Sandusky, Ohio, Erie County


Sandusky was founded in 1818.  During this time German and Irish stonecutters were attracted to the area to fill the city's building needs. Most of the earliest buildings in Sandusky were carved from limestone (which can be found just a little more than a foot below the ground in most sections of town).  When Cedar Point's white sand beaches made it a popular vacation spot in the late 1800's Sandusky's population grew even more rapidly.

Downtown Sandusky was designed according a modified grid plan known as the Kilbourne Plat after its designer. The original street pattern featured a grid overlaid with streets resembling the symbols of Freemasonry. Hector Kilbourne was a surveyor who laid out this grid in downtown Sandusky. He was the first Worshipful Master of the Sandusky Masonic Lodge.  Sandusky is the only city in the world originally laid out on Masonic symbols.

Sandusky was the groundbreaking site for the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad on September 17th, 1835. Currently, Battery Park Marina is located on original site of the MR & LE Railroad. The tracks that ran through downtown Sandusky have since been removed due to most of the downtown industrial area being re-used for other purposes including mainly marina dockage. The coal docks located west of downtown still use a portion of the original MR&LE lines.


Sandusky Popcorn Wagon Photograph


The Red Wagon

The popcorn wagon was built in Chicago in the late 1800s. It was purchased by Frank Garner of Sandusky. After Garner's horse died in 1907, the wagon was permanently stationed at the corner of Columbus Avenue and Washington Row.  The last owners, donated the wagon to the city in 2002



Boy with the Boot
"The Boy with the Boot is the official symbol of the City of Sandusky.  This statue is a replica of the 1895 original which stood in this fountain for many years.  Produced by the J.W. Fiske Ironworks, New York City, the historic statue is now in the atrium of the City Building.  The Toledo Area Sculptor's Guild created this copy from the original in 1992."

~ The Old House Guild of Sandusky


Washington Park

Washington Park is located in downtown Sandusky, just a few blocks south of Sandusky Bay.   Its gardens are maintained by city gardeners and feature tropical plants and ornate designs.



circa 1903 ~ Sandusky, Ohio, Policeman

Following quote provided by Wilbert Ohlemacher, Sanduskian

"The police department was located on the south side of West Market Street between Columbus Avenue and Jackson Street.  The department worked two shifts, a day and a night shift.  The night shift was the larger as it patrolled the entire city all on foot.  The day shift patrolled the downtown area but were available for any area in the city with the help of the patrol wagon.  Billy Homegardner was the driver of this "paddy-wagon" for many years.  As kids, we had wholesome respect for all of them.  I do not remember whether they were armed at all times, but they all carried a billy club and that was very much evidence.  They exercised a very persuasive power with this billy club, and a well-directed blow took all the fight out of most of the victims.  Conditions were quite different years ago and there certainly was less crime on the streets.  It was perfectly safe to walk the streets at all times, day or night.  Maybe that is what we mean now when we say 'the good old days.'  Mustaches were very popular at that time as 18 out of 21 men wore them."



circa 1924 ~ Sandusky, Ohio, Policeman

(left to right): William Schmide, William Leitz, Edward Smith, R.G. Bravard, Al Tremper, Henry Scherer, Otto Rudolph, Capt. John Hobert, Al Bitzer, Capt. Henry Ringholtz, Capt. Leo Scheifley, Chief Jay Perry, William Strauss, John Moltz, August David, Conrad Hobert, and Capt. Peter Herb.

The Knights of St. John

The history of the Knights of St. John begins in the middle of the 11th century in the Holy Land. The Order's original duties were to care for the sick and wounded Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land and to help the poor. But soon after, their duties expanded. The fight against the "infidels" became of equal or even greater importance. The Knights also became "Soldiers of Christ".

This portrait to the left are members of the Commandery No. 49 of the Knights of St. John of Sandusky, Ohio.  John Ritzenthaler, a member since 1888, is pictured standing on the left.

