The great fall of Northwood, Ohio

19 Nov

I was born and raised in Northwood, Ohio (well, technically the hospital was in Oregon, Ohio).  It’s way up north in the state, right next to Toledo.  The city is approximately one by six miles.  The west side of the place is somewhat urban, banked right along the Maumee River.  The east side is pretty much nothing but country and farmland.  And smack-dab in the middle were residential, middle-class neighborhoods.  Anyhow, I’m not going to go into too many details.  Let’s just say I had a very enjoyable childhood growing up here.  Northwood had a bit of everything – a mall, movie theater, sidewalks, restaurants – stuff kids like.  It was the kind of place I could ride my bike along the streets all day long without a helmet and not worry too much about anything bad happening.  The place seemed to be, I don’t know, thriving in my perspective.  Kind of a big-little area with a nice mixture of country and city.

I moved out of Northwood after 5th grade.  I was gone for three years and then went back there for high school.  After high school, I was outta there again.  Never went back.

Northwood, as I mentioned, seemed thriving those days up til 5th grade.  When I went back for high school, the city seemed to halt sorta.  Not much growth.  Occasionally, something new might pop-up, but really, it was the same places that were there as a child.  And many more of those places seemed to start shutting down.  The only real new thing was a Burger King, which was exceptional to have as a high schooler.  Those Whoppers can be mighty tasty after a Friday night football game.

The mall there used to be hopping with all the spaces filled with book stores, arcades, clothing places, etc.  Tons of people ventured there on the weekends and it had everything.  Again though, in high school, stores started closing up and I would notice less and less people.  It was still a mall though with a variety of stores.  Nothing like in the 1980’s – which were the prime memories growing up with the busy mall.  But, it remained something of substance.

Well….

A little over a year ago, I decided to swing up to Northwood on an Ohio visit.  Not to see anyone or meet people.  Nope.  I just wanted to drive around the area and see what was shakin’.

You ever see the show, The Walking Dead?  Okay, Northwood resembled it a bit except without brain-sucking zombies walking around (although there were some pretty creepy transients walking along the highway).

I was surprised.  I guess not shocked, but surprised.

Listen, we had a recession.  I know Ohio got especially hit hard.  But a little over a year ago, most places seemed to be rebounding.  Dayton, Ohio (where I usually go to visit) was growing substantially with new restaurants, stores, etc.  But Northwood?  Yikes.

I’m writing this post because today I learned that one of the stores I used to frequent quite often as a child is now about to close.  It was The Andersons at the Woodville Mall (the name of the mall).  And not only that, the entire mall is closed.  The only other open store is a Sears (and if you read the thread on the post about Andersons, it seems as though it’s basically doomed at this point).

Above:  Want to open up a department store?  Well, this lot will soon be available.  Act now!

Also, one of the first jobs I ever had at sixteen was at the Pizza Hut on Woodville Road (yeah, named the same as the mall) just closed as well.  I ate there on this visit over a year ago, and there was a lady working there that was actually employed there when I was sixteen years ago.  I didn’t remember her nor she me (I mentioned I worked there before, and that’s how we got talking about it), but she said to me then that the entire area was going down the drain.  The Eastgate Shopping Center, which was the strip mall behind Pizza Hut, was basically vacant.  It, like the mall, used to be somewhat busy.  Dad and I used to go there for ice cream at the Baskin Robbins and there was a comic store there I went into on quite a few weekends.  All gone.  And vacant?  Well, I think it all was.  Except, there were a lot of pretty green weeds popping up everywhere.  Those were new.

Listen, I know things shut down.  Stuff changes.  But seeing the sad state of Northwood was a bit – well – sad.

All these places used to be packed with business and people.

The Pizza Hut I used to work at was swamped from the second I walked in until I left.  The phone there rang off the hook and I was constantly cooking pizzas.

The mall was always bustling with activity.  Everything from pinewood derby races from my Boy Scout days (like, in 4th and 5th grade) to buying Ninja Turtles at the Woolsworths store.  My friends and I would spend every weekend looking forward to going to the mall arcade and wasting quarters.  Or, even buying candy used to be a thrill if we could round up fifty cents from underneath the couch cushions.

The neighborhoods there had a lot of ‘For Sale’ signs scattered about them.  Back in the day, I knew pretty much everyone in those houses up for grabs that now sit empty.

