Fun at 41: Old West End Festival celebrates 41st yearWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
An 1877 directory of the Old West End marketed the neighborhood by extolling the “great depths of its lots” and the “high character of the residents of the neighborhood.”
Frank Lloyd Wright studied the area while planning his Oak Park Project in Illinois. The Libbey family, who built up Toledo’s glass industry, lived there. Lavish homes equipped with classical columns and bulging bay windows were going up from one lot to the next back then, eventually covering a 25-block radius.
“When you lived here, you were in the upper crust,” said Joe Minnich, who is refurbishing a 9,733-square-foot home on Scottwood Avenue built in 1892.
Basically, this was a place to be seen. More than 100 years later, it still is — especially on June 2-3.
“What makes the Old West End special is very simple: beautiful big houses and a very fine community of people who live there and work on the community spirit,” said Don Brewer, entertainment coordinator for the festival.
The Old West End Festival marks its 41st celebration this year. Starting at 10 a.m., Robinwood Avenue will come alive with the King Wamba Parade — a moving party of the Scott High School Marching Band, a roller derby troupe, belly dancers, enormous marionette puppets and at least 10 floats constructed by local organizations.
This year, the parade has a particularly special guest. Cirque du Soleil performers will stride alongside the floats on stilts.
“When they called I about fell out of my chair,” said Jeni Belt, coordinator of the King Wamba Parade.
This is the first year the festival has hosted the group of internationally renowned traveling dancers and acrobats. The group’s booking agent requested the invite to the Old West End Festival, Belt said.
In addition to the parade, Cirque du Soleil performers will perform off the main stage during the afternoons on Saturday and Sunday.
The King Wamba Parade has roots dating back to 1909, when the neighborhood threw a Mardi Gras-style carnival in honor of King Wamba, a Visigothic king in Spain from 672 to 680.
That first carnival ran for four days and exemplified historical events that took place in seventh century Toledo, Spain. But the carnival didn’t make a comeback until 2007, when Mark Moffett, then-parade chair, sought to bring it back.
When Moffett took charge of the parade that kicked off the Old West End Festival, it was comprised of a few neighborhood groups and a grand finale of the Scott High School Marching Band. Now groups are coming from Columbus and Detroit to partake in the party.
The parade travels about a mile, starting at Robinwood Avenue, winding onto Bancroft Street, taking a right onto Collingwood Boulevard and finishing up at the Mansion View Inn.
Arts and entertainment
Brewer posted an ad on Craigslist this winter calling for performers to take the Art Fair stage and 26 answers flooded in immediately. He took the first 10 who responded.
For performers, the Old West End Festival is a hot gig.
“The festival, which started out simply as home tours, has grown into an arts festival, with the beer tent, the children’s tent, the crafts festival, the car show and the parade,” Brewer said.
Performers who scored the main stage slots include Aegele, Middle Eastern Dancers and students from Toledo School for the Arts. Shows start at noon and end at 6 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
The other venue, the Arboretum Stage, will be located by the Beer Pavilion on Delaware Avenue. Ten bands will play on Saturday, starting at noon and ending at 9 p.m. Six bands will perform Sunday, starting again at noon and ending at 6 p.m. Tunes will range from bluegrass, rock, hip-hop, jazz/funk, folk, Hawaiian and soul.
The Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion will host an art fair of at least 30 juried artists from more than six states from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Yard sales will abound throughout the neighborhood. Food carts offering anything from barbecue to gyros to pizza will be open until 6 p.m. both days. There will be an antique and classic car show, children’s activities, a 5K run/walk and a marketplace at Woodruff and Parkwood avenues.
The house tours
“We bought the porch and the house came with it,” said Lynn LaPlante, who lives in a Queen Anne-style home on Scottwood Avenue with her husband Dave.
But more than just brick and mortar accompanied the deal. The red brick house at 2320 Scottwood Ave. is ripe with history. Albert Wright, who started out in the railroad tie industry and founded the Jennison-Wright Company, had the house built for himself when he moved to Toledo in 1895. Crews constructed three stories and an attic, with separate stairways and separate entrances for the servants. They even installed a button in the dining room floor that the family could push to alert the maids when they wanted something.
The interior of the house is trimmed in oak and cherry woods, with a mix of dentil molding and egg-and-dart overlays. Two rich wooden pocket doors slide open to reveal a living room to the right of the foyer and a dining room to the back.
The floorboards release a robust creaking sound with each step — and in the air lingers the faint scent of finished wood.
