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James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.

Ottawa Hills


Basic Information

Type of Place
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Politics c. 1860?
Don’t Know
Unions, Organized Labor?
Don’t Know

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Don't Know
Don’t Know
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?
Probably Not, Although Still Very Few Black People

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1950 2333 25
1990 4543 59

Method of Exclusion

  • Realtors

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black
  • Jewish


Email 1/2008

When my parents bought a house there in the early 1990s, their property deed still included the original covenants against selling to blacks or Jews. During the two years my family lived there, there was one African American student in the elementary school; I remember no black students at all in the combined Junior High and High School, and certainly none in my classes. According to one website, African Americans make up 1.2% of the population (http://www.city-data.com/city/Ottawa-Hills-Ohio.html); I have no reason to doubt this figure.

Ottawa Hills was historically a segregated town, covenants were part of the original plan for the village; its own website points out that its developers, “were also involved with the creation of various restrictive covenants to assure proper quality development and construction of homes” http://www.ottawahills.org/History_Promise.htm. If these covenants were anything like those on my parents’ deed, they kept out blacks and Jews as well as improper construction. Because of the covenants, African Americans could not buy property, but many houses were built with maid’s quarters and I suspect that African Americans often lived there.

African Americans were not welcome in Ottawa Hills, day or night, right through the time I lived there.

In 1998, a black construction worker at the high school was arrested for refusing to give his name. The worker sued, and after a state court held that the arrest was unlawful, the village agreed to pay a large settlement. (http://www.racialprofilinganalysis.neu.edu/legislation/litigation.php?state=6)

In November, 2006, an African American woman who tore up a ticket after an Ottawa Hills traffic stop was pulled bodily from her car by the policeman. She is now suing for $9 million. (http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061123/NEWS03/611230473) The policeman resigned and the village apologized, but it’s hard for me to believe they have really changed.


Testimony of a former resident:
“I moved to Ottawa Hills, an exclusive part of Toledo OH in the late 1960s. They had allowed the first Jewish family to enter just a couple of years earlier. Were segregated (not allowing in Afro Americans) until abt five years later.”

Testimony of a local resident:
“Near Toledo where I grew up a bedroom community for the well heeled, Ottawa Hills, excluded Jews I believe as late as the 1950’s. It was common knowledge. ”

Testimony of a local resident:
“As far as I know, the restrictions did apply to all homes. As I understand it, the village of Ottawa Hills was founded in the 1910s by real estate entrepreneurs who wanted a garden city environment for the rich and powerful (and white) of Toledo who wanted to move out of the city (Toledo was a booming place through WWII, with Willys Overland (Jeep), other auto related industries like Champion Spark Plugs, Toledo Scale, etc., etc.). It was planned to be white and wealthy, and the restrictive covenants are part of all the deeds of the original houses.”

A local librarian comments:
“Ottawa Hills has its own school system, village government, and plan commission. The average price today of a OH home is over $300,000–it has always been a high income neighborhood. OH has the highest taxes in NW Ohio. The school system is considered to be one of the best in Ohio. I know that it was not until after the late 60s that Jews began moving into OH to any extent. There have been a few Black families, but not many. In 1998 a Black construction worker was detained and arrested by the OH police. He was working at the high school, got off work and was waiting at an intersection for his brother to pick him up. The OH police decided he was acting suspicious so they arrested him. The case was eventually dismissed, but he sued OH and won.”

Aug 02 2004 infoweb@newsbank.com
Toledo Blade, 1/9/2002
A controversial three year old case that sharpened perceptions that Ottawa Hills is unfriendly to African Americans was settled out of court yesterday.
The case, filed in U.S. District Court, involved black construction worker Suron Jacobs, who alleged he was falsely arrested in 1998 while standing at an intersection in the upscale Toledo suburb. Mr. Jacobs’ lawsuit contended that Ottawa Hills police had a discriminatory policy against nonresident African Americans.
No monetary award was included in the entry.
Alan Konop, an attorney for Mr. Jacobs, said his client asked that the amount remain confidential. However, several reports placed the settlement at $165,000.
“Mr. Jacobs is just very glad it’s over. He’s a very private person and was thrust into the public arena by the acts of the Ottawa Hills police,” Mr. Konop said.
Joan Szuberla, attorney for the village, said she would not discuss damages, which were paid by an insurance company.
Mr. Jacobs was arrested in September, 1998, when he began to walk away from questioning by an officer at Indian and Evergreen roads.
Officer Michelle Miller had been dispatched to the scene, and Mr. Jacobs, who was working on a renovation project at Ottawa Hills High School, told her he was waiting for his brother. After the officer began to ask more questions, Mr. Jacobs said he was being harassed because he is African American and began to leave.
Officer Miller tried to detain him, and Officer James Knallay arrived and assisted in making the arrest.
The arrest and subsequent dismissal of all charges by Municipal Judge Denise Dartt ignited a controversy that the village has struggled with for three years.
To improve its image and help determine whether police were ticketing minority drivers unfairly, Ottawa Hills surveyed more than 18,000 drivers at five village intersections in 1999 to determine their race.
At the time, Village Manager Marc Thompson commented on the view of the village for minorities.
“We have known for some time that there is a perception that we are not welcoming to minorities. We have a concern, and we want to make sure to be fair and just to everyone in the community,” he said.
In 2000, the village’s human relations committee established a program in which “diversity dinners” were held so people of various races and ethnic origins in the village could get together and share experiences.
Mr. Konop said that after Mr. Jacobs’ arrest he did not have an attorney and didn’t intend to file a lawsuit. He said that as the case progressed his client became determined to file the lawsuit.
“It’s important to note that he went to the police department the day after the arrest to indicate he was dissatisfied with the treatment by the Ottawa Hills police and sought an apology and hoped for disciplinary action,” against those involved, the attorney said.
Village officials said they are relieved the case has been resolved.
“I’m very glad it’s over,” Mayor Jean Youngen said. “It indeed was an unfortunate incident.”
She said the village has made strides in promoting diversity and has recruited minorities when there are openings in its safety forces as well as other employment in the village.
She said any information concerning the amount of damages would have to be obtained from Ms. Szuberla.
Ms. Youngen said the village is covered by insurance for these types of lawsuits.
Mr. Thompson said the village is covered through the Ohio Governmental Risk Management Plan, which provides joint purchasing for governmental entities in the state.