–by Gayleen Gindy
PUBLICATION DATE: 06.06.17
As a longtime member of the Sylvania Area Historical Society, I wanted to let everyone know that this year the group has decided to focus on buildings in Sylvania that are 100 years old or older. Historical Society members are welcoming property owners of these structures to share with them any information that they have about their historic buildings, which will be placed in the files for future generations. They are also looking at a plaque program, where property owners could order plaques for their Sylvania historic homes, to be mounted on the front of the home or building and it would display the year that it was constructed. These plaques would be uniform and would commemorate and honor the history of the buildings.
For property owners that own buildings that are 100 years or older in Sylvania or Sylvania Township, who do not have any historical information about their structures, the historical society would like to help these owners research their structure. They have prepared a complete list of “How to Research Your Structure” to help those interested.
As an example of the history that could be found on your structure, over the next several months, I will continue to share some of the histories of various structures throughout Sylvania. To begin this series I will start with my 100-year-old house on Erie Street. Our house is located at 6526 Erie Street (north side of Erie Street between Main and Summit streets). It was constructed exactly 100 years ago in 1917. The house is what is called a catalog home, and the blueprints and complete structure were ordered from a catalog. The materials to construct this house, inside and out, were delivered on the Toledo & Western Railway, which was on South Main Street where Sautter’s is located today. On the day of delivery, the owner or his designated builder would pick up the materials. Catalogs suggest that the materials for the home could be delivered in up to three boxcars depending on the size of the house. In 1917 it was probably picked up, requiring several trips, and brought to the property that had already been purchased and prepared for the construction.
As I looked through the various old home catalogs that are available online, I found that the closest thing to my house was through the Home Builders Catalog Co., of Chicago. The catalog picture shows the house with the bay window on the opposite side, a fireplace, which our house does not have, a wood-sided front porch and ours is made of cement blocks. The catalog does say that features such as this could be modified on the blueprints for a nominal fee.
In the search for the history of our house, the first thing I started with was the list of owners from 1917 to current. Some homes that are 100 years old have quite a list of past owners, but in our case, we only had a couple past owners before we purchased it in 1991. This is what I found through the records of the Lucas County Auditor’s office:
Dec. 2, 1916 to April 6, 1981 – John C. and Martha Iffland
April 6, 1981 to Jan. 29, 1990 – Martha Iffland
Jan. 29, 1990 to Oct. 16, 1991 – Mark D. and Mary E. Edwards
Oct. 16, 1991 to current – Sam and Gayleen Gindy
Once you have a list of past owners, you can start looking into their lives. In my case, by the time I started searching for John and Martha Iffland, they had already passed away. From their obituary notices, I found one of their sons, still living in Sylvania, and I contacted him. He came over and told us many stories as we showed him around the house where he grew up. He shared with us a photo of his mother and father when they were married on June 26, 1912 in Riga, Mich. and a photo of our house shortly after it was built. He said that his dad first took a job at the Riga State Bank, and that was where Martha and John met. They were married and then had a house built in Riga, Mich. By 1916 John was offered a better job at the Sylvania Savings Bank. At that time they moved to Sylvania. However, Martha had said that she would only move if she could have the same house they had built in Riga, built in Sylvania. Her wish came true, and somewhere in Riga, Mich. our house has a twin.
After a couple of years, John was again offered better pay and took a job with the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Sylvania. That bank had just constructed a beautiful, new building on the northeast corner of Main and Monroe streets. He stayed there until 1940 when the Farmers and Merchants Bank merged with the Sylvania Savings Bank.
John’s son told us that one of his father’s most memorable events while working at the bank was the bank robbery that occurred on May 5, 1930. This was the day that the notorious “Pretty Boy” Floyd and his gang drove into town and robbed the Farmers and Merchants Bank. John was the head cashier, and as the crooks came through the front door yelling, he instinctively shut the door to the bank vault. Needless to say, by the time the robbers approached John and demanded money from the vault, he informed them that the vault was shut and would not open. This infuriated “Pretty Boy,” and he gave him quite a beating as a result, which surprisingly didn’t kill him. In the end, the robbers were only able to get a limited amount of cash from the teller windows, and John was the hero of the day.
After the two banks merged in 1940, John retired from the bank business and entered the insurance business full time selling as “J.C. Iffland Insurance.” He retired in 1955. He also served as the clerk of the village of Sylvania from 1941 until 1949. He had his insurance office in our basement here on Erie Street, and many of the old-timers tell me they remember coming through our back door and looking down into the basement to see if “Iffy” was down there.
While living in this house, the Ifflands had three sons. I was told that all were born in this house: John Jr. was born in 1921, Charles in 1924 and Harold in 1927. The three boys attended elementary and high school in Sylvania and graduated from Burnham High School. All three went on to college, obtaining BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering.
In reviewing the building permits that were issued, we found one from 1941 when J.C. Iffland obtained a permit to remove the stucco siding from the house and replace it with wood siding, which still exists on the house today.
John Iffland died in 1980 after living in this house for 63 years, and Mrs. Iffland died in 1989 after living in this house for 72 years. The next family purchased the house and only lived here a year and a half. We heard that the owner obtained a job outside of Sylvania and was forced to sell and move.
When we purchased the house in 1991, the kitchen was a scene from the 1950s, but everything else had pretty much been updated. In 1999, we had the kitchen gutted and updated. Today all the original beautiful hardwood oak floors, oak staircase, French doors, window framing, bay window and dining room built-in still exist in the house, and they have never been touched by paint. We had the 1922 garage removed in 2013 and a new 2-1/2-car garage replaced it, matching the house, along with a new driveway.
We have lived here for 26 years and raised two children in the home. It’s a good sturdy house, and we have enjoyed it. There is so much more I could tell you about the house, but there just isn’t space here. These are the things I will be documenting and sharing with the historical society for their files, for the next generation.