Washington Twp. tries to incorporate

Washington Twp. in 1875 with today’s major street names superimposed.

This is another what-might-have-been story, as once upon a time, Lucas County’s Washington Township stretched from Maumee Bay to Talmadge Road. Maybe thirty square miles.

As the City of Toledo grew in population, it was natural for city dwellers to spread out in the surrounding township among the farms and build subdivisions, and Washington Twp. is where present-day West Toledo basically grew up. Kenwood, Old Orchard, The Colony, Westgate, the Franklin Park Mall, Ottawa Park, The University of Toledo? All in former Washington Township.

As the township populated and its tax base grew, there were only four possible fates for Washington Township: become its own city/village, break off into smaller cities/villages, stay a township or be annexed by the City of Toledo. Obviously, we know what happened for the most part. Toledo annexed most of it, leaving two parts of Lucas County still existing as Washington Township.

Fun fact: I say “city\village” because in Ohio, municipalities under 5,000 population are “Villages.” Above 5,000, they’re “Cities.” An amusing anomaly to this exists outside Cincinnati in a place called Indian Hill, which, if you’ve never seen it, is like Ottawa Hills on steroids. Peter Frampton lived there once. It was known as The Village of Indian Hill until its population exceeded 5,000, which made it a city under Ohio law. So they changed the place’s name from “Indian Hill” to “The Village of Indian Hill,” so legally it is “The City of The Village of Indian Hill.” Got that? Good.

From Google Maps, Washington Township today: Alexis Addition (a combination of mobile homes and houses) and Shoreland.

But it isn’t like they didn’t try. Residents of the township, attempting to find some sort of direction, had seven votes on the issue between 1947 and 1961 – either regarding annexation to Toledo or incorporation. All failed.

The corner of Secor and Monroe in Washington Twp., circa 1965. Crude, huh? I have no idea which street is which or what direction we’re facing; I just can’t tell. Courtesy of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, obtained from http://images2.toledolibrary.org/.”

Especially significant was a 1958 election to create the Village of Greenwood.

Greenwood was an attempt to create a village from about half the township and one-quarter of the township’s population and – most importantly – all of the township’s industrial base, including General Mills, the Chevrolet transmission plant, Toledo Scale, AP Parts, Doehler-Jarvis and DuPont, among many others.

A map of the proposed Village of Greenwood from The Blade of June 29, 1958.

It came after a May, 1958 referendum where voters in Washington Township voted down annexation to the city. According to The Blade, the move came after residents learned Toledo planned to file two annexation petitions covering two township industrial areas.

Ad ad against incorporation from The Blade of June 22, 1958. Click here to see it.

Most election watchers, The Blade noted in a post-election editorial, expected the Village of Greenwood to be born that night in 1958. The population of the proposed Greenwood would have been about 8,500. But it didn’t: the issue failed by a 3-2 margin, 1,386 to 970, with almost two-thirds of eligible voters casting ballots. It was the sixth vote on incorporation or annexation since 1947 in the township.

By the mid-1960s, Washington Township was annexed bit by bit – petitioners would come forward to the county commissioners and they would obviously approve – until Toledo swallowed it up almost entirely. An attempt to create the Village of Trilby out of a 3.8-square mile area of the northwest corner of the township failed in 1960. And Trilby, the area around Secor and Alexis that, as Blade reporter John Grigsby wrote the day before it became part of the city, was “a town that never was and now never will be,” passed into the hands of the City of Toledo at 7 a.m. on Jan. 25, 1965 when the Whitmer area annexation became official.

But Trilby was definitely a place. It had its own fire department (which fought a $500,000 fire at the Miracle Mile W.T. Grant store on Jan. 25, 1958) and the place name still lives on in churches and businesses like the Trilby Old Tyme Hall even as places like Trilby Elementary School, built in 1917, fade away (it closed in 2010).

Then there was this little anecdote from Seymour Rothman in his “I’ve Heard” column from Sept. 3, 1980:

In 1927 Eldon LaFollette, a carpenter, built a house for himself on Murnen Road in Trilby and then participated in the organization of a volunteer fire department to keep it from burning down.

From the Washington Township Fire Department’s Facebook page.

He served in the department for 37 years, 23 of them as chief, and retired in 1964 after a valiant but vain effort to prevent the city of Toledo from annexing that part of Washington Township that included the Trilby area.

The chief, who turned 80 today (Sept. 3, 1980), and his wife still live in the house he built 53 years ago, and despite the fact that it was annexed in 1965 by the city, still maintains that his house is in Trilby.

The chief had some measure of revenge six years after the Trilby department disbanded. The volunteers and their wives gathered for a reunion in an Alexis Road hall. Suddenly the place was filled with smoke. Grease on the grill had set fire to a filter on the exhaust fan. The Toledo Fire Department responded to the alarm, and worked on the blaze as the Trilby volunteers cheered them on.

What made it even more satisfying was that leading the race from No. 18 to the fire was a fire engine that belonged to the Trilby department before Toledo took over.

There was also a November, 1966 vote on annexation of the entire unincorporated area to the City of Toledo but if failed, 190-461. That’s literally all the information I can find on it since The Blade was in the midst of a 153-day strike that lasted from Oct. 24, 1966 to March 27, 1967. Bet that cut into the profits.

Finally, if you’re wondering where the big push to join the city come from, it came from the city itself.

One example is this full-page ad in The Blade of October 6, 1959. The ad touted all sorts of benefits for township residents, including economic benefits for the area as a whole, that residents could keep their township school district (though why this didn’t happen in Adams Township is a mystery to me), water, zoning, professional police and fire protection, parks, trees, public health, etc.

“Annexation makes fundamental sense because it puts together governmentally what man has put together physically and economically,” the ad said. For more information, all people had to do was mail in a coupon.

Sylvania Township mostly resisted this annexation push. There is very little City of Toledo west of Talmadge Rd. Washington and Adams township, not so much.

Had Washington Township incorporated, it would probably be a significant Ohio suburb today. It’s impossible (for me, anyway, since I can’t find a decent website to do the calculations) to tell what it’s population would be today, but this real estate website puts the population of the Washington Local School District at 58,268. When you take into consideration that a lot of the district’s base was eaten up by the Toledo Public Schools, a reasonable guess at the current population of the former township might be 70-80,000. Today, there are 3,600 residents in Washington Township, and the Washington Local School District exists because there is still a Washington Township. Adams Township, which built Rogers High School, does not have its own school district as Adams Township ceased to exist (as part of Ohio’s “sudden death” law regarding school districts). As for Adams Township, to the south and west, it wrestled with the same issues and eventually lost entirely. We’ll save that story for another time.

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