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  • Writer's pictureTedd Long

Gazing into Christmas Past

Christmas Day 1907 in Kuschwantz

I stumbled onto this photograph in the TLCPL's Images in Time database while researching a couple of photographers from Toledo's past. I'll share more on these photographers later, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, how about this photo?

I don't know who made this image but it sure draws me in. The men's faces, the dogs (check out the Terrier on the right, sitting between the guys on the pool table in the back), the gramophone, the potbelly stove. This print captures Christmas Day at Iwinski's Saloon in Toledo's Kuschwantz neighborhood in 1907. I'm sure this isn't how most people in this Polish enclave spent Christmas that year but this picture does document how some celebrated the holiday.

The first wave of Polish immigrants arrived in Toledo in the early 1870s. Many settled in the Lagrange Street area (LaGrinka) where Father Vincent Lewandowski, a Franciscan Priest, founded St. Hedwig Parish in 1875. Another large wave of immigrants escaping the Prussian partition of Poland settled in south Toledo, west of Lenk's Hill, since the neighborhood's Germanic influence helped make them feel more at home. Many were Roman Catholics and Father Lewandowski started a mission to the Kuschwantz community that became an independent parish dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua in 1881. By 1889, St. Anthony Parish had outgrown its small wooden church and fund raising began for a large, Gothic-style church completed in 1894. With its 250-foot steeple that can be seen from almost anywhere in the neighborhood, St. Anthony’s Church at Nebraska and Junction still stands today—serving as a reminder of the community's past and someday soon, a beacon for its future. Incidentally, Kuschwantz (or Kuhschwanz) translates to “cow’s tail” in German. The name fit since this settlement was literally built on the edge of town (or at the end of the cow). In fact, at the time the Poles first arrived here, the spot where St. Anthony Church stands today was in Adams Township—outside of Toledo's city limits.

The caption for this photograph says Iwinski's was located at Junction and Vance. From what I gather, this place was possibly run by Frank Iwinski, just around the corner from St. Anthony's. I can only imagine the stories the men in this picture could tell. Finding it makes me feel very thankful for our library and the hardworking staff who keep it humming so we can still gaze in on Christmas Day in Toledo in 1907.

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