On July 20, 1950, the day after a tornado ripped through Lima, The Lima News remembered an earlier, memorable storm.
“On a sultry Saturday afternoon, Sept. 24, 1898, townsfolk were startled by a roar in the distance,” the News wrote. “Skies momentarily grew dark and two great funnel shaped clouds, rushing together in the north, appeared to have exploded. Path of the tornado was marked by a whirling, swirling cloudlike streak of whitish gray.”
The storm ripped off numerous roofs, sent the statue Goddess of Liberty from the courthouse roof to the street below as pedestrians scrambled for cover. The fierce winds also tore off a large section of the third floor and dislodged a large bell from the cupola of the East school building, which was built in 1871 and was one of the first brick structures in Lima. The bell plummeted to the basement, taking desks and other debris with it.
The first two floors of the East building, which was located at East North and North Pine streets, was used as an elementary school, while the third floor housed the city’s only high school. Other grade schools in 1898 were in the West building, located on West High Street, and the Elizabeth Street school at Vine and Elizabeth streets.
After the storm, grade school pupils from the East building were set up temporarily in homes and buildings east of Main Street. Many also attended classes in the Allen County Courthouse. The elementary school eventually was replaced by the Garfield School, which stood on the site of the old East building.
High school students, meanwhile, were transferred to the Lima College, at North Jameson and Rice avenues, for the remainder of the school year before moving into the three-story Holland Block at Main and High streets the following fall. The new Lima high school, which eventually became known as Central, was completed in 1904, and the first class was graduated in June 1905.
In June 1922, Simon Steffens, who was principal of the high school in 1898, donated a clock salvaged from the wreckage of the East building to the Allen County Historical Society.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.