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Lima, Ohio

Lima is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Allen County. The municipality is located in northwestern Ohio along Interstate 75 approximately 72 miles (116 km) north of Dayton and 78 miles (125 km) south-southwest of Toledo.

As of the 2000 U.S. census, the city had a population of 40,081. 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.



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 relinquished all their land in the area to the United States and relocated to Kansas, opening all of Allen County to American settlement. The Ohio legislature mandated that a county seat be established. “Lima” was the result. Its name originated with Judge Patrick G. Goode, who insisted on the Spanish pronunciation “Lee-mah” after the capital city of Peru, but the local vernacular — "Lye-mah" — prevailed. Goode proposed this name because an inoculant for malaria, which was prevalent in the area during its establishment, was manufactured there.

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 famous 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. Still, Lima’s oil field was, for about a decade, the largest in the United States.

Economic development had brought money to be spent on 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 World War I, 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, the chair of the commission 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 even 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 engine. 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 largest producer of school buses and funeral coaches in the world within two decades. In 1930, eight railroad companies served Lima.

Great Depression

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 new hospital to serve the area. Lima Memorial Hospital, named in honor of World War I 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 the same 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 down by half. In 1935, Westinghouse located a Small Motor Division in Lima; the plant manufactured fractional horsepower electric motors. 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 World War II 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, construction began on a government-owned 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 known as the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center and operated by General Dynamics), employed over 5,000 people.

Post-war boom

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.

Civil rights

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. A number of 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.

More recently, Sgt. Joseph Chavalia, a white police officer, was accused of fatally shooting Tarika Wilson, an unarmed 26 year-old black woman, as she held her 1 year-old son during a drug raid. Chavalia was charged with two misdemeanors, outraging activists and the victim's relatives, who said he should face tougher penalties. Sgt. Joseph Chavalia was acquitted by an all white jury of charges of negligent homicide in the shooting. Chavalia was also acquitted of negligent assault in the wounding of Wilson's son, whose finger had to be amputated.

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 passenger train on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad stopped in Lima. 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 1979. 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 1970’s 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 . (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. Another restaurant familiar to many Lima area residents was the Susie-Q Ranchhouse restaurant; owned and operated by notable 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 50's and 60's the Susie-Q Ranchhouse was the first Lima local restaurant known to have allowed blacks into the normally white establishment.

Lima's oil history

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 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 in order 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 over night. 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. They devised 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. But by 1901, the excitement over Ohio oil slowed with the news of a Beaumont, Texas, gusher producing .

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 . 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 120 years under a succession of owners—Standard Oil, then 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 around the world. 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 put to work 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 shops of various railroads employed 1,000 people in Lima.

As of 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 on its 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 .

Railroads began to cut back passenger service to Lima during the Great Depression. Electric interurban service ceased in 1937. After a brief boom time for the railroads during World War II, passenger service declined sharply in the 1950s. The Nickel Plate Road ended regularly 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.

But even more than the rail lines that made the city seem “only overnight from any place at all” in the early 20th century, Lima was known for the locomotives it built. For more than 70 years, the Lima Locomotive Works turned out what came to be called “the ‘Cadillacs’ of steam locomotives,” and they carried the city’s name across the country and around the world.

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 general machine shop that had been known as 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 an ingenious 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 two dozen foreign countries. As of 2005, some were still 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 percent of the national market for locomotives. The first “super power” locomotive was the creation of mechanical engineer William E. Woodard. Designed to make more efficient use of steam at high speed, it became, in the words of engineer and 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 for a time in the early years and acquired the Ohio Power Shovel Company in 1928. During World War II, the plant turned out 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 World War II. 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 for good in 1981. As of 2006, the Lima Locomotive Works plant has been torn down.

Currently, there are only a handful of railroads that come into 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 Norfolk Southern has one train that goes to Lima a day. The RJ Corman Railroad runs southwest out of town.

Lima also hosts Procter and Gamble's Tide and Downy plant.

Medical care

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 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.

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 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 superseded by the Pentagon. Its walls are at least 14 inches thick, with steel reinforcement going right down to bedrock.

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, U.S. 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.

