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Published: Thursday, 10/25/2007

Cemetery building is being razed in Ottawa Hills

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Spanish Colonial Revival-style structure at Ottawa Hills Memorial Park was used as the administration building until 1992. Preservationists are dismayed by its demolition, but because it is not officially designated a historic structure, public notice was not required. The building dates to 1936, when the cemetery opened. Cemetery building is being razed The Spanish Colonial Revival-style structure at Ottawa Hills Memorial Park was used as the administration building until 1992. Preservationists are dismayed by its demolition, but because it is not officially designated a historic structure, public notice was not required. The building dates to 1936, when the cemetery opened. Cemetery building is being razed
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After dodging the wrecking ball 12 years ago, the white brick and Spanish tile building that has stood guard over Ottawa Hills Memorial Park in Toledo since the 1930s is being razed to make way for a mausoleum.

Demolition work began Monday and is expected to finish tomorrow, said Florencia Parada, a spokesman for Dignity Memorial, a North American network of cemetery and funeral service providers that operates Ottawa Hills Memorial Park.

Both the cemetery and Dignity Memorial are owned by Service Corp. International of Houston.

The Spanish Colonial Revival-style structure was used as the cemetery's administration building until 1992. It dates to 1936, when the cemetery opened.

The building is being razed because of physical deterioration, Ms. Parada said.

Once the building is gone, the cemetery plans to expand its grounds and construct a new mausoleum along with "other projects," she said, but could not immediately elaborate.

Jim Szakovits, the cemetery's general manager who applied for the demolition permit, referred all comment to Service Corp. International's corporate office. "We're obviously in the process of taking down a very old building," Mr. Szakovits said.

The demolition appeared to be moving along yesterday. A backhoe rummaged around a pile of bricks that was once the building's west wing. Contractors pitched slabs of wood into dumpsters as traffic whizzed by along nearby West Central Avenue, near Talmadge Road.

But if only for a few more days, the white brick lookout tower remained intact.

Toledo's division of building inspection issued the cemetery a $100 demolition permit Sept. 17. The building is not officially designated a historic structure, and the owner didn't have to give public notice of its demolition.

Plans by the cemetery's previous owner in 1993 to raze the building and construct a $1.5 million mortuary/funeral home drew strong condemnation from neighbors, historical preservationists, and the adjacent village of Ottawa Hills.

The owner, Gibraltar Mausoleum Corp., was looking to replace the structure with a $1.5 million mortuary/funeral home.

Demolition opponents cited drainage and increased traffic concerns, along with the potential loss of a significant architectural asset. One of several editorials in The Blade called the demolition proposal "tantamount to the most egregious architectural vandalism."

Indeed, two years after Ottawa Hills Memorial Park opened, a newspaper ad boasted that "the Administration Building, of Spanish-type architecture, is said to be one of the most beautiful Administration Buildings of any cemetery in America."

The architect was Willfred D. Holtzman, Jr., who in 1939 moved from Little Rock to Toledo to design and supervise construction of the convent mother house of the Sisters of St. Francis in Sylvania.

While the Toledo plan commission initially approved Gibraltar Mausoleum's plans with certain conditions, Toledo City Council rejected the permit by a 6-1 vote in 1993.

Gibraltar Mausoleum went to court, claiming the city's decision was made improperly. The corporation eventually dropped its demolition effort after a 1995 Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals decision that would have sent the demolition and building plan back for a new round of hearings before the city.

Irene Martin, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Northwestern Ohio, was surprised yesterday to learn of the building's razing.

"We're very upset. We didn't know it would be coming down," she said. "It's one of the best examples on a small scale of Spanish architecture. We thought the building was safe for awhile and that we would have some notice before it was torn down."

Contact JC Reindl at: jreindl@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.



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