We started with a long list.

In preparation for festival, I walked through the house and made a multipage list of projects I wanted to accomplish before the tour. I knew full well the list would not get completed but I figured if we set goals high enough many things would get finished.

The list looked something like this:

  • Replace outside 1970 something storm doors
  • seal front porch, kitchen and sunroom floors
  • Find or make curtains for pretty much every room on tour
  • replace living room furniture (we have been looking since we got here but haven’t found anything we agree on)
  • new dining room set
  • finish the back stairs
  • paint the bathroom, third floor hallway, second floor woodwork, dressing room, second floor closet, linen closet, study, sunroom, kitchen, butlers pantry. Pretty much everything that hadn’t already been painted.
  • repair ceiling in the pub
  • clean out the pub kitchen
  • repair wallpaper in the bunny room and living room
  • replace and put up fence in the back yard
  • wash all 144 windows
  • decide how best to arrange each room to show off the unique details and architecture without our personal things distracting from the house’s features
  • convince the kids this would not be a horrible experience
  • clean up the brass throughout the house
  • polish all the woodwork, there is a lot of woodwork
  • remove the plexiglass from the stained glass window so it is visible from outside
  • replace light fixtures that are not in character with the homes age, particularly bedrooms, hallways and the kitchen fixtures
  • get the flower beds and landscaping cleaned up
  • plant all my pots early enough that they have time to fill in before festival

We managed to finish a lot of the items but still have a ways to go. It was almost like getting a house ready to show when it is for sale. I think we will have to stay here a long time. I cant imagine getting ALL the rooms ready when it is time for someone else to live here. What did get finished looks great and I smile as I walk into a lot of the spaces that finally are done. I was surprised how a change in paint color, new curtains or pictures on a wall could change a space and make it feel like home in a way it hadn’t before.

I really love the dark blue. There is so much white in the room that I thought we could go with a dark color and not have it feel dark. I had the gerbera daisy prints in the entry way at our old house. They are a set of sixteen. I have the others on the wall above the tub. I love the mix of old and new in the bathroom. Painting it one of my favorite colors and adding the prints that I like so much really made this bathroom feel like it is ours. Its been hard to find that balance of making this house feel like home while honoring the integrity and history of what was here before. It took me some time but it really is feeling more like home now.

Having the house on tour was the nudge we needed to really move forward on some changes we had been reluctant to do or things we had just chosen to ignore. Overall it was a great experience but not something I will be ready to do again soon. Maybe it would be easier if we were twenty years younger!

We Survived!

The 2019 Old West end Festival is over and we all survived. It was a crazy few months getting ready and a crazy weekend watching people line up out front to go through our house. I’m not sure how many visited but our house captains believe it was over 2000!

We knew when we moved here that we were not only moving our family to a new home, we also became stewards of this historic home. We hope everyone who came enjoyed seeing this piece of Toledo history. We have worked hard to maintain the home in a way that preserves it’s history and makes it feel like home to us.

I would like to thank everyone who made our home tour a success. Matt and the kids for doing everything I asked with only a few eyerolls. They even did the things I know they thought were crazy like wiping off lightbulbs and dusting AGAIN on Sunday morning.

Thank you to everyone who helped clean up the flower beds, edge the sidewalks ( I had no idea they were that wide!) and provide plants and flowers inside every space that was on view. Our house never looked as nice as it did this past weekend.

Thank you to our house captains. Michael, Terrance and Lorraine-we could not have done this without you. Thank you for holding our hands and keeping us calm. Thank you for your watchful eyes throughout the weekend to keep our house safe, to train the docents and make sure everything ran smoothly. Also, a big thanks to the docents who gave up time to help at our home.

Finally, thank you to everyone who came out for the festival this weekend. We hope you enjoyed it and got to see what makes The Old West End Toledo’s best neighborhood.

Still Surprised!

After living here almost four years, it seems like we have discovered most everything there is to know about our house. So I was very surprised today as I was dusting. No, it isn’t surprising that I WAS dusting. I do that a lot! Matt has been working hard on the back staircase to repair the walls and freshen up the stairs. (I will post the before and after as soon as he is finished.) I have spent a lot more time recently looking at the back stairs. The back staircase is not fancy but very functional except for the bottom of each run has this detail:

Decorative ends on the banisters.
Simple newel posts

Today as I was dusting the main stairs, I realized that the bottoms of those banisters have the same detail!

