Sylvania–5445 Main Street

by Gayleen Gindy

Moving from Sylvania-Metamora Road back to South Main Street, the next historic home is 123 years old, built in 1897, and was owned by the same family for 116 of those years. The owner of the property at the time the home was constructed was Hattie (Bidwell) Rockenstyre.
Recently, four small beautifully framed photos were donated by an individual who had purchased a portion of the property that was once owned by the Bidwell, then Rockenstyre, and then Bush families. The photos were apparently found in the home owned by Berkley and Mary Bush. The donor knew it was important to preserve these, and they were donated to Heritage Sylvania’s large collection of old photos.
The list of owners of our subject property is recorded as follows:

  • 1888 – Hattie (Bidwell) Rockenstyre
  • 1924 – William K. and Gertrude R. Bush
  • 1968 – Berkley R. Bush
  • 1973 – Berkley R. and Mary H. Bush
  • 1981 – Berkley R. Bush
  • 1983 – Berkley R. and Mary H. Bush
  • 2000 – Berkley R. Bush, Trustee
  • 2013 – Helen M. White, et al.
  • 2013 – Edifice Rex Ltd. An Ohio Limited Liability

On May 19, 1897 William Bush married Gertrude Rockenstyre of Sylvania, and family records show this home was built the year of their marriage. In checking the Lucas County records, the house is recorded as being built in 1897, so these facts agree.
Since 1872, the property that the house sits on, and all the surrounding properties spanning both sides of the creek and west to the railroad tracks, had been owned by Harry Bidwell. He was well-known in Sylvania as the owner and operator of a large hotel/restaurant that he and his wife Eliza operated on the northwest corner of Main Street and Maplewood Avenue. It was called the Bidwell Exchange and became the social center of Sylvania and surrounding communities.
Eliza’s good cooking became famous far and wide, and every month, and on all holidays throughout the 1870s and 1880s the Bidwell’s sponsored a ball that was attended by hundreds. Harry was known by all as “Uncle Harry” and it was a sad Christmas Day in 1885 when he died. Eliza continued the tradition until she sold the operation in 1891.
By 1888, Bidwell’s daughter Hattie had inherited all the land that he owned on South Main Street. She had married Charles Rockenstyre in 1877, and he took on many professions over the years, including butcher, blacksmith, wagon-maker, wagon-painter and detailer. Charles Rockenstyre came to Sylvania in the early 1870s to work for James J. Richie Carriage Works. He then later built a large two-story wagon and carriage making operation of his own where Sautter’s is today.
In 1879 Charles and Hattie had a daughter and named her Gertrude Mae Rockenstyre. She would be their only child. Gertrude married William Bush in 1897.
Bush family records show that William and Gertrude moved into this new double home as soon as they were married, and Gertrude’s parents, Charles and Hattie Rockenstyre, lived in another portion of this home.
The 1900 census listed Charles Rockenstyre – 49 years old – butcher; his wife Hattie Rockenstyre – 38 years old; their daughter Gertrude Bush – 21 years old – music teacher; and their son-in-law William Bush – 24 years old – brakeman for railroad. All were living here in this house.
In 1902 Charles and Hattie had the home at 5457 Main Street built to the north and in 1907 they had the home at 5449 Main Street built in between their home and the 1902-built home. These became rental homes.
In the 1910 census the Rockenstyre and Bush families were both living in this subject home. Charles was 59 years old and employed as a blacksmith; Hattie was listed as 49; William Bush was listed as 35 years old and employed as a brakeman with the railroad; and Gertrude was 31 years old and employed as a china painter.
At some point before the 1920 census, William and Gertrude moved out of this home and were not living here in the 1920 census. They were found living at 2328 Whitney Avenue in Toledo. Also living with them were Gertrude’s parents, Charles and Hattie Rockenstyre. Charles was 69 years old and employed as a wagon repairer, owning his own shop. William was listed as a trainman for the railroad. Charles and Hattie still owned the home on Main Street and they were renting the home out to two different families.

Charles Rockenstyre died in 1921.William and Gertrude Bush, after 26 years of marriage, had a son in 1923 and named him Berkley. On Oct 1, 1924 a building permit was issued to Mrs. C.E. Rockenstyre to make alterations to the home in order to accommodate her daughter, son-in-law and grandson living in the home. The estimated cost of the alterations was listed at $3,000.
In 1924 the home was transferred to Mr. and Mrs. Bush, and her mother Hattie continued to live here until she died in 1944.
In the 1930 census William and Gertrude were listed living in this home with their son Berkley and Gertrude’s mother Hattie. William was 55 years old and listed as a trainman with the steam railroad. Gertrude was 51 years old and Berkley was 7 years old. Hattie Rockenstyre was listed as 68 years old.
The Feb. 2, 1939 issue of the Sylvania Sentinel reported: “Work on the remodeling of the double house belonging to Mrs. Hattie Rockenstyre, and located on South Main Street, is going forward. The two apartments will be thoroughly modernized.”
The 1940 census listed William – 65 years; Gertrude – 61 years; Berkley – 17 years; and Hattie – 77 years still living here in this home. William was still employed as a brakeman for the railway company.
Hattie died in 1944, and in 1946 her grandson, Berkley Bush, married Mary Stauffer. It appears they moved into this home, occupying the apartment that his grandparents had occupied. In 1959 Berkley and Mary built their own home on the vacant land to the south of this home.
The 1960 Suburban Directory shows William K. Bush still living in one half of the house and renting the other portion of the house to Dorothy Day. Berkley and Mary were now listed living at 5441 Main Street.
Berkley’s mother died in 1967 and in 1968 this home transferred to his name. His father William Bush lived here until he died in 1970, and Berkley began renting out both apartments to various people for the next 42 years. Mary Bush died in May of 2013 and at that time the property transferred to their two daughters. That same month the daughters sold this duplex, the 1959 built home at 5441 Main where Berkley and Mary lived and the home at 5449 Main, which included all the property to the rear running to the railroad tracks.
Berkley Bush died in February of 2014. His obituary notice said that he had lived from 1925 to 2012 on the South Main Street property, graduated from Sylvania’s Burnham High School in 1941, attended the University of Toledo, and then worked for Libbey-Owens-Ford from 1951 until he retired in 1987 as Vice President of Manufacturing Services.

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