Lima Allen County Paramedics was established in 1964 and since then (LACP) has been a vital private emergency and non-emergency ambulance service in the following years many advances have been made in both the technology and training of EMS allowing the following events to take place 1992-Assigned to President George H Bush motorcade for 24 hours during his overnight stay in Lima. 1993-Assigned to provide medical support for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for acceptance ceremony of the M1A2 Abrams tank. 2004 -Assigned to Presidential detail for George W. Bush's visit to Lima Senior High. 2006-Lima Allen County Paramedics Bicycle Response Team was established in order to provide prompt Advanced Life Support (ALS) response to patients in large scale and confined crowd outdoor events. EMS response to such events proved to be difficult when attempting to gain access to patients via squads and an alternative method was needed. Now during certain outdoor events, the Bike Response Team can arrive at a patient's side within minutes with the full complement of ALS equipment.


Lima is located at (40.740700, -84.114997).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.9 square miles (33.4 km²), of which, 12.8 square miles (33.1 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²) of it (0.78%) is water.

The Ottawa River flows through the city. Locals sometimes refer to the river as "Hawg Creek". This resembles a traditional local name used dating back to the Hog Creek Shawnee community that existed between Lima and present Ada, prior to the Shawnee removal of 1831. This removal made possible the official founding of "Lima" as a formal town in that year.

Lima is at the intersection of State Route 309 (the original Lincoln Highway) and Interstate 75, which replaced U.S. Route 25, one of the routes of the Dixie Highway.


As of the census of 2000, there were 40,081 people, 15,410 households, and 9,569 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,135.0 people per square mile (1,210.9/km²). There were 17,631 housing units at an average density of 1,379.0/sq mi (532.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 71.30% White, 24.48% African American, 0.31% Native American, 0.51% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.97% from other races, and 2.42% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.97% of the population.

There were 15,410 households out of which 31.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.3% were married couples living together, 19.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.9% were non-families. 32.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 3.06.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.2% under the age of 18, 11.5% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 19.4% from 45 to 64, and 13.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 100.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,067, and the median income for a family was $32,405. Males had a median income of $29,149 versus $22,100 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,882. About 19.2% of families and 22.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 33.3% of those under age 18 and 14.3% of those age 65 or over. The percentage of college graduates is 9.5%, according to the US Census Bureau. The city has the highest crime rate for a city its size (20-60,000) in Ohio and also the 9th highest per capita in 2006, according to the FBI.

National Register of Historic Places

Of the 30 Registered Historic Places in Allen County, Lima is the home to 27 of them.

Sister Cities

Lima's Sister Cities Association, formed in 1995, has one current sister city as designated by Sister Cities International. And two other sister city projects in progress.

Lima in myth and legend

According to legend, the town was named for Lima, capital city of Peru. However, it is not pronounced the same. Early elected officials gathered at James Daniel's cabin in 1830 to select a name for their town. Daniels was an Allen County Commissioner. Several names were written on pieces of paper and placed in a hat. Patrick G. Goode, a Judge from Montgomery County, noticed a crate with a shipping label from Lima, Peru. His paper was pulled from the hat. Malaria was a common disease of the early Black Swamp area, and quinine was shipped to northwest Ohio from Peru. The white powdery substance, which reduced fever and chills, was generously applied to whatever was served at the dinner table.

Three local stories speak to the conservative politics of Lima and Allen County. One tells how, in the 1950s, the local newspaper editorialized against a public library on the libertarian grounds that if a person wanted to read a book, he should go out and buy one. Also in the 1950s, Lima’s conservative town fathers refused to take any federal urban renewal dollars because, it is said, they did not trust Washington politicians. Finally, Allen County residents claim to be the only Ohio county to go for Republican Barry Goldwater in the 1964 Goldwater-Johnson presidential election.

Lima is sometimes used as the typical Midwestern American town. The town's opera house was a prominent spot on the Vaudeville circuit of the 1920s and 1930s. Reputedly, Lima audiences were so unreceptive to the humor that "Lima" became an inside joke among performers for an unpleasant or unproductive engagement. The joke "first prize, one week in.../ second prize, two weeks in..." was originally about Lima. Comedian Lenny Bruce had a routine called "Lima, Ohio" in his act, based on a booking he had there as a young comedian. Spencer Tracy played the Faurot Opera House for a season in the 1920s. In Lima for four months, Tracy was frustrated and afraid that New York producers would forget about him. In 1954, when he was filming Bad Day at Black Rock in a desolate desert town in California, someone said this must be the worst place in the world to be stuck in. Tracy said, “Then you’ve never been to Lima, Ohio.”

Lead character Catherine Banning, played by Rene Russo, in the 1999 remake of the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair claimed her father was from Lima. Scriptwriters Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer had a friend from Lima, so they worked the name into their script. The actor pronounced it incorrectly, as "Lee-mah."

