12/30/2006

Pythian Castle: Toledo, OH

Photos by historymike

(Toledo, OH) One of my favorite historic buildings in Toledo is the Pythian Castle, located on the corner of Jefferson and Ontario.

The building derived its name from the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization that built the structure in 1890.

The building has been vacant since the 1970s when it used to house an art and music community.

The building needs a roof, and much of the interior has been stripped for scrap metal. Yet the Pythian Castle remains one of the most beautiful buildings in Toledo, and awaits an owner with the cash and vision to refurbish it.

Left: Ornate details abound on the exterior of the Pythian Castle

On the day I visited the Castle there were three men completing some sort of transaction on the front steps. They eyed me suspiciously, but continued to conduct business as I took photos.

Dealers and addicts are just temporary visitors to the Castle. Perhaps I will live to see the day when the Gothic structure is once again a thriving building, and when its 185-foot turrets gleam in the summer sun.

12/29/2006

Toledo Pyramid

Toledo pyramid honoring John Gunckel (Toledo, OH) While visiting Toledo's historic Woodlawn Cemetery I came upon a decidedly unusual grave marker, and the only memorial pyramid I have ever seen outside of Egypt.

The monument is a testament to the life of John Gunckel, who was the founder and life president of the Toledo Newsboys Association. The 30'x 26' pyramid weighs over 1,000 tons, and was built with stones collected by Toledo schoolchildren.

The monument's epitaph reads as follows:

The newsboys' friend John Elstner Gunckel, 1846-1915. 'There was a man sent from God whose name was John.' Toledo honors: a citizen without reproach, a friend without pretense, a philanthropist without display, a Christian without hypocrisy.
You can read more about the life of John Gunckel at this biographical sketch at Toledo's Attic. Wikipedia has also an article on identified pyramid mausoleums in North America.

12/23/2006

Abandoned Tracks

The Toledo Terminal tracks are no longer used by trains to visit the area that was once the unincorporated village of Vulcan, OH. There are now a few dozen trailer homes in spaces once occupied by industrial firms and a train depot.

Stop signs are posted on the northern and southern end of the tracks, should an engine for unknown reasons find itself in the vicinity of what was once Vulcan.

Rotted ties, rusted rails, and weeds are all that remain of the Vulcan station on the Toledo Terminal line. The nearby light industrial businesses butt up against the rail line, but are situated in a way that one might view them as turning their backs on the railroad, a form of outmoded transportation for smaller firms that now rely on trucks.

12/16/2006

Setting Sun: Toledo, OH

The sun is setting as my family carries its Christmas tree back to the car. We traveled into southern Michigan to select our Yuletide arboreal sacrifice.

This may be the last year in which all of our children participate in the harvesting, as two of our kids are now in college, and the rest are getting awfully close to that age.

12/12/2006

Foxglove Meadows: Toledo, OH

Bridge over creek in Toledo's Foxglove Meadow(Toledo, OH) I have lived in the neighborhood near Foxglove Meadow park for many years, and it has traditionally been a sort of forgotten patch of public land.

The park, moreover, became known as a hangout for local hoodlums, and one was likely to see empty liquor bottles, teens smoking pot, and people dumping garbage in this space. The tennis courts fell into disrepair, and the place was largely an eyesore instead of a center of community.

On trips through the park I would have my guard up, convinced through experience that I was likely to run into thugs.

Path in Toledo's Foxglove Meadow parkThe city has embarked on a campaign to improve its public spaces, and Foxglove Meadow is one of the targeted parks that are receiving long-overdue attention.

One of the most prominent changes has been the installation of an 8'-wide path around the perimeter of the park. The path makes better use of an extensive floodplain surrounding Tifft Creek, land that formerly sat empty except during periods of flooding.

I am not sure of the exact distance of the main path, but using the "one stride equals one yard" method, I estimate it to be approximately one-half mile in length.

Muskrat in Toledo's Foxglove Meadow parkOngoing drainage improvements in the local watershed have increased the amount of water in the section of the creek passing through Foxglove Meadow, and it holds a greater depth of water throughout the year.

The park has begun to attract a greater diversity of wildlife, including at least four muskrats.

The cold weather did not seem to deter the two muskrats I saw today; their thick, waterproof brown fur insulates them well in the cold Ohio winters.

Mallard ducks in Toledo's Foxglove Meadow parkEfforts by area residents to provide bird seed and ground corn have also attracted a growing population of ducks to the park. Today I counted 57 Mallards waddling in and around the creek.

I met a woman today who has been feeding the ducks, and she said that she spends about $5 every two weeks on a 50-pound bag of ground corn.

There were very few ducks prior to 2006 in Foxglove Meadow, and those that appeared tended to be transient in nature. This season the duck poulation has taken flight (pun intended), and I hope that any ducks who migrate south this winter will return in the spring to the park.

Benches in Toledo's Foxglove Meadow park The city installed benches at strategic locations throughout the park, which provide seating for tired walkers as well as those who wish to simply sit back and enjoy nature for a few minutes.

Even on this dreary, rainy November morning there were eight people making use of the park. On sunny days one can find dozens of people walking, jogging, or taking their dogs for a stroll.

Before the renovation of the park, few residents ventured into the place beyond the aforementioned nefarious types. I used to discourage my children from playing there, because they were more likely to discover crack pipes than to explore the beauty of nature.

Picnic tables in Toledo's Foxglove Meadow park The city worked with a contractor named Kohne, Inc. on the renovation. Also included in the design was a small picnic area, and improvements to the wooden bridge that crosses the creek.

The funds used to redevelop this park have improved the quality of life for the several thousand people who live within a mile of the space. While I am often critical of wasteful government expenditures, I should also now congratulate the city of Toledo for money that - in my opinion - has been well spent.

More importantly, I see people picking up trash, chatting with one another, and treating the park as a community center in a neighborhood that previously lacked a true focal point.