Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Toledo's Old West End


Our old house on Robinwood (center), now painted yellow, green and white;
other houses, neighbors, my grandsons, and landscapes.
The Old West End (OWE) in Toledo, Ohio, is an historic neighborhood of beautiful Victorian and early 20th- century homes in a variety of  architectural styles. Beautiful trees, yards, gardens, parks and landscapes surround the grand homes and mansions, designed by the great architects of the day and once inhabited by Toledo's wealthy elite.  The people who live there now form a community of souls that care about the place. My kids grew up there, as did many of their friends, close to this day.  The OWE creates bonds of friendship that last forever.

This year the Festival celebrated its 42nd year of showing off the historic urban neighborhood that is anchored by the renowned Toledo Museum of Art.  The house tours are a fabulous way to get a close-up look at the architectural details of the homes, lovingly preserved and maintained. In fact the Festival began as a way to ensure that the neighborhood was, indeed, preserved, especially after some historic houses were torn down in the 1960s.  The neighborhood had slipped for a while;  many houses stood neglected and forlorn. But urban pioneers moved in to save the homes and restore the neighborhood to its original glory.  They then created the OWE Festival to open their homes to public view.   “The OWE is a great place to live,” they proclaimed!

The architecture ranges from Victorian and Shingle style, with lots of exterior “gingerbread” designs; to large Craftsman homes with Art Deco features;  English Tudor, Spanish Mission style, and Italian Renaissance mansions;  Flemish Gothic and Romanesque styles.  High ceilings; mahogany, cherry, and fabulous woodwork; stained glass, leaded glass, Tiffany windows;  fabulous fireplaces; tall solid wood doors, wrap-around porches, hand-carved decorative features inside and out; and craftsmanship that hardly exists nowadays. .

“They don’t build houses like this anymore,” my friend Teddy says as we walk up Robinwood Avenue and past our old family homes.  We lived diagonally across the street from each other. We both live elsewhere now, but the Old West End is always a special place to us, and to anyone who has ever lived there. “I loved my house,” Teddy and I say almost simultaneously. 

The OWE festival also includes a parade, art fair, neighborhood lawn and garage sales, and food, poetry and music in Agnes Jackson Park. 

That park also brings back wonderful memories.  An old hospital once occupied the large lot. The park was created in the early 1980s by University of Toledo math professor Robert Jackson in honor of his wife Agnes, a Vassar graduate, who gave so much to our neighborhood, the community, the city as a whole.  The Jacksons' spirit still floats around the old haunts as we stroll down memory lane. 
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