A local military historian would like to know where all the artifacts have gone that used to be displayed at the Toledo Zoo? Nick Haupricht has been looking into the mystery of the missing artifacts for several years and says he has reason to believe that hundreds of items, including historic weapons, artworks, uniforms, badges and even cannons were stolen over the years and he'd like the Attorney General should launch an investigation. Our history was stolen from us".
The items were part of the large inventory of artifacts that used to reside inside the old Soldier TMs Memorial Hall in downtown Toledo at Adams and Ontario. The ornate brick structure was built in 1882, and was the home gathering place for local veterans of the civil war. In addition to its use as a popular meeting hall, it was one of the largest repositories of military items from the Civil War in this area. There was even a considerable amount of valuable artwork including two Gilbert Gaul paintings of civil war battle scenes. One of them, "Charging the Battery" remains missing, and is presumed to have been destroyed by floodwaters in the basement of the Toledo Zoo sometime in the 1970's.
The historic items ended up at the Zoo after being transferred in the 1930's from the Memorial Hall. A latter from then director and curator Frank Skeldon confirms the loans of the items to the zoo in 1937. The inventory was lengthy and the artifacts were enjoyed for several decades by thousands of baby boomers after World War Two who recall the old military weapons and other memorabilia exhibited in the Museum and Natural Science Building. Haupricht, a Vietnam Veteran, remembers the two World War One era aircraft that used to be suspended from the ceiling. I remember going up to the second floor to look down into the cockpits to see the guns."
Other Toledoans also remember those experiences and displays. Haupricht has numerous letters from various Toledoans who not only recall those displays, but wonder what ever happened to them. While the Zoo no longer claims to have the artifacts that were on display or held as storage in the basement, no one else has stepped forward to offer a full explanation as to where they might be.
It is believed that many of the items vanished in the 1960's and 1970's. A portrait of President Grant which used to hang in the hall, has been found in the Rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse, but no one knows how it ended up there. Other items, including a sash from General Jamezs Steedman of Toledo, and a bronze plaque honoring Toledo Civil War POW's have turned up on the online trading site, EBay, in recent years, being traded by collectors.
It is known that some of the items are at the Oregon-Jerusalem Township Historical museum in Oregon, including one of the very valuable and acclaimed Gilbert Gaul paintings. It is unclear as to whether the painting was given to the museum or is merely on loan from the Soldiers Memorial Association, which remains in existence as a non-profit organization and is charted by the state of Ohio and according to its charter was to keep and preserve all of the items in its possession.