If Owens-Illinois Inc. decides to move its headquarters when its lease at One SeaGate expires in September, 2006, the 102-year-old glassmaker would be settling in to its sixth location.
The first five sites for offices of Toledo's second-largest corporation - and the world's largest glass-container maker - have some things in common.
All were in new or relatively new buildings. For the most part, they were in the finest office quarters Toledo had to offer at the time. All are still standing. And four of the five are in a tight grouping, within a golf shot of each other, in downtown Toledo.
Whether downtown Toledo remains the headquarters location is up in the air. O-I's new chairman and chief executive officer, Steven McCracken, said recently the Fortune 500 firm is considering a number of options, including its current facilities in part of the 32-story One SeaGate building; elsewhere in this area, including O-I's Levis Development Park, which still has about 150 acres to be developed; and outside this region.
In September, 1903, the Owens Bottle Machine Co., O-I's predecessor, began selling automated bottle-making machinery perfected by Michael J. Owens.
Its choice of headquarters location was a natural one, offices in the Spitzer Building at Madison Avenue and Huron Street downtown, billed as Toledo's first "skyscraper" at 10 stories high. The Spitzer, completed in 1896, was a commercial hub, and an added attraction was the Toledo Stock Exchange, formed just five months before the Owens firm.
But in 1906, a more modern building opened across the street. It was the 17-story Nicholas Building, tallest in Ohio at the time. It was a big lure for the budding Owens firm, which moved there in 1908. Years later, the Nicholas building was renamed the National Bank Building and is now known as Fifth Third Center.
The Owens company prospered. By 1916, the New York Stock exchange listed its shares, and by 1919 it was called Owens Bottle Co.
Owens remained in the Nicholas Building 20 years. In 1928, the company moved to its new headquarters at 965 Wall St., next to the first Owens Bottle factory. Wall is a short industrial street off Detroit Avenue midway between Monroe Street and Central Avenue.
A 1929 event created a glass giant: Owens Bottle merged with Illinois Glass Co., of Alton, Ill., and the headquarters of the new Owens-Illinois Glass Co. remained in Toledo.
Although the Depression ruined many companies, including banks, it created opportunities for O-I.
Within a few years after the merger, the bottle business was booming, thanks largely the repeal of Prohibition, and O-I steadily bought out less fortunate glass companies. By 1935, O-I had 600 executives and office workers.
The Depression created another bit of serendipity for O-I - readily available, attractive space in the 29-story Ohio Bank Building at Madison Avenue and St. Clair Street. Ohio Savings Bank & Trust Co., which owned the building, failed, and at one point the 368-foot structure (tallest in Ohio at the time) was half vacant.
In mid-1935, O-I leased seven floors. Soon, it was the main tenant, and in 1945 it acquired the structure and added the lighted O-I atop the building a decade later.
O-I's former headquarters on Wall Street were Toledo's relief offices late in the Depression. From 1939 to 1976, the building was an Ohio National Guard armory, and in the 1980s it was the city's fire department engine-repair garage. In recent years, it has been used as a warehouse by a private business.
During the 46 years O-I occupied the building at Madison and St. Clair, the firm became a multinational manufacturer and was chosen as one of the prestigious 30 companies on the Dow Jones industrial average. O-I moved out in 1981, and the structure is now known as the National City Bank Building.
O-I had grown tremendously by the 1970s, and it was a multibillion-dollar firm looking for a new headquarters.
Its options included building next to its existing headquarters, building on its Perrysburg land, or moving to swank quarters in a city like Atlanta.O-I chose to build a 32-story, $100 million steel-and-glass skyscraper along the Maumee riverfront.
It was called One SeaGate but was also known as the O-I World Headquarters, largely at the urging of the late Edwin D. Dodd, longtime CEO and a champion of downtown Toledo. O-I relocated 2,000 employees into the building.
But after a takeover, downsizing, going public again, and selling off most operations except glass containers, O-I has fewer than 350 left at One SeaGate, compared with nearly 600 at the Perrysburg business park.
Contact Homer Brickey at: