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Losing a Colorful Landmark
By Jan Beedle

When one tragedy occurs, I wonder when the next one will happen. I keep plodding onward day after day a little more carefully than previous weeks, trying not to be superstitious, but it seems that the old superstition that trouble follows in threes comes to fruition more than once. I’ll mention one such recent tragedy in our community, though there have been many through the years.

To me, the fiery destruction of the purple, red and green-trimmed gingerbread building known to all for years as Denny’s Flower Shop (not the formal name) tells me that nothing lasts forever. The building is gone. So many of our historically significant buildings are gone forever; some due to disasters, but many due to plans to progress to a modern era of more gasoline stations (complete with a shortage of the fuel), drugstore chains (with exorbitant prices on drugs) and expanded roadways (with low maintenance on the old ones).

In 1980, I recall a letter I wrote to local papers and city leaders in support of preserving the canal house at the intersection of Riley Boulevard and SR 73 (Second Street). I mentioned about Springboro, Waynesville and Lebanon capitalizing on preservation of the area’s heritage. I hit on the fact that Middletown destroyed their quaint downtown with an enclosed City Centre Mart, which ended up an empty coffin.

I implored our city leaders not to close eyes and ears to the people they represented. I felt progress was important, but we needed to leave some reminders, so our children and grandchildren could remember our humble beginnings and the struggles to form our country.
The canal house was one of a few left to remind us of the great canals of Ohio. Helen Dunham’s father (both are now deceased) left his mark in the old building by leaving lively murals painted on the walls. They depicted canal days of old. If only these paintings could have been saved, but city and state planners were in a hurry to reduce the past to rubble. Alas, nothing is left.
Recently, when I crossed the Great Miami River to the west on the old Lions’ Bridge, I noticed a handful of the old mansions are being fixed up; a few offered for sale or rent. At least they are still standing. Some still stand on the eastside, but so many are gone.

Buildings are in the process of restoration. Problem is that funds and manpower are scarce. People like Denny Fitzgerald are as involved as possible, but it takes a city of caring people to help preserve them.

Denny no doubt lost historical papers, books, records and pictures in the disastrous fire. It was also his home. He still has his life and his mind, which holds a vast wealth of historical facts and interesting stories. I understand that Denny will soon (if not now) be back in business – possibly at the Shera building on Main Street, the old location of The Franklin Chronicle. I, along with a multitude of others, wish Denny health, happiness, prosperity and a new home.

The crux of the rest of the story is that Fitzgerald Flowers & Gifts will rise out of the ashes, because Denny Fitzgerald wants to keep the city alive. He has long kept history alive. Above all – Denny is a survivor, a true American.

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