Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

Downtown Toledo offered adventurous week

One of the better moves during my week's vacation in downtown Toledo was to invest $5 in a bouquet of yellow and red alstroemerias. The flowers stood tall on the windowsill of my 10th-floor room at the Radisson Hotel, and brightened the skyline considerably.

If timing is everything, the decision to spend the first week of the year downtown was poor judgment. Several friends I had hoped to have lunch or dinner with canceled because of illness, and those who weren't ill were housebound in the snow and ice storm. The vacation was supposed to help me escape cabin fever at Posey Lake, which is more lonely in winter.

An increasing number of condominiums are offered in downtown, and I thought one might be the answer for me. Wrong. I probably won't live in downtown Toledo. While there may be restaurants and entertainment, there is no grocery store or a laundromat.

According to Michael Sapara, general manage of the 400-room Radisson Hotel, the hotel is also focused on condominiums. According to Mr. Sapara, the conversion of the top three floors into one and two-bedroom condos that will go up to 1,800 square feet will begin at the end of this year. A combination convenience-grocery store, which will occupy part of the restaurant, is included in the plans.

Mr. Sapara had an unexpected meeting with Digby. My black-and-white part border collie loves to ride on elevators. When it stopped on our floor, he refused to get off, but wanted to continue the ride while I screamed as the door closed. When Mr. Sapara stopped the elevator on the third floor, who should be sitting in it, but Digby, eager to shake hands with a new friend.

Yes, the Radisson welcomes pets. I took them at their word when making the reservation and moved the family in for the six-night stay. The family is not just Digby, but also the two black cats, Sullivan and Geranium, who immediately found their perch on the widowsill for a panoramic view of Summit Street.

By day our high rise view was mostly of buildings with "for lease" signs in the windows, but after dark the scene livens up with lights.

Who doesn't cherish memories of the once bustling downtown when Tiedtke's and other department stores, and several restaurants attracted shoppers from near and far? Mentions of long-ago favorites, including Grace Smith's, Zimmerman's, Kin Wa Lo's, Eppes Essen, the Hillcrest Victorian Room, the Secor Hotel's candlelight buffet, Posner's, the Top of the Tower, and Lasalle's lunch room are guaranteed to promote lively conversation among people who remember.

We can lament their passing and live in the past, or give credit to folks like Clifford and Joan Murphy at Murphy's; their place has a 13-year history of jazz and food in downtown. I had forgotten how therapeutic Murphy's music is before I spent two of my six nights downtown listening to Murphy play the bass and guest musicians sing and play. It was touching when he and pianist Claude Black sang "Lucky Old Sun." How many times and for how many people had they performed together, I wondered.

Murphy's is in the lower level of what was once the bar of the elegant Boody House restaurant. I had forgotten it was called Digby's, but the name, artistically inlaid in wood on the countertop, is a reminder.

At Diva, two promoters of downtown Toledo were on their marks. Therese King, the effervescent manager of the downtown restaurant, wrote Downtown Latte and Bellacino's Pizza and Grinders on a note as places not to miss on my visit. Deborah Younger went a step further and offered a guided downtown tour. Deborah is the executive director of Organized Neighbors Yielding eXcellence. Maybe next time, Deborah, maybe in the spring.

Living in a downtown hotel harked back to my beginnings in Toledo in 1953, when I rented a room at the Hamlin Hotel across from the courthouse on Erie Street, for $10 a week. From there I graduated to apartments at the Plaza Hotel. But at neither of these former hotels was I remembered, as I may be at the Radisson, as the barefooted woman in a baby-blue nightgown holding a black cat.

At 6 a.m., when I opened the door to reach for the newspaper, my cat, Sullivan, darted out into the hall. I grabbed him, but the door shut. Now, what would you have done?

There was only one solution. With cat in hand, in designer nightgown, and barefooted, I took the elevator down 10 floors to the front desk and said, sweetly as any old lady in a blue nightgown carrying a frightened cat would, "Please, may I have a new key?"

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