A Trip Down Memory Lane: Dorr Street’s Transportation Transformation

Sometimes the evolution of a single city street can tell us more about how we get around than the buses, cars and even horses that once traversed them. This interactive experience transports you down the Dorr Street of days past, reconstructed with archival images from across the decades to focus on how this particular city corridor transformed alongside shifts to modern public transit.

Slide 0
A Trip Down Memory Lane: Revisiting the Transportation Transformation on Dorr Street

Usually when we think about how transportation has evolved, we tend to focus on the modes of transportation—from horse-drawn buggies to trains to automobiles. Just as telling, however, is the evolution of the cityscape surrounding the existing routes. As gravel roads were paved and horsecars became electric streetcars, the layout of the streets slowly began to transform, as well.

So what can a “trip down memory lane” tell us? It’s one thing to watch the buggies and cars go by, but another to experience the changing landscape from within one. We’ve reconstructed what a gaze out the window may have looked like on such a trip—specifically on Toledo, Ohio’s own Dorr Street in the early days of the transition away from streetcars to buses. So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

Slide 1

In 1890, all of Toledo’s horsecars were converted to electric streetcars. By March of 1891, the Perrysburg Journal reported that there were 600 streetcar horses for sale in Toledo and that there would be 300,000 additional horses for sale in the United States during the six months to follow as electricity replaced horses on streetcar lines. Although some riders complained about the expensive five-cent fares, streetcars provided service that was faster and more sanitary. This change marked a turning point in the history of public transportation as we know it today.

Slide 2

Prior to the conversion to electric streetcars, horse-drawn passenger vehicles carried passengers to their destinations. Yet poor street conditions often resulted in a slow, bumpy ride. While the introduction of pavement-embedded iron tracks slightly alleviated this problem, these vehicles were still often only able to reach speeds of four to six miles per hour, barely faster than pedestrians. In 1872, when the “Great Epizootic” disease killed thousands of U.S. horses, many street railways companies began to search for alternatives to horsecars. A local newspaper even made arrangements with Dr. B. J. Kendall Co., publishers of “A Treatise on the horse and his diseases,” in order to enable all their subscribers to receive a free copy of the work.

Slide 3

Among numerous contenders, electric streetcars proved to be a successful replacement to horsecars, beating out the “soda car,” “ammonia car,” “steam dummy” and cable car. The 1902 census of the street railway industry documented 22,000 miles of electrified track, up from 1,262 miles in 1890.

Like many electrified railways across the nation, streetcar lines that ran along Dorr Street from Toledo’s downtown area helped spur development in the adjacent area. Roosevelt, a neighborhood west of downtown Toledo, was platted by 1900 as a result of the streetcar lines that ran through the community.

Slide 4

On February 1, 1935, trolley coaches (buses) began serving Toledo on the Dorr Street line. Community Traction Company (CTC) started the operations at the recommendation of the Mack Trucks company, which was trying to enter the city transit industry. As Dorr street needed to be repaved and the cost of the rail replacement would have been high, the Dorr Street streetcars were replaced with trolley coaches.

With six 40-passenger Mack CR3S’s, trolley coach operations on the Dorr Street line began. The service, however, did not last very long. The CTC terminated trolley coach operations on May 28, 1952 because of falling ridership and high maintenance costs.

Slide 5

Along Dorr Street, both the streetcars and the trolley coaches ultimately met the same fate—one common throughout the city, as well. On December 31, 1949, Toledo’s last streetcar, the Long Belt streetcar, made its final run on Adams Street in Downtown Toledo. Furthermore, Toledo was the first city in Ohio to do away with its trolley coaches, with many other cities following suit throughout the 1950s.

Throughout the early 20th century, many transportation routes were converted to rubber-tired bus routes. The Long Belt streetcar route was the last operating streetcar system to be converted to buses. By 1952, when both of Toledo’s trolleybus routes, including Dorr Street, were converted to motor bus routes, the shift away from prior modes of transport had been solidified. With the removal of streetcar tracks and trolleybus wires, it became easier for transit companies to rearrange, merge and decommission routes.

Slide 6

Community Traction Company had begun operating in Toledo on February 1, 1921. The same year they acquired the Toledo Railway & Light Company operations, they abandoned two trolley lines and abandoned another line in 1922. The first rail to bus conversion took place on April 2, 1923 when the Oak Street car line was replaced with Garford coaches. Electric streetcar lines continued to be converted to buses and, in 1937, Toledo decided that the remaining rail lines should be converted as soon as possible. Thus came the end of the electric era in Toledo with the removal of the Dorr Street trolley line in 1952.

Between 1950 and 1970, about 50 coaches were removed from the bus fleet every 10 years. During this time, ridership dropped from 40 million in 1950 to 10 million in 1970. Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) assumed CTC operations on June 1, 1971.

Slide 7

Prior to the 1970s, Toledo’s Dorr Street—named after former Mayor Charles M. Dorr—was the city’s center of Black entrepreneurship. The area between Smead Avenue and Washington Street was home to over 70 Black-owned businesses by 1971. The 1970s also saw a slew of protests, race riots, violence and social unrest on Dorr Street. By the mid 1970s, Dorr Street was identified as a good candidate for the Federal Urban Renewal Program. This led to the demolition of over 362 buildings and the relocation of residents and businesses that once inhabited the area, all in the name of urban revitalization. Yet the Black-owned and -operated businesses have not been replaced since their forced removal. In 2009, the Dorr Street Corridor Vision was put forth in order to help Dorr Street to recover from the events of the 1970s and to help keep the area attractive and welcoming to all.

