Toledo coagulated in the 1830s from a smattering of communities along the Maumee River. In those early days settlers had to contend with cholera epidemics intensified by the swampy environs, a drought so bad it killed trees and a financial panic sweeping the country. If that wasn’t enough to overcome there was the state of Michigan calling out the militia to seize the town in a border dispute. Before actual fighting could heat up in the “Toledo War,” however, President Andrew Jackson convinced Michigan to give up Toledo and, with a lot of grumbling and long faces from the Michigan side, take the Upper Peninsula instead. The harbor at the west end of Lake Erie looked like a better bargain then; the vast iron deposits and recreational opportunities of the Upper Peninsula probably look more appealing today.
With a militaristic Michigan out of their hair Toledo incorporated as a city in 1837 and set about developing itself as a trading center at Lake Erie for the canals that were being dug into the resource-rich regions of western Ohio and eastern Indiana. Toledo spread out along the Maumee River as the population blew up from 4,000 to 50,000 in just 25 years between 1850 and 1875. Toledo developed into the third largest port on the Great Lakes and the world’s greatest shipper of bituminous coal. The business district was pushed eight miles south of Maumee Bay.
In 1888 Toledo got its first great industry when Edward Drummond Libbey closed his glass factory in Cambridge, Massachusetts and brought his 100 craftsmen to Toledo. At first Libbey specialized in high-grade crystal and lamp globes but when he hired master glass-blower Michael Owens from West Virginia to oversee the plant Libbey Glass was soon the leading supplier of glass bottles in the country. In 1896 Edward Ford, son of America’s pioneer plate-glass manufacturer came to Toledo and built one of the largest plate-glass factories in the world on the east bank of the Maumee River.
As “Glass City,” Toledo evolved into a cultural center as well as a manufacturing and trade hub. In 1899 the Toledo Zoo started with a woodchuck, which was thought to be a bear, two badgers and a golden eagle. In 1901 Edward Libbey founded the Toledo Museum of Art and funded it with a large chunk of his fortune. Both institutions would evolve into one of America’s best of their kind.
Toledo’s economy in the 20th century was driven by the automobile. It began with auto parts and quickly blossomed into car manufacturing. Willys-Overland Motors, best known for its design and production of military Jeeps, began in Toledo in 1908 and from 1912 to 1918, Willys was the second largest producer of automobiles in the United States after Ford Motor Company. By 1970 and the beginning of the decline of the American auto industry Toledo had grown into the 34th largest city in the United States.
Today most of the people in Toledo work in the healthcare field or education and government, not in the automobile assembly plants and glass factories. Downtown, many buildings have been taken down as a result, leaving gaping holes in once solid urban canyons. Our walking tour will begin down by the Maumee River where the docks have been replaced by walking trails and benches...
250 Water Street between Madison Avenue and Jefferson Avenue
In the transformation of the Toledo waterfront this block was left as open space for events and festivals. The park features slips for private boats on the Maumee River.
EXIT THE PARK ON THE SOUTH SIDE AND WALK AWAY FROM THE MAUMEE RIVER ON JEFFERSON AVENUE.
Fort Industry Square
136 North Summit Street at southeast corner of Jefferson Avenue
On this site, July 4, 1805, a treaty was concluded with the chiefs of the Ottawa, Chippewa, Pottawatomie, Shawnee, Muncie, and Delaware tribes. The Indians ceded their title to over 2.7 million acres in the Firelands, now Erie and Huron counties, and the Connecticut Western Reserve. Little else is known about “Fort Industry,” which appears as a symbolic blockhouse on Toledo’s official seal and flag. The block is lined with Italianate commercial buildings, a look familiar to downtown streets in post-Civil War America.
SeaGate Convention Centre
401 Jefferson Avenue
This performing arts and convention center opened on March 27, 1987. The flexible configuration can accommodate banquets, meetings, concerts and full-blown conventions.
413 Jefferson Avenue at southeast corner of Superior Street
James Secor was ten years old when his family moved from Goshen, New York out to a Michigan farm in 1844. When he was twenty Secor came to Toledo and began working for his brother Joseph in his wholesale grocery business. Within four years James was a partner and general manager and the company was on its way to becoming one of the leading grocers in Ohio. After leaving the food business James Secor turned to banking, organizing and overseeing such institutions as the Union Safe Deposit and Trust Company, the Union Savings Bank, and the Woolson Spice Company. His son Jay, the only one of his four children to survive into adulthood, became a prominent banker and broker and was the president of the firm that constructed and owned the Secor Hotel. The hotel opened on August 1, 1908 and was Toledo’s finest hotel for many years. After a period of decline it closed in 1969. Look up at the Renaissance Revival building to see carved lion head keystones above the windows in the rusticated ground floor.
