Written by Melissa Burden
Friday, 26 September 2008 09:24
What park is the oldest park in Toledo? Some may believe that it is City Park, now known as Savage Park, but they would be mistaken. City Park, was given to Toledo by the Lenk brewing family in 1871 but the small, unassuming triangular Prentice Park, in east Toledo, predates that park by 13 years, according to local historian and author Larry Michaels.
The triangular, neighborhood park was named for Fredrick Prentice, the first American child born in what would become downtown Toledo in 1822, Michaels said adding that his father, Joseph Prentice, died in a horse accident a few years earlier.
“From humble beginnings, Mr. Prentice made a fortune in real estate and oil investments during the 19th century,” Michaels said. “Eventually he moved to New York City where he lived in luxury.”
According to Michaels, when the east side became part of Toledo in the early 1850’s, there were only a few main roads and platted streets along the Maumee River in the Front St. and Euclid area and the neighborhood between Oak and Fassett Streets.
Soon after, another very old section of the east side known as the “William Plat” was laid out extending from Navarre Avenue to Nevada Street, with the old Woodville Plank Road running diagonally through it, Michaels explained.
“City real estate records show that on April 26th, 1858, William Williams, Charles Conaham and Fredrick Prentice granted a part of this land to be used for a ‘Village Green, Triangle Park,” Michaels said adding the park became known as Prentice Park.
Michaels, who is currently the pastor at Martin Luther Lutheran Church located near the park on Nevada, said he can remember hanging out and going to the park as a young boy.
“At different times, there was a basketball court and a gazebo where organized activities were held for neighborhood children,” Michaels reminisced. “The park is a neat thing. It is a neat little park. I went to St. Mark Lutheran Church, which is right near the park, growing up. They used to have a ball diamond there and we played there as little kids. The city used to pay for what they called a ‘playground leader’ there. The playground leaders would go into the parks in the summer and organize games and other activities in the parks for the kids. St. Mark used to hold picnics for the neighborhood kids there as well.”
The little neighborhood park has seen both good and not so good times, Michaels said. A few years ago, the city canvassed the residents of the neighborhood concerning problems at the park with kids playing basketball at all hours. According to Michaels, the basketball court was removed and replaced with new playground equipment.
“Under the leadership of city park landscaper, Steve Day, and nearby citizens, the park received new playground equipment, park signs, pathways and other improvements,” he said. “Today it remains a quiet area for children to play. It is surrounded by St. Mark, century old houses and brick streets, one of them named for Mr. Prentice.”
According to Holly Gusky, leader of BlockWatch 422B, the park received a sprucing up for its birthday in July. Members of her block watch group along with the Victorian Hilltop Coalition, the Toledo Family Health Center, Housing East Redevelopment and many neighbors, cleaned up Prentice Park.
“We received money from the city to buy paint and also got some paint donated from Lowe’s and Home Depot,” Gusky said. “We started by cutting all of the grass and trimming the edges as well as pulling the weeds from around the playground area.”
Several volunteers then painted the Gazebo, the picnic tables and the grills, Gusky said adding that graffiti on the park’s sign was also removed and the sign restored.
“This is the oldest park in Toledo and it happens to be in East Toledo,” Gusky said. “We need to take care of it and be proud of it.”