November 2008 Issue
Ohio's Best Hometown 2009 - Perrysburg
“We don’t have to work real hard to sell Perrysburg. It sells itself.”
The pride Richard Thielen, Administrator for City Planning, Zoning and Economic Development, has for his town is typical.
The approximately 20,000 residents are proud that they live in a place where friends pack the streets for events like Harrison Rally Day and the summer farmers market. They are proud that their school system is regarded as one of the best in the state. And they are proud of their history just as much as their growth.
“It’s a town with a soul,” explains Steven Kaminsky of the city’s appeal. Kaminsky and his wife, Kristin, co-owners of Artforms, a gallery featuring locally made glass works and jewelry, came to Perrysburg to open their store in the historic downtown area.
It felt like home when we moved here,” he said. Seven years later they are still residents.
It’s a familiar story. People come to Perrysburg for the schools or the jobs (the world headquarters of Owens-Illinois, Inc., is located here, among other companies). After the kids are no longer in school, they stay for the city’s abundance of amenities (including nationally recognized Way Public Library), proximity to a major city (Toledo) and park system (consisting of 11 public green spaces).
Some, like Mayor Nelson Evans, leave, realize what they are missing and return. After growing up in Perrysburg, Evans left to attend the University of Cincinnati. “I came back and it was the best thing I ever did,“ he says.
The city’s rich history is a major point of pride for its residents. A visit to Fort Meigs, which played a pivotal role in the War of 1812, is a regular field trip for Perrysburg schoolchildren. Today, the fort, rebuilt in 1974, is the largest reconstructed stockade fort in the nation.
Perrysburg, named after Battle of Lake Erie hero Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, was surveyed and platted in 1816. Situated next to the languid waters of the Maumee River, it enjoyed a booming shipbuilding industry and was a stop for pioneers on their way west in the mid-1800s.
Today much of the original area of Perrysburg looks as it probably did in the 1800s. Rows of quaint storefronts line the city’s downtown area. Extending out from downtown, mainly along Front Street, are meticulously maintained old homes: Queen Annes, Italianates and Gothic Revivals.
And residents work hard to keep it that way. Perrysburg’s Historic Landmarks Commission has jurisdiction over the entire historic district to ensure that the character of the area is maintained.
But Perrysburg is not afraid of change, either. The streets winding away from downtown, filled with a wide variety of housing — everything from ranches and housing developments of two-story colonials to apartments — attest to the 120 percent growth the city has experienced since 1970. What began as a one-mile-square town now spans 12 square miles.
Levis Commons, built in 2004, includes stores, businesses and housing, and is a perfect example of the seamless blend of old and new that the city achieves. It was built to resemble Perrysburg’s historic downtown.
“We took what works here and recreated it,” Thielen explains. And, contrary to what might be expected, it doesn’t compete with downtown shops. It seems to complement them.
It is this balance of the old and new that the city is hoping to capitalize on to become more than just a great place for families to plant roots. Perrysburg hopes to become a tourist destination, too, focusing on the triad of Levis Commons, downtown and Fort Meigs. “We were a well-kept secret for a long time, says Evans. “That secret’s out.”