Sylvania Then & Now – 5820 Summit Street

Gayleen Gindy

This house was built by Henry Briggs in 1902 on Lot No. 2 in the Briggs Place subdivision, named after Briggs who owned the land. The garage was also built in 1902. By 1904 Briggs sold this house to Nicholas Willinger who built numerous houses throughout Sylvania, including many along Summit Street.

Willinger immigrated to the U.S. in 1878 from Germany. He married Mary Morrissee in 1887. They had Walter in 1887; Blanche in 1889; Ralph in 1890; Genevieve in 1892, who died in 1893; and Henry in 1894. They were living in Whiteford Township Michigan when Mary died in 1897 at 32 years old. In the 1900 census Nicholas was listed living in Whiteford Township, Michigan. He was 41 years old, widowed and employed as a house carpenter. Living with him was his father, Nicholas, Sr., 77 years old; his sister Rosa Cooper, 37, widowed; his son Walter, 12; his daughter Blanche, 10; his son Ralph, 9; and his son Henry, 6 years old.

By the 1910 census Willinger had moved to our subject home. He was 51 years old, widowed and employed as a house carpenter. He owned the home free of mortgage. Living at home was his son Walter, 22 years old, single, and employed as a bartender at a saloon; son Ralph, 19 years old, single, employed as a carpenter of houses; son Henry, 16 years old, single, employed as a carpenter of houses; and his sister Rose Cooper, 45 years old, married, not employed.

As of the 1920 census Willinger was still living on Summit Street. He was 61 years old, widowed, and still employed as a carpenter. Ralph, his only child still at home, was 29 years old, single and employed as a meat cutter. His sister Rosa Cooper was still living with him. She was 54 years old, married and not employed. Also living with him was his sister’s son Harry W. Cooper, 27 years old, single. He was employed as an accountant at the court house.

A classified advertisement in the Sylvania Sentinel in January of 1929 read: “FOR RENT – Garage – 5820 Summit.”

When the 1930 census was taken Willinger was still living here and the house was valued at $8,000. He was 71 years old, widowed and listed as retired. His son Ralph was living at home, 38 years old, and employed as a meat cutter. His sister Rosa Cooper – 66 years old was still living here. She is listed as married and not employed.

In 1931 ownership of this home was transferred to the son, Ralph Willinger. Nicholas Willinger died in 1938 at the age of 79 years. His obituary in the Sylvania Sentinel said that he was a retired local contractor and former village councilman, who passed away at his home on Summit Street after one week of illness. He was born in Alsace-Lorraine. When he first came to Sylvania in 1903 he and Victor Burg operated a lumber business. They sold out to the Robert Hixon Co. and from that time until 1926 he engaged in the general contracting business. After retiring he took a trip back to his birth land. Surviving him were his three sons, Walter and Ralph of Detroit, and Henry of Honolulu, H.I.; sister, Rose Cooper, who had been his companion and housekeeper for many years.


In the 1940 census the house was still listed as owned by Ralph Willinger and was being rented out to Kenneth and Mary Lazelere for $33 per month. He was employed as an auto mechanic at a motor sales company. Their children living at home included: Kenneth, 16 years; Catherine, 12 years; Keith, 0 years; Elinor, 7 years; Donald, 5 years; and Charles, 1 year. In 1943 this home transferred into the names of Nicholas Willinger’s three sons: Ralph, Walter and Henry, and remained in their names until in 1954 when it transferred into just Walter Willinger’s name. He continued to own it until 1971 when he sold it to William Gifford, who owned the home from 1971 until 1979. Gifford served in the Navy during World War II from August of 1942 until he was discharged in January of 1946. In the 1950 census he was 29 years old and living in Toledo with his mother. He enlisted to serve during the Korean War from November 1950 until he was discharged in June of 1952. In August 1952 he married Betty Willis in Scioto, Ohio. They had sons, Byron and Jay, and daughter Julie. Mrs. Gifford died in 1971 and at that time he moved to Sylvania and purchased this house. He lived here until he sold it in 1979, and appears to have moved to Nashua, New Hampshire. He died in 2001 and his obituary notice said he had been employed by Toledo Clutch and Brake for more than 30 years.

In 1979 Thomas and Carla Helmke purchased this house and directories indicate that they lived here for 36 years, until 2015. In 1984 a building permit was issued for the addition of a back porch. In 1990 a permit was issued for an addition to the back of the garage. Records indicate that after selling this home they moved to New Mexico.

The current owners, Gary and Jill Hill, purchased the home in 2015.

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