For over 100 years, Ironville was a thriving community situated at the far end of Front Street in East Toledo along the Maumee River. Its beginnings date back to before the Civil War.
It was originally platted as a village in Manhattan Township, becoming part of Toledo in 1872. Today, most of its streets, including 220 residential and commercial structures, are gone with little evidence remaining that it once existed. Up to 1,000 residents lived there during its heyday.
All of the buildings were torn down as part of an urban renewal project in the 1960s to make room for the port of Toledo.
|Wedding Day 1915. Harvey Hartfordand Ameda Sampsel photo
taken infront of Edward Sampsel's home on Lee St., Ironville.
(Courtesy of Ron Mauter)
|Trolley crash posted on the Ironville Facebook page. (Courtesy
of Carol Sue Huff)
|In Ironville, a Sohio delivery truck. Lee Joe Jones believes it's
at Tiegans Gas Station, previously owned by his grandfather.
(Courtesy of Sandra Smith Belkofer)
Historian and Ironville native Ron Mauter was 17-years-old when his family had to move. He has an aerial photo in his Ironville scrapbook dating from when the demolition was completed in 1966. You can see the street grid, but no homes or commercial buildings.
In the caption below the photo, Mauter wrote, “…after the bomb was detonated and the smoke cleared!”
“Ironville was very close to the Toledo Overseas Terminal, which is the port of Toledo docks down there. The docks were put in right around 1960,” Mauter said. “The thought of Ironville being turned into commercial use was primarily because of the docks. It was so close to it, they were talking about spurring employment and thought it would be a nice shot in the arm for the docks — they had something that close. So, it was pursued.
“It took quite awhile for urban renewal to accomplish what they set out to do, but by 1966 it was all done pretty much. All the houses were bought, all were demolished, and the residents kind of went in every direction. For several years, they had a reunion once a year. This kind of came to an end because the people who were putting it on were getting older.”
If you travel down Millard Avenue today, you see virtually nothing but fields and industry. At one time, Millard was a popular commercial throughway for this thriving community.
Mauter, now a 64-year-old author and president of East Toledo Historical Society, says Ironville had a bank, three grocery stores, three churches, its own public school, a couple taverns, access to a Front Street bus line, and residents often gathered at a large gazebo that was relocated there from the once popular nearby Presque Isle Amusement Park.
However, it was the heavy industry located there that gave it is name, including coking plants and iron mills.
You’re from Ironville when…
In September of 2011, Ironville native Randy Basham, a retired Jeep Assembly Plant worker who still lives in East Toledo, set up an Ironville page on Facebook (type “You know your from Ironville when…”). The website has taken off.
“It’s been since 1965 since urban renewal came through the Ironville area. They took everybody’s home and took this all out, so I thought, ‘Well, you know Facebook is a good way to get ahold of people. Maybe if I come up with this website on Ironville, maybe I’ll be able to contact some of the other older folks who grew up there,” Basham said.
“About six weeks ago it really started taking off, and then bang, we added about 75 members over the last five weeks and it’s still going good,” Basham continued. “We’ve got so many old pictures that go back to, like 1868, and forward. A lot of people are posting pictures that they’ve had laying around or their aunts and uncles that lived there, and they are putting them on there and it’s really great to see all the old pictures.”
Last week, there were 115 members and 358 photos on the Facebook site. People from Florida, Nevada, Florida, throughout the Midwest, and upstate New York are showing up with stories from when they or a relative lived there.
“Some of them never lived there, they are descendants, but they’ve all heard the stories. So, it got their curiosity. Even these younger people — they are enjoying it. It’s like a cyber-reunion, let’s call it,” Mauter said.
“It’s because a lot of people who grew up there are my age — 60, 65, and 70 now. They grew up there — or, their parents, or their aunts and uncles, grandfathers, and great uncles. When they came to Toledo, that’s where they went, was to Ironville.
“A lot of these people, whether they still be in town here or out of town, have photos and they have their own memories. So, what we are doing is we are kicking around the photos and stories, and believe it or not, some of the stories the other people really heard of. So, it’s an exchange of information 50 years later,” Mauter continued.
Ironville’s heritage is a story unto itself, said Mauter. It was separated by another community, Birmingham, by industry and another neighborhood called Swayentown.
“The website itself is unique, but Ironville is even more unique,” Mauter said. “Ironville was separated on three sides (by water and industry). So, we kind of learned to live within ourselves. A lot of it was people that were related and even people that weren’t related being so close to each other. They‘d look out for each other and they were friends. It was close-knit, as far as the people.
“Most of the beginnings of Ironville were German and French people. Hungarians came later, mostly up in Birmingham, and that took place about 1900. Birmingham, England was very industrial, too, and that’s how it got its name. There was a rolling mill that was there, and that needed quite a few employees, so a lot of them came from the old world to here for the jobs.
“Ironville kind of started on the same note, only a little earlier. There was an outfit called the Manhattan Iron Company that built here, right on the river, at Millard Avenue, and they required quite a few employees. So, that spawned the start of a neighborhood. The neighborhood just kept going even way beyond the time the iron mill was there.
“Ironville actually would have gotten much larger than it did, but it kept being bought up by neighboring industries. At one time, Ironville had almost double the amount of streets it had when they tore it down. At the time when there was double the amount of streets, the industries nearby kept expanding. They’d take a hole here, a hole there, and first thing you know Ironville was only about half the size it was plotted out to be as far as streets and all that. So, there were quite a few paper streets down there. It tried to expand, but it wasn’t allowed to because of industry.”