History of Lima Lima Pennsylvania Railroad Passenger Depot, Lima Ohio
In 1831, the Ohio legislature ordered the establishment of a county seat for Allen County. The name of the new settlement was Lima. The name referred to Lima, Peru which was the source where quinine came from to treat the early pioneers affected by "swamp fever". Allen County, established in 1820, was part of the Black Swamp area of northwest Ohio. This region was also part of the original Northwestern Territories established by the ordinance of 1787.
James W. Riley, the son of Captain James Riley, platted the settlement of Lima in a grid pattern with Main and Market Streets intersecting and creating a large public square. The city blocks were separated by a street and alley system, typical of most of the towns settled in Ohio. The original boundaries were North Street to the north, West Street on the West, Tanner Avenue (Central Avenue) to the east and the Ottawa River was used as the southern boundary. Most of the first settlers came from Pennsylvania, some from Connecticut and Kentucky. The initial population of the new settlement of Lima was made up of nine families who settled in August of 1831. But the majority of the population of Allen County was Indian. By 1835, the first dwellings were established. Some of them were cabins containing a parlor, kitchen and dining room. Some of them were connected to workshops where different trades worked together in order to save fuel and light. Among them were a shoe shop, a broom shop, and a repair shop. The tavern became the most important commercial institution together with the general store and an Indian trading place. There was also a first newspaper, the Herald, issued during the VanBuren campaign of 1836. Also, the first public institutions were built, a two-story frame side gabled courthouse and a jail. By 1840, Lima was part of the 1,512 inhabitants of Bath Township.
By 1842, Lima, the county seat of Allen County was incorporated as a village, serving the surrounding agricultural community. A new prominent masonry two-story Greek Revival courthouse was built with a pedimented front, triglyphs and supported by 4 massive Doric columns. A cupola crowned the ridge using the Wren-Gibbs formula. At the time, one of the most important modes of transportation was under construction in western Ohio, the Miami and Erie Canal, which was finished in 1845, but it bypassed Lima. The canal went through the town of Delphos, 15 miles west of Lima. But it provided Lima with the first commercial outlet to participate with the emerging markets in the new nation. Great progress was made in Lima's transportation history when the first rail line was established in 1854, the Ohio & Indiana Railroad which operated from Crestline, mid-Ohio, to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Lima, strategically situated, later became the transportation center of the region with 4 more important trunk lines and 5 electric Interurban lines.
By 1860, right before the Civil War started, the population of Lima had grown to 2,354 inhabitants serving the already well-established agricultural community and emerging industries. At the end of the decade, the forests in Lima began to disappear when it became an important lumber center. The following decade, half a million acres of virgin hardwood forest were gone. During the Civil War, the local Davis Lumber Mill provided gun stocks for the Union Army. But after the Civil War, the lumber mills became part of the railroad expansion across the nation by dimensioning railroad ties and bridge timbers. Another early manufacturer was a manufacturer of sawmill machinery, Carnes, Harper & Co., which later evolved into the Lima Locomotive Works developing their famous Shay locomotive. Lima became an important contributing center to the development of the industry of a new mode of transportation, the iron horse.
By 1882, Lima had become a prosperous transportation center facilitating the local manufacturers and surrounding farming communities in delivering their goods to the different markets across the nation.
In 1885, the city of Lima changed course, when by accident, oil was discovered while drilling for water and searching for gas at one of Lima's local paper mill sites, next to the Ottawa river, owned by one of the most enterprising citizens of Lima, Benjamin C. Faurot. News of the discovery of oil put the city of Lima on the map. The arrival of entrepreneurs, explorers, businessmen, industrialists, laborers, scientists, and adventurers from all over the country increased the pressure on railroad transportation.
Before the oil discovery, Lima had a population in 1880 of 7,567 and in 1888, after the discovery of oil, Lima had more than doubled with 18,000 inhabitants. The construction of oil refineries in 1887 was instrumental in producing such growth.
Manufacturing related to transportation and the oil industry grew with establishments, like the Lima Engine Manufacturing Co., manufacturer of well drilling tools, railroad shops and repair stations, Lima Machine Works manufacturers of locomotives, Lafayette Car-Works producing and repairing railroad cars and locomotives, in addition to the already established paper mills and furniture factories. This emerging industry became a great source of new employment, immigration, and consequently city growth.
