Women of The Old West End

The Early Years

 
 

Looking Back
The Early Years 1969-1989

The group began when Nancy Coyle, Diane Pribor and Beth Sullivan were elected to the Old West End Association Board. These three women began discussing ways to get neighborhood input to determine what the Board should work toward. As a result, on July 1969, women in the Old West End were invited to a coffee to begin discussion about the many issues the women in the neighborhood had been discussing with their neighbors.

The group continued to meet every Wednesday afternoon to discuss area problems and goals. An average of 35-40 women attended each meeting.

Names were taken at the first few meetings, a calling committee formed and neighbors were invited. The group never knew more than a week in advance where the next meeting would be held. They just asked for a volunteer for the next week and someone always raised her hand.

Primarily a discussion group, the women delved into subjects pertaining to recreational facilities within the area, neighborhood schools and other topics. The group had no name, but area women enjoyed their no name club.

Beginning in the fall of 1969, meetings were held the first and third Wednesday of each month. At the first meeting a speaker discussed such Old West End concerns as mortgage availability, (It was very difficult to obtain a conventional mortgage loan in the inner city in the late 50's, 60's and early 70's. Red Lining by banks for inner city neighborhoods prevented conventional mortgage loans. It was either VA, FHA or Land Contract). Also discussed were the recreational sites and the significance of the historic homes. The second meeting served as a discussion period for further elaboration of ideas presented by the speaker or for exploration and planning of new projects.

At these meetings, a babysitter cared for the young children who accompanied their parents. Refreshments were served and the meetings closed promptly at 3:00pm so women could be home to greet their school age children and get dinner underway. Informally, the group was called the Old West End Mothers Club.

In the first six months the group named active committees including landmarks, education and recreation. It also appointed a hospitality committee to welcome new residents. The Women prepared a packet of informational literature to give new neighbors.

In May 1970 the group was officially called Women of The Old West End. All women of the area, whether married or single, young or senior citizen were invited. Monthly meetings continued in member homes, some held in the afternoon and others in the evening. Leadership was flexible with no elected officer or constitutions. Commonness of purpose held the group together.

The Landmarks Committee collected detailed photographs and historical background of the homes which helped the area gain acceptance on the National Record of Historic Places. This committee also aided in the publication of Look Again, a Toledo Landmarks Committee book depicting buildings of significant architecture in the downtown and Old West End area,

The Recreation Committee met with the city recreation department. Fun Wagons were used successfully throughout the neighborhood. Arts, crafts, games such as basketball were enjoyed. This committee activities also let to the establishment of the Summer Fun Program at the American Red Cross, then based on Collingwood Blvd.

In 1975 The Recreation Committee met with the Natural Resource Dept. of the city to ask if a public park might be installed on an empty lot at the corner of Bancroft and Robinwood Avenues. There was little green space in the OWE at the time. In 1977 the Park was completed and a sign erected naming it the "Old West End Commons Park". Yet another victory for WOWE and the neighborhood.

The Education Committee discussed a school visitation program to which mothers visited classrooms as observers. They also raised money for the Scott High School Stadium Fund. Members were instrumental in the development of the Collingwood Learning Center, a magnet public grade school offering an open flexible program for each student.

Another committee assisted people moving to the neighborhood to find housing. By 1972 WOWE had a phone line called the "Rental Clearing House". This not for profit voluntary project provided non-discriminatory access to housing in this inner city neighborhood. Nearly 400 prospective tenants called in 1973. The free service to landlords and prospective tenants continued until 1978.

A housing committee was formed in the fall of 1972 to discover what action might be aimed at the discriminatory treatment the Old West End was receiving from many real estate agents and lending institutions. The committee devised two forms for collecting specific data on individual experiences. One form was for those who had tried to buy a home and the other for those who had tried to see their homes the area. Many perspective buyers and sellers were running into roadblocks due to the geographic location of the property. After the committee had sufficient documentation, the women discussed their findings with the banks and real estate company's and other lending institutions.

In 1975 the Toledo Fair Housing Center was established by The Women of the Old West End and The League of Women Voters in response to blockbusting and other housing discrimination practices. The community organized to fight discriminatory practices that were destroying Toledo’s neighborhoods; the Center was organized as an effort to stop the discriminatory practices.

In the spring of 1973, WOWE presented an ordinance to City Council prohibiting solicitation by real estate salesmen/saleswoman which would also have prohibited "for sale" and "sold" signs except by owners in any area of the city considered sensitive or transitional. Several cases of "block busting" tactics used by real estate salesmen/saleswomen were documented.

The ordinance was defeated but it sparked the Toledo Board of Realtors to adopt and affirmative marketing plan in 1975. This meant that the "steering" the door-to-door solicitation and the unwise use of "for sale" signs would end.

In 1972, WOWE held an "Open House" (the beginning of the OWE Festival) in an attempt to dispel some of the myths and prejudice about the Old West End neighborhood. Five homes were opened to the public and neighbors (who were curious about the historic homes in their neighborhood). Coffee and cookies were served.  In addition to the host and hostess, other couples and individuals who lived in the OWE were at each home to help explain some of the interesting features of the house and the area. More than 250 people visited this first event despite the rainy weather. The hostesses had to send out for extra coffee and  cookies since the crowds had exceeded WOWE's fondest dreams. Due to the enormous success of this venture, WOWE hoped it would become an annual event. Needless to say, this Open House has evolved into the Old West End Spring Festival, a time when thousands of people enjoy the history, beauty and friendliness of our neighborhood. In 1985, the Woman of The Old West End turned the Festival over to the Old West End Association. In 1987 Women of The Old West End began Tours de Noel. A holiday tour of homes decorated in their holiday finest.

These are just a few of the many activities of WOWE during the early years.


Questions:  Call Toni Moore: 419-360-2151