Thursday, September 10, 2015

Aviatrix Margaret 'Marge' Hurlburt of Painesville

Last weekend's Cleveland Air Show garnered thousands upon thousands of visitors.  I'd bet only a handful at best wandered over to the aerospace museum on the airport property and took in a part of American history seldom told.  It is the history of women's aviation.  It is a history rich in Lake County roots.  Margaret Hurlburt was a graduate of Harvey High School (1942) and local educator at Champion JHS.  Her gold medal approved by Congress in 2009 can be viewed at the Women's Air & Space Museum at Cleveland's Burke Airport.  She is one of nearly 1074 Women's AirForce Service Pilots from WWII and her story is shared today.

'Marge' Hurlburt was recruited in 1942 by famed aviatrix Jackie Cochran to become a member of a pioneering core of women aviators serving the Air Force and General Hap Arnold.  As production of aircraft increased throughout WWII, the lack of male pilots stateside was an issue.  Cochran and Arnold aligned needs and the 'WASP' was formed.  These selected woman pilots would be trained and used to ferry completed aircraft to the military bases assigned.  Hurlburt whose training and licensing occurred at the Willoughby Air Field (current North High School) was now part of a 1074 member women's society who would affect history.  Hurlburt ferried planes, tested new models and towed targets during gunner training sessions throughout the war.  She flew B-24s, B-17s and logged more than 300 hours before the war's end.  In 1946 the WASP was disbanded but Margaret was only one of two females asked to stay on.  She became a valued instructor and key aviator guru.

The year 1946 saw her career take on a new phase as her skills with an AT 6 and the new Piper aircraft were in demand.  She became a fixture on the air circuit and participated in the 1946 Cleveland Air Races.  In 1947 she set a new flight speed record of 292.2 MPH besting her mentor Cochran for the title.  'Marge' was now a reknown barnstormer.  Tragically her career ended July 4 that same year at the Iowa Air Show as she crashed using a borrowed plane.  Her plane had been damaged earlier that week while teaching student pilots.  She was flown home to Painesville and was interned at Evergreen Cemetery.  The woman aviators achieved veteran's status in 1977 and living female aviators were honored with gold medals at a 2010 Congressional program.  Margaret 'Marge' Hurlburt is another member of America's greatest generation and WWII veteran who hailed from Ohio's smallest county but one with the most history!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Nostalgia: How long's that been around?

Never has that quote by Bill Bailey proved so true as in Lake County.  It is a common theme in all sorts of print media and life experienced by ‘boomers’ like myself.  The landscape of America has been steamrollered over by time.  Seven day a week newspapers, hard bound books, LP records, typewriters and more lost to the passing of time.  Despite the new ‘age’ and way of the world, much remains from our past and is visible to us if we only look.  One can simply drive the roadways and follow the Historic Markers in the county and learn / view so much.  Here are just a few of my favorite sites – ones that have been around for how long?

  • Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad Depot – First established in 1848, this depot saw three U.S. Presidents stop here before its closing in the 1970s.  Stop by and visit this museum in progress on Railroad Street in Painesville.
  • Pheasant Run Airport – Now a part of Lake Erie College, this airport located in Leroy Township is home to aviation history.  Over 33 vintage planes may be viewed at this operational airport.
  • Indian Port Fort – Remnants of this Native America fort date back to 1650 and are still visible in this Lake Metropark property located in Painesville.
  • Pleasant Valley Road Bridge – Dating back to 1881 this Whipple Truss structure found in Willoughby Hills was a main thoroughfare until 1952 and was know as the GAR – Grand Army of the Republic Roadway.
  • Rabbit Run Theater – One of the last remaining barn theaters in the U.S., its history began in 1946.  The theater is located in Madison.
  • Grand River Lighthouse in Fairport – From 1825-1925 this lighthouse was at the center of our county’s history.  One of the few lighthouses still open regularly to visitors with tower access welcomed.
  • An 1834 Medical College history, dental history collection and more await visitors to the Willoughby Welcome Center on Spaulding Street.
  • Lake County History Center- The current historical home of all things Lake County, this county poor house was built in 1876 replacing an earlier structure dating back to 1852.
  • Downtown Painesville – A walk on State Street will reveal a hardware and bakery business with histories dating back to the 1800s.
  • Coulby Mansion – Home to one of Cleveland’s famous millionaires from 1900, this Wickliffe site is often missed by the public.  Just walk inside City Hall and relive the Gilded Era of Cleveland.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Beginning this weekend and continuing into early October a Historic Lake County Treasures Tour is available to all.  This family friendly educational tour challenges participants to visit over 14 historic county markers and learn some important history of the area.  Participants who complete the tour are eligible for several grand prizes.  Tour maps may be obtained (two dollars) at the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse, Lake County History Center,  Downtown Willoughby Welcome Center or Outdoor Market during open hours.   More questions - call Barb at 440-639-2945 between 10am-2pm Tuesdays thru Saturdays at the LCHS.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Abridged History of Finn Hollow

As time marches on and cityscapes redefine former properties, it is important to record and remember the past.  Finn Hollow is one such example.  Located in Fairport Harbor, it is but one of many county properties with a story to share.  Today's blog comes from a 2002 book published by Elaine Lillback and an oral history as told by Lempi Johanna Sironen Juuti Tikka - born in 1889 and the oldest survivor of the original families from Finn Hollow.

