Thursday, May 21, 2015

Upcoming June 5th Tour features the History of Two Lake County Lighthouses only .8 miles apart

In 1807 a proposal for a canal system was made.  Ten years later construction officially began.  On October 26, 1825 a 363 mile-36 lock Erie Canal opened connecting New York-the Atlantic Ocean-and the Great Lakes.  New York eclipsed Philadelphia as the largest seaport on the east coast.  The Erie Canal is said to be the most extraordinary feat of engineering of the 19th century.  The impact of the canal had an even greater footprint in what was soon to be Lake County.  The opening of the canal now allowed commercial shipping into the Great Lakes and made Lake Erie an important hub in history.  The ports of Madison and Fairport became key sites in early shipping history.  The removal of the need to portage allowed both communities to rise up during the mid-to-late 1800's.

The Grand River Lighthouse at Fairport (Harbor was added in 1959) was commissioned in 1825.  Under the auspices of the United States Lifesaving Service its light shone for nearly a hundred years.  Reknowed Western Reserve architect Jonathon Goldsmith was charged with its build.  Samuel Butler was its first keeper.  Its history included fourteen keepers,  participating in the UGRR and the Mormon Migration, being rebuilt in 1871 as well as witnessing maritime events on the Great Lakes.  A third order Fresnel Lens, 1876 Life Car, famous ship's mast from 1843 and 1904 Oil House are just some of the many stories that will be shared on a tour Friday night June 5th.

The Fairport Westbreakwater Lighthouse's story dates back to approximately 1907.  A wall was under construction on the west side of the Grand River.  The original 1825 lighthouse was nearing its end as a navigational aid and Cleveland was now the hub of Lake Erie shipping commerce.  Prefabricated steel shell lighthouses were soon to be in place in Ashtabula (1904) and Lorain (1916) replacing older original generation versions.  On June 21, 1921 the steamer Wotan delivered the shell of a new lighthouse to Fairport.  Four years later it was commissioned and to this day remains an active aid to navigation.  Tended by the USCG its last live-in-crew was around 1948.  In 2012 the keeper's dwelling was sold to a private owner who is currently renovating and preserving the 42' structure.  2015 marks the Westbreakwater Lighthouse's 90th anniversary.  The owner will be on hand on June 5th to share her summer residence and lighthouse's history.

Sign-up for the tour at or call 440-354-4825 for more information.  The deadline is June 1st.



SAMUEL BUTLER                  1825-1833

ELIJAH DIXON                        1833-1839

JEREMIAH O. BALCH             1839

NEHEMIA MERRITT              1839-1841

THOMAS GREER                    1845-1846

ISAAC SPEAR                           1846-1849

HENDRICK E. PAINE              1849-1853

OLMSTED BAKER                  1853-1856

HALSEY H. BAKER                1856-1861

JAMES McADAMS                 1861-1865

GEORGE F. RODGERS          1865-1871

JOSEPH C. BABCOCK          1871-1881

GEORGE L. RIKER                 1881-1900

DANIEL BABCOCK                 1919-1925


Thursday, May 14, 2015

UGRR Bus Tour Highlights County's Role in important era of American History

The UGRR is one of the best known chapters in American history yet in many ways it is the least examined.  The facts and documents/primary sources often do not match. This is true in Lake County.  Some known facts are 40% of all slaves passed thru Ohio.  Another is The Fugitive Slave Law, enacted in 1850 was already a hotbed issue some 40 years earlier in Ohio.  Another includes locals Samuel Butler, Phineas Root, Seth Marshall, Eber Howe and Uri Seeley who were active abolitionists of the day.  All resided in what was to become Lake County.  Four principal UGRR routes led to Fairport and Madison.  Research also reveals that Harvey Johnson was not the first slave to pass thru and return to settle in the county.  Over 40 blacks were living in Lake County before the Civil War though their stories remain relatively obscure.  These are just a few of the UGRR stories to be examined later this month.

