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Published: Friday, 7/18/2014 - Updated: 1 year ago

‘Discover Toledo’ tours show city’s hidden gems

St. Francis DeSales shares storied past

Fred Folger of Toledo stands in front of the altar  during a tour of St. Francis de Sales Chapel downtown. Fred Folger of Toledo stands in front of the altar during a tour of St. Francis de Sales Chapel downtown.
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Ruth Koons attended services at St. Francis DeSales Church many decades ago, but on Thursday, she shared the church’s history with dozens of curious Toledoans assembled in the pews.

Back in the 1830s, Toledo had few Catholic families, she said. The city’s first makeshift church, established at the end of that decade, occupied a room above a drug store and featured an altar made from discarded boxes of dry goods.

St. Francis DeSales, with its high ceilings and colorful glass windows, is a far cry from its predecessor. Completed in 1870, the Gothic-style building served as the Diocese of Toledo’s cathedral from 1910 to 1940, and has operated as a chapel since 2005.

The Thursday afternoon church tour is one of nine free “Discover Downtown Toledo Walking Tours” walking tours scheduled for this summer, a collaboration between the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and the University of Toledo’s Urban Affairs Center.

Guide Irene Martin, a preservationist at the library, said the tours have been conducted since the 1980s.

This year, seven tours remain, all planned for Thursdays at noon. Ms. Martin said that organizers try to update the schedule every year, adding new locations and updating old itineraries.

This summer’s program features several locations. One tour, titled “Inside the Gems of Madison Avenue,” will take visitors inside the Huntington Center, Gardner building, and Key Bank building. Another will feature the Maritime Academy of Toledo.

Carol Ardner, who’s been a guide since 1988, says the tours help combat a “tear-down mentality” by exposing residents to the hidden beauty of the city. She had some advice for anyone prone to complaining about Toledo aesthetics.

“Start looking up,” Ms. Ardner said. “You’ll say, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t know [the city] looked like that before.’ ”

For a tour schedule, visit the UT Urban Affairs Web site at uac.utoledo.edu.

Contact Marissa Medansky at: mmedansky@theblade.com or 419-724-6368.

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