But the 3,500 square feet weren’t enough for Wright, the original owner. He moved down the road to a larger home about 10 years later to compete with his neighbors, who were building even larger houses, Dave LaPlante said.
The place was home to a series of other families between Wright and the LaPlantes, including a man who ran a leather business and a couple of University of Toledo professors. At one point during the house’s history, a 14-year-old maid lived in the servants’ quarters, Lynn LaPlante said.
Another house open for festival tours is Joe Minnich’s fixer-upper — a looming yellow brick house sprawling within view of the Toledo Museum of Art on Scottwood Avenue. The exterior appears as though it could guard royalty, with its majestic columns flanking the terrazzo tile porch, ornate roof brackets and carved medallions adorning the house’s brick façade that faces the street.
The interior tells the story of evolving architectural tastes. The house was built for a German brewer, Hermann Dick, in 1892 but the Blevens family bought the place in 1916. Whereas much of the wood lining the living room, the dining room and the upstairs bedroom originally bore a dark finish, the new family painted everything white.
They took out a first-story bay window and replaced it with an overhanging solarium off of the side of the house. They swapped the traditional metal doorknobs with glass ones — symbolizing the evolution of Toledo as the “Glass City” between the 1890s and the 1910s.
In the 1960s, the structure became home to the International Institute.
But many of the household accessories date back more than 100 years — from the chandelier hanging over the living room to the soap dish in the bathroom. Minnich is trying to bring the place back to what it was in the 1890s, so he has stripped most of the white finish from the wood.
He has found that only the finest materials went into making most of the house. The original crew used bird’s eye mahogany — one of the finest, most dense types of high-quality wood — to line the second story rooms.
The white tile covering the bathroom walls? It is detailed with a gold leaf design.
If you stand in the middle of the second story landing, you can see out windows on all four sides of the house. There are also at least three full-length mirrors within view.
But the extravagancy is not true of the entire house. The original owners went to great lengths to ensure that the servants knew their place. Although it is easier to make a door out of one type of wood, the doors separating the servants’ quarters and the family dwelling are made of two bound together. The sides facing the servants’ quarters are made of a utilitarian pinewood. The sides facing the rest of the house are fine mahogany.
The histories of these homes are just a few components of the Old West End Festival — but history is at the crux of the entire weekend.
“A lot of what Toledoans can take away from this is to become more aware and connected to the history,” Moffett said. “Many of us are not in touch with the history of Toledo and I think the parade and the festival can connect us.” O
What to do at the OWE Festival
10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion
10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. $12 per person for all homes or $4 for single house tour. Children 12 and younger free.
10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, on Woodruff and Parkwood avenues
Antique & Classic Car Show
9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday only, at Toledo Spain Park at the corner of Collingwood Boulevard and Monroe Street
Starts 10 a.m. Saturday on Robinwood Avenue and ends on Collingwood and Woodruff avenues
Old West End/Toledo Symphony
Stampede 5K run/walk
9 a.m. Sunday, start and finish located at Jefferson Avenue near Monroe Street
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday on Woodruff Avenue
Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday at the corner of Delaware and Robinwood avenues
Saturday, June 2
- Noon to 1 p.m. Aegele, Middle Eastern Dancers
- 1-2 p.m. The Gray Devils
- 2:15-3:15 p.m. Hemline Theory
- 3:30-4:30 p.m. Backwoods Revival
- 4:45-6 p.m. Tom Drummonds
Sunday, June 3
- Noon to 1 p.m. Toledo School for the Arts
- 1-2 p.m. Stranger Danger
- 2:15-3:15 p.m. Laura Lawrence and Leslie Lane
- 3:30-4:30 p.m. Bad Wolf
- 4:45-6 p.m. Refuge
Saturday, June 2
- Noon Blowing Grains
- 1 p.m. Clark Brooks & Tim Tiederman
- 2 p.m. JW Carlson
- 3 p.m. People Being Human
- 4 p.m. Joey & The Traitors
- 5 p.m. Elevated Thinkin’
- 6 p.m. GOLD
- 7 p.m. Jack & The Bear
- 8 p.m. Fairly Handsome Band
- 9 p.m. Mighthaveben
Sunday, June 3
- Noon Rachel Richardson
- 1 p.m. Community Drum Circle
- 3 p.m. Old State Line
- 4 p.m. Black Book Theory
- 5 p.m. Nate Mattimoe
- 6 p.m. Chavar Dontae
Tags: Old West End