The upcoming bus tour sponsored by Lake Metroparks on May 28th will look at our rich past and the history of runaway slaves and their journey thru portions of Lake County.  Many crossed over and arrived in Canada either by way of Lake Erie or by crossing over the Detroit River.  In our county many attained freedom via the commercial docks of Fairport or Madison.  One final destination was Chatham, Ontario - a mecca for black society. Other Canadian communities included Dresden, Port Stanley, Port Burwell and Port Royal

A Local Self Driving Tour -
Start at Big Creek at Liberty Hollow ( A Lake Metroparks property and one home of Eber Howe)
Uri Seeley House - 969 Riverside Road
Moodey House - 208 S. State St.
Judge Hitchcock site - 254 S. State St.
House Home-311 S. South St.
Seth Marshall site - 375 Bank St.
Mathews House - moved to Lake Erie Campus since 1949
Eber Howe's other home - corner of N. State & Jackson St.
Morley House - 231 N. State St.
Sidley House - 463 Casement Rd.
First Congregational Church - 22 Liberty St.
Grand River Lighthouse at Fairport Harbor -129 Second St.
Dock Rd & Arcola Creek - Madison
Unionville Tavern - 7935 S. Ridge Rd.

 Need more tour information - contact Lake Metroparks @ 440-639-7275 or visit

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lake County, Ohio - Iron Industry Began Here

Lake County does not come immediately to mind when one mentions 'iron'.  The names Youngstown, Cleveland and Warren would be the better guess.  However long before these cities came into play, it was Lake County that had a thriving iron industry, specifically the Madison area.  The era was the early to mid-1800's.

Bog iron was discovered by surveyors attempting to lay the course for a 70' wide road from Cleveland to Erie, Pa. The year was 1812.  The ore was scattered throughout the Madison area from Middle Ridge to Lake Erie over acres of land.  Early furnaces appeared in Mentor as cast iron plows and iron bells were cast.  In 1824 an iron works was established on the banks of the Grand River for the production of cooking and potash kettles.  The first furnace to refine iron was built in 1826 by Erie Furnace Company.  Samuel Wheller and Cyrus Cunningham bought 52 acres that had bog ore on it.  Soon an industry developed extending from Hubbard Road to County Line Road as well as from Middle Ridge to the Lake.

By 1825 three additional furnaces were built.  Another four were added in 1833.  Natural resources made the area well suited for manufacturing.  Resources and a Lake for transportation were ideal for the early businessmen.  A small furnace was renamed Arcole in 1831 and sold to Samuel Wilkerson and Uri Seeley.  Today this area is Arcola Road.  Their furnace was in its day the largest industry in Ohio.  Production totals hit 1500 tons annually.  Twenty years of prosperity resulted and Madison was second to Painesville in population- both larger than nearby Cleveland. Ore production and agriculture were the leading exports in the late '40s.  A port located on Dock Road became the shipping hub of the era alongwith the neighboring Grand River-Fairport location.

The mid-1800's saw the demise of the iron industry in the county.  Bog iron was running out and newly found sites elsewhere yielded a better quality ore.  Charcoal necessary for the furnaces were harder and more expensive to obtain. Arcole Iron Co. was sold and other furnaces simply abandoned.  The Dock Road / Madison Port was a ghost town by 1850.  Hundreds of settlers and homesteads transitioned to farming.  Remnants of the industrial era of Madison are few.  Cunningham's 1825 home is still in use and the one furnace building remains as a moment frozen in time.  The blue rocks or slag still can be found in the gardens of the locals.

source - articles from the Western Reserve and Lake County Historical Societies

Monday, April 27, 2015

Dock Road & Arcola Creek - The Western Reserve Years of Madison Twp.

