Abandoned apartment building in Ohio

Ira Apartments - Cleo's Apartments, Toledo Ohio
Date added: May 08, 2023 Categories: Ohio House Tudor
West (principal) and north elevations (1996)

The Ira Apartment building is one of a pair of similarly designed and appointed apartment buildings completed in 1929 for prominent local businessman, civic leader and philanthropist, Sam Davis (b.1883-d.1945). The Ira Apartments, named after his youngest son, and the Ann Manor, which is named in honor of Davis's wife, were designed by Polish born local architect, Sidney L. Aftel (b.1880-d.1933). Construction of a planned third apartment building named after his daughter, Leora, likely also to have been designed by Aftel, was apparently canceled possibly due, at least in part, to the nation's deepening recession.

Architect, Sidney Aftel came to Toledo shortly after the turn of the century and was connected for a number of years with the firm of Mills, Rhines, Bellman & Nordhoff (currently Baurer, Stark & Lashbrook), the oldest and one of the most prominent architectural design firms in the state, before establishing his own office in the Sam Davis Building, which he also designed. Aftel's design for the Sam Davis Building, located at 1510 Elm Street, Toledo, a six-story brick and stone structure visible from the northwest corner of the central business district was touted as a state-of-the-art warehouse facility when it was built in 1927 featuring fireproof construction and climate control. The building served as the Sam Davis Company headquarters, as well as housing other offices.

Although Mr. Aftel's obituary indicated that he designed many buildings in Toledo, listing the Fort Meigs Hotel, the Lorraine Hotel, the former B'Nai Israel Synagogue, the Ira Apartments, Ann Manor, and the Sam Davis Building, efforts to identify additional buildings designed by him were not successful. Of the six buildings attributed to Aftel, only the Ira and the Ann Manor are in the Tudor Revival Style. The Fort Meigs Hotel, completed in 1925, also for Sam Davis, was a majestic ten-story, 200-room hotel on St. Clair Street between Jefferson and Madison, in Toledo's central business district, which catered to motoring tourists and conventions until it was closed in 1966. It represented the first use of Travertine marble in a local building. Along with the Ira, the Ann Manor, the Sam Davis Building and the Lorraine Hotel survive, but the majestic Fort Meigs Hotel was removed for replacement with the 30-story Fiberglass Tower building in 1966 as part of the Urban Renewal movement. The Lorraine Hotel, at 150 rooms with baths, is similar, but more modest in design.

Other than the Ann Manor, the Ira is one of several large apartment buildings built in Toledo during the first part of the 20th Century such as the Del Mar Apartments, also owned and managed by Sam Davis at one time.

The appeal of the location of the Ira was enhanced by its proximity to the affluent Westmoreland neighborhood, less than one-quarter mile to the north which contains the most lavishly designed single-family homes of the 1920s and 1930s in Toledo. The Westmoreland neighborhood is a 90-acre plat of 216 large single-family homes on spacious lots that was platted in 1917, but was only partially developed at the time the Ira was built. Many of the homes in Westmoreland are of Tudor design, some of which face Parkside Boulevard. Separated though it is from the Westmoreland neighborhood along Parkside by fourteen relatively large homes built between 1912 and 1925 intermixed with three smaller 1950s infill, the design of the Ira still provides a sense of balance in the architectural landscape with the Westmoreland area.

The design of the Ira reflects the popularity of the Tudor Revival Style in the city at that time. Aside from Westmoreland, the frequency of the Tudor design is also evident in other contemporaneously platted single-family housing developments such as the Old Orchard and Deveaux neighborhoods. Old Orchard, a middle and upper middle-class development to the northwest, is also located in proximity to the greenway. The Deveaux neighborhood approximately two and one-half miles to the north, with its smaller, more modest examples of Tudor design, depended more on automobile transportation being nearer throughways than streetcar routes.

