Monday, January 12, 2015

New Year...New You

Every January people all around the world make New Year’s resolutions.  It is no surprise that these New Year’s resolutions are not always effective.  We make too many, or we don’t think them through or prepare for them very well.  They often don’t have roots.  As 2015 unfolds, I am here to share my annual ritual and wish.

Rituals make us mindful.  Every ritual-----graduations, birthdays, funerals, weddings, Christmas – has something to do with gratefulness.  As 2015 moves foward I am grateful for another year of good health, for my wife who is always my better half, and for being able to contribute something meaningful to my parks employment as well as lighthouse and other volunteer efforts.  This article is another ritual I am always quite happy to engage in.  Article writing seems to be going the way of typewriters, newspapers, hard- covered books, sit down dinners , LP records and other memories from my childhood.  However for a few minutes today I am able to share a few moments once again with you, and share a passion that I hold dear and one that has not been steam rolled by the passing of time.  That to which I speak is ‘Volunteerism.’  It is a ritual I have engaged in earnest since 1996 at the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Marine Museum, since 1997 with Spirit of America boating and since 2000 with Lake Metroparks.  These organizations and many others in Lake County count on volunteers to survive and make ends meet.  In Ohio one volunteer hour is valued at $18.  Imagine if your favorite non-profit museum or park property had to pay that price to remain open daily or share county history with visitors.  Imagine if the minimal admission price was doubled or tripled to cover actual costs of staffing and maintaining a site.  Volunteering is therefore one resolution that can become a ritual that not only is easy to maintain but is also intrinsically valuable.  It is a random act of kindness that is more valuable than a one- time donation.  Volunteer one hour and that gift of time helps to sustain the mission and purpose of your chosen organization.  The Fairport Harbor Historical Society maintains the local lighthouse.  Less than 20 volunteers donate 4000 hours annually to open and maintain the site to 5000 visitors in a season.  Volunteers lead hikes for Lake Metroparks, take program participants kayaking or powerboating or volunteer as elves for Country Lights.  Volunteers maintain an Indian Museum in Willoughby and man a welcome center in downtown Willoughby for visitors.  Each group welcomes help and would love to have ‘younger members’ join their efforts and share in their passions.  All skill sets are welcome and the older members of these groups would gladly mentor new members.  I am grateful that members of my chosen volunteer organizations shared their knowledge and skills with me.  They passed down what was handed down to them to me.  I can now do likewise.

As 2015 unfolds I urge you to check out the sites of the Historic Lake County Alliance for volunteer opportunities.  These sites plus Lake Metroparks are just a small sampling of a resolution and ritual that can be easily sustainable today, tomorrow and in the New Year’s to come.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Lake County in Review - Year 174 and counting...

Since late 2009 I have had the opportunity to work at, volunteer at or just simply visit many of our county’s iconic historical places.  Many are well known to local county residents.  Unfortunately many have been razed for what is termed ‘progress.’  Some garner specific visits from out-of-county travelers.  Others are stumbled upon randomly or often missed entirely as today’s streetscapes hide the past edifices from public eye.  Below are but ten of my favorites.  The list is totally incomplete and in no apparent order.  All though are worthy of a visit sometime as you travel the roads of Lake County in 2015.

