Edwin D. Smith was the leading light in the ‘City of One Thousand Factories’By Leo Deluca
On Aug. 19, 1940, Orville Wright celebrated his 69th birthday in Dayton at the dedication of the Wright Brothers Memorial. As an homage to Dayton’s greatest sons, no expense was spared in the monument’s design.
The Olmsted Brothers, the famed landscape architectural firm responsible for Central Park, designed the surrounding grounds; sand from Kitty Hawk and dirt from Huffman Prairie helped form the foundation; and the memorial itself was constructed by one of Orville’s good friends—a man with a monumental life himself—Edwin D. Smith.
During a time when Dayton was internationally known as “the city of one thousand factories,” its citizens had Smith to credit for the nickname. The right-hand man of legendary Dayton industrialist Col. Edward A. Deeds at National Cash Register, he worked alongside Deeds as NCR’s plant manager.
Smith brought immeasurable prosperity to the Dayton region. Uniquely Dayton moments—picnics beneath Deeds Carillon, golf on the NCR course and fond memories of halcyon summer days at Old River Park—can be traced to Smith’s great talent.
“During his 32 years with NCR Mr. Smith supervised building of sales offices and factories throughout the world. He also supervised construction of the Old River recreation center, Deeds carillon, Carillon park, Sugar camp and NCR golf courses,” wrote The Dayton Journal Herald in its Saturday, June 27, 1959, edition under the headline “Edwin D. Smith is Dead; Engineer, Civic Leader.”
But Smith’s impact rippled well beyond buildings, golf courses, bell towers and monuments.
Small City Giant
In the small city of Oakwood E.D. Smith was a giant. Over nearly two decades on the Oakwood School Board—the vast majority spent as board chair—he led the charge as the now nationally recognized school district exploded from 194 students and one building to 1,305 students and four buildings.
“Upon his retirement from the board at the end of 1939, Smith … was honored for his service by the Oakwood community and the Board of Education. The top honor was the renaming of the Shafor Blvd. elementary school, now known as the Edwin D. Smith school,” wrote Dayton Daily News reporter William M. Sanders in its Friday, Jan. 21, 1955, edition.
Designed by Schenck & Williams, the same architectural firm behind Hawthorn Hill, Shafor Boulevard Elementary opened in 1928, but was quickly renamed for Oakwood’s greatest champion of academia. Edwin D. Smith Elementary School remains the most immediate symbol of his legacy, but Smith’s impact is intrinsically tied to the civic and cultural fiber of the entire Dayton region.
A Lasting Legacy
In later years, Smith served as Dayton sanitary engineer, and while working for the county he completed the Beavercreek and Bear Creek sanitary projects. He was president of the Engineers Club and Civitan Club; chairman of Community Chest campaign’s industrial division; a Miami Valley Hospital board of trustees officer; registered civil, mechanical, and electrical engineer; Spanish-American War veteran; Mason and a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Edwin D. Smith forever changed the face of Dayton.