As Summit Street currently undergoes a multi-million dollar transformation, now is an opportune moment to look back on the history of one of the busiest streets in Downtown Toledo. Today, you can walk down Summit (er…when the construction is finished, you’ll be able to) and see Hensville, Promenade Park and the SeaGate Center, among other contemporary Toledo institutions. Summit was similarly abustle a hundred years ago, although you’d see a much different street, lined with ornately constructed hotels and local shops and other establishments. Join us as we stroll down Summit in (and around) 1920.
Here, in this photograph taken from Summit St. facing north, across the street from where you can find the ProMedica building today, you can see the vibrancy of the street a century ago. Toledo: The Convention City identifies Summit as Toledo’s primary business district. The crowds of people and the lack of cars give an idea of the pedestrian hustle-bustle of the time compared to today’s automobile-driven city. On the right, you can see the Niagara Hotel, which burned down in 1915 and was later replaced by the Waldorf Hotel, one of the later stops on our tour.
First, though, let’s back up a bit to Summit St. between Washington St. and Monroe St., at the 2020 location of Boeschenstein Park. This is the site of the Bostwick-Braun Warehouse, built in 1908. The warehouse was innovative for its time, made of reinforced concrete and backed by a retaining wall along Swan Creek to hold its huge size. The Bostwick-Braun Company was founded in 1855 and was “a major force in the industry of Toledo and . . . an internationally recognized hardware wholesale company,” according to the Historic American Buildings Survey. The warehouse was moved to Indiana in 1985, and the Toledo building was demolished in 1995. Bostwick-Braun’s headquarters, however, remains in Toledo to this day.
Up the road a bit, between Monroe and Jefferson Ave., you’ll find the site of DePrisco’s Music Store, which didn’t open until 1930. Owned by Vincent and Amelia DePrisco, this store became a major destination for local musicians to buy instruments and take lessons. DePrisco’s can be seen at the far right of the first image below, and the storefront can be seen in the next.
Further up Summit, we see the Second National Bank Building, the same building that currently houses the Riverfront Apartments. At 21 stories tall, the Second National Bank Building was the tallest building in the city when it was built in 1913, overtaken by the Ohio Bank Building (now the PNC Bank Building) in 1930. It is now the fifth tallest building in Toledo. During its construction in 1913, The Indicator Otis called it “One of the most notable structures now being constructed in the Middle West,” and its height is certainly a sight to behold.
The Hotel Waldorf, on the corner of Summit St. and Madison Ave., opened in 1916, a year after the Niagara Hotel fire. It was the third-largest hotel in the state, as reported in 1918. In 1979, 59 years after our walking tour through time, the Waldorf was demolished, having been closed for two years prior. At the time of the Waldorf’s closing, it had been more of a long-term residence than a short-term way station for many.
Next door to the Waldorf (and, when it was still standing, the Niagara) is the First National Bank Building. It was a neoclassical building constructed in 1904. Much shorter than the buildings around it, the First National Bank Building’s mark is left by its ornate design rather than its imposing height, like the Second National Bank above.
Across the street, on the corner of Summit and Adams St., you’ll find Tiedtke’s Department Store. A former Toledo icon (The Blade once ran a “Tiedtke Tales” segment for Toledoans to share stories of the store), Tiedtke’s began as Tiedtke & Todd in 1894 on the corner of Summit and Monroe before moving up the street to its new location in 1910. Offering a wide variety of goods, Tiedtke’s was one of the first stores of its kind. In 1961, Federal’s bought the Tiedtke’s chain, and the Summit St. location closed in 1972. Sadly, in 1975, the six-story building on Summit burned down, devastating the community who had fond memories of the store.
In the vicinity of the Waldorf, First National and Tiedtke’s, you will also find the acclaimed Hofbrau Cafe. As of the 1906 publication of Toledo: The Convention City, the building was new, although not much of a record seems to exist otherwise. The cafe reportedly served theater-goers heading to the Valentine Theater for a show and served a diverse menu, including meals unusual to the region, like frog legs.
Leaving the busiest stretch of Summit, the Schuchman Hotel is located near the intersection of Summit and Cherry St. While not much information exists about the hotel, Toledo: The Convention City describes the hotel as “One of the finest 25 cent diners in this city.” Being on the periphery of Downtown, the Schuchman served guests who were in town for business but wanted to stay away from the hustle-bustle of the street just outside the Waldorf.
For our final stop, we’ll step outside Downtown, even further from the crowds: the site of the Lake Erie Park and Casino. A bit of a jaunt from our other sights, the Casino was located where Bay View Park is today, up the Maumee river a ways from Downtown. Marked by its marvelous boardwalk and iconic roller coaster, the Lake Erie Park and Casino opened in 1895 but suffered from fires in 1899 and 1910. After the second fire, the Casino was not rebuilt, but in 1920, the public memory of the place would have still been very much alive.
It’s no secret to construction delay-addled Toledoans that the city is always changing, and the Summit St. overhaul is just the latest in a long string of projects intended to better Downtown. Keeping in mind the past as we look to the future, we learn lessons from buildings that have had short lives and those that still stand a century later, equally informative for the Toledo we are building today.