Commodore Perry Hotel
505 Jefferson Avenue at southwest corner of Superior Street
Architects George S. Mills, George V. Rhines, Lawrence S. Bellman and Charles M. Nordhoff joined forces in 1912 and became Toledo’s most important design firm for decades. Here they created a 19-story Renaissance Revival structure in 1927 for one of Toledo’s most prestigious hotels, named for the hero of the War of 1812’s Battle of Lake Erie, Oliver Hazard Perry. The original plans called for three wings but only two were ever built. The Commodore Perry Hotel is now used as an apartment building with its Florentine marble walls and terrazzo floors still intact.
TURN LEFT ON SUPERIOR STREET. WALK TO THE BALLPARK ONE BLOCK AWAY WHERE YOU CAN LOOK THROUGH THE OUTFIELD WALL.
Fifth Third Park
406 Washington Street
Professional baseball was played in Toledo as early as 1883. In 1884 the Toledo Blue Stockings played briefly in the American Association, then considered a major league. One of their catchers, Moses Fleetwood Walker, played 42 games and is considered the first black player in professional baseball. The Toledo team began being called the Mud Hens in 1896 when games were played at Bay View Park that was adjacent to marshland inhabited by American coots, also known as marsh hens or mud hens. The Mud Hens played in Ned Skeldon Stadium, a converted racetrack in suburban Maumee, for 37 years before moving downtown into Fifth Third Park in 2002. The century-old National Supply Company warehouse in right field was incorporated into the ballpark design, becoming a home run perch named The Roost.
TURN LEFT ON MONROE STREET AND RIGHT ON ST. CLAIR STREET, FOLLOWING THE FOOTPRINT OF FIFTH THIRD PARK. STOP OUTSIDE THE FENCE ABOUT HALF WAY DOWN THE STREET TO SEE...
St. Clair Street side of Fifth Third Park
In 1977 Toledo was the first city in Ohio to adopt a One Percent for Art program, which sets aside one penny for every dollar spent on construction. The program has done much to spread art across the city and in public buildings. This depiction of a knothole gang was created by Emanuel Enriquez.
AHEAD OF YOU IS...
Toledo Warehouse District
Toledo’s industrial past is preserved in the blocks south of Monroe Street with many brick warehouses brought back to life as residences, entertainment venues, art galleries, shops and restaurants. Included in the district is the Toledo Farmers Market and Tony Packo’s, a Toledo institution for Hungarian-style hot dogs, across from the first base side of the ballpark.
YOU CAN EXPLORE THE WAREHOUSE DISTRICT WHICH GOES SOUTH FOR SEVERAL BLOCKS OR CONTINUE THE TOUR BY TURNING RIGHT ON WASHINGTON STREET.
601 Washington Street at southwest corner of Huron Street
John Berden was born in New York City in 1798 and came to Medina County in Ohio as a young married man to work as a merchant. In 1835 Berden came to Toledo to open a commission house and quickly established a reputation for fair dealing that got him elected the town’s first mayor in 1837. Berden died in 1841 but his sons built the Berden Company into the largest wholesale grocery business between Chicago and New York. By 1901 Bergen was importing tea, roasting coffee and manufacturing cigars in addition to trading groceries and it required this four-story, 130,000 square foot warehouse to hold it all. The King Warehouse No. 1 was designed by architect George Stafford Mills who modeled the building on the Marshall Field warehouse in Chicago with massive masonry exterior walls.
TURN RIGHT ON HURON STREET.
601 Monroe Street at southwest corner of Huron Street
This building was purchased jointly in 2006 by Tom Pounds, publisher of the Toledo Free Press, and Ed Beczynski, who was looking to open an Irish pub. The Blarney took the ground floor and the newspaper set up shop upstairs.
Ohio Bell Telephone Company Offices & Exchange
121 North Huron Street
This early telephone building features a Beaux Arts facade of rusticated stone dominated by a bevy of oversized arch portals. The exuberant entrance portal features a coffered ceiling and decorative iron light sconces. This is another creation of Mills, Rhines, Bellman, and Nordhoff.
