Tag Archives: Toledo Ohio

TOLEDO: Historic Old West End Festival

15 Jul

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In 1909 the city of Toledo threw a grand party; a true Mardi Gras festival complete with King Wamba and Queen Sancha.  These days they call it the Historic Old West End Festival and this year was the 103rd anniversary of the King Wamba Carnival Parade. Taking place the first weekend in June, the parade kicks off the festival and celebrates the beginning of Summer. We were up and out of the house early as the parade began at 10am; having experience on our side we knew exactly where to stand on the parade route for the best view. The weather was perfect, sunshine and blue sky with a gentle breeze. As start time got closer, space on  sidewalks became scarce. We stretched our necks looking for some sign of activity; our ears let us know the procession had begun. It was quite a display; stilt walkers, jugglers, pooch parade, vintage cars, Art Cars and our city’s own Detroit Party Marching Band. There were members of Cirque du Soleil and the Glass City Rollers, all smiling and waving to onlookers. Young people, old people, both participating and observing. A cavalcade of bands towed on flatbeds, dancers, bicycles, even a beautiful vintage Chris Craft wood boat. What a spectacle it was! There’s nothing like the pageantry of a parade. King Wamba and Queen Sancha passed by receiving cheers from the crowd on the way to their coronation.

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When the last of the parade had passed us by we made our way over to the rest of the festival; throughout the entire historic neighborhood you will find yard sales. The district itself is made up of 25 city blocks squared, that’s a lot of yards! The architecture here is eclectic and wonderful; Victorian, Edwardian. Queen Ann and Romanesque are side by side with Arts and Crafts, Neoclassical and Colonial Revival. It is truly an amazing collection of homes that are lovingly maintained. House Tours are also available; there is just so much to see we have never taken the time to actually do the tour.

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Simply walking up and down streets like Collingwood and Scottwood showcase some of the neighborhoods finest homes. Yard sales have a bit of everything, antique to modern, artwork to baby items; you never know what you may find. The Old West End looks different from our historic neighborhoods, the homes are definitely unique to the area. Folks seem to all know each other and who’s doing what to their house; these types of quarters are usually tight-knit. We walked and walked, and Kris took photo after photo trying to capture the beauty. All that walking and we didn’t buy a thing…..Next up, the Art Fair.

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The juried Art Fair is held on the grounds surrounding the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavillion, which is quite lovely. Artists come from surrounding states to display and sell their wares. The art work is always top quality; pottery, jewelry and glass. One booth made “Bots”, these wacky little robot creatures created from spoons, tea strainers and even an old metal Band-Aid box, that was our favorite booth. The Festival is large and also includes children’s activities, food and even beer to go with live music; a very nice setup.

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We were ready to sit and have some lunch; pulling out of the residential area we spotted a fabulous structure on Collingwood, Our Lady Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral. With a name like that you know it’s going to be pretty awesome! Awesome, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of it. The church is built in the Spanish Platteresque style, I’ve never heard of it before but I can tell you it is stunning. The exterior is granite and exquisitely carved limestone; inside the main altar is carved of marble imported from Spain. We just took a quick peek as some worshipers were seated in the pews. Just from that brief look I couldn’t help but be awed by the bays that line the nave, the stained glass windows, most notably the 28 ft in diameter Rose window, the pulpit carved from white oak. This definitely calls for a return visit.

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At last we reached our lunch destination; Maumee Bay Brew Pub located on Broadway. The building is cool; it opened in 1859 as the Oliver House Hotel. It is said that several presidents have stayed here: Abe Lincoln, Grant and Garfield. The interesting thing is at one time it was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers during the Spanish-American war and has been named one of Ohio’s top 10 Most Haunted Buildings. We didn’t see any ghosts on our visit. The restaurant is located on the second floor in the former main ballroom; exposed brick walls, wood plank flooring and tons of memorabilia on the walls. Antique bottles, beer tappers and vintage beer cans are all on display. As we were led to a table I almost stopped in my tracks as a spotted a table of three sharing a 12 inch giant pretzel……for real! Served in what appeared to be a pizza tin it is served with cups of spicy brown mustard, cream cheese and cheddar beer sauce for dipping, if only we had brought a few friends. The menu is typical brew pub fare, 1/2 lb burgers, appetizers and brick-oven pizza. From the seating area you have a great view of MBBC 500 gallon tanks of their own crafted beer. It was pizza and beer for us; I had a porter, Kris a King Prunus, and the signature Oliver House Pizza. All was delicious; toppings of artichoke hearts, pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms and carmelized onions created a tasty combination with their 5-cheese blend. It felt good to sit in the air conditioning and quench our thirst and our hunger.  Toledo  has a lot to offer, check it out sometime.

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Day Trip: Toledo, Ohio

29 Feb

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If you live in Michigan and have traveled south, chances are you have been through Toledo. Most folks simply pass through on I-75, on their way to somewhere else. Today I’d like to give you just a few reasons why Toledo is a great destination itself.  We had driven past the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library on Michigan many times, the large Art Deco structure always catching our attention, we promised to come back one day with the specific purpose of visiting the building. Today was that day, what an incredible jewel it is!

