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Downtown Toledo Associates Records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier:  MSS-027

Scope and Contents

The records of the Downtown Toledo Associates document the organization's interests and activities from its inception in 1955 to 1978. Promoting business in the downtown area was its primary goal. At first advertising special sales and parking rates--direct promotion--was its main activity. These advertisements, run in the Toledo newspapers, have all been preserved in a scrapbook. Two other scrapbooks contain a full record of local newspaper stories touching on downtown developments in general, especially parking, from 1955 to 1957 and from 1960-1963.

The files in the collection are organized by topic. The topics of greatest concern to the Downtown Toledo Associates were parking, expressways, and urban renewal. Each topic generally contains correspondence, clippings, and pamphlet files. Much of the correspondence is with the parking consultant firm, Wilbur Smith and Associates, with retailers, commercial organizations in other cities, and especially with city officials.

Most of the published reports, and ultimately the topical files, have to do with the master plan, first outlined in the 1950s. The Toledo Regional Area Plan for Action, finalized in the late 1960s, was the end result of Gedde's Toledo Tomorrow (1945). The activity of the Downtown Toledo Associates and its executive Burt Silverman during the 1960s shows that their primary activity was to lobby city and county agencies for downtown development. Much city and county material, therefore, is contained in the files.


  • Creation: 1955-1978

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials may be accessed by request at the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections on the fifth floor of the William S. Carlson Library on the main campus of the University of Toledo. Materials do not circulate.

Conditions Governing Use

In most cases, the Canaday Center does not own the copyright and literary rights to items in its collections; it is the responsibility of the researcher to adhere to U.S. Copyright and Fair Use laws, including seeking permission from the copyright holder and payment of any royalty fees, in the reproduction and use of archival materials. Providing copies or scans does not constitute a license to publish or reproduce images in print or electronic form.

Biographical / Historical

As Toledo sprawled in the postwar period and residents became less inclined to shop downtown, merchants in the core city began to suffer. In response to this worsening state of affairs, a group of downtown businessmen, mainly retailers, organized the Downtown Toledo Associates on June 1, 1955. Its goals were, at the outset, twofold: to work as a civic group with units of local government on matters concerning downtown revitalization. This second goal was sparked by the call, made by visionary Norman Bel Geddes in a Toledo Blade-sponsored study in 1945, for a master plan which would determine needs and priorities for the development of Toledo over the next thirty to fifty years.

The issues with which the Downtown Toledo Associates concerned itself and the activities it undertook changed over the years. Its first activity was to advertise in the newspapers special sales and parking rates. Lack of parking space was then felt by the group to be the chief impedance to attracting business downtown. By 1959, a major concern was the development of a downtown mall, a plan attempted in other cities but not successfully in Toledo. The DTA also sought, about 1959, to enforce state blue laws, as a means to fend off the threat posed by discount stores, but again, without success. Urban renewal was an important concern, at least until the late 1960s. It was seen as a way to make the downtown area physically attractive and to locate prosperous residents closer to the area. Finally, issues relating to transportation--expressways and mass transit especially--were prime concerns throughout the 1960s.

The composition and purpose of the organization seems to have changed over the years. Initially its members were primarily retailers, large and small, who banded together to find ways to improve their business. By 1970, however, the organization was dominated by bankers, corporation executives, and real estate developers, although the larger retailers still carried a voice. These people, influential in their own right, were more concerned with larger issues of development and planning than with the more immediate promotional activities of the group's founders. Phillip J. Zeller sered as executive secretary from the end of 1955 to January1962. He was succeeded by Burt Silverman, who held the office of executive vice-president until his death in 1978. These men carried on the lion's share of correspondence of the organization and coordinated its activities. At first, these activities were mainly luncheons that brought merchants together to hear experts on urban planning. Later, members participated in such groups as the Mayor's Parking Committee (1969-1971) and the Convention Center Advisory Committee (1969). The organization was also involved in the selection of parking structure consultants and architects for the convention center.

The Downtown Toledo Associates continued as an organization under the leadership of executive vice-president Lois Nelson until 1983. At that point the organization disbanded, Nelson becoming director of the Office of Promotion of the Toledo Chamber of Commerce.


2 Linear Feet

3 Volumes

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

A Finding Aid is available in Word through the Archivist.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Lois Nelson, Executive vice-president, Downtown Toledo Associates, 1982



The Downtown Toledo Associates Records, dating from 1955 to 1978, consist of correspondence, reports and studies, and newspaper clippings. This material largely concerns issues relating to downtown revitalization, since the organization mainly represented downtown retailers. These issues--parking, urban renewal, transportation, and others--reflect postwar ideas of urban planning. The Downtown Toledo Associates was inspired by a Toledo Blade-sponsored study made by Norman Bel Geddes in 1945 that called for a master plan for Toledo's development. As an advocate organization, members frequently participated on citizen's committees and commissions working closely with the City of Toledo on issues connected with the master plan, first drawn up in the early 1950s. Much of the material, then, is city-sponsored.

Paul Gifford; Kimberly Brownlee; JaySean Johnson
1986; 2005; 2014; 2023
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
City of Toledo
Edition statement

Repository Details

Part of the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections Repository

2801 West Bancroft Street
William S. Carlson Library, Fifth Floor
Toledo Ohio 43606 United States