Neighborhood: Birmingham

Birmingham Map

Historical map of Toledo, Ohio showing the Birmingham neighborhood from 1920

Standard Oil Station at Front and Consaul Streets, ca. 1945

This slide presents a 1940s view of the traffic surrounding a Standard Oil gas station at the corner of Front and Consaul Streets in the Birmingham Neighborhood of Toledo. The traffic on Consaul Street is coming from the Ash-Consaul Bridge which once connected the East Side of the Maumee River to North Toledo.

"From the beginning, Birmingham's stategic location near the mouth of the Maumee River made it naturally attractive to settlers in Northwest Ohio. Even before the first Europeans arrived, Native American tribes were drawn to the area by its easy access to Lake Erie, its abundant fresh fish, and its location under a major migratory bird route. What would become the Birmingham neighborhood was settled early on by French, German, and Irish farmers impressed with the area's rich loamy soil. Streets and park names such as Collins, Valentine, and Paine commemorate these early farming settlers.

Birmingham's economic shift from agriculture to industry happened suddenly, beginning with the establishment of a foundry by the National Malleable Castings Company. In 1890, the company transferred approximately two hundred Hungarian workers from its home plant in Cleveland to its new East Toledo Site on Front Street. Their arrival is documented in the Sacred Heart Catholic Church registers, where many of the first Hungarian settlers recorded their baptisms, marriages, and deaths until St. Stephen's church was built in 1899. This dating is also confirmed in a 1941 profile of Hungarian-American communities in the United States by the Cleveland Hungarian daily newspaper Szabadsag (Freedom). Birmingham quickly became a working-class Hungarian enclave.

Local records show that most of the populace had emigrated from the so-called Paloc counties of North-Central Hungary: Heves, Abauj, and Gomor (now in Slovakia). Most though far from all, were Roman Catholic. Although assigned to nearby Sacred Heart Church, the newly arrived Cleveland Hungarians were visited regularly by a Hungarian priest from Cleveland. In 1898 their own parish was established, the Church of St. Stephen, King of Hungary. Its registry listed about one hundred families in the following year.

Birmingham's name, like that of the Iron Town neighborhood just to its north, was meant to invoke a thriving iron and steel manufacturing center. And by the time of World War I, it did resemble its English namesake...

Excerpt from "Hungarian American Toledo: life and times in Toledo's Birmingham neighborhood" edited by Thomas E. Barden and John Ahern.

The Toledo Lucas County Public Library has digitized hundred of items from the Birmingham neighborhood. You can view examples of photographs, figurines, painted eggs, dollstextiles, and books.

Access the entire collection of 468 items documenting the Hungarian heritage in Toledo, and the Birmingham neighborhood.