Over the years, Troy has been blessed to have numerous businesses and industries which have enhanced the community and assisted in making Troy a great place to live. Troy has also been fortunate to have had a diverse business economy throughout its history. Of course, early on most of the commercial interaction had some tie to agriculture, but that changed as the years rolled on. The city now has a wide variety of business and industry, some of which is old and established, and some others which are new.
Although I may not be the best at it, one of my favorite research activities is focusing on a building, home, or some other structure in the area and try and discover out what it has been used for during its history. Obviously, most houses have been homes for individuals or families, but some have been utilized for other purposes as well.
Recently, a reader contacted me about a house his grandmother used to own and wanted to know a little more history about it. The structure is located at 508 W. Main St. and is now the home of Dunaway’s Beef ‘N Ale. Dunaway’s was opened for business in 1991 and it celebrating 27 years this year. The restaurant-pub, which is a tribute to Irish Pubs, enjoys it biggest day on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, but also has a loyal clientele throughout the year.
When we peek back a little over 100 years ago, in 1911, there were two houses that occupied what is identified as Inlot 149. Except for the old Edwards School, the neighborhood was made up of family dwellings. There was no Hobart Brothers office building or factory; no stores in the immediate vicinity, although, just down the street was the old Joseph Henne Malt House & Brewery, which was situated next to the canal on the lot on which the new hospital is now being constructed. The old Miami-Erie canal did pass close to the back of the 508 W. Main St. property.
In 1911, Inlot 149 was owned by Milton S. Kitchen. In 1917, Mr. Kitchen sold the property to H.L. Penn, who in turn, two years later, sold it Horatio G. Cress. Mr. Cress’ industry on W. Water St. manufactured educational toys for children. According to an article written by Judy Deeter, H.G. Cress initiated his self-named company in 1917 and soon became a leading manufacturer in the educational toy business.
After purchasing the property, the lot was divided and the house which was formally at 508 W. Main St. was either razed or relocated and a new home, situated a little farther west on the lot, was constructed. I believe that home was built sometime between 1919 and 1921. From that point on until 1941, Mr. Cress and his wife lived in the house.
As his life neared the end, Mr. and Mrs. Cress moved to a house on S. Short St. and sold the dwelling at 508 W. Main St. to Mrs. Mattie B. Thomas. Mrs. Thomas, a widow who was a native of Virginia, had relocated to Troy about 1939-1940.
Mrs. Thomas, in an effort to provide for her needs, opened a tea room, appropriately named the Thomas Tea Room. She likely lived upstairs in the dwelling, which was also listed as her residence, and utilized the lower floor and kitchen as her business operation. It is possible she conducted the business in the building prior to actually purchasing it and, perhaps, had some sort of agreement with Mr. Cress.
The first mention found of the Thomas Tea Room was in December, 1940, when the Troy Daily News noted the Hobart Manufacturing Company holding a Christmas Dinner for 21 at the tea room. Mrs. Thomas’ business seemed to be a great meeting place and over the next several years as various news articles mention the MVL coaches, a hospital committee and wedding dinners and rehearsal dinners being hosted at the Thomas Tea Room. It also appears Mrs. Thomas hosted special holiday gatherings such as Thanksgiving meals, “served with all the trimmings,” at the tea room.
Although it is not know why she discontinued what seemed to be a popular business, the Thomas Tea Room disappeared from the records in 1945-1946. According to her family, Mattie B. Thomas would also operate a quiet boarding house for Hobart Brothers welding students for a number of years. Mattie lived at the house until her death in 1973.
Following her passing, the Credit Bureau of Miami County owned and operated their business at the property, from about 1974 – 1987. Jim Warren of Troy was the president of the business. The Matsushita Corporation, which was the parent company for Pansonic, owned the structure for 1-1 ½ years, possibly as a guest house for visitors. The structure was vacant for about 1 year when Brenda Ludwig’s name appears as the occupant at 508 W. Main St. and since 1991, she and Sandy Dunaway have made it the home of their establishment.
Patrick D. Kennedy is archivist at the Troy-Miami County Public Library’s Local History Library, 100 W. Main St., Troy. He may be contacted by calling (937) 335-4082 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org