Sights Around Toledo, Ohio
Hello from ROADTRIP-'62 ™ . Don Milne here, your virtual traveler ready to hit the road again. This is still the first of our routes, traveling US-23. We're at Milan, Michigan, five days and 325 miles away from the northern beginning point at Mackinaw City. Today we'll be on a mix of two-lane roads and freeways, and driving through a major metropolitan area. As you know, I'm trying to stay on the old roads, but many parts of US-23 were already freeways by 1962. Even when there is a freeway, there were no services along them yet in 1962, so travel of brand new freeways would not show us much of the country. As we continue this virtual roadtrip, I want to remind you that if you see anything you like, get out on the road and enjoy it in person. A virtual roadtrip may be fun, but there's nothing like the real thing! And, at any time, click on an underlined word below to learn more about the places on the trip. Let's hit that pavement again!
From Milan, we travel south on the freeway once more until the Cone Rd. exit, where we can get back on old US-23. This portion of freeway near Milan was constructed before 1958, but not originally as a freeway. The state built it to provide a railroad underpass and other bypass improvements and only later in 1962 was it widened as a freeway. Now the railroad underpass is one of the narrowest freeway segments in the entire state. We reach Dundee by the old road, and come into town right at one of the most modern tourist sites to be had. A giant Cabela's store at the freeway interchange, along with all the fast-food restaurants and motels it can handle. Cabela's was founded in 1961 as a small mail order business in Nebraska, and this store was opened around 2000. So the store and all the adjacent development is too new for us and we'll just pass right by. Besides, we had a stop at a real 1962 sporting goods store back at Frank's in Linwood.
Also at Dundee, we also come back to rocks in the ground. There is another large cement mine, with a processing plant. The plant was built in 1958 and began operating in 1960, under the name of Dundee Cement, although it has always been owned by Holcim, Ltd. of Switzerland. When it first opened, it was the largest cement plant in North America. I believe they used to give tours, but not any longer as the plant closed in 2010. Actually, few industrial plants allow the public in nowadays, though many used to. What used to be seen as a public relations plus is now seen as a liability problem. Strangely, we've driven by 2 of the 3 cement plants in Michigan: the LaFarge plant back in Alpena and the Holcim facility here in Dundee. The other is a Cemex plant on US-31 in Charlevoix.
There is another restored grain mill in Dundee, originally a flour mill built in 1866. It's the Old Mill Museum, right downtown on the Raisin River. As with Milan's mill, Henry Ford bought it and restored it as one of his small village industries, this one produced welding tips for his factories in Dearborn, Michigan. In the 1910s it was an electric power dam and during the 1960s the Wolverine Manufacturing Company made gasket materials. It was restored as a museum during the 1980s, but since that's too new for our trip, I'm not stopping. That will leave more time for Toledo, and there's plenty of different things to do there.
From here we take the freeway all the way to Toledo, Ohio. Old US-23 is between 4 and 6 miles away, so you could drive it if you want. The old road is a quiet road, because the freeway dates from 1960 here, so development has largely bypassed the old road until you get right into Toledo. Toledo was almost part of Michigan, but the 1835 agreement to end border disputes granted Toledo to Ohio and Michigan was granted their Upper Penninsula in compensation. On US-23, we have driven from the edge of that Upper Penninsula to the southern border. We exit the freeway where it ended in 1962, at Monroe Street, formerly US-223. US-223 is one of the shortest US-numbered routes, running only about 56 miles in 1962, from Toledo, Ohio to about a mile east of Somerset, Michigan. It is also Michigan's only two-hundred-series US highway: some states have several. From here, we'll drive to downtown Toledo on it, right to it's former end. As we exit the freeway, Sylvania, Ohio welcomes us both in 1962 and today. These signs are both at the same point, almost 50 years apart!
We won't have time to do everything fun in Toledo that was here in 1962, because there was just too much! If we were staying out in Sylvania for lunch time, we might stop at The Village Inn, right on Main St. since 1941, but we need to move on down the road. Toledo is a place with repeats of many types of places we've already seen, so you can get a second chance at an art museum (Toledo Museum of Art), a zoo (Toledo Zoo), and a ship (Col. James M. Schoonmaker). There are also a lot of newer attractions, including a gardens (Toledo Botanical Garden), the Toledo Firefighter's Museum, and a planetarium (University of Toledo Ritter Planetarium). Depending on whether you'd rather spend the morning outdoors or indoors, I recommend Side Cut Metropark or the Toledo Museum of Art.