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Toledo is nicknamed the “Glass City” and for good reason; many of the largest manufacturers of glass either began here or moved here from somewhere else. The city is the site of large supplies of natural gas and high silica content sandstone, two items necessary for glass manufacturing.  Toledo was home to innovation in all aspects of the glass industry, here are a few companies you may recognize: Owens-Corning, Libbey Glass, Libbey-Owens-Ford, Therma Tru. I tell you this because  glass is the highlight and major material used in the decor of the library and is simply amazing; plate glass, glass blocks, Thermolux and Vitrolite.  There are inlays and murals, pillars and columns, glass in vibrant colors and varying textures. It is something to be seen!  We entered the Central Court from the Michigan Street entrance, one look and I stopped in my tracks. The interior is a fantastic example of Art Deco design, in this case Vitrolite (an opaque, structural, flat glass wainscoting) covers the lower section of the walls in a beautiful suntan color with black accents. A continuous  mural six feet high surrounds the room below the second floor windows. The designs are inlaid into 3/8 ” thick slabs of gray Vitrolite made by the Libbey-Owens-Ford glass company. The murals represent fields of knowledge such as literature, languages, religion, arts and sciences. The floor is terrazzo, a wonderful mix of tans, browns and rust colors. Everything here is done in the Art Deco theme, light fixtures, desks, tables and windows. As Kris took pictures I stood there with my mouth hanging open trying to take it all in. A very nice librarian came over and talked with us a bit and handed me a brochure on the Vitrolite Murals (which came in very handy for writing this piece). With a look of satisfaction and a smile on her face, she directed us up to the Children’s library, now I know what the smile was for.

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We climbed the stairs to the Children’s library, as we came through the door we had entered a child’s literary paradise.  A spaceship complete with two green aliens hovers from ceiling among planets in varied size and color, the front end of a vintage car sticks out of a wall, books are arranged by theme in in various exhibits. We walked further, through an arrangement of desks with computers, here a  front end of a jeep provides seating for two, while sheep ride in the back, a large Cat In The Hat figure stands nearby as oversized toadstools invite you to have a seat. We passed through the final set of doorways in the room and found ourselves in the land of legendary fairy tales. Here the Vitrolite is jade green, the mosaics are brightly colored depicting the tales of Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, Pinocchio, Pied Piper, Rip Van Winkle and the like. Knotty Pine walls and shelves make the room warm and endearing, large stainless steel light fixtures remind you this place was built long ago. The subjects used in this room came from books selected by the librarians of the department.  The Toddler room connects through a small opening, here you will find nursery rhymes and fables; Three Little Kittens, Sing A Song Of Sixpence, Little Miss Muffet……you get the idea. The detail is astonishing, all sorts of glass in more than 80 different colors and types were used in these pictures. The library has undergone expansions and changes through the years, thankfully someone had the foresight to preserve these rare and unique treasures. As I mentioned, the library underwent a huge expansion, as you walk back down the stairway you are able to view the original backside of the building. Again architects were thoughtful and preserved the original building while seamlessly blending the new addition with the old structure. Take the time to study the details, wonderful deco accents are found everywhere. Original light fixtures had been removed and stored through the years and have now been reused as tables in a lounge area. The rare book room is actually new, but you’d never know it, it has the same classic Art Deco details as the rest of the library.

Click Here for a slideshow of this incredible building.

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Lunch time had arrived; when you are in Toledo, Tony Packo’s Cafe is the place to eat. If you are of an age to have watched the TV series M*A*S*H, you have probably heard of Tony Packo’s. In the show, as in real life, Jamie Farr who played Maxwell Klinger hails from Toledo, he often mentioned Tony Packo’s, sending curious viewers to the now famed restaurant. Sticking with our classic Toledo theme, we drove to the original location on Front and Consaul. This was a Hungarian neighborhood back in the day and Tony himself was a Hungarian American, he created the Hungarian hot dog back in 1932 and it was an instant hit. At lunchtime food is served cafeteria style, head to the counter, give your order, then pay at the register.  We each had one of the infamous chili dogs; a homemade Hungarian hot dog (think sausage here), smothered in Tony’s own homemade chili, finely diced onions and a squirt of mustard, I know, it sounds like an ordinary coney island, but it’s NOT. There are all kinds of combinations available, ours came with sides and a cup of chili, the hot German potato salad is my favorite; warm and vinegar based, the potatoes are tender, not mushy, with bits of bacon mixed in. Kris’s favorite are the paprikas dumplings with gravy. We sat at a table in a small section up a few stairs, we couldn’t wait to dig in. The food was delicious as always, the hot dogs have a taste all their own. As you sit in the restaurant you will notice the walls are covered in autographed hot dog buns, yes I did say autographed hot dog buns! Back in 1972 Burt Reynolds was in town, he was the first “big name” to eat at Packo’s, when he finished his meal he signed a bun and the tradition was born. Today hundreds of buns line the walls, from movies stars and politicians to musician,s the collection of celebrities is impressive. Packo’s serves up great food with a side of  kitsch.

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The Toledo Museum of Art resides on Monroe Street in Toledo’s  historic Old West End.  The museum was founded by glass maker Edward Drummond Libbey in 1901 and moved to its current location in 1912. The building is done in the Greek Revival style and is quite lovely, the front is surrounded by gardens that include numerous sculptures. The museum boasts an impressive collection; over 30,000 works of art in 45 galleries and is internationally recognized. Me, I just like coming here and wandering around. My very favorite piece is in the west wing; Monet’s Water Lilies, I could stare at this painting all day. There are so many things I like about the TMA,  in addition to paintings they have a wonderful array of other types of art;  elegant vases, a fantastic Art Noveau fireplace surround, gorgeous crystal chandeliers and outstanding sculptures. They have furniture and entire rooms brought over from Europe, contemporary art and a charming cafe. Galleries flow from one to the next, each eye-pleasing with a mix of  art forms  creating a distinct harmony. In the 1933 museum expansion the Peristyle concert hall was added; the 1710-seat theatre is the winter home to the Toledo Symphony and Opera.  As you would expect from the Glass City the TMA has an extensive collection of glass art, the collection is now housed in the Glass Pavilion across the street……. but we’ll save that and plenty more for another day.  Toledo is just an hour drive from Detroit and makes a great day trip.

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