“Bought lumber for making ribs and uprights from Requarth Co..” – Orville Wright in his journal, January 19, 1904
Requarth Lumber was founded by Frederick August Requarth and Henry W. Meyer in 1860 as a small turning shop at Fourth Street and Wayne Avenue. They eventually moved to 447 East Monument Avenue in 1895, and have stayed there since.
After a strong gust of wind overturned the first Wright Flyer, the Wright brothers needed heavier material, so they turned to Requarth to get heavier supplies. They used the spruce they bought to build the second and third Wright Flyers. Eventually the third Wright Flyer was modified to the specifications of the US Army using lumber from Requarth, and it became the first plane to be purchased by the US War Department. During the years of 1904-1909, the Wright brothers bought approximately 2,500 feet of lumber from Requarth, for nearly $200.
Along with the history of flight, Requarth also shared the 1913 flood history of Dayton. After eleven inches of flood waters receded, there was significant damage to the lower floors and outer yard area of Requarth, but the company cleaned up and continued operations. As they slowly recovered from the flood, the Great Depression hit. The company slumped through the depression along with everyone else, but they didn’t lose their sense of community. One man approached Earl Requarth, who was president of the company at the time, and asked him for enough wood to build a coffin for his son who had just died. Earl gave him the wood.
By 1933, company sales were $146,907, the lowest since 1897. Many recovery programs were in place, but still 13,000 Daytonians were unemployed. Sales slowly increased each year but were still much lower than they were before the Depression hit. Once WWII hit, sales boomed. Requarth started building huge crates for aircraft engines and made twelve-foot ramrods for the loading and charging of the barrels of Army howitzer cannons.
After the war, sales dipped a bit, but recovered well. Soldiers returned home from the war and started building houses. In 1959, Requarth opened their first lumber yard on Dorothy Lane. This store catered to the DIY crowd, builders, and contractors. Another yard was completed on Western Avenue in Madison in 1963. In 1966, they announced the opening of a third store in Troy.
As the number of lumber yards and hardware stores grew, competition intensified and left Requarth to decide if they wanted to add plumbing and electrical supplies. Expansion would be needed to compete with the new stores, and Requarth ultimately decided to close all three locations and focus on the downtown location. In 1973, all three Lumber Mart Inc. stores were sold to Wolohan Co.. The sale of the lumber yards helped Requarth recover from damages due to a fire in 1972.
As many of the family owned lumber companies in the Dayton area dwindled and eventually closed, Requarth was able to stay competitive and stay in business.
Currently, the management team is President Alan Pippenger and VP John Requarth, both of whom are great-great-grandsons of Frederick Requarth. Management is currently 5th generation, making it a unique fixture in Dayton. Less than one percent of family-owned companies hand their businesses down to the fourth generation. There are no statistics on how many businesses hand down to a 5th generation.