Lima ( /ˈlaɪmə/) is a city in and the county seat of Allen County, Ohio, United States. The municipality is located in northwestern Ohio along Interstate 75 approximately 72 miles (116 km) north of Dayton and 78 miles (126 km) south-southwest of Toledo.
As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 38,771. It is the principal city of and is included in the Lima, Ohio Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Lima-Van Wert–Wapakoneta, Ohio Combined Statistical Area. Lima was founded in 1831.
The Lima Army Tank Plant, built in 1941, is the sole producer of the M1 Abrams.
In the years after the American Revolution, the Shawnee were the most prominent residents of west central Ohio, growing in numbers and permanency after the 1794 Treaty of Greenville. By 1817, the United States had created the Hog Creek Reservation for the local Shawnee, covering portions of what would become Allen and Auglaize counties, and including part of present-day Lima.
The creation of the Shawnee reservation freed other lands in the area for settlement, and in February 1820, the Ohio legislature formally established Allen County. In 1831 the Shawnee were forced to surrender all their land in the area to the United States and relocated to Kansas, opening all of Allen County to settlement. The Ohio legislature mandated that a county seat be established. "Lima" was the result.
Leadership and growth
Since 1831, Lima has been the center of government for Allen County, the first of its three courthouses erected in the city's first year. The foundations of city life followed in quick order. The first school appeared in 1832. Lima's first surgeon, Doctor William McHenry arrived in 1834. 1836 brought the first newspaper to Lima. Lima was officially organized as a city in 1842. Henry DeVilliers Williams was its first mayor. The first public school opened in 1850. In 1854, the first train appeared in Lima, a harbinger of later economic success.
Also in 1854, a cholera outbreak in Delphos (a town in Allen County northwest of Lima) spread throughout west central Ohio. Countywide problems caused by the contaminated water supply were not solved until 1886 when Lima started a municipal water system. Lima's role as a regional center for industry began early. The Lima Agricultural Works began operations in 1869. The company changed names and types of manufacturing through the years. In 1882, under the name Lima Machine Works, the industry built the first Shay-geared locomotive.
Stimulated by the economic boom in nearby Findlay, in 1885 Lima businessman Benjamin C. Faurot drilled for natural gas at his paper mill. On May 19, oil was discovered instead of gas. The oil well never realized enormous profits, but it triggered Lima's oil industry, bringing John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil to the city.
Lima's oil field was for about a decade the largest in the US.
Economic development brought money for arts and entertainment. Benjamin Faurot's Opera House opened in 1882, a nationally renowned structure so impressive that New Yorkers used it as a model for their own theaters. In 1907, Lima built its first movie theater.
In the early 20th century, Benjamin A. Gramm and his close friend Max Bernstein formed the Gramm-Bernstein Company, which became a pioneer in the motor truck industry. During WWI, Gramm created the "Liberty truck", which was welcomed upon its arrival in Washington, D.C., by President Woodrow Wilson. Thousands were sent to Europe to help the Allied war effort.
The Roaring 20s
After WWI, Allen County's population growth lagged the state and the nation. In 1921, Lima voters approved a change in the structure of Lima city government. Voters now elected five commissioners, with the commission chair serving as mayor. The charter sought to establish professional management, requiring the commissioners to hire a city manager, who reported to the mayor. Lima proved itself to be very much in the Progressive tradition with these changes, after flirting with radicalism in 1912 when the voters elected a Socialist mayor.
The darker side of the progressive era revealed itself in the prominence of the Ku Klux Klan in the city. It was a center for the Black Legion, a notoriously violent subset of the Klan. On August 1, 1923, a KKK parade in Lima drew a crowd estimated at 100,000 people.
Economically, the 1920s were a time of industrial expansion in Lima. In 1925, Lima Locomotive Works, Inc. built the "Lima A-1", a 2-8-4 model that became the prototype for the modern steam locomotive. The Locomotive Works also created a new division, the Ohio Power Shovel Company. In 1927, local industrialist John E. Galvin helped found Superior Coach Company. It became the world's largest producer of school buses and funeral coaches within two decades. In 1930, eight railroad companies served Lima.
Allen County's population grew significantly faster than the state during the Great Depression. In 1933, Lima again reorganized its government. The citizens adopted a "strong mayor" model to replace the city manager of the 1920s. Despite the hardships of the decade, Lima residents supported the construction of a hospital to serve the area. Lima Memorial Hospital, named in honor of WWI veterans, opened on Memorial Day, 1933.
