My 8th grade class took a tour of our hometown of Lima, Ohio. The purpose of taking this tour was to open their eyes to what they don’t see in their own hometown. The other purpose of this tour was to observe and analyze the architecture of our downtown area and the few blocks around there. I lent them some digital cameras to help document what they saw. You can check out their pictures here.
This was a very interesting tour to begin with. My students thought it would be a waste of time since most of them have lived in Lima for most of their or all of their lives. I told them that there is so much they don’t see, because they haven’t taken the time to really observe what the buildings have to offer. I told them we would talk about why the city was laid out as it was, and about why some of the buildings look like they do. (Click here for a brief historical timeline of Lima, Ohio.)
As we left our school on the south side of Lima, I asked my students why there were so many old run-down homes in our neighborhood. They came back with some of the typical responses of, “these people are poor”, or “the homes are old.” I asked them what would draw people to live this far out of the center of town? The answer they came up with was a jobs, and the two best jobs in Lima at the turn of the century was working at Standard Oil and The Lima Locomotive Works. These places drew people here because they were the best jobs. Not always the safest, but they paid well for the time. Thats why these particular homes here are old, and not well taken care off. Most of them wree built in a hurry and they didn’t use the greatest materials. They just can’t stand the test of time.
As we walked on we finally got to our downtown area, the buildings are set pretty far back. So I asked them why they think that might be the case. They didn’t have a clue. So I told them that in the 1950-60’s people used to come down here to the shops and they needed a place to park. So the areas that are pedestrian in nature with the fountains and gazebos were parking lots.
We also looked at the buildings downtown. We looked at the big bay windows on the second and third stories of buildings and why the old buildings had large picture windows in the front. We looked at the top of the buildings and saw the faded painted ad signs on the sides of some of the old buildings. We saw so much! What was really cool was to see my students actively looking at the details in the buildings, and pointing them out to each other. They were beginning to see the point of this trip.
On our travels through out Lima, we saw the historic signs on buildings and one in particular the students drove by often and never really looked at. The picture in the upper right is on the side of our RTA (Regional Transportation Authority) building. They saw that where this building stands once was the grounds of a cemetery. This marker is of Private Elijah Stites who was a Minute Man of the Revolutionary War. They couldn’t believe that someone who fought in the Revolutionary War would have lived in Ohio particularly in Lima.
The other marker that was fascinating to my students is now over by our Water Department. It was a working Servicemen’s Free Canteen. In fact it is the longest serving Canteen in the United States. It was operational for 28 years. It was open through WWII, Korean War and the Vietnam War. Some 4 million servicemen came through here on the trains and received a hot drink, or something to eat. They couldn’t believe that a town of around 50,000 people could help out more than 4 million other people.
We concluded our tour by eating lunch and heading back to our school.
I honestly believe that my students learned a lot about their town and about the architecture of it. They learned about the layout of the town and about the history of where they are from just by taking a short 5 hour tour.