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Visiting Toledo, Ohio: Reflecting the Glass City

Updated on October 24, 2020
State flag of Ohio
State flag of Ohio | Source
Evening reflections of Toledo, the Glass City
Evening reflections of Toledo, the Glass City | Source
Veterans' Glass City Skyway
Veterans' Glass City Skyway | Source
Plaque commemorating a battle site of the Toledo War
Plaque commemorating a battle site of the Toledo War | Source

Image of the Glass City, a mirror of a Midwestern psyche?

One reason why Toledo's nickname of 'Glass City' is particularly apt is not only on account of its glass making industry but also because, with glass as a leitmotiv, it expresses the repeated blurring of the image transition between river, estuary and Lake Erie, shimmering with the glass fronted buildings. This, indeed, is the strong, abiding image of Toledo which my memory retains.

The Toledo War

Glass-like images are not the only aspects of Toledo which provoke a sense of blurring. In the early to mid 19th Century, the question of just how far north Ohio extended in the vicinity of Toledo was left unsettled until after the series of events known as the Toledo War. In the run up to Michigan statehood in 1837, the border between Ohio and the former Michigan Territory was undefined along an area known as the Toledo Strip. The Toledo area thus became somewhat of a focal point for a territorial identity tension on the part of many Ohioans.

When it comes to boundaries to their territories, Ohio's and Michigan's past thus cause the idea of blurring to be an historical metaphor as well as a visual description of the Glass City by Lake Erie.

In places, Ohio's boundaries are very clear cut: whether at parts of the Ohio River or along the Erie Lakeshore, where Ohio begins and end is very obvious, geographically and historically. But Ohio's northern boundary with Michigan has thus historically been more problematic.

In fact, as compensation for 'losing' the Toledo Strip, the new State of Michigan in 1837 was awarded its northern peninsula, thus carved from what was then the Wisconsin Territory.

In any case, Ohio and Michigan are both quintessential Midwestern States, whereas some of Ohio's other neighbours have historically been identified with the South, so there is a sense in which, against the context of the wider history of the United States, past and now nearly forgotten disputes between Ohio and the former Michigan Territory about the Toledo Strip must surely be regarded as being of somewhat limited import, even though an historical curiosity; the words of William Wordsworth's 'The Solitary Reaper' do come to mind somewhat: "...far-off things, And battles long ago" (1)

While the United States is indeed vast, there is still a lot of history bound up in even rather small areas of territory, when it comes to how boundaries of some of the states emerged.

Attractions for visitors

Today, the estuary of the Maumee River, near Toledo, offers fine opportunities for birdwatching and nature study. History buffs will appreciate Fort Meigs, now reconstructed, just outside Toledo, and its associations with the War of 1812, and General — later US President — William Harrison. Indeed, Harrison's heroic image cannot be separated from his later successful election to Presidential office. (Sadly, President William Harrison died in office later in 1841, after his inauguration that year.)

The city itself also has well appointed museums, including the Toledo Museum of Art, housed in an impressive Greek Revival building; again, image is a key theme.




How to get there: By air, Toledo is served by several airlines which fly into Toledo Express Airport; these include American Airlines and Delta which fly daily to Chicago O'Hare and Minneapolis/St.Paul respectively. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

Map location of the Toledo Strip Created from by User:Rmhermen
Map location of the Toledo Strip Created from by User:Rmhermen | Source

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