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Published: 6/1/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Sylvania photo book invites a sentimental journey

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Sam Melden of Vintage Aerial, a company that works to sustain the history of rural America, works on 'Vintage Sylvania.' Sam Melden of Vintage Aerial, a company that works to sustain the history of rural America, works on 'Vintage Sylvania.'
THE BLADE/LISA DUTTON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

It's not a history of Sylvania, although there's a lot of history in it.

It's not a coffee table book, although it contains more pictures than words.

The staff at Perrysburg-based Vintage Aerial say the company's first book, Vintage Sylvania, will be a sentimental journey of sorts for anyone who lived or lives in the Sylvania area, who appreciates local history, and who might have fond memories of the places depicted in its pages.

Published in partnership with the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library with financial support from Lourdes College, the book is to be introduced at a launch party from 6 to 8 p.m. June 9 at the Sylvania Branch Library, 6749 Monroe St.

"We think of it as the kind of book that people actively engage with. Open it up, look at a photo of say Olander Park in 1980, and remember being in Olander Park when you were on a high school trip," explained Fritz Byers, president and chief executive officer of Vintage Aerial, a company that works to sustain the history of rural America through photo preservation.

"There's virtually no text, and that's by design," Mr. Byers added. "The introduction of the book says this isn't an effort to be the definitive history of Sylvania or a comprehensive narrative of Sylvania's changes. It's really an invitation to the community to engage with our collection.

"It's the first step in what we intend to be a community conversation to create and preserve the history of Sylvania through a combination of photographs and oral histories."

Those who view photos in the book -- or in Vintage Aerial's massive collection -- are invited to access familiar photos on the company's Web site, vintageaerial.com, and share their memories or what they know of the property's history via e-mail.

While the book is just shy of 100 pages, the company has some 25 million photographs from 41 states in its collection. The bulk of them come from Toledo-based State Aerial Farm Statistics Inc., through an exclusive licensing agreement.

Photos from Lucas County and much of northwest Ohio were among the first images that were transferred from film to digital images, said Paul Clark, vice president and chief operating officer of Vintage Aerial.

All are black-and-white images that capture a particular place at a particular moment in time.

"It's not an artistic photograph; it's a memory photograph," Mr. Clark said. "It's the junk car behind the tree in the back. You don't want to airbrush that out because that has the stories. 'Remember Mom used to always yell at Dad about that darn car.' 'We used to take that out to California' or whatever. That's what's amazing about the photographs. It's not the barn in front, it's the little details."

Vintage Sylvania contains historic images of Main Street and the local limestone quarry, aerial shots of notable homes, businesses, and churches as well as familiar locales such as Lourdes College and the Highland Meadows Golf Course dating back several decades. Helene Sheets, director of college relations at Lourdes, said the college sponsored the book because of its value to the community.

"We were looking at it from the historical perspective and the tools and resources it provides to our region as far as it allows people to learn about their history and opens up dialogue for oral and first-person accounts," she said.

In the Toledo area, the library and Vintage Aerial plan to publish a similar book looking at Waterville yet this summer. A third book is percolating that may focus on Point Place, Mr. Byers said.

"The Vintage Communities Book Series in the greater Toledo area is a joint project with the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, but when you have 25 million photographs over virtually the entire continental United States, it's a concept that we intend to pursue with communities all across America," he said.

Vintage Sylvania, which retails for $19.95, will be sold on Vintage Aerial's Web site, at Toledo-Lucas County library branches, and at some locally owned businesses and organizations in Sylvania. Profits from the sale of the books will be used to develop other books in the Vintage Communities series. Proceeds from the sales of historic photos provided by the library will benefit the Library Legacy Foundation.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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