The Finnish population moved west around the time of 1871 following the railroad constructions of the era.  Moving from Titusville, Pennsylvania they settled in Fairport around 1871 and in Chardon around 1872.  Pockets of Finnish immigrants also called Ashtabula Harbor, Girad and Burton home.  Fairport became an epicenter for the Finns as the village's location connected both the railroad and shipping industries.

Finn Hollow was a tract of land facing east and west on Third and High Streets in Fairport.  Examination of the original 1812 Grandon charter map (found in the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse & Marine Museum) indicates the lots occupied tracts 128-130 and 139-145.  Homes were constructed on these sites owned by the village ore industries and 50 workers called this area 'home'  Most were located adjacent to the ore dock superintendent's office.  The Lawrence store was one of the earliest businesses there.  The Tuuri Bakery and Hart Pinens-fish dealer also were located on that site.  The Somppi Boarding House was nearby and other businesses of note were Wolf Tobacco & Ice and Newman's Store.

The year 1896 changed much in Fairport as expansion needs of the shipping iron ore industry mandated that these original homes be moved.  Moved they were and spread throughout the village.  Many of the homes have been identified with marker status and continue today to recall an important past commercial history in Fairport Harbor as well as allow for preservation of local history for past, current and future generations.

A partial listing of the former original Finn Hollow family homes and their current village locations.
Cooper (Kupari) House is now at 211 Fifth St.
Hietamaki House is now at 344 Eagle St.
Lempi Home is now at 530 High Street
Nieminen House is now at 525 High St.
Walli Home is now at 616 Marine St.
Humppi House is now at 404 New 4th St.
Renttila's House is now at 425 Eagle St.

For a more detailed look at Finn Hollow, its history and the homes visitors should stop by the Finnish Heritage Museum on High Street.  The volunteer staff can share this story and many other significant stories on your visit.

Monday, July 27, 2015

History Hall Part V...John Henry Mathews

Our final installment of highlights from the Anthology on History Hall  (published July 2014) and Lake County, Ohio will examine a very prominent figure from our past.  John Henry Mathews may have been born in Hoosac, New York in 1785 but his arrival in Painesville, Ohio in 1808 and marriage to Martha Huntington, daughter of Governor Samuel Huntington and Grandon- Fairport landholder in 1813 were initial footnotes in county history.

Mathews was a physician by trade, having studied in New York.  His practice in Northern Ohio began around 1808 in Painesville.  His legacy was this.  He was believed to be the first physician to ever perform trephination, the making of a burr hole into the skull to relieve intracranial diseases.  This surgery on a ten year old boy led to a complete recovery and gained him world-wide acclaim internationally.

A less important decision made in 1829 cemented his legacy in our county history to this day.  He commissioned Jonathan Goldsmith, mentioned in an earlier part of this series to build him a home at 71 North State Street.  The Mathews home is generally acknowledged as one of Goldsmith's finest architectural builds.  This famous house was moved in the '50s to the campus of Lake Erie College.  John died in 1862 and his wife in 1866.  Both are buried at Painesville's Evergreen Cemetery. Their original home is now a campus office and listed on the national register as a NHS.  Both sites merit visits by any early American history lover.

This story and more than 100 others may be found in the book on History Hall.  Many of the notable Lake County pioneer families mentioned in the book have sites still in existence and accessible for viewing- a mere one tank trip!

source - article by Jan Bathhurst in the book History Hall...released July 2014

Monday, July 20, 2015

History Hall...Part IV - Jacob & Edward Prouty

" Mommy, why is our street named Prouty?"  Ever wonder how streets get their name?  The anthology of History Hall released last July can answer the question posed above.  For those living in Concord here is the history in a nutshell.

Jacob and Selima Prouty moved from their home in Spencer, Massachusetts or Simsbury, Connecticut in the early 1820's to Concord.  Genealogy records indicate the original spelling might have been Proutey, Proutee, Prout, le Proute or Prowty among others.  The Prouty name has roots back to Plymouth Colony circa 1670.  Jacob purchased parcels of land totaling in excess of 275 acres between 1824-1837.  Tax records in 1845 indicate the majority of acreage was land in the same area as the current roadway.  Edward Prouty was their son and his marriage to Betsey Woodruff ( of Lula Sawyer fame) alongwith tax records of 1870 indicate the family had attained prominent county status.  Jacob was a Trustee of Concord and an election judge.  Paul Bosley Sr., another prominent name in county history related stories of the Inter-urban Stop 68 being near the Sawyer House being within walking distance of their home and a gasoline station.