TURN LEFT ON JEFFERSON AVENUE.
Lamson Brothers Store
600 Jefferson Avenue at northwest corner of Huron Street
The Lamson brothers were Julius and John, and they went into the dry goods business together in 1885. Five years later they gave another brother, C.E.B., an interest in the store. Lamson Brothers operated in ever expanding quarters on Summit Street until it became Toledo’s leading department store. Befitting its status, Lamson’s commissioned go-to Toledo architects Mills, Rhines, Bellman & Nordhoff for a new home here in 1928. The firm delivered a five-story, 158,491 square foot building in the image of a grand Florentine palazzo. Shoppers entered through a trio of monumental arches under ornate stone buildings. The iconic Lamson Brothers closed and entered the department store museum in 1974; it was shortly converted into office space as the Lake Erie Center.
723 Jefferson Avenue at southeast corner of Ontario Street
On this corner stand two of downtown Toledo’s most picturesque buildings that have survived from the 19th century. In 1898 showman Frank Burt built one of the town’s fanciest theaters with seating for more than 1,500 patrons including some of Toledo’s beefiest lovers of theater who could make use of extra-wide seats in the “fat man’s row.” Architect George Mills created this showstopper of a building based on a 15th century Venetian palace known as the House of Gold. The sumptuous confection has been compromised on the ground floor and lost balconies that once adorned the corner windows but the intricate fenestration on the front facade and diamond-patterned brickwork remain. This was the last design executed by Mills even though he was only 31 years old. His shop continued to thrive but Mills concentrated on the business end, leaving the drafting work to assistants. Burt’s stage brought vaudeville acts and touring companies to Toledo but not all the drama took place on the stage - in 1904 an apparently jealous Mrs. Burt shot Frank Burt in the face outside the theater. Burt survived but closed down in 1913.
TURN LEFT ON WELLS STREET.
801 Jefferson Avenue at southwest corner of Ontario Street
The Knights of Pythias was the first fraternal organization to receive a charter under an act of the United States Congress when it was found in the nation’s capital in 1864. The Knights tapped the Romanesque style for this six-story lodge in 1890. The castle served as a place for meetings and ceremonies and also housed a music store where pianos were sold until 1961. The building closed in 1972 and the sandstone cleaned but the building has yet to be restored to its full glory.
TURN RIGHT ON ONTARIO STREET AND WALK TO ITS END TWO BLOCKS AWAY AT ADAMS STREET.
Lucas County Courthouse
700 Adams Street, between Erie and Michigan streets
Lucas County was created in 1835, named for the current sitting governor, Robert Lucas. Several different buildings in Toledo were used as courthouses until 1840 when the County seat was moved to Maumee. Officials kept casting votes until the County seat was hauled back to Toledo in 1852 and the courts set up shop in a warehouse near the river. The first official Lucas County courthouse was constructed here in 1853. It was torn down to make way for this structure, Toledo’s best surviving example of the classical Beaux Arts style, in 1897. David Stine designed the symmetrical composition that is topped by a low, Roman-inspired dome supported by columns and crowned with a gilded ball.
TURN RIGHT ON ADAMS STREET. TURN LEFT ON ERIE STREET.
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
428 North Erie Street at southeast corner of Jackson Street
The congregation formed in 1857 as the second oldest Lutheran church in Toledo, triggered by disgruntled members of the Salem church departing. The mostly German constituency moved into the core of this church on Christmas Eve 1868. A decade later the steeple was added to the meetinghouse and a two-ton bell imported from Germany installed. In 1924 a splendid stone Gothic parish house was added to the complex for a church office, pastor’s study, a ladies parlor, living quarters for the custodian, an auditorium and class rooms for the Sunday school. In the 1950s a renovation attempted to unify the two buildings. The church was faced with stone and half-timbering applied to the steeple.
525 North Erie Street at northwest corner of Jackson Street
The City Planning Commission proposed as early as 1916 to acquire land on this block to construct a Civic Center that would include county and federal office space, police headquarters, courtrooms an auditorium, and Toledo’s first dedicated city hall after having used rented space for almost a century. Despite the grand plans most of the buildings never made it past the drawing board, including the long dreamed-of city hall. Mills, Rhines, Bellman and Nordhoff contributed the beautifully proportioned Neoclassical design which was executed here for the police headquarters in 1929. Look up to see carved stone faces said to represent Toledo’s women. With still no real home, the city government moved in with the police and stayed until 1982.