Same decorative finial at the bottom as the back stairs!

Although everything about the entry stairs is grand and fancy, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that at least a little of the detail is carried over into the back stairs.  So many patterns and details in the house are repeated. 

Alvin B. Tillinghast

Since we found out so much about the Oblates time here, I decided to do some digging and see if I could clear up some more of the house’s history. We know Mr. Tillinghast was the original owner. He hired architects Brown, Burton and Davis from Cincinnati to design the house which is an unusual mix of English Tudor half timbering and French Gothic roof. We have many decorative details that don’t really fit either style of architecture. Our home is certainly unique among a whole neighborhood of unique homes.

Tillinghast was born in 1853. Using census records and other resources available on Ancestory.com I was able to discover these facts:

  • According to the 1880 US census records, Alvin lived at 209 Michigan Street with his sister and brother-in-law, two nieces and his father. His occupation is listed as retail grocer.
  • From the 1900 census (the year construction began on our house) The Tillinghasts, Alvin, his wife Eudora and son Harold rented a home at 2152 Robinwood. There is no 2152 now. It seems this home would have been located where the OWE Commons now is. We know there was a gas station there at one time. I guess the home was removed to put the gas station in. It is interesting that he rented the house across the street while his home was under construction. I guess that made it easier to keep an eye on things. Oddly, his occupation is listed on the census report as “baegel manufacturer.”
  • The 1900 City director also shows the 2152 home as his address but lists Alvin the president and manager of Toledo Licorice Co and the second vice president of Central Savings Bank.
  • From 1903-1909 the Tillighasts are listed in the Toledo City directory with our home’s address. This makes the rumor that Tillighast never lived in the home he built likely false.
  • From 1905-1908 Tillighasts seems to have been running the licorice company that made him his fortune as well as being the treasurer of Royal Brush & Broom.
  • The 1910 census report has the Tillighasts renting a home on Glenwood and he now is self employed, selling life insurance. It is safe to assume that Toledo Licorice has probably stopped operating and the failing company forced Alvin to move from the house he built. We are trying to find the records for the deed transfer to see if the house did return to the builder or if it was sold by the Tillinghasts.
  • I was able to find that in 1922 he owned a home at 2547 Robinwood with no mortgage.
  • He served on the board at The Toledo Museum of Art for many years.
  • Mr. Tillinghast died at age 98 in 1951. I was able to find several obituaries for him. Most refer to him being a widower with no children. This seemed strange as I knew he had one son. Again using Ancestry records, I found his son Harold had passed away at age 45 in Pennsylvania. His cause of death was listed as suicide. Harold had a daughter who was 5 at that time. I was able to track her and she passed away in 1991. I’m not sure why Tillinghast didn’t list his granddaughter in his obituary. There seems to have been a lot of difficulties in Alvin’s life but he seemed to keep his chin up. Apparently he planned his own funeral 15 years prior to his death. He left very specific instructions that he would not have a casket but would lie in state on a slumber bed. The funeral home was to play music he chose and loved. He had cards printed out when he made his funeral arrangements that said “If you have any pleasant recollections of me, smile.” There seemed to be some discussion about whether refreshments would be served. He had requested none but the funeral home did decide to serve cake and coffee.
Obituary for Mr. Tillinghast from June 8, 1951 Huntingdon PA Daily News

Another Question Answered

Both Sister Ann Diehl, CSJ and I were curious about how the Oblates of Mary Immaculate came to have a home in Toledo, Ohio. In her research she found a typed page titled “Short History of The Toledo Mission House and St. Benedict’s Mission” Here is what that revealed:

“The house was founded in the spring of 1938, at which time the Very Rev. James T. McDermott was the Provincial of the 1st American Province. The home is a beautiful estate in the residential district of the city of Toledo and was the former home of John N. Willys, manufacturer of Willys-Overland cars and jeeps. He was also a former Ambassador to Poland.