The Lima area was not safe from the increased crime rate of the 1930s. In 1933, gangster John Dillinger was in the Allen County Jail, arrested for robbing the Citizens National Bank in nearby Bluffton, Ohio. Dillinger's cohorts broke him out of jail, killing Allen County Sheriff Jess Sarber in the process. The murder and jailbreak put Dillinger at the top of the FBI's ten most wanted list. His was not the only crime outfit to plague Lima during the decade. In 1936, the notorious Brady Gang robbed a local jewelry store twice.
The Great Depression slowed the pace of industrial expansion. In 1930, a Lima directory listed 93 industrial employers with some 8,000 employees. By 1934, industrial employment was reduced by half. In 1935, Westinghouse located a Small Motor Division in Lima to build fractional horsepower electric motors. The Ohio Steel Foundry turned the corner and grew, eventually expanding its successes in its industry. The thirties were a decade for organizing labor in Lima. By 1940 there were at least fifty labor unions representing local workers.
World War II
Lima benefited from increased production during WWII and a growing population, but suffered a significant economic decline at the end of the decade when industry retooled for peacetime production. In May 1941, based in the steel foundry, construction began on Lima Army Tank Plant to manufacture centrifugally cast gun tubes. In November 1942, United Motors Services took over operation of the plant to process vehicles under government contract. The plant prepared many vehicles for Europe, including the M5 light tank and the T-26 Pershing tank. At its peak during the war, the Lima Tank Depot (now the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, operated by General Dynamics), employed over 5,000 people.
The area's expanding population in the 1940s and 1950s brought hospital and school expansion. St Rita's Hospital, founded in 1918, opened a seven-story addition in 1948. With voter support, school leadership built six new elementary schools and the new centralized Lima Senior High School during the 1950s. Lima's industrial production grew in the decade. During the Korean War, the Lima Tank Depot resumed manufacturing, at a level expanded from WWII standards.
During the 1960s, Lima experienced both growth and community unrest. In 1962, a new Allen County Airport was built in Perry Township. With the passage of the city income tax in 1966, Lima constructed a new facility for the Lima Police Department. Also during the 1960s, The Ohio State University established a regional campus in Lima.
Civil rights issues had rocked Lima in the 1950s, perhaps most prominently in the efforts to desegregate the city's only public swimming pool in Schoonover Park. Civil unrest continued in the 1960s and into the 1970s. In January 1969, a crude oil line in south Lima ruptured, causing 77,000 gallons of oil to escape into the city's sewer system. Explosions and fire erupted from sewers as 7,000 residents were evacuated. Governor Jim Rhodes ordered the Ohio National Guard into the area to maintain order. In August 1970, further conflict erupted when a black woman was killed by police as she tried to prevent the arrest of a juvenile. Several officers were wounded in the violence that followed. Mayor Christian P. Morris declared a state of emergency and the National Guard was again called in to aid local police.
Rust belt decline
During the 1970s and 1980s, a number of industries left Lima, part of the "Rust Belt" decline affecting all of Ohio. In April 1971, the last "Cincinnatian," of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad stopped in Lima. The Cincinnatian was an iconic lightweight streamliner serving the B&O's Detroit line from Cincinnati. Lima had also been served by the world-famous Pennsylvania Railroad's "Broadway Limited," a high speed New York to Chicago service, the "Capital Limited," Chicago to Washington D.C. service, via Pittsburgh, the Nickel Plate Road's "City of St. Louis," and "Wabash Cannonball," and the Erie Lackawanna's "Lake Cites," which serviced New York, Cleveland, and Chicago with direct service both ways. Many of these services were maintained by Amtrak until 1991, when the former Erie Lackawanna and Pennsylvania Railroad mainlines between New York and Chicago were downgraded. In 1973, Lima's District Tuberculosis Center, which served five counties, closed its doors. Superior Coach Company, once the nation's largest producer of buses, closed in 1981. Also in 1981, Clark Equipment shut down. In 1985, Airfoil Textron closed. Sundstrand (formerly Westinghouse) closed in 1995. By the mid 1990s, Lima had lost more than 8,000 jobs. Lima's population dropped from 52,000 in the 1970s to 45,000 in 1999. Lima's plight and its subsequent efforts to re-define itself were captured in the PBS documentary Lost in Middle America.
Retail and manufacturing growth
Since the 1970s, Lima has become a prominent retail center in the state of Ohio. In October 1992, The Lima News reported that Lima and Allen County were number one in Ohio in retail sales and purchases. Moreover, a 1992 Survey of Buying Power revealed that Lima ranked first in the state in retail sales per household. Additionally, that same year, Lima ranked fifth in the United States in most affordable housing.
