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Published: Thursday, 8/15/2002

Downtown tours target delights of architecture

BY ERIKA FRICKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Look up.

That's the message from Discover Downtown Toledo tour guides, volunteers schooled in local architecture and history, who lead lunch-hour tours around the historic buildings dotting the downtown.

Looking around instead of just straight ahead is the trick to truly appreciating the area, they said.

“There's so many interesting details to see, it would start you questioning, `Where did this come from? Why did they put it there?'” said Lillian Spaulding, who leads the yearly tour of the courthouse.

“You would see beauty you had not seen before.”

The Discover Downtown Toledo Thursday tours expose audiences to the architectural intricacies of the city's downtown.

The tours, which began last month, run every Thursday through September, beginning at 12:15 and lasting about a half hour. Featured sites include government buildings, the Erie Street Market, the waterfront along the Maumee River, and financial buildings.

“I think we try to point out new things,” said Irene Martin, reference librarian, who helps organize the tours. “We try to look out for what's going on.”

When buildings are torn down or refurbished, crowds show up to see the old and the new, she said. Some of the most popular tours in recently are the Valentine Theatre and Fifth Third Field, the new home of the Mud Hens, guides said.

The Toledo Public Library and University of Toledo Urban Affairs Center co-sponsor the event, which began in the early 1980s with Junior League volunteers and individuals involved with landmark preservation, Ms. Martin said.

“It was a group that was interested in having people appreciate the grand buildings that we have,” she said.

Every couple of years, the public library offers a course in local history and architecture. Tour guides are recruited from those who attend the course.

About 16 volunteers guide people through the downtown, pointing out design treasures, like the frogs in the fa ade of the courthouse.

The tours change each year because a different guide might offer a new perspective on the building, organizers said.

The tours cater to the lunch-hour business crowd, those who might pass buildings every day without noticing the elaborate cornices above their heads, Ms. Martin said.

However, many of the 10 to 25 people who show up for each tour come downtown to remember a Toledo from years ago, guides said.

Mrs. Spaulding said people often tell stories about riding the street cars through a central city where people lived, worked, and shopped.

She arrived in Toledo from Tuskegee, Ala., and never got to see a thriving inner city, so she said she appreciates the city's resurgence.

“When I go down, it's always refreshing to compare today's downtown with yesterday's” downtown, she said. “It's sleek, it's clean, but they have enough of the past that you can appreciate it.”

“We can appreciate our future a lot more I think if we know our past,” she said. “These tours kind of open a window onto the past.”

Here's the tour schedule:

Today: Heart of the Valentine (meet at the corner of Adams and Superior streets).

Aug. 22: Walk to the Water (meet at the Webstrand Building, at the corner of Jackson and Summit streets).

Aug. 29: Swan Creek and the Oliver House (meet at the plaza entrance to Maumee Bay Brewing Co.).

Sept. 5: Library Square (meet at the Madison Avenue library entrance).

Sept. 12: Play Ball (meet at Monroe and Huron streets near Fifth Third Field).

Sept. 19: Jefferson Avenue (meet at the corner of Jefferson and Superior streets).

Sept. 26: Erie Street Market (meet at the Erie Street lobby entrance to the market).



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