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Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said yesterday that city workers will rescue thousands of irreplaceable monument and burial records later this month from the basement of the old Lloyd Bros. Walker Co. building that is slated for demolition.
An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 of the monument company's paper records, many dating to the first half of the 20th century, are stored in the basement of the firm's abandoned headquarters at West Central and Auburn avenues in West Toledo, across from the entrance to Woodlawn Cemetery.
Because the records relate to headstone transactions, they could provide information about the lives of people born decades earlier in an era before many states recorded residents' vital statistics.
While making his announcement, Mr. Finkbeiner thanked genealogist Christine Zywocki for her "verve, tenacity, and determination" in drawing attention to the issue by her many calls to city hall and through rallying the media.
Prior to taking the podium, Mrs. Zywocki, 57, showed onlookers piles of old letters, headstone drawings, and receipts from the 1910s.
The papers came from the building's basement. Mrs. Zywocki carried them along with an old dusty ledger book into the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library on a plastic cart.
"These records are irreplaceable and they're from the whole country, they're not just from this area," she said. "They just need to be out there for everybody to see them."
Mrs. Zywocki began salvaging records from the basement in early March, racing against vandals who would later ransack the building by entering a doorway left open after the city bulldozed the structure's decrepit garage.
But before Mrs. Zywocki could finish, code enforcement officials boarded up the entrances and threatened to have her arrested for trespassing if she went back inside.
City crews will start removing the records June 26, said Kattie Bond, acting director of the Department of Neighborhoods. As protection against the moldy conditions in the basement, the workers will enter with face masks and gloves.
Mrs. Zywocki already secured the company's oldest records from 1892 through 1921, and they are stored at her house in Holland.
Some of those papers provide details into the lives of men and women born as early as the late 1700s.
The monument company building dates to 1892 and has been vacant for nearly four years. While often described as magnificent in its heyday, it is now on Mayor Finkbeiner's "Dirty Dozen" list of dangerous or unsightly properties.
Commissioner Christopher Young, of the department of neighborhoods, said the building is still slated for the wrecking ball, although no date has been set.
"I don't think the building is salvageable," he said. "It's just too far gone."
A lawsuit in Toledo Municipal Court filed by the city against the property owner, the Central Auburn Land Co., remains pending, officials said.
Once the records are removed, they will be taken to a library warehouse on Brown Avenue where they will be stored while mold and mildew is removed, Mr. Finkbeiner said.
The records then will be alphabetized and either put on microfilm or digitalized so the paperwork can be accessed online, said Michael Lora, manager of the library's local history and genealogy departments.
The work could take several years, he said.
"It's going to be a process that will take time, but it's going to be done correctly," Mr. Lora said.
The Lloyd Bros. Walker Co. is the second oldest business in Toledo next to The Blade.
The firm, which no longer owns the building at West Central and Auburn avenues, operates from a storefront at 3111 West Sylvania Ave.
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