October 31, 1993

Toledo Blade Boulevard Commemorates An Ohio Newspaper

With thanks to Cathy Livimpt, Janet Leiser, and the "North Port Sun."

Ohioans traveling Interstate-75 through Sarasota County are surprised to see a "Toledo Blade" interchange at North Port. Charlotte County folks risking life and limb on Tamiami Trail ( U.S. 4l) are puzzled by that unusual name for a prominent street intersection in Murdock.

An elementary school in North Port also bears the name.

Casual motorists often surmise the name refers to the famous steel swords manufactured at Toledo, Spain; but Buckeyes know it for the 158- year-old newspaper of Toledo, Ohio.

Everyone who notices the name wonder how it came to be applied so far from either source, and why it pops up in so many places hereabouts.

The explanation starts in 1954 with the Yellow Knife Bear Mines, Ltd., a Canadian investment firm. It formed a partnership with the Mackle Brothers Construction Company of Miami and bought 70,000 acres of land along 14 miles of Tamiami Trail from Rancher A.C. Frizzell for $2.3 million. Mackle began building inexpensive two-bedroom homes on Easy Street, a development and name appealing to northern retirees. After selling 250 homes, Yellow Knife-Mackle merged with the Chemical Research Corporation of Delaware in 1956. They formed the General Development Corporation, recently reorganized as Atlantic Gulf Communities.

GDC launched an advertising blitz in northern newspapers --- including a generous schedule with the Toledo Blade. Undoubtedly the Blade received favorable consideration inasmuch as Mackle's executive vice-president and a GDC director, Thomas A. Ferris, began his successful career as a reporter there.

Port Charlotte and North Port lots were sold for $10 down and $10 per month. Four, model homes starting at $6,090 were built on Sunrise Trail, the first street off Elkcam Blvd. The name was Mackle spelled backward. In a short time 125,000 lots were sold. Surveyors worked from dawn to dusk laying out new streets. In accordance with Florida law, all streets had to be named, recorded and marked with corner signs so buyers could find their lots.

Naming streets is not as easy as one might think. Each had to be different from all others in the county for efficient postal service.

In addition they had suggest something in which prospective customers would accept. No one would live on Skunk Avenue, for example; and Easy Street was already reserved.

Developers soon run out of relatives and friends to honor with a street name. Flowers, trees, fruits, exotic plants, states, cities, seas, birds, animals --- and foreign variations thereof --- were soon exhausted. Numbered streets are efficient but lack sales appeal.

If streets are inadvertently duplicated, the postal service will change the least populated one arbitrarily --- with another starting with the same initial.

Everyone in General Development was encouraged to suggest names for the fastest growing communities in Florida history. Even corporate executives pored over plot plans, checked postal directories, and wracked their brains for ideas.

The boulevard that wound through both Port Charlotte and North Port was hard to describe because of its meanderings in two counties.

Ex-reporter Ferris spoke up for the Blade once more, pointing out that the newspaper had produced a large number of customers for GDC. He also named another street in Port Charlotte after George Jenks, his best friend at the Blade in his younger years. The Blade was founded in 1835 amidst the turmoil of the "Toledo War." Ohio was the first state to be carved from the Midwest Territory in 1803. When Michigan sought statehood in 1835, it disputed Ohio's claim to a little frontier village at the mouth of Maumee River on Lake Erie.

An Ohio surveying party laying out a line to substantiate the Buckeye claim was arrested by Michigan militia and carried a few miles north to the village of Tecumseh. The nine men were released the next day, but the Ohio Legislature was incensed. The dispute was taken to Washington, D.C., and a new survey was ordered.

While the survey was being made, militia men from both states took up positions on both banks of the Maumee. The day before the survey results were to be announced at Toledo, Ohio judges and clerks stole into the sleeping town at 3 o'clock in the morning, held a meeting in its tavern, recorded the notes, and were toasting the event when a shot or two rang out. The exact number varied among witnesses.

The Ohio delegation vacated the premises without completing the toast, but reveled in victory later that day when the survey proved its claim. The Michiganders fired a few more shots into the air in disgust but returned to Tecumseh without "invading" Ohio. Michigan partisans declared Ohio lost the bloodless Toledo War by having to accept responsibility for a backward town of rustics. Today's Blade publisher, Bill Block, Jr., says the paper was named for the legendary "cutting edge" of Toledo, Spain, swords.

George B. Way, the paper's first editor, explained the name in his first editorial:

"We hope the Blade will always leap from its scabbard whenever the rights of individuals or of the community shall be infringed upon."

In 1987, Blade Editor Mike Bartell was vacationing in Florida and saw the Toledo Blade sign at North Port's interchange with U.S. 75.

"I thought, 'Oh heck, since I've worked for the paper 20 years I might as well take a picture of it.'

"I stopped my car and walked back with my camera to the sign. As I was photographing it, a trucker stopped to see if I needed help.

"Boy, was he steamed when I told him what I was doing. I guess he couldn't believe someone would stop to take a picture of a sign."

A framed photograph of the sign now hangs in the paper's newsroom. If any developer is stumped for a name of a new street, may I suggest the Sun-Herald?

By Lindsey Williams, columnist for Sun Coast Media Group newspapers

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Sign over the busy interchange of Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) and Toledo Blade Boulevard commemorates an old, Ohio newspaper.

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