Sylvania–Then and Now–5307 Main Street

by Gayleen Gindy

The house at 5307 Main St. was constructed in 1902, making it 119 years old. The property owners are recorded as follows:

  • 1899 – Romeo G. Burns
  • 1908 – Sabrina L. Burns, heir of R.G. Burns
  • 1918 – Fred H. Park
  • 1935 – Alicia Park
  • 1960 – Wesley & Mary Jane Berry
  • 1968 – Victor E. & Irene A. LaJiness
  • 1971 – Irene LaJiness
  • 1977 – Patrick T. Gilley
  • 1999 to current – Thomas Wilkinson LTD

Romeo G. and Sabrina L. Burns purchased a parcel of land on South Main Street in 1899. First, he constructed his family home on the property where Whitehall Apartments are located today (5321-5333 Main St). When the 1900 census was taken they were living in that home. Over the next several years Burns constructed several houses to the south of his home. One of the houses he built is our subject house. 

Romeo Burns married Sabrina in 1868 and they came to Sylvania in the late 1880s to take over the operation of the mill that used to be located on Mill Street in Sylvania. Romeo Burns had an interesting past before coming to Sylvania. He served in the Civil War as a First Lieutenant, with Company B, 8th Regiment of the New York Heavy Artillery. He then attended law school at the University of Chicago, and after graduating he worked as a lawyer with a law firm in Chicago until the 1871 Chicago fire destroyed their law office and library. His daughter recalled that this was a turning point in his career. The law firm he was associated with had acquired a lumbering business in Mackinac and he and his wife went there so he could take charge of that mill. From Michigan, they went to Sugar Creek, Missouri, then to Tolona, Missouri to operate a sawmill in partnership with Mrs. Burns’ brother. After that, they came to Sylvania to take the job of operating the local mill. Burns died in 1908 and all his property was transferred into his widow’s name. She owned and rented this home through 1918. 

The 1910 census showed Sabrina Burns renting the home to Guy and Josephine Gloyd and their daughter Alma. Gloyd was employed as a railway conductor for the T & W Railway Company in Sylvania. 

In 1918 Sabrina sold this home to Fred Park. He had married Alicia Comstock in 1913. In 1918 when Park completed his World War I registration form he was listed as 34 years old and employed as a steam shovel engineer with the Owens Bottle Machine Co. in Sylvania. By the 1920 census, Fred and Alicia were living in this home, which they owned with a mortgage. He was employed as an engineer at the stone quarry. Alicia Park was 36 years old and not employed. In 1925, they adopted a girl who they named Mary Jane. Also in 1925, Park received a building permit to construct a garage on the property. Family records said they converted the home into a duplex and the Park family lived downstairs and rented out the upper floor.  

As of the 1930 census, Fred and Alicia Park were still living in this home, which was valued at $4,000. Fred was 45 years old and employed as a shovel operator at the cement plant. Alicia was 47 years old, and their daughter Mary Jane was listed as 4 years old. Also living at this address were Charles and Mary Mankins. In August of 1932 Park obtained a building permit to move a 12-foot by 20-foot frame shed to the property to be used as a chicken coop. In May of 1933, he obtained another building permit to repair the roof, which was damaged by fire. 

A want ad in the July 26, 1934, issue of the Sylvania Sentinel, showed that Mrs. William White was renting the second-floor apartment and offers, “Dressmaking and plain sewing of all kinds by an experienced seamstress. Prices reasonable. Mrs. Wm. White, 5307 South Main St.” 

Fred Park died in 1935 at the age of 50 years old. His wife, Alicia, continued to own this home through 1960. According to a niece, after her husband’s death, Alicia enrolled in a beauty college in Toledo and became a hairdresser. She remodeled two front rooms on the first floor and operated her own beauty salon out of this home for many years while renting out the rest. She hired two other operators to work with her. Her niece, LaVerna (Comstock) Smith, was one of the operators who worked with her.

In the 1940 census Thomas Page, 49 years, and his wife Alice Page, 48 years, were listed as renting the first floor with their children L.C. Page, 17 years; and Donald Page, 12 years. Mr. Page was employed as an electric welder at a cement company and Mrs. Page was working as a laundress, at home. Renting the second floor was Edward Wackley – 31 years, and his wife Helen – 27 years, and their son Marvin Wackley – 1-year-old. Mr. Wackley was employed as a gateman at a glass company. 

  An advertisement in the Dec. 21, 1944 Sentinel read,  “Modern Beauty Shoppe – 5307 S. Main St – Mrs. Alicia Park, Proprietor.” Another advertisement in the Sentinel on July 28, 1949, read, “Modern Beauty Shop – 5307 S. Main St. – Phone 2-2898 – Hazel Gois and Laverna Smith Operators – Alicia Park, Manager.”

Alicia Park obtained a building permit in June of 1956 to repair the front porch by replacing the frame with concrete. The first Suburban Directory was published in 1957 and that directory indicated that Wesley Berry was now living at this address. In 1960 Alicia Park transferred the home to her daughter and son-in-law, Wesley and Mary Jane Berry. Alicia died in 1961 and her obituary notice said that she was a lifelong resident of Sylvania and was survived by her daughter, Mrs. Jane Berry of Sylvania, a brother, Fred Comstock of Toledo, and five grandchildren. 

In June of 1960, Wesley Berry obtained a building permit to enclose the front porch, and in July of 1962, he was issued a building permit to remove a garage from the rear of the property. His obituary notice appeared in the Petaluma Argus-Courier newspaper of Petaluma, California on May 13, 1970, and said that he was a past commander of Sylvania’s VFW Post No. 3717. He had served as a seaman first class in the U.S. Navy during World War II before marrying Mary Jane Park in 1946. They lived in Sylvania until 1968 when they moved to Cotati, California where he worked on the Robert Atkinson Ranch. They had five children.

In 1971 the Berrys sold the home to Victor and Irene LaJiness. They owned and lived in the home at 5339 S. Main St. and rented this home while they owned it through 1977. 

In 1977 Patrick Gilley purchased the home and he owned it until he died 1999 at the age of 51 years. The Suburban Directories indicate that Gilley continued to rent the first and second floor to occupants through 1983. Gilley was shown occupying the first floor as of the 1983 directory, while Mary Gould was renting the second floor. Gilley was issued a building permit in August of 1986, giving him permission to construct a 32-foot by 52-foot garage on the property. He died in 1999 and his obituary notice said that he was a retired mechanic, school bus driver for the Sylvania School system, and a custom builder of Old English Ford Anglia Cars. He also was a collector of early gas station memorabilia from all over the country. He restored and sold gas station gasoline pumps, and his favorite was collecting memorabilia from old High-Speed Gas Stations in the Toledo area. 

Thomas Wilkinson purchased the property in 1999 and the Suburban Directories from 2000 through 2020 show that the new owner has been renting  both the first and second floor to many different tenants for the last 20 years. 

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