For 84 years, the old Dayton City Hall building has stood on the southeast corner of Cook and Church streets in Dayton. While its use has changed over time, this red brick building has housed the City’s government, volunteer fire department, police department and public library. Today, it is used for the City’s Planning Department.
On Saturday, Oct. 2, the Liberty County Historical Commission unveiled a Liberty County Historic Landmark marker that acknowledges the significant history of the building.
“I was born and raised in this town. I walked by this building every day of my life. I came here as a small child with my mom to pay our water bill. I walked past it when I went down the street to the Rio Theater. It’s a very important building in the city of Dayton and I am so glad we are keeping it,” said Liberty County Historical Commission Chair Linda Jamison to the small group of people who gathered for Saturday’s event.
With very few old buildings remaining in Dayton, Jamison said it is crucial that the history be preserved.
“So many historic buildings have been lost and this is one of the few remaining. I am very thankful that we are here today to honor the building and its history,” she said.
Dayton Mayor Caroline Wadzeck, reading the following narrative that she wrote for the marker:
“From September 1937 until August 2004, this red brick building housed the city’s government, volunteer fire department, police department and public library in various combinations. Prior to 1937, the City conducted its business in rented quarters above the Dayton Mercantile Company on Main Street.
“Two devastating fires resulted in the formation of the Dayton Volunteer Fire Department in 1930. The DVFD stored its equipment and fire trucks, purchased with funds from fundraising events and City Council, in an old lean-to structure on Bryan Street. An elected City Marshal provided law enforcement for the community.
“City fathers decided in 1935 a building was needed to house city hall, a fire station and although not mentioned in council minutes, law enforcement personnel. On June 26, 1935, Aldermen authorized the City to borrow $800 to purchase a lot for the building, ‘said loan to be paid out of any funds that may be available.’ The construction of City Hall on the corner of Cook and Church streets took place between June and August 1937.
“This building formed the foundation from which Dayton’s city government, fire and public safety departments developed and expanded, and was also a place which virtually every citizen of Dayton entered at some time.”
Liberty County Jay Knight shared his first recollections of the old building from the time he would visit it with his father, who was a fire captain.
“I would come up here on Saturday mornings and hang out. I would sit on the old LaFrance fire truck and I thought that was one of the coolest things. Maybe we would get to take a ride around town. This was the hub, where things were happening downtown,” he said.
He shared some keepsakes he collected from his late father, including his father’s captain’s badge, his 20-year pin with the City of Dayton and the junior fire mascot badge he himself received as a child.
“Thank you to the City for preserving this [building],” he said.
The marker that was unveiled is part of the county marker program, which was established about eight years ago as a way of recognizing local history in a way that is not recognized by the Texas Historic Commission.
“The Texas Historical Marker process is very competitive and many times small bits of local history get moved to the side. We saw the need because we want to honor all of our history,” Jamison said. “We move through the same process as the state. We worked with Texas Historic Commission to develop this county marker program. We are the second county in the State of Texas to develop its own county marker program right after Denton County, Texas. This lovely marker is made by the same foundry as the state markers. It’s very special and I think we are more proud of our county markers than the state markers, but we love them all.”