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Downtown Architecture 101 Part I


Architecture is an important part of any city. It indicates, even subconsciously, the type of place we’re in. When paying attention to architectural features, we find clues that help us understand an area’s history and the statements its people want to make about themselves – modest, showy, wealthy, modern, utilitarian.

Toledo’s downtown buildings are a great opportunity for such exploration. We’ve selected five buildings, highlighting features that help us understand the buildings’ historic use and style. We’ve also thrown in a little research you can’t get simply from looking at the buildings because the people behind these structures really make the place.

So enjoy the virtual tour. We hope you come away an armchair architectural aficionado. In the least, you can impress your friends and family the next time you point out a dentil or Corinthian column.


Berdan Building

1 S. Erie St.

Architectural style: Commercial

Year built: 1902

Architect: George S. Mills (Toledo)

The Berdan Building was used for manufacturing and storing products for the wholesale grocer the Berdan Company. Valentine Ketcham, namesake of the Valentine Theatre, began the Berdan Company when he arrived in Toledo in 1836. The business, however, didn’t take off until 1854, when the Secor and Berdan families assumed control of Ketcham’s interest in the company. The Berdan Building is currently undergoing a renovation that will convert it into apartments and a first-floor restaurant.

Entrance & ground floor

  1. Terra cotta molding
  2. Terra cotta belt course


    Arcaded windows across three stories

  1. Two tall rectangular 4/4 pane windows
  2. Two 2/2 pane windows
  3. Single segmented arch window

Capital (top segment)

  1. Dentil-like raised brickwork



Burt’s Theater

719-723 Jefferson Ave.

Architectural style: Venetian Gothic

Year built: 1898

Architect: George S. Mills (Toledo)

The building’s Venetian Gothic architecture is a rare find in Ohio. Additionally, Burt’s Theater and the Valentine are Toledo’s two remaining 19th century theaters. When Frank Burt opened on August 25, 1898, Vaudeville acts and melodramas were performed in the building’s 1,500-seat theater. Because Burt’s Theater never converted to a movie theater, it closed as a playhouse in 1913. Since that time, a variety of businesses have occupied the building.

Capital (top segment)

  1. Terra cotta cornice and brackets
  2. Horizontal band of dentils


  1. Corinthian columns
  2. Four recessed end bay windows with Gothic arches and Venetian ornamentation


  1. Diamond patterned brick
  2. Jefferson Ave. facade adapted from Ca’ d’Oro in Venice, Italy



The Hillcrest

241 16th St.

Architectural style: Mediterranean Revival, Second Renaissance

Year built: 1929

Architect: Alfred A. Hahn Sr. (Toledo)

The Hillcrest Arms, as it was originally called, was built as a domestic apartment hotel. The small hill on which the building sits provided its name. Originally, the hotel offered a rooftop garden, which no longer exists. The Hillcrest was the first large building in Toledo to be constructed on a concrete slab without footings. It cost $2 million to build and furnish. After sitting vacant for many years, the building was refurbished. Apartments and several offices now inhabit the building.


  1. Multi-paned steel casement windows

Second Renaissance

    Symmetrical, rectangular form

  1. Brick and terra cotta façade
  2. Roofline balustrade

Mediterranean Revival

  1. Low-pitched corner pavilions
  2. Conical, finial urns




Lasalle, Koch, & Co. Department Store

513 Adams St.

Architectural style: Second Renaissance

Year built: 1917

Architect: Starrett and Vleck (New York)

In 1880, the Lasalle, Koch, and Company was formed. H.R. Macy and Company joined the business in 1924; however, it wasn’t until 1981 that the name changed to Macy’s. The business was closed three years later in 1984, the last of Toledo’s four major downtown department stores to close. In 1927, floors 9-11 were added; however, 10 and 11 were then removed in 1994 due to deterioration. Today, apartments occupy the upper floors of the building.

Tripartite façade

  1. Base
  2. Mid-section
  3. Capital


  1. Tuscan columns
  2. Pane-glass tympanum
  3. Stone frieze


  1. Seventh and eighth floors Corinthian colonnade




Pythian Castle

801 Jefferson Ave.

Architectural style: Romanesque

Year built: 1890

Architect: Bacon and Huber (Toledo)

Five lodges of the Knights of Pythias purchased the vacant property at the corner of Jefferson and Ontario in 1889 to build a temple that would act as both a meeting place for the Knights as well as a business building. Between 1890-1951, the Consolidated Concord-Toledo Lodge No. 21 held weekly meeting in the building. The J.W. Greene Company, which sold pianos, occupied three floors from 1890-1960. The building sat empty for several decades before renovations began earlier this year.


  1. Four turrets
  2. Conical roof


  1. Triangular dormers in the main roof
  2. Round arches top third floor windows


  1. Rusticated (textured) sandstone façade
  2. Sandblasted sandstone lintels​

Downtown Toledo

ConnecToledo Downtown Development Corporation is a 501(c)3 organization committed to the redevelopment of downtown Toledo. This is accomplished by connecting public and private investment to facilitate the implementation of the Downtown Toledo Master Plan and other community priorities, including marketing, event management, environmental maintenance, safety and economic development services. The goal is an exceptional experience for those who invest, play, work, dine, shop and live in downtown.

Contact Us: 419-249-5494

ConnecToledo Downtown Development Corporation 
300 Madison Ave #0110
Toledo, OH 43604

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