The popularity of the Tudor Revival Style for the period is also evident on the nearby main campus of the University of Toledo. Scott Hall and Libbey Hall, located approximately 1.3 miles northwest of the Ira, along Bancroft Street opposite the Old Orchard neighborhood, were constructed to house faculty and lecture halls in the early 1930s shortly after the campus was established in 1930 with the initiation of construction of University Hall. The three-story rusticated limestone buildings with steeply pitched slate roofs were designed to complement the 337-room Gothic Revival Style University Hall. The Ira is further connected with the development of the university over the years having frequently included university faculty, staff and students among its tenants.

The design of the Ira is unique when compared to most other local large apartment buildings of that time and is distinct from the Ann Manor in that it incorporated a 2,350 square foot grocery store in order to provide shopping convenience in spite of its suburban location. Fronting on Dorr Street, it complemented other small businesses mixed in with duplexes and single-family homes. The commercial space housed one of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company stores in 1930, which was replaced by a Kroger Grocery and Bakery by 1940. The space appears to have been vacated in the early 1940s, remaining vacant until it was altered for use as a laundromat, and again for use as a disco.

Whereas, the Ann Manor and the Del Mar were designed to attract more affluent tenants, when constructed in 1928-1929, the Ira was particularly suited to appeal to the growing middle class. Having significantly expanded the city's corporation boundaries in 1900, the population had grown from 131,822 to nearly 300,000 by 1929, a considerable increase. According to one contemporary source, the city was experiencing its highest standard of living achieved by that time. The city ranked 26th in the nation in population, manufacturing output exceeded that of Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton. Higher wage standards and increased earning power lead to a 40% increase in bank deposits between 1924 and 1929. Using the automobile as a measure of standard of living, in Toledo there were 129 automobiles for every 100 families, exceeding that of Detroit and Cleveland at that time.

Located at the western boundary between Adams Township and the city, two and one half miles from downtown, the Ira offered the best of suburban lifestyles. The building's location immediately adjacent the Dorr Street interurban line provided convenient access to the central business district for the Ira tenants, while the parking garages catered to the growing number of automobile owners. Situated on the boulevard system established at the turn of the century to connect the city's green spaces, tenants have had easy access to Ottawa Park, a city park of 311 acres of gently rolling terrain with a pond, located less than a mile to the north, and Scott Park to the south, a large green space maintained by the University of Toledo which was destined to become the Scott Park Campus in more recent years. The broad open space of the 126-acre Calvary Cemetery located behind the church and five two-story dwellings on the west side of Parkside Boulevard further enhanced the feeling of country living away from the bustle of the central business district.

The Sam Davis Company made certain the building was well maintained, establishing resident manager positions at both the Ira Apartments and the Ann Manor. Records indicate that tenants were primarily married couples with occupations listed variously as salesman/woman, business owners and upper and middle managers, attorneys, teachers, social workers, newspaper reporters, buyers for the Lasalle & Koch Department Store, and even the superintendent of the affluent Ottawa Hills school system. The building contains primarily one-bedroom suites and tenants moved in and out frequently as incomes increased and families were established. While Westmoreland catered to the upper middle-class home buyer seeking luxury homes on spacious lots, the Ira catered to members of the middle class of more modest means seeking to move up the economic ladder. Proximity to the Westmoreland neighborhood provided a geographical connection as well.

The Ira Apartment Building represents an important part of Sam Davis's contributions to the City of Toledo. A lifelong resident of the City, Mr. Davis made use of the experience gained in his teens as a real estate agent for a local company and working for his father's grocery, coal and feed business. He initiated his own business ventures in 1904 collecting feed from rural farmers by bicycle, and distributing coal with a horse and cart. A successful businessman, he was able to acquire an entire block of what had been swamp land on Elm Street adjacent major rail lines and installed a warehouse, silos and conveyors for most efficient coal loading. Eager to equip his business with the latest technological advances, a characteristic of his many business ventures including the Ira Apartments, he purchased a fleet of 58 gasoline-powered trucks and built a service garage to house them.

