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Monday Memories


A fiery farewell to Tiedtke’s Department Store


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For one final time, the Tiedtke’s Department Store drew thousands to downtown Toledo. On May 7, 1975, the store known for its first-floor supermarket and carnival-type atmosphere went up in flames, drawing crowds to witness the spectacle. This photo was taken by Blade photographer Don Simmons.

The blaze caused billowing smoke that could be seen for miles. The inferno raged for more than five hours, and injured six of the 100 firemen who responded to the fire at the corner of Summit and Adams streets. The flames jumped Adams Street and caused significant damage to Home Furnishing Company across the street. That building’s roof collapsed. Ten pumper trucks, seven ladder trucks, a rescue squad and a life squad were dispatched to handle the huge fire. Fifty-five off-duty firemen were called in, and 35 policemen were needed to handle crowd and traffic control.

Four employees of International Demolition & Salvage, Inc. from Nashville, Tennessee, were the first to spot the fire. The firm had been awarded the contract to take down the building, and had completed about 10 percent of the work. The employees were moving demolition equipment when they noticed smoke coming from the fourth floor. Because of the fierceness of the fire, there was not much left to salvage, and damage estimates were placed at about $100,000. The furniture store owners said their damages would run into the several hundred thousand dollar range.

The intensity of the fire made a specific cause impossible to determine, but initial reports called the fire suspicious.

The Tiedtke’s name became part of downtown Toledo in 1894 with a grocery store that offered delivery service to customers. In 1910, Tiedtke’s expanded, and opened the store at the corner of Summit and Adams. The first floor was devoted to a wide selection of fresh meat, fresh fish, produce, candy, spices, and tobacco. The upper floors showcased house wares, toys, clothing, and shoes. The scent of fresh ground coffee filled the air, along with popcorn, baked goods, freshly ground peanut butter, and fresh flowers. Shoppers were greeted with organ music, 2-ton cheese wheels at Christmas time, and terrific customer service.

Tiedtke’s fell on hard times following a change to corporate ownership, a shift in what was sold at the store, and a loss of population in the downtown area. The store closed in 1973.

Go to​Memories to purchase photos by our award-winning staff of photographers, past and present.

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