Brady Kress takes Dayton History and Carillon Park to the next level.
By Jim Bucher
The large window in his office presents a spectacular view of Deed’s Carillon Park; named for Colonel Edward and Edith Deeds, the historical park was their gift to the citizens of Dayton.
Perched on a credenza is a bust of the colonel keeping a watchful eye on the occupier of the desk. At the moment, that person is Brady Kress, the president and CEO of Dayton History at Carillon Park.
“Anytime I need inspiration he’s there to guide me along,” says Kress.
The colonel would be proud that the small collection of historic Dayton buildings and treasures continues to grow exponentially.
“This is Deeds’ park so there’s always, ‘What would Deeds have thought of this? What was he thinking when he built this place?’ And to my best ability how can I further propel his dreams and make them into a reality?” Kress says.
By the way, the park’s founding is a bit of a history lesson itself.
“At the same time the colonel is visiting his friend Henry Ford in Michigan, Ford is also coming here. Ford and his son, Edsel, are building the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village. A couple years later Deeds creates Carillon Park at about the same time Walt Disney is on a train visiting Greenfield Village. Carillon opens in 1950. Disneyland opens in 1955,” explains Kress. “People compare us all the time to Greenfield Village. The difference is that everything we do at Carillon is homegrown. These are our stories,” he adds.
And oh the stories.
“The brothers of aviation are Dayton’s, the father of American salesmanship, John Patterson, is Dayton. The birth of modern flood control is Dayton. It goes on and on and on,” Kress adds.
Brady’s been the keeper of Dayton History’s flame, if you will, for a dozen years. He is a fifth generation Daytonian and has a bit of history at the park himself.
“I have to hand it to Mary Matthews, former executive director; she saw something in me and gave me a job at 15. I couldn’t even drive here, but fell in love with the place,” he says.
After Matthews retired, Brady was hired.
“When I came on here in 2003 I set up 20 lunches—the Wright family, the Dicke family and the Ketterings, and many others. Fred Smith of the Huffy Corporation asked me before we ordered if I was going to be a custodian or a change agent, and I said change agent,” Kress says.
Change indeed and, with Deeds’ approval, Brady is in the midst of the biggest expansion plan in park history to the tune of some $20 million. A canal boat for the Miami/Erie canal lock, a train that will take park-goers on a Dayton history tour, and a tethered hot air balloon ride that takes you higher than the carillon bell tower itself just to name a few.
All this under the watchful eye of the colonel.
“So, if I can continue where he left off and take the park to the next level. We have a fantastic governing board and not a working operating board,” he believes.
As a member of the Carillon Park marketing committee, I can tell you first hand this 10-year plan is going to be a big bell ringer. In other words, “off the hook.”
Dayton’s been called the “cradle of creativity,” with all the inventors and their inventions originating right here. Brady says that spirit continues today. In fact, most of everyday life is affected by what happened and happens here in Dayton.
“Using your air conditioning in your house, an LCD pad, pulling a pop top, turning the key to start your car—you can’t get through a morning without being affected by Dayton, Ohio,” Kress says.
Dayton has even helped “boldly go where no one has gone before.”
“We get these pictures from deep space, and people take it for granted. The only reason those pictures are coming back to us millions of miles away is two guys in Dayton working at Mound [Laboratories] developed this thermal electric battery that fuels the satellites,” Kress says.
Like Walt Disney and Colonel Deeds, Brady is a dreamer, innovator and visionary.
“My hope is people have enough respect for their elders to understand and appreciate what Deeds did and his vision was. I’m all for growing and being creative, but never lose sight of what the colonel intended and that’s for this to be a place to tell these stories and inspire.”
If you haven’t been to Carillon Park recently you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the colonel’s vision and Brady’s focus. As for the future, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.