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  • Writer's pictureTedd Long

Toledo's Four Cathedrals in 1928

I stumbled onto this curious Toledo News-Bee article while doing some research for my upcoming book, Forgotten Visitors to Toledo. The article takes you back to mid-September 1928 when Toledo was basking in the economic prosperity of the Roaring Twenties and relishing the cultural highs of the Jazz Age. The piece uses some imaginative hyperbole to characterize four buildings under construction at the time as cathedrals. I did a little research and discovered the phrase "cathedral of commerce" was first used in New York in reference to the 60-story Woolworth Building, opened in 1913. In a post on the The New York Public Library's NYC Neighborhoods Blog, Phillip Sutton describes the origin of the expression:

The grand scale of the building, combined with its Gothic style, led clergyman Dr. S. Parkes Cadman, who attended the opening ceremony, to famously describe the building as "the cathedral of commerce." 

The News-Bee article paints a progressive future for Toledo. Its hard to believe that just 13-months later the stock market would crash, losing the equivalent of $396 billion in today's dollars and Toledo, along with the rest of the country, would be plunged into the worst economic disaster in history.

Today, three of the four Toledo "cathedrals" are still standing—Rosary Cathedral and Central Catholic High School are still being used as they were intended in 1928. The Lamson Brothers store at Huron and Jefferson is now commercial office space known as One Lake Erie Center. The Paramount Theatre, after showing its last film, "How the West Was Won," was demolished to make room for a surface parking lot in 1965. So much for being "built to endure for years." Here's the optimistic copy that accompanied the 1928 photo montage of Toledo's "Four Cathedrals."

Four cathedrals, one of religion, one of education, one of entertainment and one of commerce, now nearing completion in Toledo, point the way to Toledo’s progressive growth along four distinct lines and represent an investment in Toledo’s future in excess of $8,000,000.
Above, the camera man has caught, under construction, the four cathedrals. Religion: The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary on Collingwood Avenue, lower left. Education: Central Catholic High school on Cherry Street, shown at upper left. Entertainment: Toledo-Paramount Theatre on Adams Street, upper right. Commerce: New Lamson Bros. Co. store at Huron and Jefferson lower right.
All are nearing completion in Toledo’s effort to keep up with the rapid growth of the city’s needs. All are being built to endure for years and to meet the requirements of a city of more than a half million persons that Toledo is expected to be before another generation has passed.
Lamson’s store is expected to be ready before the holidays. The theater probably will not open until early spring. The high school may be ready for the second semester, but the church has set no date for the dedication services. “Time is no element here,” the workmen say. “This cathedral is being built as near perfect as possible. Naturally, you can’t rush perfection. It will cost somewhere between one and two millions of dollars [sic], which gives an idea of the latitude in finishing it.”

A tour today of Rosary Cathedral confirms the workmen met their 1928 goal for perfection but their prediction of the cost of construction was a bit light. Ground breaking for the building was in 1925, the cornerstone was laid in 1926 and the building was structurally completed in 1931 at a cost of $3,250,000. That's about $55 million in today's dollars (according to the Official Data CPI inflation Calculator). The building was not dedicated until 1940.

Special thanks to Laura Voelz of the Local History Department at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library for scanning this article perfectly so I could share it here.


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