The house is a three story structure with a chapel on the third floor. The chapel has a seating capacity of 24, and also has four altars, one on each wall. There are many larg rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors, and the 1st floor is housing the parlors, dining room and kitchen. The home is on the corner of Robinwood Ave. and W. Delaware Ave., and the property includes a beautiful garden spot.

The work of the Oblates in Toledo is covered by missions, retreats, chaplaincies at St. Vincent’s hospital, the State Hospital, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the Ursuline Convent. Besides that, our Fathers teach at the Ursuline Academy and the College there, run by the Ursuline Nuns. Likewise, the Oblates conduct a black Mission Parish by the name of St. Benedict’s. Fr. Joseph Shea, present Superior of the Toledo house is also the pastor of St. Benedict’s and has been since his arrival in Toledo in 1938.

St. Benedict’s was established in 1932 by the Jesuit Fathers and was housed in an old frame building which was very inadequate. At this time there were only 50 black Catholics in the city. Now the Oblates have a growing parish housed in an abandoned Protestant Church which was purchased for $14,000. It can accommodate 500 people, and also has class rooms and meeting rooms for social purposes. In 1944 the 1st grade of grammer school began, and each year a grade has been added, so that this past June (1951) Fr. Shea held his first graduation exercises. The Sisters of Notre Dame teach in the grammer school.”

With this information I was able to find that St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church was created as a non-territorial parish in 1932 to serve black Catholics in Toledo. The first church building was located at 566 Avondale Ave. In 1937, a second church building was placed into service at the corner of Dorr and Washington Streets. A parish school was established there in 1944. These facts line up with the history sent to us by Sister Ann.

The church and school closed in 1965, when the State of Ohio took possession of the land to build an expressway, and the need for such a church no longer existed. Church members and school children joined the territorial parishes in which they resided.

I find it funny that John North Willys only lived here for ten years but even this early history of the house references him as having resided here.

We have the blue prints for the chapel and the reference here that there were four altars makes sense when comparing that lay out to the blue prints. The raised area on the west wall remains where the main altar would have been. There are four recessed lights in the center of each wall. We are now fairly sure these would have been above each side altar as well as over the main altar.

Its been fun to learn some new things about the house that line up with things that are still here, like the altar platform and the four brass ceiling lights on each side of the room. ( A side note: the lights were painted with several layers of paint that we removed to reveal the original brass fixtures underneath.) I have been doing a lot of research to try to substantiate some of the stories about the house and have been learning a lot about the people who lived here and whose histories we now share as owners of this historic house.

Another History Lesson

When we started talking about having the house on the summer tour, I told Matt we needed to fill in the missing pieces of the priests who lived in the house. Although they were the longest residents (40 years) nobody seemed to know for sure who they were. We were told they were Oblate priests but that doesn’t narrow down the search much. I did some research and decided the most likely answer was they were from the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. It seemed strange that an order of missionary priests would have a home in Toledo at that time.

I went to their website: oblatesusa.org and learned this:

  • The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate serve poor and needy people in the United States and more than 60 countries around the world.
  • Today nearly 4,000 Missionary Oblates are ministering in some of the world’s most difficult missions, reaching out to serve those most in need.
  • Saint Eugene De Mazenod was born into an aristocratic French family in 1782.  The French Revolution forced his family into exile.  In 1807, he had a profound religious experience, and he committed himself to Christ and the Church. As a young priest Eugene was appalled by the condition of the Church in southern France.  The poor were being neglected.  In response, Eugene gathered around him a small group of priests and began to preach directly to the poor.  Eventually this small band became the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
  • By the time of his death on May 21, 1861 the congregation he founded had grown to 415 priests and brothers in seven countries.  On December 3, 1995 Pope John Paul II formally declared Eugene De Mazenod a saint.

Matt called the headquarters in Texas and was told all records for the order were kept by their archivist in Washington DC. Matt was given the contact information for Sister Ann Diehl CSJ. She told him she had never heard of there being a mission house in Toledo but she would look into it.

The next day she sent us an email with these details. Apparently she was intrigued and excited to have learned something new.