The Knights of St. John from Kelley's Island joined the Sandusky Commandery No. 49 for a parade on June 20, 1910. 

Kilbourne & Co. Cooperage

Sandusky, Ohio

Company produced barrels until a tornado destroyed the building in 1924.  John Ritzenthaler, was the foreman at the Kilbourne & Co. Cooperage until a tornado destroyed the building on Saturday, June 28, 1924.  The tornado formed over Sandusky Bay and passed eastward, striking the northern edge of Sandusky at 4:35 PM. A nine city block area was damaged, bounded by Adams, Market, Washington Park, and the waterfront. One hundred homes and 25 businesses were destroyed in Sandusky. There were eight deaths in Sandusky.  


The photograph below are employees of the Kilbourne Cooperage Co.  Sidney Kilbourne is the man standing to the far left in the dark suit.  John Ritzenthaler is standing next to him.  Those marked with an "X" are brothers: (left to right) John Ritzenthaler, George Ritzenthaler, and Joseph Ritzenthaler.

"Kilbourne Cooperage destroyed in a tornado in 1924.  Dad Ritz worked there 45 yrs."

(Written by Madeline Ritzenthaler Freitas, daughter of John Ritzenthaler)


The Atlantic Gardens

One of the city attractions in Sandusky during the 1870s was the Atlantic Gardens located on the east side of Meigs Street just a foot from Washington Street.  Louis Zistel, a German-born cabinetmaker, spent many years developing the park.  The Gardens included a bath house which controlled the water depth for those "beginner swimmers."  A boat house included row boats and sail  boats rented for fishing, hunting, or for an afternoon excursion on the Lake.


In 1827, Louis Zistel created a huge aquarium allowing Sanduskians to observe every species of fish and reptile of Lake Erie.  The structure was 100 feet in circumference and sunk 12 feet below in order to see the aquatic creatures in their native element.  

Most saloons were small neighborhood operations, some were a bit more elaborate. Louis Zistel was the proprietor of the Atlantic Garden Saloon (also known as the Atlantic Pleasure Garden) You can see a bowling alley in the above photo. of Zistel's saloon.  In the 'old country" such as Germany, a saloon was a place where men met after work to spend time with friends over a hearty beer discussing the days work and world news.



Louis Zistel Atlantic Gardens as drawn by his daughter, Hedwig Zistel (Mrs. Charles Schippeli)


Cedar Point

Before Cedar Point became the amazing amusement attraction it is today, the white sandy beaches offered a simple picnic ground with swings for children and a place of dancing for the adults.  For only .25 cents, Louis Zistel would ferry a group on a warm summer evening aboard his home-made steamer dubbed the "Young Reindeer" to what is now the Cedar Point Marina.


Louis Zistel, a German immigrant, began earning a living using his steam boat to haul Confederate prisoners to the Union stockade on Johnson's Island in the Sandusky Bay.

Cedar Point Photograph


Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Home

In 1886, the Ohio legislature authorized the creation of the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home at Sandusky, Ohio. The home was created to provide for Ohio’s indigent honorably discharged veterans from the American Civil War. Sandusky government agreed to provide streetcar service to the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home, as well as to provide gas, water, and electric service to the site.  On November 19, 1888, the first seventeen Civil War veterans arrived at the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home. As the United States became involved in more military conflicts, the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home admitted honorably discharged veterans from these wars as well.   All honorably discharged soldiers and sailors who served the United States government in any of its wars and reside in Ohio qualify for admission to the home. The institution is still in existence, although its name was changed to the Ohio Veterans Home in 1979.

Soldiers' and Sailors' Home Photograph

Ohio Veteran's Home - Cemetery Listing


Genealogy Links:

Erie County Genealogy Website

Lake Erie Shipwrecks

Rutherford B. Hayes Obituary Index

Sandusky, Ohio Library

Johnson Island Confederate Cemetery (Radar)

Question, comments, and submissions can be sent to

  Page created August 2010