Lake County's roadways bear the names of many early county pioneers and businessmen.  The names Kniffen, Seeley, Vrooman, Garfield, Morley, Rockefeller, Casement are but a few examples.  Looking at the eastern half of the county one name stands out and bears mentioning today - the road is named Dock and the Arcola Creek area dates back in Western Reserve history to 1796.  The first permanent settlers who came to Cunningham Creek, Ellensburg or Madison Dock arrived around 1798 from New York.  Their names were Colonel Alex Harper, William McFarland and Ezra Gregory.  By 1803 Joel Russell and his family arrive to the area via a sailing vessel.  Known as expert shipbuilders they worked at Bailey's dock near a makeshift lighthouse.  Captain Cunningham arrived in 1811.  The discovery of iron ore in 1812 and bog iron found in the future Lake County led to early industrialization of the Middle Ridge area. The Old Tavern in Unionville was not only a stage stop but gained importance as part of the UGRR era in history.  Madison Dock became an important leg in a slave's journey to freedom - Canada or otherwise.  The year 1825 saw this area firmly entrenched in shipbuilding.  Neighboring Richmond and Grandon (Fairport) also had shipbuilding.  Over 52 vessels, mostly schooners were built in the county. The Bailey, Helena, Flying Dutchman and Madeline were just the names of a few vessels of importance in this era.  1831 saw another early settler Uri Seeley establish Arcole Furnance from the former Erie Furnace Company site.

Cunningham Creek was now known in the record books as Ellensburg and by 1835 a long dock built out into the lake was used by ships traveling the lake from Kelley's Island (limestone) to Buffalo (commerce).  Joel Norton became an important sail maker of the area.  The era of prosperity lasted into the next decade but by 1850 the bust period was at hand.  Depleted resources, a weathered dock and deserted homesteads left by transient workers shifted the industrial age to one of farming.  A name change to Chapintown or Centerville soon faded into what today is known as Madison Village.  Only a few of the original landmarks permeate the countryside.  The Arcola Creek Estuary remains as a connector to Lake Erie and a period in Western Reserve history not to be forgotten.

information gleaned from 1980 article by Sue Orris, Madison Historical Society

Monday, April 20, 2015

Willoughby's Chandler-Tucker Estate

As one drives the roadways of Lake County it is quite easy to miss county history as present day cityscapes hide or minimize signature structures from our past.  Fitting the bill is the story of the former Chandler-Tucker Estate located on Rt. 84 in Willoughby, Ohio.  In 1911 a property located on Ridge Road overlooking the Chagrin Valley to the south and Lake Erie to the north known as Elgercon is passed down to Gertrude Chandler Tucker.  The Chandler Family fortune was made by her parents who made a printing press (part of the Mayfield Historical Society collection).  In 1900 seventy-one acres of land are bought by Harrison T- Chandler.  This is the land that by 1913 becomes a prominent estate of the day.  Gertrude and her husband Stanley Tucker build a mansion, barns, out buildings and acquire more acreage (Burroughs Nature Club) in the valley that now is known as Gully Brook.  Their stone mansion faced Ridge Road and was built from materials from Cleveland's West Side.  Local railroads as well as horse and wagon transport aided in the construction project which now included stables, carriage houses, gardens, a greenhouse and garages.  Some pre-exisitng structures were relocated in the build.  In 1923 the one room school house was acquired on the site of today's YMCA.  The Chandler-Tucker estate remained a local fixture in Willoughby until Gertrude's passing in 1953.

At the time of her death the estate was left to Western Reserve University but a title transfer in June 1954 allowed the Willoughby-Eastlake School System to acquire the stone mansion and much of the property.  Twenty rooms in the mansion now were home to 200 elementary students.  A caretaker's home was used as the Sunnty Lane School for retarded children.  Another tenant house was used by the Community Fund and Red Cross organizations.  The barns were repurposed as industrial arts classes for the school system by 1955. Music, wood and metal shop out buildings came into play. As Willoughby's schools grew and moved out of the main mansion structures a Nursing School used the site.

Fast foward to the 60's and beyond.  Chandler Road was renamed Shankland Road in 1958 and in '63 the YMCA found its home on their property.  A public swimming pool opened in 1965.  1959 saw a high school built on the Chandler-Tucker estate and a middle school followed in 1972.  The Little Red Schoolhouse was moved and situated on the property in 1977.  1981 saw a police station dedicated on their former estate.  The Gully Brook property was targeted in 2004 to become part of Lake Metroparks- an event that officially came to be just a few years ago.