  • The house on Robinwood was originally purchased by the Oblates to use as a “Mission House” – a home base for priests who travelled around giving parish missions and various retreats.  Besides the “missionaries” who travelled about, several priests lived there who did  pastoral work, mainly chaplaincies, in the Diocese of Toledo.  This provided a lot of variety in the community.  In addition, the house had many visitors from around the country and around the world, including more traditional “missionaries” from other countries. 
  • Giving parish missions to help revitalize the religious life of the people was the primary purpose for which the Oblates were founded in 1816, following the devastation of the French Revolution.  But they also served the other religious needs of the areas they were in.
  • Until very recently it was customary in every Oblate community to maintain a “Codex Historicus” to record significant events in the community.  She included some of those pages for us.

First page of the original codex.
  • By the mid-70’s most of the works the Oblates had been doing in Toledo had been phased out, including, apparently, the Mission Band. 
  • In April of 1977 there were only three Oblates left in the diocese, and the Robinwood house was too large and too expensive for three to maintain, so it was decided they would look for an apartment and sell the house.  (They moved to an apartment across the street in Ann Manor directly below the one where Matt’s parents now live.)
  • Apparently a realtor they had hired (Michael Murray) to help them sell the house liked it so well he bought it himself.  The next year the last three Oblates were reassigned out of the diocese.

She also included this article from what I believe is The Catholic Chronicle 3/11/1938.

We also now have this bill of sale from the 1938 purchase. Knowing the Oblates purchase included the contents of the home gives mere credence to the story that after leaving The Toledo Club very late one evening, Mr. Bell came into the house after he had sold it to the Oblates and woke the priests playing the piano and singing. The piano would have been familiar as it had been his previously and rumor has it his late night serenades were a common occurrence when he lived here.

So we now know a little more about our home. I’m not sure how the history of the Oblates had been lost when they were here such a long time and it hasn’t been that long since they left. Sister Ann sent several other things as well. I will post more soon. We have enjoyed learning more about the house’s story.

Up To Speed

When I started this blog there was a lot going on in a short amount of time.  After the first year or year and a half we settled into life in our mansion and continued working on small projects.  We learned to just live with a lot of the things like green paint and ugly light fixtures, bathrooms without working faucets or dripping faucets, occasional water leaks inside the roof when the rain is heavy and the wind is blowing a certain way, frozen washing machine pipes and cold rooms.  As I’m thinking about it the list is pretty long!  The quirky things have become just part of the adventure.

Matt has been prodding me for some time to get back to my blog.  For several reasons the time seemed right now. 2017 and 2018 saw a few projects get completed. In no particular order, some things we did:

  • Added air conditioning to the first floor
  • installed mini split system to provide heat and ac to the kitchen and laundry room
  • repaired three of the flat roofs
  • replaced some bathroom fixtures
  • improved the landscaping
  • redid the room that was the chapel and made it into Matt’s pub
  • painted the garage
  • stained the back stairs

I’ll try to add some before and after photos soon.

We also hosted many events and had a lot of overnight guests. We have had Christmas parties, porch parties, parade brunches, an engagement party, hosted a mini tour for about 100 people after they had gone to Woodlawn cemetery for a tour of famous Toledoans gravesites, had several team dinners for our kids, hosted 70 kids for dinner before a date dance, birthday parties, were the first stop for OWE porch crawl last summer just to name a few.

In January we were approached about opening our home for the OWE festival the first weekend in June. After some back and forth negotiating between the two of us we agreed. We have made a wish list of things we would like to complete before then and Matt has already started on it. So if all goes as planned, we will have lots of projects to share with you soon.

Way before picture!

The Sky is Falling

We are in the process of switching the kids rooms around.  Oldest daughter is away at camp so we want to finish getting her things moved to her new room and put away before she returns tomorrow.  Matt finished painting her room and I moved everything out of her old room.  Matt is finishing the hall closet which she will use in place of the very large closet she had in her current bedroom.  As soon as the painting is finished I can try to put all her things away.

2016-07-13 09.48.28

Matt has made progress on the closets.  The bedroom one is finished:


Closet before

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Closet after










The problem now is getting all the stuff from her old closet:


Into the new closet!

2016-07-13 09.48.42

The old closet is 6 feet long with built in cupboards above the clothes rod and built in drawers, cupboards and shoe holders on the end that are 18 inches deep.  We know that won’t all fit in the room she is moving to where there is one shelf and a hanging rod which is only two feet long.