Locals tell a story that explains how Lima got a hospital for the criminally insane instead of a university. According to the story, early in the 20th century, Ohio state officials in Columbus asked Lima’s town fathers which would they rather have, a state university or a hospital for the criminally insane. In their wisdom, Lima leaders chose the hospital. So Lima got Lima Correctional Institution, and Bowling Green, fifty miles north, got Bowling Green State University. The story, of course, is not true. The two institutions were not built at the same time.

A documentary titled Lost in Middle America (and What Happened Next) (PBS) was made about Lima, Ohio, the acronym for its title being "LIMA". It focused on the Rust Belt economic crisis, showing how Lima's blue-collar industries fell, how the crisis was a typical experience of cities across the United States and Lima's subsequent recovery.

The Cold War left its mark on Lima, also. Most Lima residents firmly believed that their hometown was very high--in the top 5, the story usually went--on the top secret list of places the Russians planned to bomb. Because of the oil industry and the tank plant, most people accepted this as at least a possibility, and baby boomers were certain that they would not need to learn to "duck and cover" because they were at ground zero with no chance of survival.

Lima in literature

Published authors from Lima have produced poetry collections, scholarly works, novels and memoirs.

  • Harry Halsey Starrett was a Lima poet during the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Don Bruns wrote numerous detective novels, such as Jamaica Blue.
  • Marilyn R. Starck has produced novels (e.g., Broken Arrow, Broken Promises) and historical nonfiction.
  • Lynn Lauber, a New York City novelist, wrote 21 Sugar Street and White Girls, both somewhat fictionalizing her Lima growing-up years during the 1960s (in "Union, Ohio").
  • Duane W. Roller, who lived in Lima for over 20 years, has written eight books on ancient Greece and Rome, and is a three-time Fulbright scholar.
  • Phyllis Diller published an autobiography, Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse, that describes her downtown Lima girlhood in detail.

Lima in movies

Pierce Brosnan makes a reference to Lima, Ohio in The Thomas Crown Affair, however, he mispronounces it. He pronounces the city the same way that Lima, Peru is pronounced. However, Lima, Ohio is pronounced differently.

Lima Symphony Orchestra

In January 1953, a committee composed of John LaRotonda, Ben Schultz, Dom Trovarelli and Fred Mills organized the Lima Symphony Orchestra. This committee selected Lawrence Burkhalter as the Symphony’s first conductor. The LSO made its debut performance on May 23, 1954, in the Central High School auditorium to an “enthusiastic reception.” William Byrd of Cincinnati led the symphony for the next ten years, during which the LSO developed a regular subscription series of four or five concerts per season, put on an annual production of an opera or operetta, and began annual concerts for school children.

In 1967, Joseph Firszt became Music Director/Conductor, beginning a twenty-nine year tenure with the Orchestra. Under his guidance the Orchestra grew from 50 volunteer musicians to 75 paid musicians presenting a full series of six subscription concerts and several community concerts each year. School programs, master classes and joint sponsorship of the Lima Area Youth Orchestra are some examples of the impact Firszt made with the LSO.

Crafton Beck became Music Director/Conductor after Firszt’s retirement in 1996. During his tenure, Beck has expanded the reach of the Orchestra throughout the West Central region of Ohio. The LSO now presents six subscription concerts, a family concert, two or more Mozart by Candlelight concerts and an annual New Year’s Eve Pops concert.

The Lima Area Youth Orchestra, affiliated with the LSO and the Lima Noon Optimists, is a symphony orchestra composed of secondary school students from around the Lima area. Its season runs roughly the length of the school year, with one public performance in early April. The Youth Orchestra is currently under the direction of Lloyd Butler, a lecturer and conductor of music at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio, and will began its second year under his direction in fall 2006. The Youth Orchestra had formerly been conducted by Dr. Edwin L. Williams, former chair of the music department at Ohio Northern, until his death on July 14, 2005.



High Schools

Notable natives


  • Carnes, John R. (ed.) The 1976 History of Allen County (1976)
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  • FBI case files
  • Global Security
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  • Lackey, Mike. “The Interurban System: Electric Trains Eased Rural Isolation,” The Lima News, Aug., 16, 2003, p A5
  • Lackey, Mike. “Lima Engine Steaming Along after 100 Years,” The Lima News, Aug. 26, 2005, p A2
  • Lackey, Mike. “Echoes of Rail Resound: Lima Loco Helped Define a Town that Worked,” The Lima News, Sept. 17, 1997, p B1
  • Parks and recreation details
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