Sylvania–Then and Now: 5703 Main Street

LOOKING BACK
–by Gayleen Gindy
PUBLICATION DATE: 04.18.17

We have now arrived at the northwest corner of Main Street and Maplewood Avenue. Back in the days before expressways and even before paved roads, this corner property was a very busy place. As early as 1842 a large hotel was built here by A.J. Majors, and that same year he took out a license to keep a tavern in Sylvania. Hotels were very important in the early days. People traveling for long distances, at a very slow pace, needed a place to stop to feed and water their horses, rest for the evening, have a bite to eat, take a bath, among other necessary essential things. This hotel was located on the heavily traveled Plank Road, sometimes called the Territorial Road, one of our earliest routes leading east and west through Lucas County. This hotel was also originally one block from the original Erie & Kalamazoo Railroad Depot, and it became the social center of Sylvania. The owners of the hotel business were as follows:

1842 to 1847 – Adolphus J. Majors – Major’s Hotel;

1847 to 1849 – George B. Minor – Minor Hotel;

1849 to 1860 – Ellis Parker – Parker’s Exchange;

1860 to 1862 – Charles N. Lewis – Lewis’ Hotel;

1862 to 1864 – Edwin T. Roberts – Roberts’ Hotel;

1864 to 1866 – Johnson Sullivan – Johnson’s Hotel;

1866 to 1868 – William R. Truesdale – Truesdale House;

1868 to 1891 – Harry and Eliza Bidwell – The Bidwell Exchange;

1891 to 1909 – Victor M. Burg – Hotel Victor;

1909 to 1911 – George Keene – Victor Hotel;

1911 to 1915 – Guy Gloyd – Victor Hotel

Histories written over the years tell us that the three-story wood frame section of this hotel housed a ballroom on the second floor, which brought people from miles around on the weekends for their special events. This ballroom had “sounding bells” and a spring floor that bounced as they danced. It is said to have been built that way for that purpose. The dining room was on the first floor, and the third floor and the floors in the front brick portion of the building were sleeping rooms that they rented out. In its heyday, Harry Bidwell, and his wife Eliza owned and ran the hotel from 1868 until 1891. It was recorded that he was known to the boys of the town as “Uncle Harry” and while he owned the hotel it was operated under a “no alcohol” policy.

Victor Burg purchased the property and hotel building in 1891. In 1904, according to the Sylvania Sun newspaper, Mr. Burg rebuilt the hotel. He increased the size of the brick front portion of the building considerably, as can be seen in the 1890 photo and the 1912 photo. An article in the newspaper distributed in 1903 named the “Toledo Critic” said this, “One of Sylvania’s oldest landmarks is the Hotel Victor, managed at the present time by Messr. Victor Burg. When in town, and you have a few leisure hours at your disposal, drop in and see what they have to show you. For a good meal and a comfortable night’s rest, The Victor is the best in Sylvania.”

On Sunday, March 28, 1915, just a little after midnight, a fire was noticed in the old hotel. Victor Burg still owned the property and his brother-in-law, Guy Gloyd, was running the hotel at this time. The Toledo Blade dated March 29, 1915, said, “Fire, which broke out early Sunday morning in the central part of Sylvania, raged unchecked for nearly five hours.” The loss on the hotel building was $6,000 and $2,000 on its contents. The other buildings destroyed at this time were a two-story frame barn and a one-story bowling alley owned by the hotel proprietor valued at $1,200, a two-story home and several large frame buildings to the west owned by the Robert Hixon Lumber Company valued at $35,000. Also lost were a frame poultry house and two sheds. The fire was said to have started in an unoccupied bedroom on the second floor of the hotel. The cause was not known. It was discovered at 12:15 by Darrell Hawley, who lived across the street. He saw smoke coming from the windows. In addition to the manager and his family, there were eight guests and employees in the hotel. Mr. Hawley gave the alarm and aroused the sleeping occupants. When the first volunteer firefighters arrived, flames were already shooting from the hotel windows and soon the second floor was ablaze. The fire spread rapidly, and soon the hotel was in flames from top to bottom, along with several other buildings to the west and north.

In 1917 Victor Burg sold this property to Frank and Frances Koepfer and Fred V. and Diora Myers, with each couple owning half. (Frances Koepfer and Fred V. Myers were sister and brother). They had the current two-story red brick building constructed here where they operated the Sylvania Auto Company, and according to advertisements, they started selling the Maxwell Touring Cars first. Even though it was Mr. Myers who operated the auto business here, the Koepfers continued to own half of the property and building. By 1919 the business had grown to the point that they were increasing the size by adding to the back portion of the building according to the Sylvania Sentinel dated July 17, 1919. Frank Koepfer passed away in 1940, and his wife continued to own half of the property until she sold her portion to her brother, Fred V. Myers and his wife Diora in 1946. They owned this building until 1973.

Fred Myers ran the Sylvania Auto Sales business here from 1917 until 1956. In 1938 an advertisement for the Sylvania Auto Sales shows they were selling every brand, including, the Plymouth four-door Sedan, Dodge Touring Sedan, Chevrolet Master DeLuxe, Chevrolet Business Coupe, Ford two-door Sedan, DeSoto four-door Sedan, and the Willys 37. Then an advertisement from 1940 shows that Fred Myers was selling the Dodge Coupe for $755 and the Dodge Sedan for $815.

A building permit issued to Fred Myers in 1948 allowed him to build an addition on the rear of the property, taking the building right up to the rear property line.

In 1956 Fred Myers retired and leased his Dodge-Plymouth agency and building to Carson Peck and Nick Sulier who operated here until 1962. In 1962 Mr. Myers leased the building to Jerry Leon who sold furniture and appliances from this building. By 1964 Bob Root Dodge leased the building for their car sales, service department and body and paint shop. In 1971 a sign permit was issued for a U-Fix-It Garage to be operated out of this building and an arcade room was established in the rear portion of the building for a short time.

Fred Myers passed away in 1975, and he had sold the building to Hugh D. White of Dave White Chevrolet in 1973. During the time that Mr. White owned the building, all the windows were boarded up for over 20 years and the building was used for storage and various vehicle repairs, but not open to the public.

The city of Sylvania purchased the building in 1994, and with the help of a capital improvement grant the boards were removed from the windows in 1997 and major improvements were made to the inside and outside of the building, including beautiful new windows throughout. At that time it was converted into numerous rental spaces, including a restaurant in the front portion. Over the next 20 years, the city rented the spaces out. The list of businesses in this building from 1997 until 2017 is just too large to include here, but the front portion was occupied by the Maplewood Café, then Trattoria Sofo and finally Treo Restaurant. Just recently the city announced that they sold the building for $1.1 million, and after eight years in business, the Treo Restaurant recently closed its doors. There are three other tenants in the building at this time, and we are not sure whether they will stay or go when their leases are up now that there is a new building owner. Either way, the city officials brought this old building back to life and in the end made a profit for taxpayers. We are now wondering what is next for this beautiful building.