The solution is letting her use the hall closet next to her bedroom to keep a lot of her stuff in.  I lined the drawers, shelves and the back walls of the cupboards.  I scraped off most of the green paint.  Matt has painted the green walls and I hope he can finish the cabinets and drawers today.  It is a big improvement and will be a great use of this space.

2016-07-13 09.49.18

We painted the walls the same color as the hallway outside.

The next step in getting all this rearranging done is to get oldest daughters old room painted so oldest son can move his things in. This room had some damage done to the ceiling from one of the flat roofs on the third floor.  Looking at it, we knew there had been a problem but the sellers assured us the leaking had been taken care of.  Turns out that that wasn’t true.  Oldest daughter had all her friends here for a sleepover shortly after we moved in.  We had a big storm and there was rain water pouring out of her bedroom ceiling fixture!  When the ceiling dried out, part of it actually fell off.  We had the drywall guy come and repair it.

2016-07-13 09.49.51

You can see the part of the ceiling where the drywall was fixed and the crown molding that was damaged and needs to be painted.


There were still some spots on the ceiling that were damaged and some loose paint up there.  Oldest son decided he could handle scraping off the loose paint and prepping it for Matt to paint.

2016-07-13 09.50.11

He got way more than he bargained for when he started to scrape the loose paint, and an entire section of the ceiling came down!  I received a text message that read “the sky is falling.”  I knew that could not be good!

Apparently the ceilings in our house are all canvas with plaster skim coat over them.  The whole section of the plaster covered canvas fell.  The interesting part, is it tore away from the plaster decorative border that is on the ceiling in this room.  It is the only room in the house with this border so we were happy not to lose it!

Matt thinks we can (carefully) remove the remainder of the canvas and leave the border intact.  He can skim the ceiling and paint and we will be good to go.  This will delay the project of course.  We moved all the things out of the ‘cowboy” room into the hall except the two twin bed frames.  Once oldest son moves his things into oldest daughters old room, the guest room things can move into his old room and become the new guest room- with a bathroom!  It will be a much nicer configuration for guests.

In the meantime, our upstairs hallway looks like this:

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It feels like we just moved in all over again!


This and That

It has been a crazy hot week here making even the simplest of tasks seem overwhelming.  Not having air conditioning isn’t too bad when the overnight low temperatures get down at least to the upper 60’s.  This week that hasn’t happened and it has been very humid so we have not been able to get the house cooled down at night.  We went to the big box store for more paint and found this:

Image result for lg portable air conditioner

A portable air conditioner!

I had no idea such things existed.  I knew you could get a window air conditioner but not a portable one.  Needless to say we brought one home.  The plan was to use it primarily in the kitchen which for some reason never cools down even when the rest of the house does.  It will make meal prep so much nicer.  So far we have only used it in the study where both of the boys have been hanging out a lot this summer.  The desktop computer, cable gateway and router and the boys video game systems are all in there.  With an east facing window and all the electronics the room gets hot.  The portable A/C made a huge difference.  It will be great to be able to cool down whatever area of the house we need.  We do have A/C on the third floor so we can always hang out up there and sleep up there if it gets really bad.

Since we have been here for a year now, our homeowners insurance was due to renew.  Getting homeowners insurance for an historic home was a challenge we did not expect.  Renewing with our current carrier was horrible.  Our cost was going to increase nearly a $1000.  We hadn’t filed any claims or made any changes.  It was crazy.  There seems to be only two carriers for homes like ours.  Both base your rates on replacement value.  The tricky part about that is most of the features of our home that we fell in love with-the stained glass, the woodwork are irreplaceable.  You can’t get the craftsmen or the materials today to replace these features.  The insurance company still puts a value on it though.  Our home is valued at over $4,000,000.  Yes.  That is six zeroes!  We would never spend that much to replace this house in this neighborhood if we were to suffer a catastrophic loss. Due to the crazy increase, we switched to the only alternative we had.

