Monday, February 8, 2016

Saving Mentor's History Part II

In recent years- news stories, on-line postings, and social media of all types seem to reflect a dumbing-down of the American mind to the point where the knowledge of history, especially local history is no longer deemed necessary.  Community residents may live there for less than a decade, thus honoring or remembering places, persons or things from the past holds no connection.

The first hand memories of many of the old time residents that were passed down generationly are rapidly being lost as the current generations, for the most part, do not have any interest in those memories.  Even Mentor's 50th Anniversary Lecture Series in 2013 and a file cabinet full of historical Mentor documents in former Kathie Pohl's Mentor Economic Development Office garner minimal attention.  This makes Thomas G. Matowitz Jr.'s newest book about Mentor all the more important.  Like the previous six books (see below) that came before his, this new publication celebrates the history of neighborhoods, buildings and names that dotted Mentor, Ohio.

Looking throughout the county, one finds dedicated historical societies of varying sizes in Fairport Harbor, Wickliffe, Perry, Willoughby, Willoughby Hills and Madison.  Some are housed in historical buildings such as a lighthouse, school building  or prominent estate.  Another one or two have had their municipalities commit a building or room to their efforts. This is true in Willoughby, Willoughby Hills and Eastlake.  Mentor, the county's largest community has yet to have a dedicated collections building.  For a brief time Mentor's history fell under the umbrella of the Lake County History Center when it called President Garfield's House its home.  Mentor's explosive growth in the 70's & 80's saw much of its early historical prizes razed for progress.  Their remnants were lost to time.  After 1983 the history of Mentor has traveled with the LCHS to Shadyside and its current location in Painesville.  Part III will look at some of Mentor's past - lost to time.

Past Publications about Mentor, Ohio History -  not all still in publication
  • History of Mentor Headlands and Vicinity, 1957
  • This is Lake County, 1964
  • Mentor-A Retrospective, 1988
  • Mentor: The First 200 Years, 1997
  • Roses to Retail, 2011
  • This is Lake County -updated by LCHS, 2015

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Saving Mentor's History -- Part I

For many years now I have shared brief glimpses of local history with my followers, both in print and at select events in person.  These stories offer a glimpse into a past that the general public has never seen or known.  Most of what is shared has been the result of the diligent research, time consuming detective-work, and passions of those who came before me.  As time marches on the past history is being stream-rolled into oblivion, soon to be lost to current and future generations.  Much like the seven day newspapers, LP's, bookstores, cameras and typewriters- these photos, artifacts and personal histories might never to be published or shared.  Recent news stories, on-line postings, apps, and social media now reach readers and draw attention or a glance followed by a "like" or "dislike".

Late in 2015 a new Images of America book was released on Mentor, Ohio.  Its author  is Thomas G. Matowitz Jr. and he is a 25 year resident of Lake County's biggest community.  His interest in this collection of images and histories took root nearly 50 years ago when Mentor was first becoming a city.  However the history of Mentor spans more than two centuries.

It began in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War.  Mentor was one of the first towns settled in the Connecticut Western Reserve beginning as an outpost in 1797.  Growth was definitely slow and steady as Mentor did not explode onto the county scene till 1963.  Rather it began as a series of farms, artisans and nurserymen.  In Mentor's earliest days circa 1820 the family names Hopkins, Corning, Hart, Munson and Newell were prominent.  Our 20th U.S. President called Mentor home when he purchased the old Dickey Farm on Mentor Avenue.  The early twentieth century Cleveland's business giants established Great Summer Estates along the Mentor Avenue corridor.  An interurban railroad line and Great Lakes shipping industry put Mentor at the epicenter of a growing county history.  Eleanor B. Garfield served two terms as Mayor in the '50s and transformed the city from an agrarian based to industrial centered community.

Unfortunately the progress of the late '70s and early '80s razed much of the original architecture and early history of the village.  If one looks hard the 1868 Mentor Knitting Mills, 1915 Mentor Christian Church and original 1950's Mentor Recreation Park can be recalled.  These images and many more are waiting to be experienced as you go 'old-school' and turn the pages in Matowitz's newly-released book.

source:  Images of America - Mentor, 2015, Thomas G. Matowitz Jr.  et al.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Go 'Snow Wild' at Chapin Forest in 2016

Have yourself a 'Winter Blast' in the next three months at one of Lake County's best kept secrets - Chapin Forest and Pine Lodge Ski Center.  Located at 10381 Hobart Road in Kirtland, the ski lodge has been recently renovated and a truly unique S-ring fire pit awaits all those who embrace this winter wonderland.

 In 1949 Frederick Chapin saved this Gildersleeve Mountain area acreage from suburban sprawl.  Saved were over 390 acres and nearly 6 miles of trails now dot the site.  A scenic overlook is part of the Lucky Stone Loop and on a clear day the Cleveland skyline is visible - a distance of 18 miles.  While hiking the property one will see blue paint on trees.  These trees were part of the original Buckeye Trail many years ago.  The Quarry Pond area was instrumental in providing building material for many of Lake County's historic landmarks including the Kirtland Temple (1833).

