Unfortunately, in 2009 the home’s boiler died, and as they were unable to replace it with a new boiler, the home was left.
For the past 12 years now, the home has continued to fall victim to the elements. Pieces of ceiling hang down above the grand staircase, and mold from water damage has begun in many areas. Over years, scrappers and vandals have made their way into the property, removing things or tossing items around. Items left behind lay scattered throughout the home, and it almost seems as though almost everything had been left behind.
Among the items left behind is a vintage Franklin Ace 1000 computer from 1982. When released in 1982, the Franklin Ace 1000 held a price tag of $1349, which would be equivalent to approximately $3,500 today. The Ace 1000 was infamously known as the Apple computer clone, which would bring some legal trouble for Franklin. The computer so closely resembled Apple’s computer, down to the software and even copyright, that Apple sued Franklin and won in court. Surely they had aimed to imitate the incredibly popular Apple II+ which was released in 1979. Perhaps Franklin saw a window of opportunity as Apple had discontinued the Apple II+ in 1982?
The Franklin was only slightly bigger than the Apple, but everything else down to the motherboard was almost 100% identical. Monochrome output for this computer was standard, but support for color could be added. The Ace 1000 boasted 64 kilobytes of RAM. Eight expansion slots offered the ability to accept memory from Apple. The computer’s internal storage was a 143 kilobyte floppy drive.
The nearly 10,000 square foot home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 for its architectural significance, being Dayton’s best representation of the particular style.
During the home’s glory days its grandeur stood out among other homes in the neighborhood. A cabinet full of antiques from trips around the world stood in the corner of what was called the Gold Room. The room also featured a pearl-grey carpet, which had been imported from Donegal, Ireland. Golden satin drapes matched complementing upholstered furniture. Also in the room was a white marble fireplace with a gold mirror hanging above it.
As of last week, unfortunately the Traxler mansion was victim to a fire, which was possibly arson, though I haven’t heard any further.