#1.  The Aviation Museum in Leroy is home to one of the largest private collections in our country.  Many of our county’s lost airfields have been reported upon but the Pheasant Run Airport and Aviation Museum offers views of over 22 aircraft, some the only ones in existence.  The efforts of Gretchen Reed have resulted in a life estate with Lake Erie College (2010).
#2  Lantern Court in Kirtland.  Situated on the corner of the Holden Arboretum property, it was the residence of Warren H. and Maud Corning.  They purchased the land for their country estate in 1929 and built their residence circa 1930’s.  Acquired by the Holden Arboretum in 2007, the estate welcomes public visitation and is not to be missed.
#3.  Chapin Reservation/Gildersleeve Mountain/ Pine Lodge Ski Center is under the auspices of Lake Metroparks.  The scenic overlook located in Kirtland’s Chapin Forest      (Chillicothe Road entrance) offers a panoramic view of downtown Cleveland, Lake Erie and sites east and west.  Truly a four seasons visit is warranted.
#4.  Historic Marker #24-43 is located in Wickliffe.  Currently the site of Wickliffe City Hall, it was the former estate of Harry Coulby.  Coulby was the 19-20th century Great Lakes shipping magnate and his office now serves as the Mayor’s Office.  A visit to the estate will offer a glimpse into Cleveland’s Gilded Age and shipping history.
#5.  Since 1988, The Herb Society of America has been housed in the county’s oldest stone structure.  Located at 9019 Kirtland-Chardon Road in Kirtland the former Vineyard House of Henry Earl dates back to 1841. Visitors are always welcomed.
#6.  Each year one of the country’s largest free Nativity Displays is open to the public at Historic Kirtland.  This free holiday offering is but one highlight found at the site of historic marker #21-43.
#7.  The Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Marine Museum is a unique experience open to the public from May-September.  However the outdoor exhibits – an 1843 US Navy Mast, an 1876 Lifesaving Car, a 1904 Oil House, Mormon Migration dedication rock and other artifacts can be viewed any day of the year.  Display boards tell the history of the UGRR, Mormon Migration and other maritime stories.
#8.  The Ohio Cottage in Madison Township has a long and storied history dating back to the early 1900’s.  Situated just off Rt. 84 it is a visit worth the trip.
#9.  The Mentor Fire Museum, Old Station #1 is located on the corner of Jackson Street and Mentor Avenue.  Manned by retired firefighters the site serves as a museum and educational classroom tracing the history of fire fighting equipment and service history in our county.
#10.  Currently situated on the campus of Lake Erie College in Painesville, the Mathews House ( historic marker #4-43) stands out among all of the county’s historic architectural homesteads. Adjacent to the home is College Hall dating back to 1857.  Two unique pieces of history on one campus setting make this a most see stop.
Just missing the cut are the local histories of The Mentor Knitting Works/Columbia Match site on Station Street in Mentor, Painesville Railroad Depot and the unique history of  US Rt.20.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Hopeful Waiting...Season's Best to All!

May the 2014 Holiday Season bring you all that you desire.  May 2015 be your best year ever...

Buon Natale                                              Frohe Weihnachten

                        Merry Christmas!

                                                     Natale hilare et Annum Faustum!