Ford Motor Company also calls Lima home to the 2400000 sq ft (216,000-sq.-m.) facility, which has about 1,600 total employees, to make its new all-aluminum, 3.5-liter Duratec 35 V6 engine.
Lima is also the headquarters of Kewpee Restaurants, as well as home to three of the last five Kewpee restaurants in existence. The others are located in Racine, Wisconsin, and Lansing, Michigan. Another restaurant familiar to many Lima area residents was the Susie-Q Ranchhouse restaurant; owned and operated by area businessman Gerald Fickel and his wife Ellen. The Susie-Q Ranchhouse was in operation from 1947 to 1987. In the midst of the racial tensions of the 1950s and 1960s the Susie-Q Ranchhouse was the first Lima local restaurant known to have allowed blacks into the normally white establishment.
For a city of its size, Lima has remarkably little historic architecture, as a large number of its notable buildings have been demolished or allowed to deteriorate. Among the city's most distinctive residential neighborhoods, the "Golden Block" on the west side, was almost entirely demolished in the 1960s; only the MacDonnell House, part of the Allen County Museum, and the YWCA survived. Today, the city includes twenty-four buildings and one historic district that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Allen County Courthouse, the post office, the Hotel Argonne, and the Neal Clothing Building.
Lima's oil history
Ohio historical marker outlining Lima's oil history with Faurot.
With the discovery of oil in Lima in 1885, Ohio began what came to be called the "Oil Boom of Northwest Ohio." Discovery actually began in Findlay, Ohio, a city forty miles north of Lima. The discovery of natural gas deposits there in 1884 led to national marketing efforts advertising free gas, as Findlay's business leaders tried to "boom" the town. In 1885, Benjamin C. Faurot of Lima was one of hundreds of businessmen who visited Findlay to see the seemingly unlimited supply of natural gas burning day and night. Faurot owned the Lima Paper Mill. He spent $2,500 on energy consumption annually. Water for his operation was also a problem. So Faurot decided to drill in Lima – for gas or water. Faurot's first oil, found along the Ottawa River on May 19, 1885, was more accidental discovery than deliberate scientific experiment.
During the first week, the well produced more than 200 barrels (32 m3) of oil. Faurot quickly organized local businessmen into a syndicate that would purchase oil leases from farm owners. The company was called the Trenton Rock Oil Company, and by 1886, had 250 wells from Lima to St. Marys, Ohio, and west to Indiana.
When the news broke that northwest Ohio had oil, Standard Oil of Cleveland decided to build a refinery in Lima. Unlike Pennsylvania's oil, northwest Ohio's "sour crude" was high in sulfur content, smelling like rotten eggs, and customers shunned it. Lima's new Solar Refinery was charged with solving the sulfur problem. Until then, Standard bought and stored as much northwest Ohio crude as was possible to maintain their monopoly. It dropped the price of crude from more than sixty cents a barrel to forty cents in an attempt to discourage further production.
Oil drilling fever hit northwest Ohio and "boom towns" sprang up overnight. Additional crude glutted the market, and trying to slow production, Standard Oil lowered its price to fifteen cents a barrel. This decision had little effect on the large producers elsewhere, but the smaller Lima producers, whose oil wells could not keep up, found themselves severely hampered. Fourteen independent Lima producers formed a combine – the Ohio Oil Company. Eventually, it became Marathon Oil, still located in Findlay, Ohio.
Lima's Solar Refinery General Manager John Van Dyke and Herman Frasch, Standard's chemist, solved the distillation problem for sour crude by devising a method for removing the sulfur. The gamble that John D. Rockefeller took building pipelines and storage tanks for Ohio's sour crude paid off. By 1901, the excitement about Ohio oil slowed with the news of a Beaumont, Texas, gusher producing 100,000 barrels per day (16,000 m3/d).
In 1911, the courts declared Standard Oil Trust a monopoly and broke it into several companies. Between 1887 and 1905, the Lima Oil Field was a world-class producer, yielding 300 million barrels (48,000,000 m3). Lima was also a pipeline center. Within three years of the discovery of oil, a trunk line reached Chicago. Lima oil lit the buildings of the 1893 World's Fair. Production peaked in 1904, and then dropped off rapidly. By 1910, the field was regarded as virtually played out. Still, the Lima Refinery has survived, continuing to operate for more than 125 years under a succession of owners—Solar Refining Company (1886), a subsidiary of Standard Oil until the breakup in 1911, SOHIO (1931), British Petroleum (1987), Clark USA (1998), Premcor (2000), Valero Energy Corporation (2005), and most recently Husky Energy (2007).
