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Published: Monday, 6/9/2008

Cruise opens eyes to Toledo's history

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Taking in the sights during a two-hour tour of Toledo from a
different vantage point   the Maumee River   are, from left,
Lee and Betty Kreuz of Swanton, Brenda Haag of Toledo, and
Don Hutzel of Tiffi n.
Taking in the sights during a two-hour tour of Toledo from a different vantage point the Maumee River are, from left, Lee and Betty Kreuz of Swanton, Brenda Haag of Toledo, and Don Hutzel of Tiffi n.
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While landlubbers sweated out yesterday's sultry afternoon, members of a local touring group enjoyed a steady, cooling, nautical breeze as they cruised the Maumee River and its scenes of Toledo's past, present, and future.

The two-hour cruise started and finished at the Jefferson Street Dock in Promenade Park downtown. It first headed northeast at a leisurely 4 knots toward the Veterans' Glass City Skyway, before later turning around and making a loop.

In addition to a two-person crew, 27 passengers were aboard the Sandpiper for the $18-a-head trip, one of four such outings being sponsored this summer by the Maumee Valley Heritage Corridor.

Local historian Fred Folger narrated most of the tour, with help from Sarah Penner, program manager with Dillin Corp. She gave a history and an update on the proposed Marina District project in East Toledo that is to take shape on the site of the decommissioned Acme power plant that rose impressively from the weed-covered riverbank.

Sitting in the Sandpiper on a cruise of the Maumee River, Brenda Haag of Toledo views boats past and present: the Willis B. Boyer museum ship in the background and a modern vessel passing by in front of it.
Sitting in the Sandpiper on a cruise of the Maumee River, Brenda Haag of Toledo views boats past and present: the Willis B. Boyer museum ship in the background and a modern vessel passing by in front of it.
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Part of the multimillion-dollar residential and commercial project will sit on fill that had been trucked to the site to accommodate the construction of the Toledo Sports Arena. The arena was demolished last year and is now a pile of crushed concrete.

The majority of cruise-goers hailed from Toledo or surrounding communities, with some having lived in the area for decades. Nevertheless, by the trip's end even native Toledoans admitted that they had gained new knowledge about their hometown.

"I lived in Toledo my whole life, and I learned things I never imagined," said Janine Losek, 51, of the old south end.

Local historian Fred Folger uses a microphone so those on the two-hour tour of the Maumee River can hear him provide a narration of Toledo s past. Local historian Fred Folger uses a microphone so those on the two-hour tour of the Maumee River can hear him provide a narration of Toledo s past.
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The boat and its covered deck passed under every bridge from the Skyway to the I-75 span known as the Michael V. DiSalle Bridge, named for the former Toledo mayor and state governor.

Mr. Folger, a retired junior high social studies teacher, said the DiSalle bridge never received its planned dedication ceremony because it opened on Nov. 22, 1963, the day of President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

A stark contrast to its soaring high-level neighbor downstream, the Anthony Wayne Bridge, the DiSalle was criticized by some for its rather spartan design.

"But it's very practical, and it doesn't require a lot of maintenance," Mr. Folger said.

At that point in Toledo's history - six years after the demise of the notorious Fassett Street Bridge, a practical bridge was very much appreciated.

The Fassett Street Bridge was a rickety structure with a wooden plank roadway that opened in 1896 and spanned Walbridge and South avenues in South Toledo to the east side of the river.

From a seat aboard the Sandpiper, Lee Kreuz, foreground, and his wife, Betty, background, both of them from Swanton, take a glimpse of the Veteran s Glass City Skyway, one of the bridges discussed during the river tour. From a seat aboard the Sandpiper, Lee Kreuz, foreground, and his wife, Betty, background, both of them from Swanton, take a glimpse of the Veteran s Glass City Skyway, one of the bridges discussed during the river tour.
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The structure proved ill-suited for the automobile era, and suffered two major structural failures before a freighter, cut loose in a storm, hit the bridge, ending it.

The prevailing sentiment among motorists was good riddance, Mr. Folger said.

"That was a case of three strikes and you're out," he said.

With its compact canal-boat-inspired design, the Sandpiper passed easily between the water and each bridge deck, in contrast to giant lake freighters that require some of the bridges to be raised or pivoted.

The sun was still high in the sky and the air weighted with humidity as the Sandpiper slipped back to its dock. Cloud reflections simmered off the steel-and-glass prisms of downtown office buildings.

"Toledo has a fascinating and wonderful history," Mr. Folger said. "If you investigate it more, you'll like it."

Contact JC Reindl at: jreindl@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.



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