Happy Hanukkah                    Joyeux Noel                Feliz Navidad



Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Season Potpourri

Christmas is a holiday celebrated all around the world.  Whether your season festivities are spiritual or secular - involving a gift-giving character the season is overflowing with possibilities for every kind of believer.  Let's take a look at some of the many interesting ways Christmas is celebrated in Lake County and all around the world.  Included will be some holiday trivia too!
  • Upside down Christmas tree - said to date back to St. Boniface in the 8th century, it remains popular throughout Eastern Europe.  Legend has it that Boniface confronted non-Christians and chopped down their giant oak tree in an angry moment.  A tiny evergreen grew in its place and the triangular shape was used to explain the Holy Trinity.  the tree was hung upside down and the Trinity Tree had its origins.
  • Nativity Scenes (Vatican and Lake County) - Depictions of the nativity figures owe their origins to St. Francis of Assisi.  The first creche appeared in 1223.  In less than a century the custom was entrenched throughout Italy and the world.  Historic Kirtland has a nativity display annually that is considered a top 100 destination in the United States.  Free and open to the public daily into January, one should make every effort to view the more than 400 creches on display, some from countries far away.
  • Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer - Rudloph is 50 this year.  Taken from a 1939 poem, an animated television short about Rudolph aired in 1964 featuring the voice and singing talents of Burl Ives.
  • Frosty the Snowman - A 1950 song was used for a 1954 animated short about this most famous snowman.  In 1969 the television show still shown today remains.  Jimmy Durante was the voice talent used in the 1969 classic.
  • Mistletoe - The bush-like plant found on trees dates back to the Celtic people to about five centuries before Christ.  It is said the Druids considered mistletoe a sacred plant and hung it above their doorways for protection.  Enemies in battle would often declare a one day truce if they met near the plant.
  • George Harrison of Beatles fame is the only member of the Fab Four to never write or record a Christmas Song.
  • Holly & The Yule Log - The log is associated with winter solstice / December 21st.  Its origin remains in doubt although believed to be Germanic in nature.  Burned to bring good luck, holly was part of the ritual and placed under the log.  The sprig of holly symbolized buring up the troubles of the past year as well keeping safe their homesteads.
  • The Grinch -  Dr. Suess wrote his classic tale of the Grinch in 1957.  The animated version first appeared in 1966 and is third in longevity when one recalls Holiday TV specials.
  • It's a Wonderful Life - The 1946 holiday classic includes what today would be called a 'blooper' or DVD-extra.  An inebriated Uncle Billy has trouble walking in a scene.  A crash is heard and Uncle Billy says, "I'm alright."  The actual crash was that of a crew member dropping something during filming.  The gaffe is part of holiday history.
  • It's a Wonderful Life - "Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings..." is well known.  If you listen carefully you will hear 42 bells ringing in this seasonal movie classic.
  • Madagascar - Santa is known as Dadabe Noely.  Only small gifts are exchanged.
  • Wales - Carolers highlight the season and Christmas Day.  They sing at dawn and are invited in for snacks.  Carol writing contests are annual events.
  • Russia - Children carry a star and go house to house singing carols and receiving sweets.  A porridge, kutya is popular and served with honey or poppy seeds to ensure happiness and peace for the coming year.
  • Philippines -  Simbang Gabi are the nine days before Christmas.  A practice dating back to Spanish rule of the islands, attending mass is the main focus of the season.
  • Charlie Brown -  Charles Schulz's characters were widely popular since the 1950's.  The comic characters got their first television exposure in 1965 with A Christmas Special.  Arguably the best known holiday special it is a December viewing tradition.
  • Country Lights at Farmpark began its Toyshop in 1990.  Originally meant to just supplement an outdoor wagon ride and visit with Santa, 2014 will feature more than 70 varieties of wooden toys and possibly surpass 15,000 toys built in December 2014.
  • Check out Historic Lake County Alliance Member activities this month and throughout the upcoming year.  Whether it is a visit with the Grinch in Fairport Harbor, holiday fireworks in Eastlake, a traditional concert performance in Painesville or a holiday stroll in downtown Willoughby that includes a visit with Santa as part of their Welcome Center,  there are always holiday traditions Yule Enjoy!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Serving Up Good Will in Fairport Harbor ---The 'Grinch' visits December 6th

Dr. Suess’s holiday classic first appeared in 1957 in an issue of Redbook and shortly thereafter in book form.  In the story a bitter and hateful Grinch is irritated at the thought of the nearby village having a happy time celebrating Christmas.  As the story unfolds Dr. Suess poses two essential questions.  “What if Christmas doesn’t come from a store?”  “What if Christmas, perhaps means a little bit more?”  Winter is in the air.  Holiday programs have started.  Lists are being made.  The countdown to December 25th is officially underway.  In the Village of Fairport Harbor on December 6th, one may experience the answers to Dr. Suess’s classic questions.

