Excerpt from a past edition of OhioTraveler
The Crossroads of
Pop Culture and Real American Strength
Whether it’s the gleeful home to America’s most popular high school or to the can-do American industrial spirit symbolized by Rosie the Riveter, Lima blends flair with substance.
The debut of the hit TV show, Glee, put Lima, Ohio on the map as the hometown of a fictional high school. But it’s not the first time Lima was in the national spotlight. The storied town in Northwest Ohio was a major stop on the Vaudeville circuit. One of the most renowned attractions of Lima’s past was The Faurot Opera House. It was regarded as the best theater between New York and Denver.
Lima still hosts a myriad of activities and attractions, remaining a notable stop on the entertainment circuit. Crouse Performance Hall is frequented by Broadway shows and is home of the Lima Symphony Orchestra. This venue has put famous talent on the stage, including Jerry Seinfeld and Larry the Cable Guy. Other performers hosted by Lima and the surrounding Allen County include Lynyrd Skynyrd, Martina McBride, Uncle Kracker and Brett Michaels. There is also Jazz at the Greenhouse and the Pickles Blues Extravaganza.
But one of the biggest national headlines involving Lima was when the infamous gangster, John Dillinger, broke from the Lima jail when six men raided the place in October 1933. It led to one of the FBI’s biggest manhunts in history. Lima’s Allen County Museum has a great John Dillinger collection detailing this fascinating story.
Another piece of Lima’s past rests outside the entrance of this nationally acclaimed museum. It’s a bell from the second courthouse built in 1842. It used to toll for every birth in the town. The enormous glass wall uniquely designed at the front of the building serves as a literal window to the past, for on the other side is a full-size, historic steam engine signaling the town’s rich railway heritage.
Today, Lima is bustling with entertainment and activity sure to satisfy a wide variety of interests. In fact, it’s become a prominent Ohio retail center since the 1970’s. Lima and Allen County was number one in Ohio for retail sales and purchases, according to The Lima News, in fall of 1992.
Combining Lima’s present day entertainment draws with its still strong shopping options, downtown is often abuzz with foot traffic. Visitors fill the park-like downtown setting when ArtSpace/Lima’s Rallies in the Square take place. Art shows and competitions bring smiles to the sidewalks, around the fountain and gazebo, relaxing on benches or outside the coffee shop. Grab a bite at the many restaurants offering a variety of cuisines.
Much of Lima’s growth and diversity enjoyed today was built on the back of its booming industrial heritage.
In 1885, oil was discovered in Lima. This helped spark the “Oil Boom of Northwest Ohio.” A year earlier, a nearby town was discovered to have what seemed an endless supply of natural gas. So, Benjamin C. Faurot of Lima, owner of the Lima Paper Mill, decided to drill in Lima but instead of striking gas, he struck black gold. He quickly formed the Trenton Rock Oil Company. This attracted John D. Rockefeller’s attention so Standard Oil of Cleveland decided to build a refinery in Lima. From 1887 to 1905, the Lima Oil Field was a world-class producer, yielding some 300 million barrels of crude.
Lima’s industrial expansion roared through the 1920’s. Lima Locomotive Works built the Lima A-1, becoming the prototype for the modern steam locomotive. By the end of the decade, eight railroad companies operated in Lima. In addition, Superior Coach Company began in Lima, becoming the world’s top producer of school buses and funeral coaches. Lima’s industrial production grew again in the 1950’s during the Korean War. This is when the Lima Tank Depot was called to resume its manufacturing. Today, Ford Motor Company has a Lima plant employing 1,600 people and the state-of-the-art convention center and theatre play host to numerous business functions and conferences throughout the year.
But if the past isn’t something that fuels your tank, there’s plenty to rev your engine in the present. Lima features stock, midget and sprint car races at the local speedway and motor sports park on a regular basis. Sporting events are a big part of Lima. ESPN and a variety of other television coverage have featured motorsports racing, with NASCAR drivers participating during some events. The town even has the facilities to host championships including monster trucks, motorcycle races, equestrian and similar events such as barrel racing, classic car shows.
Other activities feature Dances in the Park, Movies in the Park, the Lima Symphony Orchestra, Mozart by Candlelight programs and Extraordinary Music in Unexpected Spaces. Old Victorian homes, a children’s garden, golf courses and museums abound. Don’t miss the haunted historical tours given every autumn.
All and all, past to present, Lima sends its visitors home feeling one word – Glee!
To map your visit to the crossroads of pop culture and real American strength, call 419-222-6075 or 888-222-6075 or log onto www.lima-allencvb.com.