640 Jackson Street between Erie and Huron streets
Toledo finally got a city hall in 1983 when it moved into this 22-story office tower with a first-class architectural pedigree. The design came from Minoru Yamasaki, builder of the World Trade Center towers and one of the master practitioners of the sleek modern style that came to be known as the New Formalism.
TURN RIGHT ON BEECH STREET.
541 North Superior Street at southwest corner of Beech and Orange streets
The town’s leading newspaper put out its first edition on December 19, 1835, before the town was incorporated, taking its name from the legendary swords produced for centuries in the metal-making town of Toledo, Spain. One of the early owners of the Blade was David Ross Locke, a political commentator during and after the Civil War writing as the ironic Confederate recruit Petroleum V. Nasby in pieces intended to rally support for the Union cause. One of his most fervent readers was Abraham Lincoln. This Spanish Renaissance-flavored building to house the Blade presses came along in 1927. The design came from the firm of Charles A. Langdon, Otto Hugo Hohly, and Ralph Samuel Gram. Hohly and Langdon had been populating Toledo streets with buildings of distinction since the Victorian age.
TURN RIGHT AT SUPERIOR STREET. TURN LEFT AT JACKSON STREET. AHEAD OF YOU, AT THE END OF JACKSON STREET IS...
end of Jackson Street
This is Toledo’s tallest building, completed in 1979 with a roof height of 411 feet. The exterior of the building is covered in 293,000 square feet of glass, with 4,400 vision panels and 4,200 spandrel units between floors, representing Toledo’s history as the “Glass City,” and pimary tenant Owens-Illinois’s presence in the glass industry. The price tag was $100 million.
A BLOCK BEFORE YOU GET TO ONE SEAGATE TURN RIGHT ON ST. CLAIR STREET. IF YOU HAVE GONE TO GET A CLOSE-UP LOOK AT THE TOWN’S TALLEST BUILDING, RETURN TO ST. CLAIR STREET AND TURN LEFT.
Trinity Episcopal Church
316 Adams Street at northeast corner of St. Clair Street
The church began as a mission for St. Paul’s in Maumee and crystallized in 1842. The first building was erected and paid for by January 1845 and the current stone church building has evolved through five renovations.
TURN RIGHT ON ADAMS STREET.
410 Adams Street at northeast corner of Superior Street
The Valentine was part of a bustling theater district in Toledo in the early years of the 20th century. All is gone now and it took $28 million and 21 years to resuscitate this heritage theater.
Lasalle & Koch Department Store
513 Adams Street at southeast corner of Huron Street
Jacob Lasalle began peddling goods in Toledo after he returned from the Civil War in 1865. In 1895 Jacob Lasalle, Joseph Koch, Sol Lasalle, Abe Koch and John May went into the retailing business with the ambition of opening a modern department store. The concern began three blocks east of here at Summit Street and then expanded into six-story emporium on Jefferson Avenue where the Huntington Center is today. Finally Lasalle and Koch settled into this retail palace with nine floors of selling space in 1918. The country’s pre-eminent department store architects, Goldwyn Starrett and Joseph Van Vleck of New York City were brought in to provide the Renaissance Revival design. Starrett and Van Vleck had previously designed the flagship stores forLord & Taylor, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Abraham & Straus, and Alexander’s. An estimated throng of 90,000 shoppers showed up for the Grand Opening. Lasalle & Koch was purchased by R.H. Macy & Company in 1923 but the name remained on the buildinguntil 1981. The aging department store was the first of Toledo’s downtown heritage structures to be redeveloped into residential space in the 1990s.
TURN LEFT ON HURON STREET. WALK ONE BLOCK TO MADISON AVENUE AND THE MOST ARCHITECTURALLY SIGNIFICANT INTERSECTION IN TOWN. BEGINNING ON YOUR LEFT IS...
514 Madison Avenue at northeast corner of Huron Street
This heritage skyscraper was the first large steel-framed structure in Toledo and one of the first “modern” high-rises in Ohio when it was completed in 1896. The first floor operated as Toledo’s first indoor shopping mall. The town’s leading architects Norval Baldwin Bacon and Thomas F. Huber crafted the 10-story Renaissance Revival building for Adelbert Lorenzo Spitzer and his cousin, General C.M. Spitzer. A.L. Spitzer was the senior member of Spitzer, Rorick & Company, the oldest municipal bond house west of Boston. A few years later an annex brought the capacity to over 700 offices. In 1905 the Spitzers constructed the Nicholas Building across Huron Street, then the tallest in Ohio. They jointly owned the two buildings until 1911 when the property was divided, the general took the Nicholas Building and A.L. Spitzer kept this one.
