French trading posts operated in the area as far back as 1680. The area was first settled by Americans in 1845, after the Battle of Fallen Timbers, with the founding of Fort Industry. However, many settlers fled the area during the War of 1812. Resettlement began around 1868 when a Cincinnati syndicate purchased a 974-acre (3.9 km2) tract at the mouth of Cedar Creek and named it Port Lawrence, creating the modern downtown area. Immediately to the north of that, another syndicate founded the town of Vistula, the historic north end. These two towns physically bordered each other with Cherry Streetdividing them. This is why present day streets on the northeast side of Cherry Street run at a slightly different angle from those to the southwest of it.
In 1825, the Ohio state legislature authorized the construction of Miami and Erie Canal's and later its Wabash and Erie Canal extension in 1833. The canal's purpose was to connect the city of Cincinnati to Lake Erie because at that time no highways existed in the state and it was thus very difficult for goods produced locally to reach the larger markets east of the Appalachian Mountains. During the canal’s planning phase, many small towns along the northern shores of Maumee River heavily competed to be the ending terminus of the canal knowing it would give them a profitable status. The towns of Port Lawrenceand Vistula merged in 1833 to better compete against the towns of Waterville, Maumee, and Manhattan.
The inhabitants of this joined settlement chose the name Toledo, but the reason for this choice is buried in a welter of legends. One recounts that Washington Irving, who was traveling in Spain at the time, suggested the name to his brother, a local resident; this explanation ignores the fact that Irving returned to the United States in 1832. Others award the honor to Two Stickney, son of the major who quaintly numbered his sons and named his daughters after States. The most popular version attributes the naming to Willard J. Daniels, a merchant, who reportedly suggested Toledo because it 'is easy to pronounce, is pleasant in sound, and there is no other city of that name on the American continent, Despite Toledo’s efforts, the final terminus was decided to be built in Manhattan a half mile to the north of Toledo because it was closer to the lake. As a compromise, the state placed two sidecuts before the terminus, one in Toledo at Swan Creek and another in Maumee.
An almost bloodless conflict between Ohio and the Michigan Territory, called the Toledo War (1835–1836), was "fought" over a narrow strip of land from the Indiana border to Lake Erie, now containing the city and the suburbs of Sylvania and Oregon. The strip—which varied between five and eight miles (13 km) in width—was claimed by the state of Ohio and the Michigan Territory due to conflicting legislation concerning the location of the Ohio-Michigan state line. Militias from both states were sent but never engaged. The only casualty of the conflict was a Michigan deputy sheriff—stabbed in the leg by Two Stickneyduring the arrest of his elder brother, One Stickney—and the loss of two horses, two pigs and a few chickens stolen from an Ohio farm by lost members of the Michigan militia. In the end, the state of Ohio was awarded the land after the state of Michigan was given a larger portion of the Upper Peninsula in exchange. Stickney Avenue in Toledo is named for One and Two Stickney.
Toledo was very slow to expand in its first two decades of existence. Its very first lot was sold in the Port Lawrence section of the city in 1833. It held 1,205 persons in 1835, and five years later it held just seven more men. Settlers came and went quickly through Toledo and between 1833 and 1836, ownership of land had changed so many times that none of the original parties still existed. The canal and its Toledo sidecut entrance were completed in 1843; soon after the canal was functional, the canal boats became too large to use the shallow waters at the terminus in Manhattan. More boats began using the Swan Creek sidecut than its official ending, quickly putting the Manhattan warehouses out of business and triggering a rush to move business to Toledo.
Most of Manhattan's residents moved out by 1844. The 1850 census gives Toledo 3,829 residences and Manhattan 541. The 1860 census shows Toledo with a population of 13,768 and Manhattan with 788. While the towns were only a mile apart, Toledo grew by 359% in ten years while Manhattan only grew by 148% because of the change in the canal outlet. By the 1880s, Toledo expanded over the vacant streets of Manhattan and Tremainsville, a small town to the west.
In the last half of the 19th century, railroads slowly began to replace canals as the major form of transportation. Toledo soon became a hub for several railroad companies and a hotspot for industries like furniture producers, carriage makers, breweries, glass manufacturers, and others. Large immigrant populations came to the area, attracted by the many factory jobs available and the city's easy accessibility. By 1880, Toledo was one of the largest cities in Ohio.
20th Century to present
Toledo continued to expand in population and industry into the early 20th century, but because of a dependency on manufacturing, the city was hit hard by the Great Depression. Many large scale WPA projects were constructed to reemploy citizens in the 1930s. Some of these include the amphitheater and aquarium at the Toledo Zoo and a major expansion to the Toledo Museum of Art.
The city rebounded, but the slump of American manufacturing in the second half of the 20th century, along with the nationwide epidemic of white flight from cities to suburbs, led to a depressed city by the time of the 1980s national recession. The destruction of many buildings downtown, along with several failed business ventures in housing in the core, led to a reverse city-suburb wealth problem common in small cities with land to spare.
In recent years, downtown Toledo has undergone significant redevelopment to draw residents back to the city. Fifth Third Field opened in 2002, and theHuntington Center opened in 2009. The riverfront area adjacent to International Park has been upgraded with walking trails, landscaping and several restaurants have opened nearby.