The art museum has a full range of art spanning over 6,000 years. It was founded by Edward and Florence Libbey in 1901 and the original portion of the building was completed in 1912. Additions have continued over the years and in 2006 the entire glass collection moved to a new building across the street. The glass collection is well worth seeing even if you don’t see the rest of the art, as it has every imaginable type of art rendered in glass. We'll run into a lot of glass history in northern Ohio, as Toldeo was a center for that manufacturing. Edward Libbey started the glass industry here in 1888, manufacturing lamp globes. He was soon joined by Michael Owens, who invented a machine to make bottles by the thousands. Even today, Toledo still has four large glass manufacturers. Besides the glass, two of my favorites in the museum are The Cloister room and a piece by Louise Nevelson from 1960. I happen to love her abstract expressionist "boxes"; which use found objects, especially pieces of wood. In the late 1950s and through the 1960s she consistently wowed the art world. The Cloister is a monastery style courtyard constructed from pieces of several different European cloisters, with dramatic lighting. The lighting gives it a planetarium effect, changing from night to day and back: the twilight is its most effective mood. And, if you have a chance to see an event in the magnificent Roman Coliseum theatre, you're really in for a visual treat.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Side Cut Metropark, on the west side of the Maumee River, is the oldest of Toledo's Metroparks. It was opened to the public in 1931 and has since grown to over 562 acres. Here we can see several locks on one of Ohio's many former canals. In the early 1800s canals criss-crossed the state, linking every major river with Lake Erie and the Ohio River. These locks and a portion of the canal along the Maumee River have been preserved, mostly through neglect until the park was opened. The locks appear to have been necessary to bypass the Maumee Rapids. That's as close as these wide Midwestern rivers get to a falls, so we'll have to wait until we head south to the mountains for real waterfalls. Lots of hiking trails here though, and it's a great site for bird watching too, so I can work up a lunch appetite.
As we head downtown from the Art Museum or the Metropark, we cross the routes of both US-24 and former US-25. I have to say former because both Michigan and Ohio have eliminated US-25. It used to be on Detroit Avenue, and it ran in an almost straight line from Toledo to Detroit. US-24 is closer to the river and it would take us to the Toledo Zoo if you care to go there. But we're going to cross to the east side of the Maumee River to take our last view of Great Lakes shipping at International Park. Here the lake freighters are not on a lake, but on the river. Also along the river at the National Museum of the Great Lakes, is the moored freighter, the Col. James M. Schoonmaker. The ship was decommissioned in 1980 but was out plying the waters in 1962, so as a museum it's a good way to see a little of what was happening then.
I'm going to eat next because I don't want to miss a stop at the famous Tony Packo's Restaurant. The restaurant is north of the park on Front St., so it's easy to find. This home of the Hungarian hot dog was made famous in the television show M*A*S*H in 1976, but the restaurant has been here since 1932. It's still family owned: no chain of restaurants yet. Many celebrities have visited and signed a hot dog bun, including presidential candidates, and now over 1,000 autographed hot dog buns are enshrined on Packo's walls. The food is so good that Astronaut Donald Thomas actually took some of Packo's food into space on a couple of shuttle flights! For those of you who wish you could take some home, you can buy Tony Packo's sauces and pickles in many supermarkets. I eating lunch now I can't fill up on stadium food today: there was no baseball team here in 1962.
Though Toledo is the home of the Toledo Mud Hens today, a Class AAA professional baseball team whose parent club is the Detroit Tigers, there was no team here for the 1957-1964 seasons. Professional baseball had been a Toldeo fixture since 1883, but the Mud Hens were relocated to Wichita, Kansas in 1956 and city demolished the aging Swayne Field, which was soon replaced with a strip mall. But they came back in 1965 and are currently playing in a stadium opened in 2002. And, they are a good team too, winning consecutive Ohio Governors' Cup titles in 2005 and 2006! Another longtime sport in Toledo is horse racing. Raceway Park is a harness racing track located less than a half mile from the state border with Michigan. The track hosts live harness racing from April through October. Raceway Park was built in 1959 and was originally a car track, but in the late 1950s it was converted to thoroughbred horse racing, and in 1962 Raceway Park hosted its first harness race. So you can take your choice of baseball or racing today.
