Welcome to the Vistula Historic District, the oldest neighborhood in Toledo. The pioneer village of Vistula, also known as the “Lower Landing” on the Maumee, is now bounded by Walnut, Champlain, Chestnut, Magnolia, and Summit streets. Established in 1833 by Benjamin F. Stickney and Edward Bissell; Vistula was merged with its rival, Port Lawrence, in 1837 (after the settlement of the "Toledo War") to become Toledo, Ohio as a way to take advantage of the coming Miami and Erie canal.
Today, the Vistula area is Toledo’s oldest neighborhood; it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. A little later in this tour, we’ll be going to the Old West End and Toledo's Gold Coast along the Maumee River to see some of the historic homes owned by Toledo’s early industrialists. Keep in mind, before the Old West End and the mansions on East River Road; the moneyed people of this area lived in Vistula. It was close to the river, which was the center of all commerce but far enough away from the dirt and noise of Port Lawrence. The Old West End didn’t materialize until better streets and horse-drawn streetcars were available to travel "that far out” and the automobile made it possible to convert summer cottages along East River Road into spectacular mansions.
If you look out over this area, you can see several church steeples. This is how Toledo's neighborhoods were built. People of like ethnic persuasions arrived here, bought property in the same area, and then built churches to serve their community. That’s how we ended up with multiple churches of the same denomination in the same locale. If you look deeper, you’ll find each was established by a different ethnic group.
Over the years, this area became the home of folks of Greek, Syrian and Lebanese descent. In fact, Danny Thomas and Jamie Farr, both actors with Mid-Eastern heritages, had connections from this area. Farr’s parents owned a grocery store on the corner of Locust and Ontario streets. Thomas actually was from the Detroit area but spent most of his youth in North Toledo and at the Newsboys Association on Superior because of extended family connections.