At the time the new Queen Anne passenger station was built, the city of Lima had grown considerably from its beginnings as an agricultural society to an emerging small manufacturing city. In 1888, the five railroad lines crisscrossing Lima from north to south and east to west, were the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago (leased by the Pennsylvania Railroad), the Dayton & Michigan, the Lake Erie & Western, the Chicago & Atlantic and the Columbus, Lima & North Western.
Also in 1887, the infrastructure of Lima received a great boost when a water system was installed, which added to the electricity producing plant established earlier in 1884 by Faurot. Two years after the discovery of oil, transportation in Lima was further enhanced by the construction of an electric trolley line funded and initiated by entrepreneur Benjamin Faurot (who had a commercial block and opera house named after him). The trolley system improved transportation throughout Lima's downtown and soon lines were extended to the depot intersection, increasing accessibility to the passenger depot.
The history of the discovery of oil in Lima is also the history of the Standard Oil Co. of Ohio, the Rockefellers and the expansion of the railroads in the region with stations, new depots, new rail lines, and accessory buildings.
The discovery of oil by Faurot in the spring of 1885 changed Lima. Faurot and his investors organized immediately the Trenton Rock Oil Company. After three weeks the first well was yielding 200 barrels per day and the railroad lines were the first ones to ship it out to Cleveland for refining. Gas was also flowing at 25,000 cubic feet per day, supplying the mills with a new energy source. Land was leased around the county for sinking wells, approximately 5500 acres. A large group of local citizens, 100 of them, organized themselves into the Citizens Oil and Gas Company for combining their efforts in oil exploration. Speculators and entrepreneurs from the east started to flock in order to lease land for oil exploration. A large group came from Oil City, Pennsylvania which had already experienced a few decades earlier their oil boom, where Standard Oil was the leader (the Standard Oil Co. was founded in 1870 by John D. Rockefeller in Cleveland). Competition among the local oil producers was fierce. Some experienced difficulties in delivering their oil to the railway, prompting them to receive approval from the city of Lima to build their first pipelines at the end of 1885. Oil was shipped by then all over the country, having significant markets in Chicago.
By December of 1885 the local newspaper, the Allen County Democrat, announced, "the city is full of oil men". By February of 1886, the Standard Oil Co. was already considered "one of our largest companies". But new companies were still being created, like the Union Oil company, and the Atlantic Oil & Gas Co. owned by old railroad men from Chicago, New York, Indiana and Ohio. Derricks were being completed every day by the Lima Drilling Co. on the former farm fields.
In July of 1886, Lima had almost 100 wells, and the Standard Oil Co. had built a 36,000-barrel tank. The following month Rockefeller arrived in Lima with business associates and looked for options on land northeast and southwest of Lima for building an oil refinery. In January of 1887, the first big oil refinery was built by Standard Oil southwest of the city of Lima to be operated by its subsidiary, Solar Refinery. A short time later the competition built the Eagle Refinery northwest of the city, at the corner of Cole Street and the P. FW.&C rail line (Pennsy).
The vast new oil resources found in Lima and the surrounding area came in a very timely fashion for the oil industry, especially when the flow of Pennsylvania oil began to decline. The Lima oil was highly sulphuric and had a corrosive effect on machinery, but Standard Oil was able to make the Lima oil more marketable through the help of chemist Herman Frasch, from Baden-Wuttenberg, Germany, using copper oxides to precipitate the sulphur. Frasch had been working for Rockefeller in Cleveland since 1877 on experiments in petroleum refining.
The high production of oil flooded the markets and helped maintain the United States export industry at a competitive level against the Russian oil. (Allan Nevins). Lima's production jumped from 650,000 barrels in 1886 to more than 5 million in 1887. Rockefeller kept investing in Ohio lands for oil exploration and at the same time purchasing and tanking the oil from other producers. Kerosene made from Lima oil was exported to Germany in 1895. By 1896, the flow of oil in the Lima field had broken all the records, surpassing the Appalachian area. Standard Oil controlled almost the whole stock of Lima oil above ground. (Nevins). It was the time of the Standard Oil monopoly through the 1880's and 1890's, when it controlled most of the American trade in Asia, Africa and South America.
In 1888, the construction of an eight-inch pipeline from Lima to Chicago was started along the right of way of the Chicago & Atlantic Railroad. The railroad granting the right of way obtained in return the profit from the transportation of pipe and other materials during its construction. Rockefeller believed strongly that the future of Standard Oil depended on a westward thrust. Another pipeline from Lima to Cleveland was established in 1891 when the first crude oil delivery arrived via the Cygnet Pipe Line. The strong sulphuric odor had been removed by that time with Frasch's method.
