Old West End Festival keeps neighborhood spirit aliveWritten by Chris Schwarzkopf | | email@example.com
Originally the home of distinguished lawyer and judge, Julian H. Tyler and his wife, Tillie, the Tyler-Graber House has stood at 2251 Robinwood Ave. since 1897. Built in Colonial Revival style, it will be one of six houses open for public tours during this year’s Old West End Festival.
Micah Graber, a voice instructor at Toledo School for the Arts has called the place home for the past four years.
“It’s fun,” he said. “You’ll be going about your day and it hits you. Sometimes it’s too much.”
Graber said he thinks it takes a certain kind of person to make the commitment to live in a historical home and deal with the specialized problems that come with its upkeep.
“You have to be a little bit nuts,” he said.
In 1976, the City of Toledo recognized the historical significance of the Tyler-Graber House along with more than 20 other OWE homes. Bronze plaques bearing names, dates of construction and architectural styles were placed on the lawn in front of each house.
This year marks the 39th year for the OWEF. It will take place June 5 to 6 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. with house tours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“The eclectic group of people that lives here is just fabulous,” Kent Illenden, publicity chairman for the festival, said. “They really get into the era. We come for the homes, but stay for the people.”
Illenden is an Old West End resident of 30 years and has been a member of the Old West End Association for the past 20. A graphic designer by trade, he took on the task of creating all literature aimed at promoting this year’s festival.
“That’s my job this year,” he said. “These are all volunteer positions. Next year I might be doing something else.”
The majority of the houses in the neighborhood were built at a time when it was still commonplace to employ servants. Many of the houses still have original servant’s quarters. Now, families or individuals handle the daily household tasks without the benefit of extra help.
“They take it on by themselves,” Illenden said. “A lot of people don’t realize the amount of upkeep. You really have to make a commitment.”
Illenden said the OWEA tries to feature five or six unique houses each festival.
“We have target homes that haven’t been on for a while,” he said. “And we have some homeowners tapped who love showing their houses and we don’t deny them. Ideally, we want to have a variety of styles.”
“They basically badger you until you say yes,” Graber said.
Robinwood Avenue will be closed from Bancroft to Delaware for the festival.
With the exception of the Reynolds-Secor House on Collingwood Avenue, which is owned by the OWEA and open for tours every year, all the houses open to the public are on Robinwood Avenue.
The festival will be a neighborhood-wide event with a parade and 5k run on Saturday, an art fair on the grounds of the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion, a marketplace, an antique and classic car show, children’s activities, food and live music. Many homeowners will host yard sales. Participants will be marked with “good neighbor” signs.
“Some people come just for the garage sales,” Illenden said.
Illenden said some residents whose homes are open for tours during the festival even arrange to have members of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra perform in their houses.
Past festivals have drawn 10,000-15,000 visitors.
Illenden said he is proud to be an OWE resident and to be involved with promoting the history of the neighborhood.
“This is where Toledo’s founding fathers built their homes,” he said. “It needs to be preserved.”
For more information on the festival, visit www.toledooldwestend.com. For publicity information, contact Kent Illenden at (419) 367-9155 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.