Serving up good will is what ‘Harbor Holidays’ are all about.  It is a Rockwellian slice of Americana worthy of partaking in.  Harbor Holidays began in 1994.  In 2000 the Grinch made his first visit to Lake County’s best kept secret.  The efforts of the Fairport Harbor Merchants Association married the Grinch visit to Harbor Holidays and a Lighthouse Tower Reading of the classic tale.  Attendance averaged 75 annually.  In 2009 the current Grinch partnered up with the Fairport Harbor Historical Society  and the evening event with the Grinch, Santa Claus, and a local church social has resulted in 550 and 285 visitors attending the evening program in 2012 and 2013 respectively.  Free and family friendly have always been the operant words.  2014 will see the event grow some more as the Fairport Harbor Heritage Foundation has stepped up to enhance visitor experiences the entire day.  Lolley the Trolley, music performances at the gazebo and DFH window lighting decoration contests will supplement the Toys for Tots collection and other community holiday programming.

Harbor Holidays -  Local businesses, churches and the school will be open from 10am-4pm for visitor shopping experiences.  Food, ethnic specialties, stocking stuffers and more will be available.  You may even catch a glimpse of the Grinch stealing toys throughout the day.

Fairport Harbor Library -  The Grinch will be on hand with Max the dog from noon -1:30pm.  He will autograph copies of the classic book, mug for pictures and perhaps even share an irritable word or two with the locals.

Grinch / Lighthouse Program -  The Grinch and his cohorts will be at the Fairport Harbor Village Lighthouse at 6pm for a classic retelling of his story from atop the tower.  Bring your lawn chairs or blankets and sit below to listen to the story. At approximately 6:30pm the Grinch will lead all true believers to the park down the street to meet Santa Claus as well as pose for candid pictures.  The Congregational Church across the street from the park will offer hot chocolate and cookies to conclude the evening.  The event ends around 8pm.

Toys for Tots -  The FH Police Department and local VFW Post will once again accept donations for those less fortunate in 2014.  Bring a new wrapped or unwrapped toy to the event and make a holiday memory.

The Grinch Gang promises to be in rare form as they venture once again from Mount Krumpit.  Come and enjoy a day / evening put on by dozens of volunteers.  As stated earlier, serving up good will has been a Fairport Harbor staple since 1994.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Historic Markers of Lake County

There are currently over 1516 historic markers in the state of Ohio.  These markers exist to provide tangible records of Ohio's importance in early American and Western Reserve history.  Lake County is Ohio's smallest county yet has perhaps the most history to offer.  To date 28 markers dot our county's landscape.  Today we offer our readers just an appetizer of the history that is unique to some of our hometown communities.  Here is a sampling of ten markers and the year each achieved its moment of official recognition.  See if you can identify the one incorrect statement for each marker.

Historic Marker #1-43  Indian Point Fort
a.  It is the first recognized marker in our county (1964)
b. The fort is located in what is now Eastlake near the Chagrin River.
c.  Only a low wall remains.
d.  The fort's history can be traced back to the Erie Indians and 1650.

Historic Marker #24-43  Harry Coulby- 2003
a.  He was known as Czar of the Great Lakes
b.  He was born in Wickliffe and lived there most of his life.
c.  He was Wickliffe's first mayor (1916).
d.  His estate was known as Couallenby.

Historic Marker #23-43  Cora Gaines Carrel
a.  Her marker was dedicated in 2003.
b.  She was educated in Painesville in the 1890's.
c.  She was the first female councilperson in the State of Ohio and served in the '20s.
d.  She was part of the suffrage movement.

Historic Marker #15-43  Daniel Beard
a.  Daniel Beard was a noted illustrator, artist and author.
b.  Beard was born in Canada and moved to the US in the 1800's.
c.  Beard designed the BSA emblem.
d.  His marker was dedicated in 2003.

Historic Marker #25-43  Uri Seeley House
a.  Dedication services were held in 2006
b.  Seeley served in the Revolutionary War.
c.  Seeley was one of the county's earliest settlers.
d.  Uri was anti-slavery and a member of the UGRR.

