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Published: Tuesday, 6/25/2002

Future of Jeep House museum is questionable

Building on Jeep Parkway holds vehicle collection, other auto memorabilia. Building on Jeep Parkway holds vehicle collection, other auto memorabilia.

The Jeep Parkway home for a collection of vehicles and memorabilia spanning about 100 years is in doubt as DaimlerChrysler AG officials evaluate the future of Jeep House and its volunteer curator starts returning loaned toys, photos, and other items.

Curator Ron Szymanski, a retired Toledo Jeep Assembly worker and local Jeep historian, said he was notified last week of plans to demolish Jeep House, built in 1913 as an office building for the former Mather Spring Co. He inferred that officials decided to level Jeep House because it could become a target for vandals because surrounding factory buildings have been torn down.

Mr. Szymanski said yesterday he is to meet with Chrysler officials next week.

Jeep House holds some of Toledo Jeep Assembly's collection of a dozen vehicles, including a 1905 Overland Roundabout, and other items from the city's vehicle-making history. Plus, Jeep House has a water fountain encased in a terrazzo wall and decorative banisters from the former Willys-Overland Motors, Inc., administrative building.

"I was told it's got to be cleaned out by [the end of] next month," Mr. Szymanski said.

Chrysler spokesman Michele Tinson said yesterday a final decision hasn't been made about razing Jeep House.

Officials are considering its demolition and evaluating where the permanent collections could be stored, she said.

After production of the 18-year-old Jeep Cherokee ended last year, Chrysler began demolishing about a third of Jeep Parkway, the nation's longest-running auto factory. Jeep Wranglers continue to be built and painted in remaining portions of Jeep Parkway before being shipped to a Stickney Avenue factory adjoining Toledo North Assembly factory, where the Cherokee's successor, the Jeep Liberty, is made.

Chrysler officials continue to evaluate whether the automaker or someone else could use the vacated property after demolition crews finish removing rubble this year, said spokesman Kathy Graham.

Mr. Szymanski also was notified that a Jeep Parkway building dating from 1913, used as a truck garage, was added to Chrysler's demolition list.

He said he does not know where Jeep House's contents will be moved. Some vehicles in the collection already are stored elsewhere, including at Toledo North.

A group of local community members have been trying to get a Jeep museum established in Toledo, but those efforts appear to have stalled in recent months.

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