Colorful flotilla once plied the Blanchard

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier. This is the eighth of a series of articles dealing with the history of Findlay’s Riverside Park.

 

By R.L. HEMINGER

 

The days when a flotilla of marine craft plied the waters of the Blanchard River to and from Riverside Park and also when there were a good number of pleasure boats operating on the river above the resort are recalled with a high degree of interest by many in the local community.

For a period of from 10-12 years, the Blanchard was really “alive” with boats of various kinds, providing means of transportation between downtown Findlay and Riverside as well as on the river above the park. It was before the time of the popularity of the automobile. The ride on the river between Main Street and the park constituted a genuine delight for the boat passengers.

The city built docks adjoining the Main Street bridge and also constructed docks at Riverside. The “Pastime,” the river’s largest craft, had its own docks at each end of the run because of its size.

A flight of steps took patrons down to the water level on the south side of the river from the bridge. The dock here was 72 feet in length and 10 feet in width. The steps were 14 feet wide with heavy iron hand rails.

J.M. Haley, owner of some of the river boats including the “Pastime” at one time, also built a wharf along the side of his furniture store and to the rear. The Haley store is still located at its same site, just north of the river on the west side. The Haley dock was constructed to take care of a number of boats, and the cellar under the store was fitted up for convenience of patrons.

As many as 12 boats carried river passengers. They were of different size and nature.

In 1911, the boat owners and their names were: J.M. Haley, “Pastime,” “Ohio,” “O.K.;” Charles Bellinger, “City of Findlay,” “Comet;” W.H. Moses, “Queen of the Blanchard,” “Water Witch” and “Buckeye;” Charles Williams, “Reliance;” John Hemphill, “Gazelle;” James Henry, “Hazel” and Fred Folk, “Cutter.”

A 1909 listing of passengers carried by the boats then in service was as follows for the entire year: “Princess” and “Thelma” 12,749; “Buckeye” 8,966; “Queen of the Blanchard” 16,923; “Reliance” 15,279; “Pastime” 23,588; “Hazel” 13,311; “City of Findlay” 13,857; “Gazelle” 1,756; and “Ohio” 16,201.

The various boats changed hands frequently and each season saw some new owners and river craft.

The “Queen of the Blanchard,” one of the larger vessels, was built by Dem E. Marvin at his machine shop on East Front Street. It was 301/2 feet long and had a capacity of 60 passengers. It went into service in 1907. Mr. Marvin, 28 years before he launched “Queen of the Blanchard,” had built a small boat which carried passengers to and from what was known as Ivy Park, near the Kranz brewery. It carried 40 people and Mr. Marvin once said it earned him upwards of $7,000 during its “life.”

Some recall a boat named “The Hunkadory” a 20-foot launch owned and operated by C.N. Edie of Findlay.

A firm of Peterman and Cochran once built a dock on the south side of the river near the waterworks dam and carried persons across the Blanchard in what they termed the “Osborn Avenue Ferry.”

At one time, some boatmen started a movement to combine all boat owners in a consolidated group but their plans fell through.

In June 1906, the boating privilege above the waterworks dam was granted by the city to a company composed of A.C. Redman, F.B. Brester, R.W. Poe, E.A. Dietsch and C.D. Foster. The company agreed to put two launches on the river and furnish 25 rowboats.

Boating on the river above the dam proved highly popular, and many enjoyed the pleasure of cruising on the Blanchard, being able to travel a couple miles past the Findlay Country Club for quite a distance. There was a storage area for canoes, and a goodly number of Findlay young men invested in this type of craft, utilizing the storage facilities at the park.

Mr. Redman remained in the boat business at the park a very long time.

The city’s swimming pool on McManness Avenue was built in 1936, as a project of the Depression’s Work Progress Administration. The old reservoir which stood on the site was removed earlier after the municipality’s new waterworks was built on North Blanchard Street. The reservoir was constructed a number of years earlier when the city’s original reservoir, adjoining Riverside Park on the east, was no longer satisfactory. Its water came from the Blanchard River through a filter which became worn out. The original waterworks, which stood where the Tell Taylor memorial is now located, had been razed also when the reservoir was removed. Some of the brick and stone materials from the old waterworks were used in the pool bath house construction.

The pool’s cost was $31,161 and the bath house outlay came to $12,636. The city paid $6,250 for the pool and $3,600 for the bath house, the federal government furnishing the remainder. The project was one of the governmental projects initiated to provide work for the jobless and stimulate the economy in the Depression.

The pool and its adjoining wading pool were finished in August 1936.

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