Historic Marker #16-43  Henry Kelsey Devereau -2002
a.  His home was located on the current Telshe Yeshiva property in Wickliffe.
b.  He was Wickliffe's first settler.
c.  His image was used for the drum player in The Spirit of '76 painting.
d.  Archibald Willard selected Devereau for his iconic Revolutionary War painting.

Historic Marker #22-43  Rabbit Run Theater -2003
a.  The Klump Family converted an old barn into the theater.
b.  The theater began in 1946 and closed in 1967.  It reopened in 1979 and closed for good in 2010.
c.  It is one of the last barn theaters in the country.
d.  Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Tandy and Jim Backus are a few performers who did summer stock in Madison's famous theater.

Historic Marker #8-43  Willoughby University / Lake Erie Medical College
a.  The college began in 1834 and closed 13 years later.
b.  The medical campus marker is the county's second oldest dating back to 1999.
c.  Both the OSU and CWRU medical campuses have roots tracing back to this institution.
d. Grave robbing was alleged during the medical college's history.

Historic Marker #7-43  Hugh Moser
a.  The marker was dedicated in 1999 in Perry, Ohio.
b.  Mosher was a WWI veteran.
c.  Mosher served in the Civil War and was Ohio's finest fifer.
d.  Mosher's image was used as the fifer in the Spirit of '76 painting by Willard.

Historic Marker #26-43  Pleasant Valley Road Bridge
a.  The bridge was constructed in 1881 and is one of ten Whipple Tuss style bridges remaining today.
b.  The bridge located in Willoughby Hills is no longer in use.
c.  The bridge was part of the GAR Highway until 1952.
d.  The bridge received its official historic designation in 2006.

Historic Marker #18-43  Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Station - 2002
a.  The station is part of rail fanning events.
b.  The NY Central line station is still active today for commercial use.
c.  President-elect A. Lincoln visited this Painesville station.
d.  The station was opened in 1851 and closed in 1971.

answer-  As my former students well remember, the one incorrect answer for each was 'b'

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Remarkable Lake County -- Lantern Court

A hidden gem of Lake County may be found on Kirtland-Chardon Road in Kirtland.  It is a Georgian style country house surrounded by over 25 acres of informal gardens as well as a pond.  This country house served as a weekend / summer retreat up until WWII before becoming the primary residence of the family and their five children thru 1966.  The home is situated within the 3600 acres known to many as The Holden Arboretum. The house is known as Lantern Court and was formally acquired by the arboretum in 2007.  It is open to the public for much of the year and I can attest that my visit as part of the Northeast Ohio Intermuseum Council some years back left a lasting impression.  Here is a mini-chapter on this truly unique residence.

Mr. and Mrs. Warren H. and Maud Corning were married in 1928.  Mr. Corning made his fortune in investment banking.  The newlyweds purchased land in 1929 and their country home  began to take shape.  They lived in the gatehouse while much of the country house and its classic gardens were built throughout the 1930's.  The blend of architecture, horticulture and interior decor took its inspiration from the Civil War estates era that prevailed until nearly 1940.  Lantern Court as it was known totaled 17 rooms, eight of which are open for public viewing today.  The family settled in the home full time after WWII and remained there until 1966 when their last child moved away.  The Cornings then took up residence just down the road on another property.

 The Corning family and Lantern Court are intertwined with a well-known landmark - The Holden Arboretum.  The history of the arboretum began in 1931 and its story has been told previously to our readers.  What remains to be shared is this.  Mr. Corning was one of the original pioneers of the arboretum's genesis.  He served as the first unpaid executive administrator.  He helped facilitate many of the land purchases that resulted in the 3600 acres it now boasts of.  Mr. and Mrs. Corning donated their private collection of horticultural classics that comprise a library collection second to none.  Their former residence now serves the arboretum as an educational setting and the 25 acres of informal gardens are shared with all who visit.

If you have a chance to stop by this holiday season, do so.  If not, make Lantern Court a top priority for 2015 - it is a hidden gem and a part of our county history not to be missed.