Visiting Toledo was fun, because I had absolutely zero expectations. I basically knew nothing about the city, other than it has an amazing art museum, which is a must-see if you’re in town, and that is about it. As I began to research the city, which is in the extreme northwest of Ohio, I discovered that Toledo played a central role in the industrial development of America.
The glass industry sprang up due to the prohibitively expensive climate on the East Coast, and Edward Drummond Libbey came to Toledo for the low cost of doing business. Michael Owens became a business partner.
And of course, as the Twentieth Century dawned, a huge new industry to the north in Detroit began to require enormous amounts of glass for its automobiles. While Toledo is very much its own independent metropolitan area, the shipping cost to the Motor City were inexpensive, further developing the glass industry.
The company that Michael Owens gave his name to, Owens-Corning, further put Toledo on the map with the invention of fiberglass, which is really just long strands of glass bound together. To put it bluntly, huge amounts of money were soon flowing like molten glass into Toledo, and Libbey’s fortune helped create that amazing art museum I mentioned at the beginning, among other cultural institutions.
And of course, all that money needed banks, such as the Ohio Savings Bank and Trust, which built this nice Art-Deco skyscraper in downtown Toledo.
Dating from 1930, it also at one point held the offices of the Owens glass company until the 1980s.
Cities such as Toledo, which is obviously not the huge producer of glass that it once was, raise interesting and uncomfortable questions. It has the bones to be a much larger and prosperous city, but the powers-that-be in America ignore it. I can only imagine how an infusion of a couple hundred thousand people could make Toledo explode with life (and yes, higher cost of living), but every day of my life I read the national news about how many homeless people (who were once middle class) are in California and other exorbitantly expensive states, and think, why don’t we just move them to cheaper states? I see “help wanted” signs everywhere in low cost of living states, and yet Corporate America piles everyone into five to ten states. So stupid.