David Hoffman, vice president of Historic Perrysburg, Inc., shows a story board that the group uses to decide which pictures should be used in Perrysburg's StreetScapes project.
Did you know that in the building where you can currently order a martini at Stella's, you used to be able to order an ice cream soda at Houck's Drug Store? Or that another building on Louisiana Avenue in Perrysburg has been a bakery, a barber shop, and an upholstery store throughout its history?
You will once you read the signs that will be posted throughout the historic downtown area.
Historic Perrysburg Inc. is providing such precious nuggets of long-ago commerce through StreetScapes, a collection of signs with historical photographs and narratives that will be posted along Louisiana between Front Street and Indiana Avenue.
"We want people to be more aware," said member Mike Barthold, a Perrysburg architect who helped draft the plans for the signs.
Eight signs will be posted, with one already in place in the 100 block of Louisiana outside of the Citizens Banking Building. They depict what daily life was like downtown in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
"There's a lot of history in this town," said Bob Boyd, a local author and historian who is an honorary member of the non-profit group.
The StreetScapes signs include information on other sources for the treasure trove of Perrysburg's past, including the local history collection at Way Public Library, the visitor center at Fort Meigs, and pamphlets on the self-guided tours of historical architecture.
"History Happens Here ..." is designed to label the top of each sign in Perrysburg's StreetScapes project.
Mr. Boyd's extensive knowledge of the area was helpful in the group's research, Mr. Barthold said. But the key is teaching other people how to discover the history as well, he added.
"It's OK for us to know, but it's like preaching to the choir," Mr. Barthold said.
StreetScapes grew from an idea David Hoffman, vice president of Historic Perrysburg, had to place signs on the exterior of various buildings. The final plan to combine pictures and stories onto a few signs was approved by the group's board as well as the Historical Landmark Commission.
"We don't want to clutter Perrysburg with signs," Mr. Hoffman said.
The signs are being designed in natural colors to blend in well with the garden areas along Louisiana's sidewalks, and are being placed at easel height so as not to impede line of sight along the street, Mr. Barthold said.
Photos were culled from the library's collection, showing such gems as a corner water pump, where horses could get a drink when they were the primary mode of transportation, and Schlect's Harness Shop before it was consumed in the fire of 1861.
"Most of the buildings were wood framing at one time, but most burned down over time," Mr. Boyd said.
Historian Bob Boyd, left and architect Mike Barthold talk about Perrysburg's history.
Ordered through Harmon Signs in Toledo, the StreetScapes signs are manufactured in a patented process that also is used by the National Park System to protect the signs from the outdoor elements, Mr. Barthold said.
Graphic designers who are working with the project include Rex Russell of Big Daddy Graphics and freelance designer Chelsea Copeland, both of Perrysburg, and Frank Kuron of Kuron Publishing in Toledo.
The signs cost $2,000 each, with the city responsible for installation and maintenance, Mr. Hoffman said.
The first sign was sponsored by the non-profit group. Other sponsors include the City of Perrysburg, the local Convention and Visitors Bureau, Waterford Bank, and the Perrysburg Messenger Journal. Another entity is considering sponsorship, and two spots are open, he said.
StreetScapes will help people unlock Perrysburg's past and renew interest in discovering more stories, Mr. Boyd said.
"The primary purpose in all of this is to get people interested in what used to be," he said.
Historic Perrysburg meets at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month in the lower level meeting rooms of Way Public Library. For information, visit www.historicperrysburg.org.
Contact Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer at 419-356-8786, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @RebeccaConklinK.