By Karl Klooster • Staff Writer • 

Redoing Dayton

Nearly six years have passed since employment personnel entrepreneur Bill Stoller began his purchase of buildings and properties surrounding Dayton’s signature town square.

Inspired by both nostalgia and a keen business sense, this homegrown boy who made it big was thinking long term in cobbling together enough proximate real estate to make a synergistic statement.

His substantive commitment motivated local leaders to form the Dayton Community Development Association, whose purpose is to promote, set direction for and bring cohesiveness to the growth process. A dedicated group of local preservationists, including Wendy Bennett, Mary Ann Stoller, Jim Seufert, Kelly Haverkate, Judy Gerrard, Trini Marquez and Richard Thompson, currently serve on the association board.

The Oregon Main Street Program was beginning to take shape just as Dayton’s project was getting underway in 2009, and everyone concerned felt the two would be a perfect fit.

The downtown revitalization program is administered through the State Historic Preservation Office. It is funded by grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, as well as other public and private sources.

A facade restoration plan was developed through the program for virtually all the buildings in the core area. And owners are already beginning to invest in facade refurbishments adhering to design standards, with Stoller leading the way.

Following a long-term plan developed for his Dayton properties, Stoller selected what is undeniably the most historic building on the square as his first project.

The 1886 Dayton First Baptist Church is the epitome of stately simplicity. It has sat unused since the congregation moved to larger quarters in the early 1980s, around the time of its centennial.

It was badly in need of a roof replacement, steeple repair, brick repointing and interior renovation. But its basic structure remained sound.

Haverkate said the old church needed to undergo extensive renovation and restoration to make it suitable for use again. And because it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it had to be done right.

Paul Falsetto, a noted Portland preservation architect, was hired to oversee the project, now completed save for tenant touches.

The exterior looks as good as it did when the doors first opened for congregants in 1886. The brick facade sports a fresh clean look, new shingles grace the roof and the steeple stands tall and straight again.

Inside, Haverkate said, “We’ve done the key things.” She noted the seismic bracing, beautifully finished natural wood ceiling, reinforced windows and exposed brick walls. 

“Final interior remodeling will depend on the tenant,” she said. “We’re putting an addition on the back that can be used for storage or converted into a kitchen if a restaurant wants to lease the building.”

Stoller said, “We feel it is going to be a 20-year process to have most of this come about. In the meantime we will be cautious and try to do what is best for all concerned — Dayton, Yamhill County and Oregon residents, and out-of-state tourists.

“Surveys of wine tourism say people want to visit wineries and tasting rooms, have nice accommodations, experience good food, an outdoor lifestyle and so on. We hope to meet as many needs as possible, and to partner with people who are or see themselves in these businesses. Lodging, farm to table restaurants, and outdoor recreation are high on our list.”

At the end of last year, Stoller bought the building that had been home to Putt’s Market for the last 43 years. It sits on a site where a general store has stood since 1911.

The entire community felt a sense of loss when the family reluctantly closed the business following the death of Howard “Putt” Putman. A hand-lettered sign remains posted on the front door, saying:

“We thank you for all your friendship and your patronage over the last 43 years. We have shared many joys and some sadness, too, as you have shared with us.

“It is such a special community we live in, and we hope you will be as special to the new owner as you have been to us.”

It is signed, “Brett & Missy, Chrisie & David, Jeannie Putt, Seth, David, Jacob, Cidy, Savannah,” which poignantly encapsulates the closeness engendered in a small, personal place like Dayton.

Not wanting to risk the chance this core building might fall into uncooperative hands, Stoller snapped it up and worked it into his master plan.

The two-story, 6,000-square-foot structure was completed in 1911 as the S.S. Stuckey Bldg. The upstairs originally served primarily as home base for the Commercial Club, but has served various other purposes as well over the years.

The club occupied a massive main room. Corridors led to smaller rooms, serving initially as offices and later as apartments, then storage spaces.

The street level floor, with its well-worn natural wood, speaks to a century of market traffic.

Rows of freestanding shelves have been removed, exposing expanses of floor, some less worn and some more. Wall shelving remains as a reminder of days gone by.

Though its next tenant is yet to be determined, the structure has good bones. And it sits on the best commercial site on Ferry Street, directly across from the park bandstand.

With so much of its historic environment still intact, Dayton can write the next chapter of its story with a flourish, thanks to Bill Stoller and his visionary partners.

And that’s what I found out while OUT and ABOUT — taking in a 360-degree sweep around the boundaries of Dayton Courthouse Square to imagine the completed recreation of another era.

Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 503-687-1227. 

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