Thursday, Oct 18, 2018
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Monday Memories: Rare view with Summit Center crane operator

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    Jerry Kaiser, crane operator.

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    Jerry Kaiser operates a tower crane at the downtown Summit Center construction site.

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    Jerry Kaiser climbs into the cab of his Rudolph Libbe Corp crane.

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    Summit Center Construction in August of 1988.

    THE BLADE/Luke Black
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A mixed-use parking garage built for ProMedica in Promenade Park broke the major construction fast downtown Toledo had recently endured.

The last significant elevated construction — what you would call a high-rise — before that drought was the Summit Center at 333 N. Summit St., the familiar home of health-care company HCR ManorCare.

The headquarters of Owens Corning, and the Fifth Third Field and Huntington Center stadiums were all major structural accomplishments for downtown in the past decades but are built more out than up.

Tower cranes dot the skylines of America’s growing cities, but for a long time the last man to use one in downtown was humble Jerry Kaiser 30 years ago.


Jerry Kaiser operates a tower crane at the downtown Summit Center construction site.

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Blade photographer Scott Martin climbed up 220 feet to share the view from the Rudolph Libbe Corp. crane at the Summit Center construction site in August, 1988. The Blade reported, “[This] is nothing out of the ordinary for Jerry Kaiser ... who has been a crane operator for 17 years. He says it can take up to 20 minutes to climb up to his cab, but he has no fear of heights and can see everything from his summit.”

Once Jerry went up, it was eight to 11 hours before coming back down. He took his breaks and lunch at his perch, and calls of nature were answered before the climb — though a container was kept for emergencies. The crane he operated through sun and fog could lift up to 22 tons with an arm extending from 69 to 180 feet.

Built where a Lion’s department store once stood, the red-hued Summit Center today is a fixture in the Toledo skyline. But it had to fight its way to existence at a time when downtown was reeling as businesses were abandoning the central city. At 210,000-square-feet and $36 million, the 16-story office and retail complex swelled “Toledo’s soft 12.7 percent vacancy rate for premium Class-A space” up to 18.4 percent.

The building was meant to house Libbey-Owens-Ford Co.’s corporate headquarters, but the deal fell through during Trustcorp’s merger with Society Bank.

After being completed by R. Dudley Webb Companies of Lexington, Ky., in early 1989, the shiny Summit Center sat empty until Society Bank consolidated its several downtown offices in the building, which wouldn’t get its second tenant until December, 1990.

But the Summit Center weathered its economic storms, and HCR ManorCare has been the primary tenant since the spring of 1999.

Go to​memories to purchase historical photos taken by our award-winning staff of photographers, past and present, or to purchase combinations of stories and photos.

Contact Phillip Kaplan at, and follow on Twitter @filkap

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