William Roberts Donates Digital Historical Photographs to the North Baltimore Ohio Area Historical Society
By Tom Boltz
North Baltimore native William Roberts has donated over 100 digital photographs of the North Baltimore area to the North Baltimore Ohio Area Historical Society (NBOAHS). The original photos were taken by his father, the late Dr. William Roberts, and his grandfather, Charles Roberts, between the 1890s and 1950s. Subjects include South Main Street, rural Henry Township, Oil-Boom-Era oil well gushers, high school athletic teams, marching band members, and high school faculty members. Other subjects are Roberts family photographs such as Dr. Roberts as a young child and teenager. Once the photographs are processed and integrated into the NBOAHS’s digital archives, they will be made available to the public at both the Historical Center and at the North Baltimore Public Library.
This collection greatly expands the NBOAHS’s digital archive of historical late 19th and 20th Century photographs. Most of these photographs have never been published. Dr. Roberts loaned several of them to Tom Boltz for his book North Baltimore and Its Neighbors while a few others were used in earlier North Baltimore histories.
Dr. Roberts, a North Baltimore native, practiced medicine in his hometown from 1953 until his retirement in 1990. His father, Charles Roberts, operated a pharmacy on South Main Street from 1916 to his retirement in 1936. Charles was an avid amateur photographer who preserved images related to local history.
Dr. Roberts’ mother, Nellie York Roberts, was the first woman to be postmaster of North Baltimore. She was also very active in local politics and civic affairs. Dr. Roberts’ son Bill is a 1968 graduate of North Baltimore High School and a retired US Navy officer. He and his wife currently reside in Worthington, Ohio.
Bill Roberts and Tom Boltz are currently collaborating on a biography of Dr. Roberts and his history in North Baltimore. The resulting publication will include many of the donated photographs as well as transcribed oral conversations between Dr. Roberts and Tom Boltz. Several essays written by Dr. Roberts about growing up in North Baltimore in the 1930s, his WW II service in the US Navy, and local history topics will also be included.
The Historical Society welcomes the donation of either hard copy or digital photographs to their archives. All donations should be made directly to the Society and given only to individuals who are authorized to receive them on behalf of the NBOAHS. The NBOAHS Historical Center, located at 229 Main Street, is open on Tuesday mornings from 9:00AM to 1200 and other times by appointment. Their phone number is 419.257.2266.
A Sample of Photographs from the Roberts Collection
The Charles Roberts pharmacy was on the first floor of the building on the right, 111 South Main Street. Charles and Nellie York Roberts and their children lived in a second-floor apartment in the building.
A 1920s parade down Main Street passes in front of the Roberts building on South Main Street. The four buildings on the west side of South Main Street are still standing in 2018.
Ed and Emma Kuhlman and Charles and Nellie Roberts enjoy a carriage ride near North Baltimore in the early 1900s. A split rail fence runs along the side of the gravel road. Judging from the lack of tree leaves, the photograph was likely shot in the early spring or late fall.
This view of South Main Street in the early 1900s was photographed from the alley next to where the Daily Queen is located in 2018. The four nearest buildings prominently seen in the photograph are now gone.
Dr. William Roberts as a teenager in his North Baltimore High School band uniform in the mid-1930s. As an adult, Dr. Roberts played in the orchestras for community theater musicals and other performances.
When Dr. Roberts was growing up on South Main Street, lunch at Jake Smith’s restaurant was a rare treat—two pork sandwiches for a nickel apiece, another nickel for a bowl of soup, and a dime for a butterscotch sundae. Jake’s was in a wooden building that stood where the Ten Pin Bowling Alley is now located along with the one beside it which contained a tailor shop. Both buildings were demolished in 1946. Now, in 2018, the brick building on the far right houses a physical therapy office and the Crossroads Café restaurant.