116 Louisiana Avenue

The Witzler Building

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The Witzler Building:

 

This well-known commercial Italianate building at 116 Louisiana is historically known as the Witzler Building, but there is a relationship with the frame building directly  to the left (south), the only former home still existing in the downtown blocks of Louisiana.

The frame home, now with its lower front story bricked over, is assumed to be the residence of Miss Harriet Hulburd, and if so, it was there that the Village Council established Perrysburg's first public library in 1881. What is generally unknown is that Miss Hulburd at that time also owned and was using the brick building to the right (north) for her growing library. Or at least this Perrysburg Journal news item of May 25, 1895 indicates: "The brick block formerly belonging to Miss Hattie Hulburd, known as the old library building, changed hands last week, Charles Witzler being the purchaser. He intends to remodel the building, lower the floor and put in an elegant plate glass front." Exactly when the original building was constructed is definitely known.

building

116 Louisiana Avenue

The land on which it stands was owned by John C. Spink, Perrysburg's first mayor, in 1832. An 1839 deed shows its value at $3,000 which indicates that an important structure had been erected. It has even been said that it was one of the largest brick buildings of its time in Ohio.

Charles was the oldest son of Peter Witzler, a German immigrant who arrived in Perrysburg in 1852 and operated a furniture factory on the Hydraulic Canal near the foot of Mulberry. He also turned banisters, broom handles, wagon hubs, etc. on lathes driven by water power, and made coffins ("a narrow home for the dead," as he advertised them in 1859). Along with this phase of his business, he offered funeral transporting by hearse and matched black horses. This was the beginning of the funeral business that continued here for more than a century by this branch of the Witzler family. Following service in the Civil War, Peter returned to his work here with funerals still playing a somewhat secondary role to furniture.

Charles Witzler was manufacturing his own patented twin bed springs in 1886. He produced them in a small shop during part of the year, and then went on the road selling them. In 1893 he bought the furniture and undertaking business of William Crook (quite possibly as an addition to the established Witzler family business), and in 1895 prepared to move it into the building. But first he remodeled the building to its basic appearance today, only then it was unpainted brick with contrasting black window frames. 

A dentiled cornice divides the first and second floors and the top features fluted brackets, dentils and square tin rosettes, all originally light or white colored, and three trios of small rectangular windows. The first floor windows along the alley were bricked over in the early 1900s, and it can be noted that the original display windows were a bit lower than now.

Just three months after doing all this, Charles Witzler unexpectedly died of appendicitis at age 29 and his 23-year-old brother, Alfred J. Witzler, who had been working with him, took over the business. He later purchased the building for himself in 1899.

A. J. Witzler was a well respected merchant, active in civic affairs. He was an officer in the Citizens Banking Company and one of the organizers of the Perrysburg Tile and Brick Company. He had a branch operation in Tontogany and his wife and two sons, Charles and Norman, traveled all over the area preparing bodies for burial (before that embalming was done over the store), and conducting funerals from people's homes. It is a little hard to determine the relative importance of the funeral end of the business at that time, but his advertising seemed to indicate that sewing machines were the faster moving and more profitable item of the day. 

The family lived in apartments in the front of the upstairs. In 1930 Mr. Witzler bought the fine old home at 128 East Front and remodeled it to serve as a funeral home. By that time his son, Norman, had become one of the first licensed funeral directors in the state and he ran the funeral business from there; also running the furniture business in the original building, when A. J. suffered a stroke. The latter died in 1934.

Norman Witzler, a man noted for a jolly and quick wit who really wanted to be a doctor, carried on the family business until it was brought to an official end by his death in 1964. Even so, Robert L. Shank, who bought the business and moved it to East South Boundary, continues the Witzler name to this day as the WItzler-Shank Funeral Home.

An interesting sidelight to all of this is that shortly after Earl Witzler, great-grandson of Peter, joined the law firm of which he is now a partner, the office was on the second floor of this same Witzler Building.

Over the years this building has housed the C & F Variety Store, Jenschke's Little Mall, Anna's Plant Parlor, the Salvation Army, Tom's Auto Parts, Perrysburg Antiques Market, and Divine Designs operated by Susan Parent.

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