Thursday, Oct 20, 2016
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Police memorabilia looking for a museum


Sgt. Karen Sue Martensen, president of the police museum board, and her husband, retired Toledo police Detective Gene Fodor, check on the trailer where artifacts are stored. Sergeant Martensen and officers like her have gathered the items over the years because they value the department's rich history.


A locked trailer at a North Toledo tow lot is home to years' worth of Toledo police memorabilia.

Sgt. Karen Sue Martensen thought the artifacts of Toledo law enforcement would finally find a permanent home in a building at the Toledo Firefighters Museum in West Toledo after the fire museum board offered it the space last year.

But a decision by the museum board to use the structure for storage and a workshop means the mementos will stay in the trailer a while longer.

"We were looking forward to offering both [museums] at one location. To have all those ideas evaporate, I'm real disappointed," said Sergeant Martensen, police museum board president.

But the idea of a permanent home isn't dead.

The sergeant said she has called the city, explained the situation, and asked if it might have or know of properties the police museum could use.

Sergeant Martensen was told there were a few locations, but the city doesn't know if they would meet the museum's needs.

Bob Schwanzl, president of the fire museum board, said his group can't fund the police museum and "we can't just sit there and wait."

He said there is room at the Sylvania Avenue complex and maybe one day the two museums can be at the same site.

"For the time being, nothing's happening, and we're moving forward with that part of the project," Mr. Schwanzl said.

"If some day, they decide they're going to have some funding, we'll look at our options and we may go back into discussions."

Mr. Schwanzl said the fire museum in the former Fire Station 18 needs the storage space.

It just bought another old pumper that was used in Toledo, and it hopes to use it as a parade vehicle.

Last spring, the fire museum bought four adjacent lots containing two houses and other buildings. It razed one of the structures.

Sergeant Martensen and Mr. Schwanzl talked about the fire museum leasing or subleasing one of the buildings - which housed a plumbing business - for the police museum.

The majority of money used to buy the parcels came from voluntary payroll deductions from firefighters the last few years.

Some of the firefighters' money also went toward the purchase and restoration of an early 1880s vintage firefighting steamer.

Sergeant Martensen said she wanted to see if police officers would be interested in donating a portion of their pay for a police museum. She said she hasn't approached them yet because she is completing the group's paperwork.

Since 1994, police memorabilia - such as a 1948 paddy wagon, two motorcycles, and mannequins wearing old uniforms - have had no permanent spot.

Before the trailer - which is owned by a police museum board member, who is a former officer - the items were stored in a small room at the Fraternal Order of Police hall in South Toledo.

Last year, the FOP needed the space for a charter school and asked the police historical items be moved.

The police museum also houses other items, such as display cases, in the basement of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association hall near downtown.

Contact Christina Hall at: or 419-724-6007.

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