A hundred years ago, a walk along Toledo’s Madison Avenue would take you through a very different city. In the early 1900s, Toledo enjoyed one of the highest rates of industrial growth in the nation and the streets were dotted with buildings that showcased the city’s strength and resources. Today, a walk up Madison Avenue takes you past a handful of modern office buildings, some empty structures and multiple parking lots—but also ever-increasing signs of progress and renovation. While many of Toledo’s older gems may now be long gone and Madison Avenue’s appearance changing on the daily, you can scroll through the photographs below to take a walk up the street and through the core of the city 100 years ago.
Taken from Summit Street, this photograph shows Madison Avenue when it still connected through to Summit instead of ending at St. Clair Street as it does today. It shows a city full of cobblestone and free of automobiles as people walk about on their daily business, and provides a preview of more stops to come along the walk up Madison.
Before continuing up Madison, however, we see the Waldorf Hotel, which would have stood behind and to the right of the photographer of the previous photo. The hotel opened in 1916 and offered rooms to visitors and later homes to residents for multiple decades before closure and demolition in the late 1970s.
And next to the Waldorf Hotel stood the First National Bank, which was built in 1904 as Toledo’s “first ‘strictly bank building’” before it was “disassembled for future relocation [in] 1978.”
Returning to Madison Avenue and heading up the street, the Boody House Hotel stood on the southwest corner of Madison Avenue and St. Clair Street. The Boody House opened in 1872, much earlier than the Waldorf Hotel. Built in the Second Empire architectural style, the hotel boasted many modern features for the time, such as both hot and cold running water. Eventually falling out of style with the construction of newer hotels, the building was demolished in 1928.
Located at the same intersection as the Boody House, Toledo’s main Post Office was housed in the Federal Building, as seen in this picture.
While at the intersection of Madison and St. Clair, a look down St. Clair Street would reveal Trinity Church, which still stands at Adams Street to this day.
Continuing the journey up Madison Avenue leads to the intersection with Huron Street, where the Nasby Building still stands on the southwest corner. The Nasby Building of today, however, is starkly different from how it once stood when it was first erected. With the removal of the building’s tower in 1934, what had once been Toledo’s tallest building lost actual height after its previous loss of its record status to the Nicholas Building in 1906. Then, in 1964, the original building was hidden behind asbestos and glass in an effort for modernization.
The previous photograph of the Nasby Building was likely taken from the Spitzer Building, seen here, which continues to stand on the corner opposite the Nasby Building stands. This photograph shows an older version of the Spitzer Building, with awnings over the windows as people walk by instead of today’s vacant storefronts.
Also at the intersection of Madison and Huron once stood the Toledo Club before its demolition in 1922. Built in 1891, it provided competition to the Boody House as a hotel, but also served as a gathering place in Toledoans’ social lives.
A view down Madison Avenue, this photograph shows some of the previously featured buildings from another angle, like the Nasby Building with its distinctive tower and cupola and the Spitzer Building nearby. In the far distance, a smokestack rises into the sky near the river. Taken from between Erie Street and Ontario Street, this photograph also partially shows the now-demolished Hotel Madison on the left foreground.
Reaching Madison’s intersection with Ontario Street would lead to the doorsteps of Toledo’s Public Library. Designed by the same architect as the Nasby Building, Edward Fallis, the library was built in the quite-different Richardsonian Romanesque style. Remaining Toledo’s only library until a branch library was built, this building was eventually demolished in 1940 when a newer library building was constructed.
The intersection of Madison and Ontario also leads straight to the Lucas County Courthouse, located a block away on Adams St. The courthouse’s cornerstone was laid in 1894 before opening three years later in 1897.
About a hundred years ago, all of this was contained within a short walk up five or so blocks of Madison Avenue. Some of these buildings were brand new while others were reaching their final years. A couple still stand today while many were torn down long ago, now replaced by newer buildings or simply becoming empty lots. Of course, looking back at a portion of Toledo as it was a century ago is an exercise in nostalgia, but it can also serve as the starting point to imagining what Toledo’s downtown core could transform into throughout the next century.
“Boody House Hotel (1872 – 1928) · Toledo Lucas County Public Library.” Accessed August 5, 2020. https://tlcplarchitecture.omeka.net/hotel-boody.
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. “First National Bank, 312 Summit Street, Toledo, Lucas County, OH.” Image. Accessed August 5, 2020. https://www.loc.gov/item/oh0037/.
“Lost Landmarks: Historic Toledo Buildings That Have Been Demolished – Toledo’s Attic.” Accessed August 5, 2020. https://toledosattic.org/113-newmedia/flash/168-lost-landmarks.
“Lucas County Courthouse – Toledo’s Attic.” Accessed August 5, 2020. https://toledosattic.org/essays/100-newmedia/ohmarkers/144-lucascourthouse.
“Nasby Building.” In Wikipedia, May 15, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Nasby_Building&oldid=956833960.
“Skyscraper Facades of the Gilded Age: Fifty-One Extravagant Designs, 1875-1910 – Joseph J. Korom, Jr. – Google Books.” Accessed August 5, 2020. https://books.google.com/books/about/Skyscraper_Facades_of_the_Gilded_Age.html?id=j1E07CeLNWcC.
“The Waldorf Hotel – Toledo History Box.” Accessed August 5, 2020. https://www.toledohistorybox.com/2020/01/25/the-waldorf-hotel-toledo/.
“Wholly Toledo Virtual Exhibit.” Accessed August 5, 2020. https://www.utoledo.edu/library/virtualexhibitions/wtx/excase3_menoftoledo.html#.