By 1923, Sam Davis had become the largest retail coal dealer in the city. He incorporated the Sam Davis Company that year and continued to expand and diversify his interests into the moving business with use of the trucks and eventually into storage facilities for storing a great variety of commodities. The company served as agents for North American Van Lines and Gray Van with rights for six states. Investing in real estate, he became the principal owner of the Toledo Factories Building, a 200,000 square foot indoor industrial park. The Toledo Factories Building had been organized in 1912 as the first industrial business incubator in the area and one of the first in the country. Davis expanded and improved the Toledo Factories Building operation, which sheltered at least 20 infant industries, many of which went on to become important businesses in the community including the forerunner of Sheller-Globe of automotive part fame.

As a trustee with the Toledo Chamber of Commerce, Davis was committed to improving the downtown and promoting tourism, taking the initiative to construct the 210 room Fort Meigs Hotel on a leased parcel in the central part of downtown. Designed to attract the motoring tourist and conventions, the Fort Meigs Hotel shared the limelight over the years along with other prominent local hotels such as the Secor, the Commodore Perry, the Hillcrest, the Plaza (demolished) and the Park Lane (the latter acquired and managed in later years by the Sam Davis Company).

Building Description

The Ira Apartments is a 27,550 square foot, three story 44 suite, Tudor Revival Style apartment building with Jacobethan elements. The building is a somewhat irregular rectangular plan and encompasses two gabled residential entrances, a partially enclosed courtyard, a storefront area and two attached parking garages. The building has a slate roof with intersecting gables and is constructed of concrete block with a veneer of skintled brick, false half-timbering with stucco infill, and an ashlar cut coursed sandstone foundation. The building boasts principal facades to the west, which is a residential setting, and to the south, which is the setting for c.1910-1920 mixed residential and commercial architecture. The Ira's decorative elements are confined to the west, south and north elevations. The building dominates its surroundings at the northeast corner of the intersection of Parkside Boulevard and Dorr Street (S.R. 246) within two and one half miles of the central business district in Toledo, Lucas County, Ohio. The property is in relatively good condition and, although some vandalism has occurred since it was vacated and secured in 1994, it has had very little alteration since construction.

The west (Parkside) facade, which contains the main entrance to the apartments, extends 114 feet comprising 12 bays, five of which are projecting bays, along Parkside Boulevard. The south facade extends 151 feet along Dorr St. comprising 10 bays, including seven projecting bays, and an irregular section incorporating a first-floor storefront at the southeast corner. The extended length along Dorr St. allows for a more complex arrangement of overlapping gables, wall dormers and roof dormers on the south facade. An exposed rake is visible beneath the eaves providing a Craftsman element to the design. The south facade features two pair of front-facing intersecting gables. A hipped roof section and rounded arch roof dormer flanked by two projecting gabled wall dormers sits three stories above the primary pedestrian entrances on both the west and south elevations. In addition, the west elevation features two roof dormers with hip roofs, a hipped roof wall dormer and external chimney, whereas, the south elevation features a flat-roofed parapeted wall dormer and three roof dormers with hipped roofs. The north end elevation adjacent to the drive to the garage entrance extends a depth of 50 feet and exhibits three uniform bays and a chimney on the gable slope. Both chimneys are tall with vertically recessed corners and convex sculpted stone cap. The external chimney on the west elevation features two decorative terra cotta chimney pots, a chimney iron, and is integrated with the projecting bay to the north of the Parkside entrance. A gabled brick parapet with stone coping occurs at the east ends of the U-shaped run of the gable roof providing a Jacobethan element to the design. The exterior walls of the third story are covered primarily with false half-timbering over stucco, combining vertical, diagonal and cross-hatched designs. Three projecting bays with false half-timbering on the west facade and six on the south facade terminate above the first-floor windows supported by multiple, closely spaced, massive wood brackets. The American bond brickwork is characterized by a random skintled pattern on the first and second stories giving the brick a rusticated appearance and contributing to the overall Tudor design. A soldier course sits above the excurvate sandstone water table which tops the massive, five-course ashlar cut sandstone foundation. The fenestration for the building in general includes wood six over six sash on the first, second and third floors. Windows display decoratively carved wood lintels and sandstone sills. The rounded arch roof dormers have six over six wood sash. The hipped roof dormers exhibit a single wood sash with eight divided lights, although some are missing. The garden apartment windows, which are set in the five-course, ashlar cut, sandstone foundation are dual six-light, steel casement with a four-light transom.