If we had more time, we'd hang around town because there's plenty of other good sights to see, such as the Toledo Zoo. For more than 100 years, the Toledo Zoo has been displaying and caring for animals from all over the world. It now houses over 5,300 animals representing over 760 species, which makes it one of the world's most complete zoos. Back in 1962, the trip began with a walk through a tunnel under the highway, from the parking lot into the world of the zoo. This unique tunnel was closed in 2006, and a new overpass is the crossing today: the tunnel airshaft and another structure are still visible. Once inside, the world extends from the Arctic tundra to Africa, the tropical rainforest, the desert, and all points between. The Toledo Zoo also adds historic WPA-era buildings with their art deco touches to the experience, such as the Reptile House pictured here. Some of the buildings have changed functions over the years, such as the old lion and tiger building. When the zoo opened modern outdoor exhibits for these animals the building was converted to the "Carnivore Café", where you and I can eat meat.
But the day is getting on so we head out of town. And there are a lot of ways out! Toledo is a crossroads, located similarily to Chicago at the end of one of the Great Lakes. Consequently, we are crossing a whole handful of other US routes today just by passing through. I already mentioned US-223 at the north end of town. As we crossed through town and over the Maumee River, we hit US-24 and old US-25. Both of these highways, like US-23, began in Michigan. As we leave town, we cross US-20 in Perrysburg, and even the former north end of US-68. Before 1956 it used to run with part of US-23 to downtown Toledo, though since then it has ended in Findlay, Ohio. Perrysburg itself is an odd place: the only city other than Washington, D.C laid out by U.S. government surveyors, in 1816. Sounds like an old-fashioned Congressional earmark project to me.
We are making just one more short stop on our way out, at Fort Meigs. The fort, which existed during The War of 1812, was abandoned at the end of the war in 1815. It burned down thereafter. That war is sometimes called the Second War of Independence, as it was fought against Great Britain for sailor's rights and western expansion. Former President William Henry Harrison's victory at the Battle of the Thames, which he staged from here, helped win the war. Back in 1962, all that was here was a granite obelisk monument in a park, which was erected in 1908. So it would have made a quick stop then, and that's what we're doing now. The fort you see was reconstructed between 1967-1975 and now holds tours and demonstrations similar to what we saw on the first day of the trip at Fort Michilimakinac.
We leave the Toledo area on old US-23, now Ohio-199, and drive across the farmland occupying the plains of ancient Lake Erie. It's the same landscape we crossed near Saginaw Bay in mid-Michigan, and we won't be away from the influence of the lakes for another day yet. Near the small settlement of New Rochester we cross US-6. It's the longest US-numbered route, 3,652 miles, and is the route for our next Roadtrip-'62 ™ . Continuing south, we reach today's end of the road and meet back up with present day US-23 in Fostoria, Ohio. First I'm stopping at the Glass Heritage Gallery downtown before they close. This is a museum for glass made in the thirteen glass plants of Fostoria during the period 1887-1920. During this period Fostoria was the heart of the glass industry in the United States. The earliest plants were erected because of a plentiful supply of natural gas that had been discovered in the area, from the same fields that supplied Toledo. Also used in the glass-making was locally mined lime. The museum has a collection of over 1300 pieces of glassware from the area; glass which has inspired its own collectors society, the Fostoria Glass Collectors, Inc. Items range from hand painted lamps, crystal bowls and glasses, to Mosaic art glass, and novelty glass. RoadsidePeek has more information on what happened to the company after the natural gas ran out. I enjoy glass as art and visit another glass museum on our US-6 roadtrip, in Sandwich, Massachusetts.
Fostoria, Ohio is also one of the nation's busiest train junctions, with over 150 trains every day. One of the best viewing spots is adjacent to the former Amtrak station, located at 500 S. Main St. Other good spots are at the east edge of town, where about four rail lines cross. The location is known locally as the Iron Triangle. Most of the trains you'll see will be moving as there is not much in the way of yards here. This is transcontinental railroading! Fostoria has received grant funds to construct the Fostoria Rail Park, which will include a train viewing platform, a parking lot, and some restrooms at a five-acre site adjacent to the Iron Triangle. But for now, you just have to view from wherever is convenient. And be careful to stay off railroad property: CSX does not tolerate trespassers! Part of the heavy train action is due to the Ford Motor Company Fostoria Mixing Center at the north end of town. There, vehicles are brought in by train from assembly plants around the country and sorted by destination, like an outdoor warehouse, and then sent on their way on other trains. There is also unit coal train action and plenty of mixed freights, but no more passenger trains as Amtrak suspended operations in 2005. I'm going to grab something to eat at Dell's Restaurant on Main St. They've been there over 50 years so they must be doing something right. Then I'll watch trains until I'm tired enough to get a motel for the night. Maybe we can stay in a 1962 vintage motel tonight: the Fostoria Motel near downtown is the only choice but unfortunately looks its age.
All photos by the author and Copyright © 2012 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.
All other content Copyright © 2012 - Milne Enterprises, Inc.