Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The AFL-CIO Lakewoods Tower – 980 Wilmington Avenue

For a city its size, Dayton is home to a relative abundance of buildings, plans, and projects by nationally-known architects and designers, such as I.M. Pei, Harry Weese, Cesar Pelli, Edward Durrell Stone, Bertrand Goldberg, Charles Moore, Dan Kiley, and Harrison and Abromovitz.  But it could be argued that the most successful projects were completed by individuals who maintained their office in Dayton. Certainly, Albert Pretzinger and Frank M. Andrews come to mind. One whose work has recently gained attention is Paul Deneau.

Paul Deneau was born in New York in 1928. He graduated from Ohio State University in 1951 with a degree in architecture.  He moved to Dayton in 1955, and designed some of the most important development projects in Dayton in the 1960s, a time of significant challenge in Dayton.  As highways were completed and the city faced increased suburban competition, Deneau became a central figure in the battle to regain positive momentum in Dayton, particularly downtown.  His most significant projects downtown were the Grant-Deneau Tower at 40 West Fourth Street, and the Dayton Convention Center, which was part of the Mid-Town Mart Urban Renewal Plan.  One of his most significant projects outside of downtown was the AFL-CIO Lakewoods Tower at 980 Wilmington Avenue.

The AFL-CIO Lakewoods Tower was completed in 1966, with the original purpose as housing for retired members of the local Dayton-Miami Valley AFL-CIO. The building was called out for its significance in a study called “Ohio Modern: Preserving Our Recent Past” commissioned by the State of Ohio Historic Preservation Office. An Ohio Historic Inventory (OHI) Form was completed and stated the following:

The AFL-CIO apartment building is a 10-story Post-Modernist building. It is a large, irregularly shaped building that was constructed in two sections. The building's distinctive characteristic is its concrete detailing, which gives the building a sculptural quality. Each bay is topped by a segment of concave arch at the roofline, a round arch framing the windows of the ground level, and pilasters separating each bay. While the roof detail and pilasters abut the facade, the ground level arches are separated from the facade. Because the building was constructed in two sections, the entrance is off-center, and the sections are angled to each other. A curved concrete canopy, supported by tapered posts, covers the entrance. The canopy is very similar in scale and shape, but without the mosaic ornamentation, as the Dayton Towers Apartments' canopy (MOT-05159-57). The building's paired sliding windows may be original. Balconies are on each floor level at the rear of the building. The building maintains a high degree of historic integrity on the exterior and retains original materials, such as aluminum doors and signage near the entrance.
As for its construction and architect, the OHI form states:

The building was constructed by the local Dayton-Miami Valley AFL-CIO union as housing for its retired members. Containing 265 units, the building was dedicated in May 1966 as The Lakewoods. It was quickly determined that there was not sufficient demand among AFL-CIO senior citizens to fill the building, and it was opened up to the general public as low-income senior housing. Once the building was opened to the general public, demand increased and a large addition was added to the original 1966 building five years later. The architect for the building was Paul Deneau. Deneau was a noted Dayton architect and real estate developer. He also was instrumental in the formation of the World Hockey League in the early 1970s.

The building recently received much-needed reinvestment. It is expected that appreciation for “Mid-Century Modern” architecture will increase in coming years, and one might think this building would be central to the conversation.  Hopefully, so too will the legacy of Paul Deneau, developer, architect and professional hockey team owner.

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