On the Hobart road side of the forest is a ski center managed by Lake Metroparks that offers snowshoeing and cross country skiing opportunities as yet another means of fighting off cabin fever.  A one mile lighted trail provides another unique hiking opportunity available to the public until 11pm nightly.  Today the 403 total acres include the Twin Ponds Shelter, Forest Shelter, Quarry Shelter and Ledges Shelter as well as the Pine Lodge Ski Center open noon-9pm weekdays and 9 to 9-pm weekends and holidays. Snowshoe rentals start at $3 an hour while x-c skis begin at $5 an hour.  Weekend lessons are available in the mornings. Class size is limited so please call in advance to reserve a spot.  Private lessons or group programs are possible upon request most days.

For more information your possibilities are-
 www.lakemetroparks.com --- includes a 'live' webcam of Chapin Ski Lodge 
Call the winter sports hotline daily at 256-2118 x. 4178 for conditions
Call the lodge directly at 256-3810 from noon-9pm weekdays, 9am on weekends to talk to staff
Walk-ins are always Welcome!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

tempus fugit...tempus mendaci & MMXVI

2016 rang in for me in Port Clinton, Ohio.  The annual Walleye Drop and local madness can now be struck off my wife's bucket list.  For many years I resisted the idea of celebrating New Year's Eve by reeling in the New Year there.  However as I get older, it is apparent that time flies (tempus fugit) but also time lies (tempus mendaci).  It was time to change, to reach outside my margins, to be more spontaneous as my wife preached.

Time - it flies and it drags.  It is precious and it is wasted.  It is a gift and it is a thief.  When I was younger summers whooshed by in a blur.  As a local educator the final five minutes before the dismissal bell lasted an entire geological epoch.  In 2015 the nights seemed longer and the year shorter.  Time - it seemed I had too much of it on my hands and not enough of it in the day.  Time waits for no man / woman, yet supposedly stands still.  The bottom line is " Where did the time go?"  Time has lost all credibility as we start 2016.

Time is a shape-shifter.  The truth is we all have enough time right until the very end.  Time is a constant and time stays.  It is we who pass.  My wish to you in 2016 is the same as always.  May this be your best year ever.  And if you have read my blogs since 2010 I always challenge you each New Year to volunteer at one of Lake County's local historical sites /organizations.  They exist today because the current volunteers continue to pass on that which was passed onto them.  Monetary donations are nice but the gift of time to a local society is the one New Year's Resolution that will genuinely keep on giving and defy 'father' time in the process.

Local Historical Societies with volunteer opportunities include-
Fairport Harbor Lighthouse & Marine Museum / Fairport Harbor Historical Society
Indian Museum in downtown Willoughby
Lake County Historical Society in Painesville
Willoughby Hills Historical Society
Wickliffe Historical Society at Coubly Estate
Kirtland Temple
Downtown Willoughby Welcome Center / History Society

Time concept source - Steve Rushin editorial

Monday, December 21, 2015

C 2015 ...Tis' The Season

Did you know...
  • Aluminum trees were first introduced in 1959.  Well received at first, aluminum trees almost fell out of favor entirely in 1965 when Linus and Charlie Brown chose a real tree during their beloved Christmas Special premiere.
  • Serious tree decorating began in 1846 when Queen Victoria trimmed a royal tree for her palace.
  • Elf on the Shelf, as legend has it is a special scout elf sent from the North Pole to help Santa manage his naughty and nice lists.  Once adopted and given a name, the elf receives its Christmas Magic and can visit Santa nightly at the North Pole to share the day's adventures.
  • A Book on Every Bed is a relatively modern tradition first introduced during an interview with historian David McCullough.  This Pulitzer Prize-winner suggested the giving of a book each year at Christmas- let your child or loved one wake up with a gift that will far outlast any toy.  Just an FYI, my wife got her book early this year - Jane Austen Christmas Letters.
Wishing my readers a...
Buon Natale              Joyeux Noel               
                                                         Merry Christmas             Feliz Navidad               
           Vesel Bozic    Kellemes karacsonyi unnepeket
                                                                         Hyvaa joulua    Vesele Vianoce    
            Frohe Weihnacthen   and to the many county languages and ethnicities I missed...

             'Wishing you a joyous holiday season and hope that 2016 will be your best year ever.'

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Get 'Grinched' Again and more this Yuletide Season

December is a perfect time to start family traditions or continue making memories.  Yes the 'hustle' and 'bustle' of the shopping season is once again upon us.  Black Friday and Cyber Monday have yielded to daily senses of holiday urgencies. Nonetheless there are many local events that can serve to reduce your stress and allow for a few hours of simple, calm holiday nostalgia.  Here is but a sampling of some of my enduring favorites as well as some new possibilities.  Enjoy the season...