At any rate, quite frankly, I don’t see it rebounding anytime soon.  Yes, I haven’t been up there in over a year, but just by reading the article on the Andersons closing and the mall, I’m guessing it’s just getting worse than better.   Doesn’t seem to be much of a reason to settle into Northwood these days.  Although, I believe the Burger King is still there, if that’s enough reason to move to the area.

My old grade school and high school even looked like it might need an upgrade.  It looked the same – just more tarnished and dirty.  I don’t think the parking lot has been repaved since I graduated in ’97.  I’m sure my lousy high school transcripts are still there, too.

Above:  I believe that lettering was there when I went to school here.  In need of an upgrade?  You decide.

Sometime I’ll make another trip up there.  I can kind of guess that I’ll see a totally vacant mall (or it will be bulldozed by then), more overgrown parking lots and more vacancies for houses.   I hope not – really – I wish the area nothing but the best.  But, I can’t see it being the Northwood that I remember back in the day.  A bit sad, but then again, I was one of those residents that left there as well a long time ago.  I guess I wasn’t alone.

I’m not usually a sentimental kinda guy.  No, really, I’m not.  But, it seems as the more I age, places that I grew up around are starting to disappear.  Natural, I know.  But…

My grandmothers/grandpa houses are no longer places to visit.  My old hangouts are all shut down or non-existent.  And places I used to venture to I no longer have a reason to go to, so chances are, I really wont see them again.

So, oh well.  This is my sentimental post for the week.

I guess I’ll just have to focus on places of the now.  If  my current home in St. Petersburg ever starts to look like Northwood, I’ll be sure to head out of town before the local Andersons closes.  (Oh, wait – there isn’t an Anderson’s here.)

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11 Responses to “The great fall of Northwood, Ohio”

  1. Janis Malish November 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    I guess you can never go back home. I have many fond memories of Northwood and the Toledo area.

    • w101njf November 19, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

      Well, I would never want to move back there (even if it was doing good). It had its moment in the limelight growing up, but that’s about it.

  2. bearmancartoons November 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    I worked at 4 different Movie Theaters in HS/College. Every one of them is gone.

    • w101njf November 19, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

      I guess your chances of sneaking in isn’t happening then?

      • bearmancartoons November 19, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

        One’s a 1/2 off bookstore, one is now an IHOP, one is an H&M and one is storage units.

  3. Sandra November 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    What an awesome post. It sucks getting old for a variety of reasons, and the death of visual memories of our past is one.

    • w101njf November 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

      Thanks, Sandra! And yea, age has a lot of not-so great things involved. Practically all my old haunts are disappearing off the map at an increased rate recently (at least it seems).

      • Sandra December 7, 2012 at 9:36 am #

        Egads. 😦 Mine too.

  4. Aaron November 21, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    As a fellow Northwood resident in my youth, I’d agree with everything you said. It is sad to come home and see the businesses that have closed or moved out of their “old” locations. As for it being a case of decay, I think the city just suffered from such a state of inertia that it never really adapted to the changing times. I’d say it’s more a case of stagnation than decay. The location wasn’t really ideal, being pinched between industrial and agricultural areas but there was still lots to do. It was cool being able to get just about anywhere in Toledo in twenty minutes, and going from one side of Northwood to the other in ten (as long as there were no trains!) Of course, my parents still live in the house I grew up in, so there is a bit more for me to see and do when I go home, but it is saddening to see buildings that held so many happy memories as a child standing dark and empty.

    On a happier note, whoever decided to put that Burger King right across from the middle school was a genius; between football and marching band practices, baseball, basketball, and volleyball games, it was guaranteed to be packed three or more nights a week. And that Pizza Hut probably employed most of my friends at one point or another. Do you remember the mini-golf course that used to be where the Taco Bell is now? Good times.

    • w101njf November 29, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

      It really isn’t set in an ideal location – you’re right about that. I did notice that Oregon seems to be growing quite a bit there though (around Pearson Park).

      And yes, the mini-golf (Putt-Putt, I believe). Many fond days there! No matter how bad I sucked at it, I was guaranteed fun. I believe that is a nesting ground for seagulls now.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Nostalgia This | Nate's Ramblings - October 18, 2013

    […] written about my old birth town of Northwood, Ohio before in my award-winning blog post The Great Fall of Northwood Ohio.  Since creating that post back in November of last year, things have gone from bad to worse in […]

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