This past weekend, I was able to spend some time at one of my favorite homes in Dayton; the Patterson Homestead. Having been married at this beautiful estate, I know I’m a bit biased. Currently owned by Dayton History, it is held open to the public for tours, while also sponsoring the Carillon Park Concert Band at the gazebo. They do this periodically throughout the year, so if you’re interested, visit their website for more details. As a Dayton History volunteer, I had a backstage pass to see every room in the house and learned much more about its history.
The home was first built in 1816 by Colonel Robert Patterson. Robert, born in Pennsylvania in 1753, came west during the American Revolution fighting native tribes allied with the British. During the war, he survived not only three gunshot wounds, but also a tomahawk wound. After the war, he settled with his wife Elizabeth in Lexington, KY, a city he founded. After some friends defaulted on loans he had guaranteed, he sold his land to move north to Ohio. As a surveyor, Robert helped found the city of Cincinnati, before eventually buying over 300 acres in Dayton. At the time, Dayton was a brand-new city less than 10 years old and so land was cheap. At its height, Rubicon Farm (as the land is known) comprised more than 2,000 acres and included a distillery, a sawmill (lumber), a gristmill (flour), a fulling mill (cloth), a sugar grove, and an orchard. The land stretched from what is today 10 Wilmington Place, to the VA hospital, and from Patterson Road to Miami Valley Hospital. Robert and Elizabeth had 11 children, including three sons, and the farm was inherited by their youngest son, Jefferson.
While it’s most commonly referred to as the Patterson Homestead, the land was originally named Rubicon Farm. The name Rubicon was frequently used thereafter by the Patterson family. The name originates with the Rubicon River in Italy. At the time, this river served as Italy’s northern border and the Roman Senate considered any army crossing the Rubicon to be committing an act of war. It was a line which, once crossed, there was no going back. In 49 BC, Julius Caesar brought his army across the river to begin his reign over Rome. As the story goes here, after Robert Patterson purchased the land from Daniel Cooper, Cooper kept sending his men back onto the land to remove resources; water, bushes, etc. Once Robert caught the men doing this and crossing the stream that served as the property line, he told them, “Go to your master and say that this stream shall be the Rubicon between us. He or anyone that belongs to him crosses it at his peril.” From that point on, the stream (now mostly running underground) was named the Rubicon, as was Patterson’s farm.
The original Patterson home consisted of a one-room, living space on the main floor with two bedrooms above. Four years later, an addition was built to include a dining room, the farm office (later the informal parlor), and two additional bedrooms upstairs. In the picture below, the section on the right is the original home, and the 1820 addition is on the left. The entry door led into what was the farm office.
Jefferson Patterson was 15 when his family moved to Dayton, and many of his siblings were already living outside the family home. Married, with 11 children of his own, Jefferson decided the house required even more space to hold his large family. So, in 1850, an entry way, a formal parlor, additional bedrooms, and a third floor were added to the house.
Of his 11 children, the two most well-known were John H. and Frank, co-founders of the National Cash Register Company (NCR), who used part of the land to build their manufacturing facility. This was their childhood home, but once this generation was grown, the family used the home only as a summer and occasional residence. John built his home on Thruston Boulevard, where Lutheran Church of Our Savior now stands, also using family lands. In the 1930’s Frank’s widow, Julia Shaw Patterson renovated the entire house, which included electricity. In the 1950’s the home was donated to the city of Dayton to be used as a house museum. It was at this time the banquet hall, restrooms, and gazebo were added, bringing it to its current footprint.
Today, the Homestead is open for the occasional open house tour, hosts Victorian style teas through the spring and summer, and is available for private events; conferences, parties, weddings, etc. I hope you enjoy the Homestead as much as I do!
Side note: If you are considering renting the space for an event, I highly recommend it. You can contact Dayton History here to work with one of their event planners. I had an amazing experience working with them, and the house and grounds are absolutely gorgeous!