The Chandlers and Tuckers are laid to rest in a mausoleum in Cleveland's Lakeview Cemetery.  Their mansion and property located on Rt. 84 and Shankland Road are there to view on your next trip thru Willoughby, Ohio - another hidden gem in our county's history.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bus Tour to Highlight Our Remarkable Lake County

Founded in 1840, Lake County is Ohio's smallest county but when it comes to history it may stand atop the list. Seventy-nine properties in the county have been designated National Historic Sites.  Another twenty-seven sites have garnered historical markers from the Ohio Historical Society.   Lake Metroparks is offering a bus tour this month on Wednesday April 29.  A  brief lecture precedes a driving tour of some of our county's hidden architectural and historical gems.  Revisit a cityscape when mansions dotted the Wickliffe and Kirtland communities.  See some of the early homes in downtown Willoughby dating back to 1810.  Travel the roads of Mentor, Painesville and other local townships for often missed gems dating back to the Western Reserve Era and early American history.

Tour Highlights include-
‘Couallenby’ – Harry Coulby’s humble beginnings belie his importance in county history.  He became Czar of the Lakes as a shipping magnate and Wickliffe’s first mayor in 1916.
Mooreland Mansion-  The Grand Summer Home of Edward Moore encompassed 1300 acres in its day.  Built in 1898, it entrance was located where the Olive Garden currently occupies at the Great Lakes Mall.  This interurban railroad baron’s family lived at Mooreland until 1981 on what is now Lakeland Community College.
Lantern Court – Warren and Maud Corning married in 1928 and within a year began construction of their Georgian-style home.  An investment banker by trade this summer home became their full-time residence after WWII.
Other sites include Frank Rockefeller’s site, Mentor Knitting Works, Havel’s Florist and much more.

For tour information visit

Monday, April 6, 2015

Interurban Railway Changes Lake County Forever

The year was 1896 and from Detroit to Buffalo and as far south as Wheeling a new system of transportation was impacting the communities far and wide.  In Northern Ohio and specifically in Lake County these changes would influence our county footprint forever.  The first electric railway system developed in 1896 ran from Cleveland to Painesville.  Shortly thereafter it stretched into Ashtabula and in 1910 beyond Buffalo.  The C.P.&E. (Cleveland,Painesville and Eastern RR) and the C.P.&A. (Cleveland, Painesville and Ashtabula RR) were their official names.  Their hub was located in a depot in downtown Willoughby.  Also located at the depot/barn hub was an electric generating plant.  This railway syndicate was conceived, developed and operated by two local gentlemen Edward Moore and Henry Everett.  In time this partnership added the LSE line (Lake Shore Electric) to their venture.  The year was 1901 and the routes now covered Cleveland to Toledo and spanned passenger lines to Willoughbeach, Fairport and Painesville.  The main line ran from Public Square to Painesville.  Stops 40-49-55-89 traversed Lake County.

The impact of Moore and Everett's syndicate of electric railways was far reaching in many ways.  First farmers from Lake and Ashtabula counties now had a means to move their produce more economically to Cleveland. Conversely, consumers now had access to downtown Cleveland and the shops located in the heart of the city.  Secondly, the C.P.&E. line allowed the beginnings of the 'country estates' era in Lake County.  The Halle Farm, Couallenby, Rockefeller Estate, Hanna Estate and Mooreland Mansion are just a few famous names from our past.  Third electricity came to Lake County due to the interurban.  Homes in Willoughby, Mentor, Madison and such now had low cost power as a reality. 

Some Interurban Trivia -
Willoughbeach (Lakeshore in Willowick) and Euclid Beach Park tourism and amusement seekers used the interurban daily.
The last numbered stop was Park Place in Painesville - number 89.
Rockefeller and Moore both had private interurban lines on their properties.
Gavi's catering in Willoughby now occupies the old electric plant.
The old barn and hub depot is now occupied by Willoughby Brewing Co.-stop #40.
The James A. Garfield residence had a stop - number 55.
The interurban railway line changed an 8-hour carriage trip to an hour.
The Little Mountain Estates of the 1800's gave way to summer farms for the wealthy.