Jacob's son Edward was a farmer and public officer in his years.  His children were also prominent in their day.  Son Harry was a noted lawyer and other son Willis was a school director, trustee and supervisor in Concord.

The Prouty family plot is located in division 13 of Evergreen Cemetery in Painesville.  An obelisk marks the spot.  In Button Farm Cemetery at 10100 Hoose Road a family burial plot for their sons was still there in 1999.

source - History Hall...article by Marianne T. Wiley

Thursday, July 16, 2015

History Hall...Part III The Pioneer Master Builder

The anthology book 'History Hall of Lake County, Ohio Fairgrounds' was released last July.  Over 180 portraits, photos and illustrations trace an important era in our county's beginnings.  In Part III of this series, a brief retrospect of noted Western Reserve architect / builder Jonathan Goldsmith is highlighted.  Goldsmith was born in 1783 in Connecticut and began his career as an apprentice in the shoe and carpenter trades.  A marriage in 1808 tied to Abraham Skinner of New Market- Fairport-Painesville fame brought Goldsmith to Ohio.  His career was soon to take off.

Goldsmith was well-known in local architectural circles for his craftsmanship as a builder with an affinity for Greek revival homes and public buildings.  From 1819-1843 he built more than 59 homes and public edifices, many for prominent citizens of Painesville, Mentor, Willoughby and Cleveland. In Painesville, he is credited for the Dr. John Mathews' home now located on the Lake Erie College campus, The Morley House at 231 N. State Street, Eber Howe home at 205 Mentor Avenue. Uri Seeley House at 969 Riverside Drive, Fifield Tavern at 571 East Erie Street plus four others.  

Other Lake County builds include The Sawyer House on Mentor Avenue, The Corning-White House at 8353 Mentor Avenue and one Willoughby Home-The William P. Robinson residence now located at Hale Farm in Bath, Ohio.  Twelve other promiunent Painesville homes have been demolished over time.  These include the original 1825 Fairport Lighthouse (rebuilt in 1871), Painesville Academy, Bank of Geauga, The Mountain House and Painesville-Fairport RR.

Notable Cleveland builds included the Millionaire Row homes on Euclid Avenue of Judge Shelock Andrews, Williams Brothers, Peter Weddell's Cottage, Judge Samuel Cowles Mansion, Ashbel Walworth House and a half dozen more.  Sadly these estates have been demolished.

Goldsmith passed at age 64 in his home 'Ingleside' in Painesville.  Ingleside stood where the Painesville Fairgrounds now stands.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

'Deja Vu All Over Again' highlights Harbor Fest Weekend

Since 1825 and the opening of the Erie Canal, Lake Erie has become a significant part of maritime and early American history.  In fact both Madison and Fairport Harbor share common histories.  Both were leading ports in the 19th c.  Early pioneer families made their homes there, early industry had shoreline origins and over 52 sailing vessels were built in this eastern portion of Lake County.  The Madeline is a 92-foot tall ship that was built in Fairport in 1845.  Nearly her entire 30 year career was spent in Upper Michigan in a variety of commercially based transportation needs.  She may now call Traverse City, Michigan her home port as she travels the Great Lakes but this weekend she once again arrives in her port of origin as part of Harbor Fest 2015.  In fact if you have been monitoring her arrival 'live' on the Fairport Harbor Historical Society website she is nearly at her intended destination right now.  Make your destination this weekend - Fairport Harbor - N.E. Ohio's Best Kept Secret!

Here is the 'Rest of the Story'
When: Saturday, July 11 and Sunday, July 12
Where: Osborne Dock, Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park

Saturday & Sunday, 10am to 4pm
  • Madeline Deck Tours - tickets available thru FHHS/Lighthouse Museum.
  • Maritime Singers & Storytellers - Hourly shows daily by Tom Kastle as well as The Hardtackers.
  • Refreshments by local vendors.
Saturday & Sunday, 10am to 6pm
  • Fairport Harbor Lighthouse & Marine Museum Tours - tickets available at museum
  • Sunday Art Show & Chinese Auction - noon to 7pm featuring noted N.E. Ohio maritime artist Bill Csatary and new for 2015 the matted county photos of local photographers Brian Fowler & Roxana Rojos
  • Free Concert on Sunday by the U.S. Air Force Band of Flight @ 5pm
Saturday & Sunday, 10am to 6pm
  • Sand Sculptor Carl Jara
  • Windsurf Simulator Demo by Wind Surf Ohio
  • Jasmine Dragons Acrobatic Demostration
  • Sand Castle Lessons with Doug Smith
  • Face Painting by Rocket Dust Design
  • Lake Metroparks Guarded Beach, Kayak and SUP demo & rentals