The insurance company required us to install a security system which we had already had done.  As part of our renewal we needed smoke detectors which we had but the insurance company wanted a remotely monitored smoke detector system in place.  We now have that and these lovely little gadgets had to be placed on the walls on the first floor, eight inches from the ceiling.

So fitting on the walls of our home!

Trying to find someplace where they would not be an eye sore was a challenge but we managed.  I won’t post pictures of the actual detectors on my walls because I am hoping you will never notice them if you come over!  No need to point them out here.  On the second and third floors they are on the ceilings and a little less obvious.  Plus nobody looks at the hallway ceilings there.

Larry the tree guy is coming back this weekend to remove the other mulberry tree, the dead trees and a few trees that will be in the way when we (hopefully) put our pool in next summer.  The backyard/sideyard (I never know what to call this space) will look a lot different on Monday.

We cleaned up the front floor bed last weekend and added a few perennials and some more shrubs.  We get a lot of compliments on the yard.  The general consensus from the neighborhood is the yard hasn’t been well cared for in a long time and this is the best it has looked in years. I missed having flowers and a garden last year.  It does make it feel more like home when you pull in the driveway and see all the landscaping.  Since the house is on such a visible corner it seems everyone notices.



It’s Not Easy Being Green

Kermit was right about that.  We have a lot of green paint left in the house.  The hall closet outside oldest daughter’s new room is actually three different colors of green.  I suspect at least one of these colors was done when the priests lived here.  It certainly has an institutional feel.  I don’t know that they are to blame for all of the greens though.  I think they would have only used one color.  Whoever painted the cabinets green (why they painted the cabinets green is a whole different topic!) used a flat paint over the cream colored oil based paint.  The good thing about that is the green came off easily.  There are still two coats of cream under the green.  I think we will brighten it up by painting everything off white.  Once the cabinets are sanded, I might be able to live with the cream color especially when the green walls go away.  I can’t believe that the green is actually still here.  I believe we are the 6th owners since the priests have left.  I guess since it was a closet it was easy to look past it.  The linen closet has the same thing going on.  The linoleum floor tiles are pulling up and I am hoping to find original hardwoods under there.


The cabinet is one shade of green and the top and bottom of the wall is two different greens.  The flash makes the top of the wall appear creamy but it is green. 

Here are the cabinets after I started scraping off the paint.



The paint under the cabinets is very creamy and the linoleum tiled  floor is not orange.  Again, the camera flash changes the coloring in here a lot.


The drawers are giant.  They have nice brass rollers under then that make them slide really easily.  Most old drawers I have seen are just sliding in a wooden slot.


We have a giant walk in linen closet at the top of the back stairwell.  It is really more a long room than a closet.  I am not sure what this additional walk in closet would have been used for originally.  We have been told that when the priests lived here it housed the only phone in the house.  There is a little Formica table that pops up that could be used as a little desk when you were on the phone. There is a mailbox.  I would guess the priests left their outgoing mail here and it would be someone’s job to get it to the postman.  I doubt the mail got delivered to the second floor closet!  The phone jack has a glow in the dark nightlight included.  Very convenient if you answer the phone at night without turning on the light?  There is also a bulletin board with a very old phone list with all the local Catholic churches, schools, hospitals, institutions and religious orders numbers listed.  Many of these are no longer here.  We plan to keep that.  It is a nice reminder of the history of the house.  I may frame it though just to help preserve it.

The walls in here are in rough shape.  Matt is going to need to do some repair before we paint.  Inside the cabinets, the same shelving system used in the butler and maid pantries is found.  Looking at the lower cabinet I suspect it may have once had a glass front also.  The center seems to be different than the framing and doesn’t quite match up.


Since we are going to paint this room a neutral color but oldest daughter is using it as an extension of her room, she picked a nice beach themed fabric to line the walls behind the glass doors.  We will look for some ribbon to put on the shelf fronts.


It certainly brightens things up in here and ties into the theme she has in her room.  I just couldn’t imagine painting this  closet the same bright colors as her room. This was a nice compromise.  I scrubbed everything in here before we moved in.  What magic eraser  couldn’t get rid of, I covered with contact paper.  It knew it was clean but it didn’t look clean.  The contact paper helps.



Our holiday weekend is filled with painting and home projects.

It will be nice to be rid of the green!