The Lima field became one of the most important fields for Rockefeller because it bridged the period of decline of the Pennsylvania oil and the development of the western oil.
The oil boom brought the growth of Lima in many different directions. The discovery of the valuable natural resource caused the city to boom virtually overnight with "hundred barrelers" as commonly reported in the local newspaper, in a section that was soon devoted to oil news. The oil business brought innumerable businessmen to the city, nearly all of whom traveled by train.
There was a symbiotic relationship between the oil industry and the railroads. There were three predominant railroads in the nation extending lines and providing rail service to the oil industry, the Atlantic & Great Western, the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern and the Pennsylvania, the latter one serving in Lima. These rail lines fought hard for the oil traffic and made substantial profits from it. The Rockefellers had a good relationship with the Pennsylvania railroad, but with the establishment of the pipelines, came the prospect of losing freight traffic. In order to avoid a bad relationship with the powerful railroads, an arrangement was made which allowed Standard Oil to run free of charge the pipelines under all Pennsylvania tracks, and the railroad was allowed a regular tariff on 26% of the traffic.
Commercial and mercantile institutions grew during the most important economic growth in the City of Lima after the Civil War creating the new emerging industries, due to railroad expansion and oil discovery. Many fine business blocks lined the Main and Market Street square intersection. Banks including the City, First National and the Lima National were owned by prominent citizens, some of whom were also involved in the oil industry. The hotel business expanded with daily arrival of oil investors and explorers. The Lima House and the Hotel Cambria became the headquarters for the oil men.
This prosperity was also reflected in the construction of prominent civic and cultural buildings in Lima, like the new Second Empire Court House in 1882, considered at that time one of the "most imposing in Ohio", replacing a second Greek Revival one built in 1842. At the same time, their famous Queen Anne Faurot Opera House was built by one of the most enterprising citizens, Benjamin Faurot This building included many other functions, typical of the Opera Houses being built at that time in Ohio, like the Academy of Music built in Akron a decade earlier by another prominent emerging industrialist John Seiberling. But the Faurot Opera House was lit with 400 electric burners, after its owner, a visionary man had established in 1884 a plant generating electricity.
The history of the Lima Pennsylvania Passenger Depot is tied to the early history of the establishment of the railroad in Lima and Ohio. The Pennsylvania Railroad was established in 1849 when it was incorporated by an act passed by the legislature of the state of Pennsylvania. The first line ran 249 miles from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh and it grew into a system of 26,000 miles 100 years later. The railroad invested heavily with leases and subsidies to rail lines west of Pittsburgh, like the Ohio and Pennsylvania railroad (Pittsburgh to Crestline, Ohio) and the Ohio and Indiana railroad (from Crestline to Ft. Wayne, Ind) and later invested into the Ft. Wayne and Chicago Railroad. The Ohio & Indiana was the first rail line establishing itself in 1853 in Lima. Through consolidation it became part of the Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne and Chicago Railroad Company(founded in 1852) in 1856. The three small lines were in financial trouble, and the Pennsylvania Railroad helped them with financing to finish bridges and links to other rail lines. In 1869, the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago entered with the Pennsylvania into a 999 year lease, avoiding a take over by the Erie rail line of the Atlantic and Great Western. After the lease the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago became a division of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was the beginning of the Gilded Age, a period of acquisitions and mergers which created the most significant growth of railroad lines in the transportation history of the United States.
In 1872, another railroad company established itself in Lima, the Lake Erie & Western. It was followed in 1883 by the Chicago & Atlantic. Lima, due to its central location, was becoming the center of rail transportation, the link to Chicago from the east, and to the Midwest from the Atlantic Coast, as well as the link to the north for Cincinnati, Dayton and to the south for Detroit & Toledo. Lima became the station center for the railroads whose shops provided employment to a large amount of craftsmen.
The Pennsylvania Railroad operated the lines for almost one hundred more years, until 1968 when it merged with the New York Central to form the Penn-Central. But the union lasted only a couple of years before bankruptcy was declared in 1970. It was operated until 1976 by Conrail. Today, the lines are operated by CSX with freight traffic only. Amtrak operated a passenger line through Lima, using the Lima Depot from 1975 until 1990 when it closed for good the Lima station, after more than 100 years of use as a passenger depot.