Railroads and locomotives
For most of its history, smokestack industries and a blue-collar work ethic defined Lima. Nothing played a bigger part in shaping the city's self-image than its connection to railroads and railroading – as a Midwestern rail hub and even more as home to the Lima Locomotive Works, whose products for more than 70 years carried the city's name globally.
The first locomotive appeared in Allen County in 1854, brought in from Toledo as freight on the Miami and Erie Canal. Named the Lima, the engine was used on construction of the county's first railroad, the Ohio and Indiana. East-west passenger service to Lima began in 1856, when the Ohio & Indiana consolidated with the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago. North-south passenger service began in 1858 on the Dayton & Michigan Railroad. Machine shops for the Dayton & Michigan were built in Lima by 1860, and for the Lake Erie and Western Railroad by 1880. By the early years of the 20th century, the railroad shops employed 1,000 people in Lima.
In 1906, an average of 143 trains and 7,436 cars, carrying 223,080 tons of freight, passed through Lima every 24 hours. In addition, 49 steam and 28 electric trains landed passengers in Lima daily. Lima service on the electric interurban Ohio Western Railway began in 1902 and Lima became the hub of an interurban network that reached Toledo, Cleveland and Cincinnati as well as Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1920, Lima was served by five steam railroads and Allen County by eight, in addition to five electric interurban lines.
For years, Lima was a crossroads for famous passenger trains including the Commercial Traveler, the Clover Leaf and the Erie Limited. The train that in 1912 became known as the Broadway Limited stopped in Lima from its inception in 1902 until 1990. Standard-bearer of the Pennsylvania Railroad in its "speed wars" with the New York Central's 20th century Limited, the Broadway Limited catered to a rich and glamorous clientele, offering strictly first-class service between New York City and Chicago. At its peak, the Broadway Limited regularly averaged 60 mph (97 km/h) on its 900-mile (1,400 km) run. On a westbound run in the early morning of June 12, 1905, making up time after being held up by mechanical problems, the train was clocked just east of Lima at 127 mph (204 km/h).
Railroads began to cut back passenger service to Lima during the Great Depression. Electric interurban service ceased in 1937. After a brief boom for railroads during WWII, passenger service declined sharply in the 1950s. The Nickel Plate Road ended scheduled passenger service to Lima in 1959, the Erie-Lackawanna in 1970 and the Baltimore & Ohio in 1971. Freight still moves over most of the historic rail routes in and out of the city, but the last passenger train to stop in Lima was the Broadway Limited, then operated by Amtrak, on November 11, 1990.
The enterprise that became the locomotive works – "the Loco," as it was commonly called in Lima – had its beginnings in 1869 when John Carnes and four partners bought a machine shop that was called the Lima Agricultural Works. The company initially manufactured and repaired agricultural equipment, then moved into the production of steam power equipment and sawmill machinery. The shop designed its first narrow-gauge steam locomotive in 1878. The same year, the shop first worked on a geared locomotive designed by Michigan lumberman Ephraim Shay. The Shay locomotive was built for steep grades, heavy loads and tight turns. In 1881, Shay granted the Lima works an exclusive license to manufacture his locomotives. By 1882, locomotives were the company's main product. In time, the Lima Locomotive Works – a name formally adopted in 1916 – would produce 2,761 Shay locomotives, which were sent to 48 states and 24 foreign countries. As of 2005, some were in use 100 years after they were shipped.
By 1910, the company was moving aggressively into direct-drive locomotives for general railroad use. A new "super power" design, introduced in 1925, enabled Lima to capture 20% of the national market for locomotives. The "super power" locomotive was created by mechanical engineer William E. Woodard. Designed to make more efficient use of steam at high speed, it became, in the words of railroad historian Eric Hirsimaki, "one of the most influential locomotives in the history of steam power." Later years saw the introduction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway 2-6-6-6, one of the largest locomotives ever built, and the glamorous Southern Pacific "Daylights," designed to complement the Pacific Coast scenery.
The locomotive works dabbled in other product lines. It produced railroad cars in the early years and acquired the Ohio Power Shovel Company in 1928. During WWII, the plant produced 1,655 Sherman tanks. Employment grew from 150 in the 1890s to 1,100 in 1912 and 2,000 in 1915, peaking at 4,300 in 1944. Over the course of its history, the Locomotive Works was a microcosm of the community, a place where each successive wave of newcomers took its place in turn. First the Germans and Italians, later African-Americans and ultimately women joining the work force during WWII. Labor organizing efforts were under way at the plant at least by the 1890s.
