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Published: Thursday, 6/21/2007

A landmark bites the dust

AS BRICKS cascaded toward the ground, important symbols of Toledo's industrial past, its prominence within the auto industry, and its contribution to the U.S. war effort came tumbling down.

It certainly was difficult not to feel a sense of loss, of a past gone and never to be recaptured, as the old Jeep plant lurched toward its final destruction and two of its three smokestacks came down this week.

The plant is being torn down, of course, because a magnificent new, state-of-the-art facility was constructed in North Toledo. With that construction came security for Jeep, such an integral part of Toledo for so many years, with its jobs and vital contribution to the local economy.

But who among those who remember the old plant in its heyday did not feel a twinge of remorse and a touch of sadness as the stacks fell?

Not all is lost, however. The most prominent of the smokestacks, which date from 1915, may stay, a visible reminder, appropriately enough, of a smokestack industry and an economy that, literally in many ways, drove Toledo and northwest Ohio. It will be a fitting, if distant, companion to the stacks that still stand at the Steam Plant in downtown Toledo.

The 110-acre factory site is for sale, and it is imperative that the ultimate buyer be encouraged to make preservation of the final standing smokestack a part of their plans as the last vestige of a Toledo landmark.

To help make that happen, Chrysler says it is willing to consider deeding to the community the land on which the smokestack sits.

Sentimentality doesn't blind Toledoans to the promise of the future, to a post-industrial economy. But it does require that we pause for a moment, at least, to recognize a Toledo icon, to appreciate the men and women who worked at the plant over the years, building the 11 million or so vehicles that were manufactured there.

It's appropriate to allow ourselves to consider the contribution Jeeps built at the plant made to the growth and security of our country. The importance of Jeeps to the war effort cannot be overstated.

Time marches on, and the future of the Jeep in Toledo is now centered on the impressive new facility that can be seen and admired from the expressway. The contrast between the new and old plants could hardly have been more striking. Clearly, the Jeep Parkway facility had outlived its usefulness.

But thousands of Toledoans, and untold numbers of military veterans, will retain warm memories of the long-time home of the Jeep.

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