Slide 8

Today, Dorr Street provides access to transportation for neighboring residents. The street connects Toledo’s downtown to the University of Toledo. Although the street has seen many modes of public transportation, today’s riders can board a TARTA-operated rubber-tired circulator in order to reach their Dorr Street destination.

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Slide 1
A Trip Down Memory Lane: Revisiting the Transportation Transformation on Dorr Street
Image is not available
Slide 2

Usually when we think about how transportation has evolved, we tend to focus on the modes of transportation—from horse-drawn buggies to trains to automobiles. Just as telling, however, is the evolution of the cityscape surrounding the existing routes. As gravel roads were paved and horsecars became electric streetcars, the layout of the streets slowly began to transform, as well.

So what can a “trip down memory lane” tell us? It’s one thing to watch the buggies and cars go by, but another to experience the changing landscape from within one. We’ve reconstructed what a gaze out the window may have looked like on such a trip—specifically on Toledo, Ohio’s own Dorr Street in the early days of the transition away from streetcars to buses. So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

Slide 3

In 1890, all of Toledo’s horsecars were converted to electric streetcars. By March of 1891, the Perrysburg Journal reported that there were 600 streetcar horses for sale in Toledo and that there would be 300,000 additional horses for sale in the United States during the six months to follow as electricity replaced horses on streetcar lines. Although some riders complained about the expensive five-cent fares, streetcars provided service that was faster and more sanitary. This change marked a turning point in the history of public transportation as we know it today.

Prior to the conversion to electric streetcars, horse-drawn passenger vehicles carried passengers to their destinations. Yet poor street conditions often resulted in a slow, bumpy ride. While the introduction of pavement-embedded iron tracks slightly alleviated this problem, these vehicles were still often only able to reach speeds of four to six miles per hour, barely faster than pedestrians. In 1872, when the “Great Epizootic” disease killed thousands of U.S. horses, many street railways companies began to search for alternatives to horsecars. A local newspaper even made arrangements with Dr. B. J. Kendall Co., publishers of “A Treatise on the horse and his diseases,” in order to enable all their subscribers to receive a free copy of the work.

Slide 4

Among numerous contenders, electric streetcars proved to be a successful replacement to horsecars, beating out the “soda car,” “ammonia car,” “steam dummy” and cable car. The 1902 census of the street railway industry documented 22,000 miles of electrified track, up from 1,262 miles in 1890.

Like many electrified railways across the nation, streetcar lines that ran along Dorr Street from Toledo’s downtown area helped spur development in the adjacent area. Roosevelt, a neighborhood west of downtown Toledo, was platted by 1900 as a result of the streetcar lines that ran through the community.

Image is not available
Slide 5

On February 1, 1935, trolley coaches (buses) began serving Toledo on the Dorr Street line. Community Traction Company (CTC) started the operations at the recommendation of the Mack Trucks company, which was trying to enter the city transit industry. As Dorr street needed to be repaved and the cost of the rail replacement would have been high, the Dorr Street streetcars were replaced with trolley coaches.

With six 40-passenger Mack CR3S’s, trolley coach operations on the Dorr Street line began. The service, however, did not last very long. The CTC terminated trolley coach operations on May 28, 1952 because of falling ridership and high maintenance costs.

Along Dorr Street, both the streetcars and the trolley coaches ultimately met the same fate—one common throughout the city, as well. On December 31, 1949, Toledo’s last streetcar, the Long Belt streetcar, made its final run on Adams Street in Downtown Toledo. Furthermore, Toledo was the first city in Ohio to do away with its trolley coaches, with many other cities following suit throughout the 1950s.

Throughout the early 20th century, many transportation routes were converted to rubber-tired bus routes. The Long Belt streetcar route was the last operating streetcar system to be converted to buses. By 1952, when both of Toledo’s trolleybus routes, including Dorr Street, were converted to motor bus routes, the shift away from prior modes of transport had been solidified. With the removal of streetcar tracks and trolleybus wires, it became easier for transit companies to rearrange, merge and decommission routes.

Slide 6

Community Traction Company had begun operating in Toledo on February 1, 1921. The same year they acquired the Toledo Railway & Light Company operations, they abandoned two trolley lines and abandoned another line in 1922. The first rail to bus conversion took place on April 2, 1923 when the Oak Street car line was replaced with Garford coaches. Electric streetcar lines continued to be converted to buses and, in 1937, Toledo decided that the remaining rail lines should be converted as soon as possible. Thus came the end of the electric era in Toledo with the removal of the Dorr Street trolley line in 1952.

Between 1950 and 1970, about 50 coaches were removed from the bus fleet every 10 years. During this time, ridership dropped from 40 million in 1950 to 10 million in 1970. Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) assumed CTC operations on June 1, 1971.

Prior to the 1970s, Toledo’s Dorr Street—named after former Mayor Charles M. Dorr—was the city’s center of Black entrepreneurship. The area between Smead Avenue and Washington Street was home to over 70 Black-owned businesses by 1971. The 1970s also saw a slew of protests, race riots, violence and social unrest on Dorr Street. By the mid 1970s, Dorr Street was identified as a good candidate for the Federal Urban Renewal Program. This led to the demolition of over 362 buildings and the relocation of residents and businesses that once inhabited the area, all in the name of urban revitalization. Yet the Black-owned and -operated businesses have not been replaced since their forced removal. In 2009, the Dorr Street Corridor Vision was put forth in order to help Dorr Street to recover from the events of the 1970s and to help keep the area attractive and welcoming to all.

Today, Dorr Street provides access to transportation for neighboring residents. The street connects Toledo’s downtown to the University of Toledo. Although the street has seen many modes of public transportation, today’s riders can board a TARTA-operated rubber-tired circulator in order to reach their Dorr Street destination.

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