The Nicholas Building
608 Madison Avenue at northwest corner of Huron Street
The Spitzer cousins, Adelbert and Ceilan, bankrolled the construction of Ohio’s tallest building in 1906, naming the 17-story tower for their grandfather, Nicholas Spitzer. The architects were again the go-to team of Bacon and Huber who delivered a sleek, modernistic Chicago-style tower with over 800 offices. After a century of use, occupancy was down to about 10% for the historic structure then known as the Fifth Third Bank building. In 2008 the property was sold to a real estate group for $313,600 - half of what it cost to erect 100 years earlier. There were $200 million renovation plans for the historic Spitzer and Nicholas buildings but the credit crunch squelched the makeover aspirations.
Huntington Bank Building
519 Madison Avenue at southeast corner of Huron Street
Frank Walker and Harry Weeks were the busiest architects in Cleveland after they teamed up in 1911. By the 1920s they had a staff of sixty and were designing banks in other Ohio towns, including this one in 1924 for the Home Bank and Trust. The Neoclassical tower features bold arches set in a rusticated base and the main entrance boasts a sculpted stone eagle.
TURN LEFT ON MADISON AVENUE.
500 Madison Avenue at northwest corner of Superior Street
Built in 1893, this was one of the first buildings in Toledo to use reinforced construction in its construction. Architect Charles Gardner gave the building an Italian Renaissance appearance with its tone facing. This was the first home of Toledo Museum of Art after it was founded April 18, 1901. After a couple of years the collection left its rented rooms here; today it is one of the finest museums in the country.
Northern National Bank
245 North Superior Street at southwest corner of Madison Avenue
The leading businessmen of Toledo organized the the Northern National Bank in 1865 with a starting capital of $150,000. With a half-century of growth under its belt the bank moved into this handsome Neoclassical vault in 1916, fronted by a sextet of fluted Ionic columns. It is yet another contribution to the Toledo streetscape from Mills, Rhines, Bellman and Nordhoff.
420 Madison Avenue at northeast corner of Superior Street
This is an early entry from the Toledo architects Mills, Rhines, Bellman and Nordhoff. Constructed in 1906 and slathered head-to-toe in white terra-cotta, the design adheres to the convention of the day to build skyscrapers in the image of a classical Greek column. The architects loaded the lower floors with decorative swags and garlands (the base), left the center floors relatively unadorned (the shaft) and finished at the top with more ornaments and a festive cornice (the capital).
National City Bank Building
405 Madison Avenue at southwest corner of St. Clair Street
The Ohio Savings Bank and Trust constructed this building and opened for business in September 1930. The 27-story Art Deco tower reigned as the town’s tallest structure for 40 years; it currently stands third. It is faced with Indiana limestone above a base of Wisconsin black granite. Look up to see carved decorations of American and ancient symbols, including eagles and Greek gods. The main entrance is through a massive 44-foot arch matched by similar window portals parading around the facade. The bank lasted about as long as it took to read this entry - it was toppled by the Great Depression in 1931.
300 Madison Avenue
This 17-story office tower designed by architects Samborn, Steketee, Otis and Evans for Toledo Edison. Completed in 1971, the glass-dominated building features 232,000 square feet of office space and a 225-space underground parking garage.
245 North Summit Street
Through the 1800s and the first decade of the 1900s Toledo banks existed in rented space in storefronts and hotels and were indistinguishable from the corner grocery. That changed when the Second National Bank hired Daniel Burnham’s firm, one of the pioneers in the development of the modern skyscraper, to construct Ohio’s second tallest building in 1913. The master architect had died in 1912 but his firm completed this 21-story tower in the recognizable trademark Chicago Style. Second National didn’t just build it high they built it luxurious. Bank customers walking in to make a deposit could marvel at gilded ceilings, marble floors and rich African mahogany woodwork. After this every bank in town scrambled to create their own version of a money palace. The building was transformed into apartments in the 1990s.
CROSS ST. CLAIR STREET AND WALK DOWN THE PATH BETWEEN THE TOWERS TO SUMMIT STREET. CONTINUE STRAIGHT BACK TO PROMENADE PARK AND THE START OF THE TOUR.