Post-war mergers attempting to keep the plant operating created the Lima-Hamilton Corporation in 1947 and later Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton in 1950. The last steam locomotive built at the plant, Nickel Plate No. 779, was delivered May 13, 1949. It is now on display in Lima's Lincoln Park. The final diesel locomotive, built by Lima-Hamilton, was delivered in 1951. After the end of locomotive production, the plant continued to produce cranes and road building equipment. The plant was sold to Clark Equipment in 1971. Clark employed 1,500 as late as 1974, but the plant closed permanently in 1981. As of 2006, the Lima Locomotive Works plant has been razed.
Currently, there are only a handful of railroads that serve Lima. The Chicago, Fort Wayne, and Eastern and the Indiana and Ohio railroad are owned by RailAmerica and are in the north and east parts of town. CSX Transportation runs through town frequently and the Norfolk Southern Railway has one train each day to Lima. The R.J. Corman Railroad/Western Ohio Line runs southwest from of town.
Lima also hosts Procter and Gamble's Tide and Downy plant.
St. Rita's Medical Center
The first doctor in Allen County, Samuel Jacob Lewis, was assigned to duty at Fort Amanda in 1812.
Lima has been a regional medical center since its earliest days. Currently, the city's two hospitals serve a 10-county area of northwest and west central Ohio. St. Rita's Medical Center, a level 2 trauma center, with nearly 4,000 employees as of June 2006, is Allen County's largest employer while Lima Memorial Health System ranks third. In 2005, St. Rita's embarked on a $130 million expansion expected to create up to 500 more jobs, this new addition is known as "The Medical Center of the Future".
The Roman Catholic Church Sisters of Mercy opened St. Rita's in December 1918, in the midst of a national (and global) influenza epidemic. Since then, the hospital has grown dramatically, with major expansions launched in 1945 and 1967. The hospital has also created satellite facilities in the surrounding towns of Ottawa, Delphos and Wapakoneta. SRMC also houses a separate hospital with the walls of the main facility. This "interior" facility, "Triumph", was implemented to serve poverty-level citizens who are unable to afford continuing care otherwise. In July 2008, St. Rita's Medical Center purchased Lima Allen County Paramedics. Lima Allen County Paramedics was established in 1964 and since then has been a vital private emergency and non-emergency ambulance service in the area.
Lima Memorial Health System, formerly Lima Memorial Hospital, a level 2 trauma center, can trace its roots to 1899, when it began as Lima City Hospital. Formed by the Pastors Union of Lima, the 13-bed facility was the first community hospital in northwest Ohio. During the Great Depression, the city of Lima helped to finance a larger hospital, which opened on Memorial Day 1933 on the city's east side. The region's first open-heart surgery was performed at Lima Memorial on April 22, 1997. In 1999 LMHS entered into a Joint venture with Blanchard Valley Health Association ("BVHA") and ProMedica Health System. Lima Memorial Health System is currently undergoing an extensive remodel phase. The eight story patient tower is being converted to all private rooms, and all cardiac services will be combined to one area. A new surgery center is under construction at this time, and the installation a level 2 neonatal ICU is in the works.
For decades, Lima also had two other hospitals with strikingly different missions. The Ottawa Valley Hospital, which opened in 1909 as the District Tuberculosis Hospital, was one of the first in the state dedicated to the treatment of tubercular patients. The hospital treated patients from seven to 90 years old, at a time when tuberculosis was nearly always fatal. The average stay was three to five years. As treatment improved, the hospital closed, though the building was used until 1973.
A longer and stranger history is attached to the facility originally known as the Lima State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Situated on 628 acres (2.54 km2) three miles (5 km) north of downtown Lima, the hospital was constructed between 1908 and 1915. Built at a cost of $2.1 million, it was the largest poured-concrete structure in the country until supplanted by the Pentagon.
For much of its history, Lima State Hospital functioned largely as a warehouse. Patients sometimes staged dramatic protests against the conditions of their confinement, and frequently escaped (more than 300 escapes by 1978). Conditions improved significantly after 1974 as a result of a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of the patients. In a landmark ruling, US District Judge Nicholas J. Walinski spelled out detailed requirements for assuring each patient's rights to "dignity, privacy and human care." In its last years, the state hospital was used for the filming of a made-for-television movie about the Attica Prison riots in New York.
Starting in 1982, Lima State Hospital became a medium-security prison, the Lima Correctional Institution. The prison closed in 2004, though a smaller prison on the site, the Allen Correctional Institution, remains.