The committee charged with recommending which Toledo street should be renamed in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wants it to be Collingwood Boulevard.
But some Old West End residents and the Old West End Association are objecting to the designation.
WilliAnn Moore, who is chairwoman of the city's King street renaming committee, said that Collingwood was chosen because it is a central artery in Toledo that can be recognized by travelers from I-75, I-475, and the Anthony Wayne Trail.
Some members of the committee have noted that several African-American institutions are on Collingwood, including the Warren African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first black church in Toledo; Scott High School; the Art Tatum African-American Resource Center inside the Kent branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, and the former Gunckel Elementary School.
But Mrs. Moore, who is president of the Toledo branch of the NAACP, told the branch's regular meeting last night at the Hamilton Building, 525 Hamilton St., that residents from the Old West End area insulted her and other African-Americans at a street renaming committee meeting about two weeks ago.
“Fourteen people walked in here and told us it didn't matter what we did, they would still oppose [renaming Collingwood],” Mrs. Moore said. “They don't want Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s name on their stationery.”
One of those at that meeting, Dennis Lange, president of the Old West End Association who is the owner of Pumpernickels Deli and Caf , 2499 Collingwood, said last night that he felt the naming of Collingwood was arbitrary and the neighborhood was not represented.
“There is a historical significance to Collingwood,” Mr. Lange said. “To change the name of that street would mean to lose that history. It would be like Collingwood never existed. Should the Collingwood Arts Center change its name, too? What about Collingwood Springs?”
Mr. Lange said the street is listed in the National Registry as part of a historical part of the city and the city may not be able to change the name. He said the association should have been consulted about the possible name change.
“We understand they had 90 days to name a street,” Mr. Lange said. “They came to us two months into the process and wanted us to attend a meeting to approve [the name change]. I'm against the renaming of any street. They are renaming streets around the new [Toledo Mud Hens] ballpark [in downtown Toledo] and I'm against that, too.”
One letter faxed to the committee by Gregory Cornelius, who lives on Glenwood Avenue, stated that the street's renaming “would be a `step back' for all the work we've done to improve our neighborhood and our community.”
An e-mail sent by Tamara M. Ernst, who lives in the 2900 block of Collingwood, to Arturo Quintero, the executive officer to Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, criticized a member of the street renaming committee and longtime community activist, the Rev. Robert Culp.
The e-mail stated that Ms. Ernst suspects “his involvement is self-serving as he also has a church in the area.” Mr. Culp is the pastor of First Church of God at 3015 Collingwood.
Jim Waaland, who lives in the 2800 block of Collingwood, said the street was named after Barton Cutberth Collingwood, a British admiral who he said “must have meant something to the people who settled here.”
The local history department of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library shows that Collingwood was named for Admiral Collingwood, a British naval hero who was second-in-command to Admiral Horatio Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
But the name also is believed to honor Sanford L. Collins, active in Toledo civic and development life more than a century ago.
Collingwood was known originally as the Old Territorial Road, a route from Toledo to Angola, Ind., which was opened through to Richfield Township in 1834-35.
At that time, Mr. Collins and a brother arranged for the clearing and fencing of their farm and all the woods on both sides of the road.
Maps of 1852 show the name still used as Old Territorial Road, but a Toledo directory of 1860 first lists it as Collingwood Avenue.
Mr. Collins married Harriet Whitney, daughter of another very early pioneer of Lucas County. Harriet Whitney was the first female schoolteacher in Toledo. The former Harriet Whitney Vocational School for Girls was named in her honor.
Carol Stolarski, another letter writer who lives on Parkwood Avenue, said the Old West End Association invited Mrs. Moore to a recent meeting, but claimed she did not show up. She said several residents are planning a petition against the street renaming.
“It seems like they're trying to slip this past us without comments from the people who it will affect,” Ms. Stolarski said. “I think they should name Cherry Street because that's where the bridge [named in honor of Dr. King] is and it would be an extension.”
Mrs. Moore said the street renaming committee has been meeting every Thursday at the Hamilton Building, and will continue to do so until its April 1 deadline. The committee will then make its formal recommendation to Mayor Finkbeiner, who appointed them.
Several members of the NAACP voiced strong support for renaming Collingwood and said they will support Mrs. Moore's efforts.
“This has become more than naming a street at this point,” Mrs. Moore said. “It has become about the community. We want to bridge the community.”
Willie Ward, a member of the city's board of community relations who attended the meeting, said he felt the comments and letters against renaming the street should spark a nerve among African-Americans in the city.
“If we don't stand up now, we're always going to be walked on and kicked around,” Mr. Ward said. “If you don't stand up now, you need to get out of the way. This is a fight we have to stand up for. This is something that could make Toledo a better place.”
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