December 3 -- 46th Annual Holiday Lighting Celebration in Willoughby
Downtown Willoughby is the site of this annual evening where merchants, citizens and even Santa officially welcome this most special time of the year.

December 3-- Chardon Square Christmas Lighting
Tonight is a special night on the square that once served as our county seat.  Hot Apple Cider, visits by Santa and Mrs. Clau and more await those who attend.

December 4-19-- The Tannenbaum Wine Trail Begins
Grand River Cellars serves as the epicenter for this anticipated trek.  Lunch with Santa is held December 5th.  Crafts, Corks and Christmas is featured on December 6th.  If wineries are your passion, a two week trek across Lake County will allow you to sample some of our areas best!

December 5-- Harbor Holidays and a Grinch visit to the Lighthouse
Two dozen Fairport Harbor businesses participate in a village wide event that offers ethnic foods, arts, crafts, shopping and more.  From 11am-4pm the 'Grinch' is on the loose throughout the village stealing giftsfo r all to witness.  He and his companion dog Max even visit the local library to autograph his classic Dr. Suess book at noon.  That evening the Grinch recites the beloved story from atop the 1825-1925 Lighthouse Tower.  Visits with Santa, trolley rides and snacks follow the reading at the park.

December 6-- Mrs. Claus Returns to Chesterland
From noon to 3pm Mrs. Claus will sit in her rocking chair at the historic 1899 Thayer General Store.  Kids may write their letters to Santa and rest assured they will be delivered back to the North Pole.

December 11-- "Sing Noel" Madison Chorale's Christmas Concert
This event is hosted by the Trinity Luthern Church in Madison and is a well-kept secret worth a visit. 

December 21-- Winter Solstice Candlelight Walk
Celebrate the longest night of the year that features a walk and lesson on the Roman, Viking, Druid and other ancient traditions associated with the day-night.  This event is held through the Geauga Park District (440-286-9516)

Thru January 3-- Historic Kirtland Nativity Exhibit
Over 500 nativity scenes await visitors at this free event in Kirtland.  This not to be missed experiences shares scenes from all over the world and is ranked as one of the U.S.'s best holiday tours.

Thru  December 20 -- Scrooge the Musical
Dickens classic novel A Christmas Carol is the inspiration for this production.  ticket information and performance times are available by contacting the Fine Arts Association located adjacent to Andrews-Osborne Academy in Willoughby.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

USCG 1915-2015 and Station Fairport

As the nation's oldest maritime agency the United States Coast Guard history is one of multiple origins.  While 2015 is the centennial year of the USCG the history of the service is an amalgam of many Federal agencies dating back to 1787.  These agencies, the Revenue Cutter Service, the Lighthouse Service, the Steamboat Inspection Service, the Bureau of Navigation, the Lifesaving Service, and in recent years Homeland Security were independent and overlapping organizations that today fall under the united USCG umbrella.

August 4, 1790 marks the first day of service for 'first' U.S. maritime organization.  President George Washington realizing that income was necessary for our new nation signed a Tariff Act.  This act authorized construction of ten vessels whose primary duty would be to patrol the eastern seaboard and levy trade taxes.  Preventing smuggling and assisting vessels in distress became two additional missions.  Growth continued over the ensuing decades as our nation grew.  In 1876 a bustling Lake Erie shipping industry created a regional need.  Fairport was granted a station.  George Francis Babcock, a local resident assumed charge of Station Fairport on September 26, 1876 and remained at his post till his death in 1898.  Niels Rasmussen another local Fairporter assumed charge of the station on February 17, 1899 and was still there at its end in 1915.  The original station was situated on the east bank of the Grand River just below the hill of the local lighthouse-1825-1925.  It was moved by Babcock to combat shoreline congestion in late 1800s to the west bank of the river.  The station remained intact with some modifications for nearly one hundred years until a completed remodel /  renovation on August 15, 2014 ushered in a new era of local USCG history.

1915 saw an Act of Congress merge the Revenue Cutter Service with the U.S. Life-Saving Service.  Remember prior to the establishment of the Navy Department in 1798, this organization was our nation's only armed force afloat.  1939 saw another major change occur as President Franklin Roosevelt transferred the organization to the charge of the USCG.  This change became permanent in 1946 when Congress transferred several offices into this final umbrella.  Homeland Security became the most recent task added to the history of the USLSS-USCG after 9/11.

From the earliest volunteer groups that spearheaded the first maritime organizations to the early professional pioneers such as Fairport's Francis Babcock and Niels Rasmussen these agencies of service have a history and tradition unsurpassed in the annals of our nation.  These stories, artifacts and more may be viewed at the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse & Marine Museum - maintained by The Fairport Harbor Historical Society since 1945.


source:  USCG website, USLSS article by Dr. Dennis L. Noble, archives Fairport Harbor Historical Society