TOLEDO - Glass City has lost some of the sparkle from the days when it was an industrial center and a transportation crossroads. But it's still a great place for travelers who are willing to seek out the fun or historic side of the city.
TOLEDO — Glass City has lost some of the sparkle from the days when it was an industrial center and a transportation crossroads. But it’s still a great place for travelers who are willing to seek out the fun or historic side of the city.
After visiting Toledo several times, I’ve come to appreciate attractions such as the world-class Toledo Museum of Art; the state-of-the-art downtown ballpark that’s home to the triple-A Toledo Mud Hens; and the nice selection of good restaurants, taverns and craft breweries.
One amenity that’s lacking, however, is a wide selection of interesting accommodations. For its size, Toledo seems grossly underserved by small inns and bed-and-breakfasts.
Fortunately, one of the city’s few such lodgings, the Casey-Pomeroy House, is a remarkable, historic and friendly place to stay located in the Vistula neighborhood near downtown.
The 14,000-square-foot Italian villa-style home was built in 1870 by Theodore Buell Casey, a local grain commissioner — back in the days when a businessman who moved grain on the Great Lakes pulled a lot of weight (and could make a lot of dough).
When owned by Casey and later wealthy families, the house became a social hub and is said to be where New England industrialist Edward Drummond Libbey met his future wife at a dinner party, thereby cementing the ties that caused Libbey to locate his Libbey Glass company in Toledo. (Libbey was also the founder of the Toledo Museum of Art.)
The house was later bought by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo and served as home for an order of nuns and then as a school.
Today, the house is open as a bed-and-breakfast while being lovingly restored by owners Sue Burkett and Stu Cline Jr.
Burkett, 54, works in marketing; Cline, 56, works for an architectural firm. The couple lives in an 1851 house in the Vistula neighborhood, giving them experience in historic renovation before they bought the Casey- Pomeroy House in 2003.
“We just didn’t realize the scale of the new project,” she said.
The Casey-Pomeroy House had sat vacant for eight years. The house was in an extreme state of disrepair. The only occupants were seven colonies of termites and one family of raccoons, Burkett said.
(A neighboring mansion, built by a business partner of Casey’s, was torn down not long before Burkett and Cline bought the Casey-Pomeroy House.)
The couple had planned to renovate the house and lease it to a friend who wanted to operate it as a bed-and-breakfast and day spa, Burkett said. But the friend backed out, and Burkett became an accidental innkeeper.
“People ask, ‘Did you always want to run a B&B?’ Hell, no!”
The couple has done much of the manual labor themselves.
“I’ve burned through six heat guns” stripping off old paint, Burkett said.
After two years of repair, though, the bed-and-breakfast was in good enough shape to open for business.
“That was 2005,” Burkett said. “We couldn’t have picked a worse economic time to open.
“But, in a way, that also helped business; guests came here who couldn’t afford a longer trip."
Toledo, noted Burkett, is centrally located — one of the reasons, of course, that the town once boomed. Guests at the bed-and-breakfast who are traveling cross-country or who are meeting from different locations find it a convenient place to stop or to gather, she said.
Five beautiful guest rooms, one newly opened, are furnished with antiques and period reproduction furniture.
I was struck by the large arched interior doorways framed with magnificent — and thick — wooden trim and by the high ceilings and wide, echoing corridors.
The house has become a popular place for weddings. It even has its own pretty, roomy chapel — a legacy from its days as a convent.
I stayed in the large Hanna Matilda suite, which is often used as a bridal preparation area. The room was a bit feminine — the decor included a beautiful slim off-white dress made by a Toledo dress shop. Local legend says the dress was worn to the Kennedy inaugural ball by a politically connected Toledo ingenue.
Although not my cup of tea (or shot of bourbon), even I can appreciate such a stylish bit of froufrou — in moderation, of course.
Outside, the ornate soffits and fascia, which had largely rotted away through the years, have been mostly replaced with new, historically accurate reproductions — decorative work that calls the eye up toward the traditional Italianate tower rising three stories above the front facade.
The large corner lot is dotted with ornamental plants and statuary (and by a few stacks of bricks and stone, awaiting use on the reconstruction project).
The Casey-Pomeroy restoration project has become well-known among preservationists. A senior field rep for the National Trust for Historic Preservation has called it “the best restoration I’ve ever seen.”
The renovations don’t really intrude on the guest space at all. But Burkett is happy to show those visitors who are interested in the project some of the ongoing work — and to talk about the trials, tribulations and rewards of such a project.
As a history and home-improvement buff, I really got a kick from the opportunity to see an important historic renovation project from the inside, so to speak. And anyone who has ever dreamed of restoring a historic home will surely come to look upon a stay at the Casey-Pomeroy House as an inspiration — or as a cautionary tale.