Kaleidoscope: Great firefighters' museum, several other Toledo attractions worth a look

by KEN LAHMERS Published:

On road trips to Mansfield and Columbus in the last five years, I've visited firefighting museums, and have seen many antique and classic pieces of firefighting equipment in historical society museums throughout Ohio.

On Memorial Day weekend, I added a third firefighting museum to my list -- just a few blocks northwest of downtown Toledo.

The Mansfield museum is in a former department store and has the most extensive collection of large firefighting equipment of the three I've visited. But like the one in Columbus, the Toledo Firefighters Museum is in an old firehouse.

The original firefighters' museum came about during our nation's bicentennial in 1976, when items were displayed in the Museum of Science at the Toledo Zoo. It eventually was relocated to Firehouse 18, which was built in 1920 and retired in 1975.

There are two floors, with the first displaying most of the equipment and artifacts and the second housing a safety and learning center, where children and adults can role-play situations they might encounter in their homes via Fireman Freddy's Fire Station and Jed's Bedroom.

The city's fire department has existed since 1837, and its first hand-pulled pumper -- Neptune -- has been preserved in the museum. Requiring a 20-man crew to operate, the apparatus was restored by firefighters. It could pump about 300 gallons of water a minute.

Other pieces of large apparatus displayed are an 1877 horse-drawn steam pumper, 1927 American LaFrance pumper, 1929 Pirsch pumper, 1936 Schacht ladder truck, 1969 Willy's fire Jeep and a hand-pulled hose real.

Photos of major fires in Toledo line the walls. There also are firehouse gongs, speaking trumpets, helmets, patches, uniforms, a Toledo Firefighters Museum stained glass window, bells, buckets and sweat sticks used to sweep lather from horses that pulled antique vehicles.

Hundreds of antique fire toys are displayed, as are a watchman's desk and tape register, command officer's room, old alarm office, Toledo area memorabilia and chronological history of the TFD.

In addition to the safety and leaning center, the second floor features a glimpse at firefighters' sleeping quarters and an extensive collection of scrapbooks, reference materials and department journals dating back 150 years.

One great thing about this museum is it's free!

THE POLICE MUSEUM

Many times on my road trips I've encountered attractions not being open when brochure or Internet information says they will be. Such was the case with the Toledo Police Museum when I stopped by.

Located in beautiful Ottawa Park beside a police substation, the small building opened in 2011. The museum was established in 1985 in the Toledo Police Safety Building, where it remained until closing in 1994. For 17 years, items from that location were stored until the current site opened.

According to the museum's website, artifacts date to the late 1800s and include equipment, technology, vehicles, badges, photos, uniforms and weapons.

Visitors reportedly can be locked up in a jail cell, have mugshots taken by the original TPD mugshot camera and look inside a replica 1948 police wagon.

A timeline highlighting the complete history of the department is on display, as are several interactive and rotating exhibits.

The museum touts that its solemn obligation is to honor the 30 men who have served the city and did not go home to their families at the end of their shifts, because "their watch ended with the ultimate sacrifice."

BOYD'S RETRO CANDY

Having heard about this iconic shop, I had to check it out since it is just a half-block down the street from the firefighters' museum. It boasts that "childhood memories are made each day here at Boyd's."

The store specializes in candies from the 1950s, '60s and '70s, but claims to "satisfy candy lovers of every generation." It has hard candy, soft candy, taffy and bubble gum; licorice, jawbreakers, mints and, yes, PEZ.

I left with a bag full of Smarties, Good'N'Plenty and Necco wafers.

While in the store, I spotted a display case full of Images of Rail books about old train depots in Ohio, one of which -- "Northeast Ohio Depots" -- I have. I wondered why train depot books were in a candy store.

Then I started talking to a fellow who works in the store and he told me he is Mark Camp, the author of the series of books. Turns out he's a professor at the University of Toledo and his wife owns the store!

I enjoyed talking a while with Camp, whose depot books are separated into five sections of Ohio. He told me he's hoping to eventually publish a sixth book about depots in eastern and southeast Ohio, some of which I'm very familiar with.

He's also authored or co-authored an Images of America book focusing on oil and gas in Ohio, and two titled "Roadside Geology of Ohio" and "Roadside Geology of Indiana." He's a national director of the Railroad Station Historical Society.

MORE ATTRACTIONS

I stopped by the Lucas County Courthouse and admired it from outside. It has three arches on the ground level, eight two-story high columns spanning the second and third floor and a short round dome.

There is a statue of Ohio Governor and President William McKinley directly in front of the main entrance on Adams Street.

I didn't have time to visit, but Toledo has Imagination Station, a sort of blend between Cleveland's Great Lakes Science Center and Columbus' Center of Science and Industry. "Titanic: the Artifact Exhibition" is there until Sept. 21.

Three other cherished venues in the city are Fifth Third Field, home of the Class AAA minor league baseball Mud Hens; the Toledo Zoo; and the Toledo Art Museum.

The Mud Hens have played in the beautiful downtown 9,000-seat stadium since 2002. People can walk along the sidewalk on the north side and clearly see through iron fences into the park, but I image they'd be chased away if they lingered too long.

On the weekend I was visiting, it was announced the Toledo Zoo was voted the best zoo in the nation by USA Today readers. That weekend marked the opening of Penguin Beach and Flamingo Key.

I drove by the zoo coming back into town from the south on Sunday. Route 25 splits the zoo's east and west sides, and I saw a lot of people roaming the grounds on both sides.

The art museum was founded in 1901. It's in a huge building with many columns across the front, and has a strange-looking red sculpture and a leaping rabbit sculpture in front.

The main building interior has 4 1/2 acres of floor space on two levels, 45 galleries, 15 classroom studios, a 1,750-seat concert hall, 176-seat lecture hall, a resource center for educators, family center, visual resources collections, cafe and museum store.

There is no charge to visit the museum, but I didn't have time to check it out. It is open 309 days a year.

PERRYSBURG, MAUMEE

Three years ago when I visited Bowling Green, I stopped by Fort Meigs in Perrysburg, but I didn't have time to explore the city of Perrysburg (population 20,000).

So on Saturday night, since my motel was close and there was nothing else to do, I drove down and walked around downtown. The west end of the main street dead-ends into a park and the Maumee River, and there stands a statue of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, after which the town was named.

The original marble statue was erected in 1860, and in recent years has been replaced by a bronze replica. Perry, of course, is famous for winning the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812.

The town was buzzing that Saturday night since there are two or three restaurants / pubs which have patios along the sidewalks.

The main street also has information panels which briefly relate the history of the old downtown buildings.

Maumee, a town of 14,000 residents, was more laid back than Perrysburg. There wasn't much going on. However, the Maumee Theater caught my eye.

The art deco theater was opened in 1946 as a movie house. After extensive renovations, today it has become a center for the visual and performing arts. In addition to daily movies and live performances, it can be rented for special events.

Email: klahmers@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4189

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