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1950-1960: Findlay booming again



The decade of the 1950s may well have been the boom years of the 20th century in Findlay.

The discovery of gas and oil some 60 years earlier had transformed the small county seat into a thriving metropolis.

But progress in the 1950s did not depend on mineral resources and luck. This time, the community made a conscious effort to create its own success.

Toward the end of World War II, an organization called the Post-War Planning Committee was de­veloped in conjunction with the chamber of commerce to examine the possibilities for economic re­covery. The group assembled facts and figures and made rec­ommendations for a course of ac­tion.

The resulting plan enabled Find­lay to make great strides.

The city’s population rose to 23,845 during the decade, and the construction of new homes contin­ued.

New industry that came to town contributed to the community’s prosperity.

Ashland Oil and Refining Co. be­gan operations in 1950 after pur­chasing the facilities of the Na­tional Refinery.

Radio Corporation of America opened a few years afterwards. As part of the RCA Tube Division, the company manufactured electronic components for televisions.

In 1955, the Findlay Kodak Pro­cessing Laboratory was completed to provide processing facilities for movie and still film.

Findlay Industries and the Hy­way Concrete Pipe Co. were also founded.

National Automotive Fibers, the first industry to locate in Find­lay after World War II, moved its business out of the city in 1958. The plant was sold to the Dobeck­mun Division of Dow Chemical.

The Hancock County AFL-CIO Council was formed, to orga­nize and coordinate the efforts of local labor unions.

Meanwhile, many of Findlay’s long-established firms continued to thrive.

Ohio Oil Co. again enlarged its office facilities. The old part of the Donnell building on East Hardin Street was torn down and an eight-story addition was constructed. A few years later, a nine-story build­ing was erected nearby.

Likewise, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. was engaged in a two-year, $5 million expansion by the end of the decade.

Midway through the decade, Findlay’s school enrollment sky­rocketed to more than 5,700 stu­dents. School buildings were soon filled to capacity.

Voters responded by approving a $2 million bond issue. Funds were used to build Jacobs Elemen­tary School off Crystal Avenue, and to erect additions at Whittier, Northview, Washington, Lincoln and Adams schools. The two jun­ior high schools were also expand­ed.

The number of students attend­ing St. Michael School was increasing, as well. Three expansion projects during the decade pro­vided the school with a gymnasi­um, a cafeteria and 21 classrooms. A junior high school system was inaugurated in 1957. Two years later, the parish purchased 12 acres on U.S. 224 east of Findlay for future development.

The Hancock School for Re­tarded Children was started in 1952 by a small group of parents of developmentally disabled children. Classes were held at Howard Methodist Church.

By the end of the decade, Find­lay College announced plans for a $2.9 million, eight-year develop­ment program that would add eight new buildings to the campus.

Municipal improvements were also being made.

Findlay Council approved a zon­ing ordinance that placed all areas within the city in different catego­ries, such as residential, mercan­tile and industrial.

In 1951, voters approved a $1.2 million bond issue to expand the city’s sewer system. The capacity of the waterworks plant also was doubled, and land was acquired in Marion Township for the construc­tion of a reservoir.

A significant milestone was achieved when a highway bypass was constructed on the city’s west side at a cost of $10 million. Old U.S. 25 — Lima Avenue — was re­routed to the west to help ease traffic congestion on Main Street.

Federal funds, local gifts and a bond issue were used to build a new hospital in the community. The 175-bed facility opened in 1958 at the site of the old hospital south of town. Ownership was trans­ferred from the city to the county. The Blanchard Valley Hospital As­sociation continued to direct oper­ations, and the name Blanchard Valley Hospital was adopted.

The old north wing of the hospi­tal was later remodeled. One floor became the Civilian Defense head­quarters. Another area housed the local Red Cross chapter.

Early in the decade, the Judson Palmer Home was built on North Main Street to provide a place for indigent older women. Money for the facility was provided in the wills of Judson and Katherine Palmer. Palmer had been involv­ed in the grocery business and a flour mill operation. He also served as president of the Farm­ers’ Bank for a time.

The Salvation Army citadel opened on Center Street during the period, and the Anchor Teen Cen­ter was established. The Fort Findlay Playhouse marked its first season in 1954-55.

Meanwhile, the United Commu­nity Fund was formed to unite the various causes that had been con­ducting individual fundraising campaigns in Hancock County. The fund initially benefited eight agencies.

Several disastrous fires oc­curred during the decade.

Hancock Brick & Tile was forced to rebuild after a blaze damaged the Findlay plant in 1951. The new facility was mod­ernized and equipped with the lat­est machinery and clay processing procedures.

A year later, First Presbyterian Church at the corner of West San­dusky and West streets was de­stroyed by fire. The structure dat­ed back to 1901. A new church was built at the extreme southern edge of the city.

In 1955, fire gutted the Fenster­maker Block on South Main Street. Damage was estimated at $750,000.

That same year, voters approv­ed a special levy to modernize the Fire Department. Personnel and equipment were added and a two-way communication system was installed with the help of the Han­cock County Civil Defense pro­gram. The Fire Department also opened two new stations, one at the corner of Tiffin and McMan­ness avenues, and the other on South Main Street to replace the old central station on Crawford Street.

The Hancock County commis­sioners bought the former Page Dairy Co. on Broadway in 1956. The Welfare Department took over part of the building. The commissioners considered moving the county jail into the structure, too. The jail that was in use, just south of the dairy building, had become dilapidat­ed.

When the Korean War broke out in June 1950, Findlay and Hancock County again responded to the country’s call.

A new selective service system had been established in 1948 as part of the national defense pro­gram. Under this program, Han­cock County was directed to create a new three-member draft board to serve the entire county.

The Ohio National Guard, in­cluding the Findlay company, was called into service during the war.

Meanwhile, Hancock County was one of the first counties in the state to install automatic voting machines.

Direct distance dialing also was introduced to the area.

Wolf: 419-427-8419


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