Vacant for much of the building's history, the storefront display window on the Dorr Street facade has been covered with large wood panels with the exception of the transom. The original spindlework frieze survives above the former display area. The double-door entrance to the approximately 1175 square-foot commercial space appears to be original. The interior has been altered. The mix of architectural styles represented by the one and one half to two-story residential and commercial buildings in the 2100 block of Dorr Street opposite the Ira reflects Craftsman and Tudor elements featured on the Ira.

The first-floor apartment entrances on both west and south facades are nearly identical slate-roofed, gabled stoops. A sculpted stone shield is mounted in the brick over the second-story window above each of the entrances. The entryways are characterized by skintled brickwork, a Tudor arch of sculpted sandstone supported by sandstone quoin-like tabs projecting into the brickwork above the stone water table and rough cut, coursed sandstone foundation. Electrical fixtures flanking the entrances do not match and are probably not original. The Parkside entrance, the primary pedestrian access to the apartments, is reached by a curved, pieced sandstone walkway leading to four sandstone steps to the entrance, while the south (Dorr St.) entrance leads directly off the sidewalk. A decorative wood plaque over each entrance announces the Ira Apartments. The plaque over the Parkside entrance states "IRA APARTMENTS" in decorative lettering and sports a replica of the stone shield. The plaque over the Dorr St. entrance, although decorative, is limited to "IRA APTS.".

The entrance doors on the primary facades are heavy oak with two leaded lights above six panels. The silhouette of the leaded lights duplicates that of the leaded transom and surrounding Tudor arch. Original leaded sidelights damaged over the years have been replaced with a single pane of clear glass.

The west-facing entrance to the attached 18-car brick garage is visible from Parkside and is characterized by a single-story gabled parapet with stone coping above a soldier course which follows the gable. A centrally placed decorative diamond-shaped ceramic tile is inset above the garage door.

A cinder block, five-car garage addition with shingled pent roof overhang and individual garage doors, also facing Parkside, extends to the north of the brick garage entrance. Records indicate that the five-car addition may not have been original to the building but was added by 1937.

Both the Parkside and Dorr St. entrances to the Ira Apartments have vestibules and an interior doorway identical to the exterior doorway. The floor of the vestibules and interior stairways to the first-floor apartments are set with three-inch decorative tan-colored ceramic tiles of various shadings inset with randomly spaced, smaller pastel tiles with geometric patterns including a medieval motif of a knight-of-the-realm chess piece. The Parkside vestibule and interior stairway to the first-floor lobby, owing to their function as the primary entrance to the apartments, have dark oak wainscotting. There is a wood-beamed ceiling over the stairway to the lobby.

The lobby is paneled in dark oak to the level of the second floor with a frieze consisting of a vignette of flowers, leaves, vines, and grape clusters. The paneling is separated from the plastered walls above by scrolled molding. The walls above the paneling have been plastered in such a manner as to give the appearance of having been applied over rough stone walls, contributing to the Tudor style of the building. A gas fireplace with a sculpted sandstone mantle, a tiled hearth and firebox, and tapering breast, is located on the north wall of the lobby. The fireplace opening of the stone mantel is framed by a Tudor arch and flanking faceted pilasters. Above the fireplace opening is a sculpted panel reflecting the frieze on the paneling and a sculpted frieze of rosettes supporting the mantel top. A painted plaster plaque featuring a fleur de lis, dolphin, band of rosettes, and vase with flowers is placed high on the wall above the fireplace. The ceiling of the main first-floor lobby extends to that of the second floor. A four-paneled stained glass skylight, one of the most prominent interior features, is framed by heavy oak molding and set in the slightly arched and beamed ceiling. The second-floor corridor, open to the first-floor lobby, is supported by six massive two-story, four-sided oak posts with denticulated capitals along the south and west sides of the lobby. The original brass sconce lighting fixtures are still somewhat loosely mounted to the support posts on the first floor. An open, bracketed staircase leads to the second floor along the east wall of the lobby. A decorative scrolled metal starter newel topped by a brass finial supports a decorative twisted metal stair rail. The pattern of the stair railing is repeated along the second-floor gallery between the two-story posts. The stairway to the six garden apartments is located beneath the stairway to the second floor and features a similar railing. The third-floor lobby is reached by way of an enclosed stairway leading from the open second-floor gallery. The third-floor lobby is brightly lit by a large tinted glass skylight and features arcaded corridors along the south and west walls. In an effort to utilize natural light as much as possible, small, plain skylights are located in the third-floor corridors.

Although the first-floor lobby and building exterior feature elaborate architectural detail, the Ira is conservative in its living arrangements, featuring five efficiency apartments, 35 one-bedroom apartments, and four two-bedroom apartments. Only one of the suites, Apartment 202, features a fireplace as an amenity. The fireplace is situated in the corner of the living room with a tapering, rounded breast and a decorative plaster shield above a tiled firebox and hearth. The hearth tile matches that of the vestibule and lobby fireplace hearth. Some suites feature french doors between dining space at the end of the kitchen and the living room.

Although currently boarded, the building is subject to random acts of vandalism due to being vacant. Evidence of trespassers can be found throughout the building and the radiators have been removed by vandals. Many of the original lighting fixtures have been replaced or removed, but overall, the building retains much of its original architectural integrity.

Ira Apartments - Cleo's Apartments, Toledo Ohio West (Parkside/principal) elevation (1996)
West (Parkside/principal) elevation (1996)

Ira Apartments - Cleo's Apartments, Toledo Ohio West (Parkside/principal) entrance (1996)
West (Parkside/principal) entrance (1996)

Ira Apartments - Cleo's Apartments, Toledo Ohio View above west (Parkside/main) entrance (1996)
View above west (Parkside/main) entrance (1996)

Ira Apartments - Cleo's Apartments, Toledo Ohio West and south (principal) elevations (1996)
West and south (principal) elevations (1996)

Ira Apartments - Cleo's Apartments, Toledo Ohio South (principal) elevation and corner of east elevation (1996)
South (principal) elevation and corner of east elevation (1996)

Ira Apartments - Cleo's Apartments, Toledo Ohio Close up of Dorr St. entrance and altered store front area (1996)
Close up of Dorr St. entrance and altered store front area (1996)

Ira Apartments - Cleo's Apartments, Toledo Ohio South (principal) and east elevations (1996)
South (principal) and east elevations (1996)

Ira Apartments - Cleo's Apartments, Toledo Ohio North and east elevations (1996)
North and east elevations (1996)

Ira Apartments - Cleo's Apartments, Toledo Ohio West (principal) and north elevations (1996)
West (principal) and north elevations (1996)

Ira Apartments - Cleo's Apartments, Toledo Ohio West (principal) elevation of integral eighteen car brick garage and five car frame addition (left) (1996)
West (principal) elevation of integral eighteen car brick garage and five car frame addition (left) (1996)

Ira Apartments - Cleo's Apartments, Toledo Ohio Streetscape view of Parkside Blvd. (1996)
Streetscape view of Parkside Blvd. (1996)

Ira Apartments - Cleo's Apartments, Toledo Ohio Streetscape view of Dorr St. (1996)
Streetscape view of Dorr St. (1996)

Ira Apartments - Cleo's Apartments, Toledo Ohio West (main) entrance vestibule (1996)
West (main) entrance vestibule (1996)