Thursday, December 29, 2011


Tempus fugit - time flies.  A year ago at this time, I was a little known beginning blogger who had a catchy handle that may have garnered some early attention.  A year ago, I had posted only a dozen or so local history pieces. Today, I am more versed in our county's history and more appreciative of those that came here before me.  A year ago, I had few story ideas other than the knowledge gained while volunteering for 15 years at the Fairport lighthouse.  Today, I have posted some 112 blogs celebrating our county's contributions to American history.  In twelve months, one can go from nobody to somebody, from merely familiar to suddenly called upon.  One does not always recognize what may be happening.  A News-Herald blog posted here.  A Lake County Visitors Bureau blog posted there.  A local Civil War program presented last spring.  A 'DAR' presentation given in early summer.  A lighthouse tour given here, a foghorn demonstration given there.  A year blogging about Lake County history is like a wave washing up on Headlands or Fairport beach.  Only after it recedes do you fully appreciate all the local gems that it leaves behind in the sand.

Isn't that one of the main reasons we continue to celebrate our past?  To see which new persons will earn their way into our consciousness?  A year ago, I did not know the story of Perry's Ann C. Whitman.  She was the confidential secretary to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and later V.P. Nelson Rockefeller.  A year ago, I did not know the story of Lewis and Milton Clarke.  The brothers were free men falsely enslaved during the early 1800's.  Their 1843 visit to Madison in support of abolitionism led to a episode that eventually became a part of Uncle Tom's Cabin lore.  Harry Coulby resided in Wickliffe and even served a term as mayor.  This Czar of the Great Lakes and his mansion 'Coulallenby' are even more fascinating to read about.

In history breakthrough performances don't just happen.  Claude Foster and Robert Manry, both of Willowick made history.  Foster was a pioneer during the early automotive era while Manry's nautical feats eclipsed his Cleveland journalism experiences.  Eber Howe founded the Painesville Telegraph (1822-1976) but this abolitionist saved over a hundred people in his day.  General Jack Casement may have been a famous Civil War leader but his trans-continental railroad abilities united two coasts.  The first local medical college in Willoughby   (1834-47) eventually led to three famous Ohio institutions, Lake Erie College, CWRU, and the OSU medical school.  Dr. Amy Kaukonen became Ohio's first women mayor when she took office in Fairport in the 1920's.  Her election into public office (subject to some debate) may also be the first in the United State's local election histories.

Think of the now familiar nicknames that would have meant nothing to me a year ago.  The 'Penny Players' are a part of the history of Lake County's famous Rabbit Run Theater.  Margaret Hamilton WWW was a Painesville resident and local educator.  Uncle Dan has historical marker #43-15 celebrating his contributions to Americana.

The best thing about 2011 drawing to a close is the knowledge that somewhere another citizen is doing what is necessary to become known by this time next year.  He/ she is vowing to rededicate him/herself to a cause.  My New Year's column last year called upon each person to make a resolution that could be carried out.  I asked each reader to resolve to volunteer a few hours of their time  to a non-profit historical society.  Each volunteer hour you donate is a gift.  It is a gift that connects you to our past and allows you to be an 'eyewitness' to the ever evolving history that is Lake County.

Let this coming year be better than all others. Remember to resolve to volunteer.  And most importantly - CARPE ANNO! - seize the year

Historic Lake County Alliance members -  Eastlake Historical Society, Fairport Harbor Historical Society, Historic Downtown Willoughby, Indian Museum, James A Garfield NHS, Kirtland Temple, Lake County History Center, Madison Historical Society, Perry Historical Society, Rabbit Run Community Arts, St. Hubert's Church, Wickliffe Historical Society, Willoughby Hills Historical Society, Willoughby Welcome Center

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Yuletide Message...

No matter what the language, the message remains the same.  Let the coming Christmas holiday be better than all others.  Let the coming year be better than all others.

       BUONE FESTE NATALIZIE                           NOLLAIGSHONA DHUIT

                                  FROHE FESTE                JOYEUX NOEL

                          SRETAN BOZIC            MO'ADIM LESIMKHA.  CHENA TOVA

                                                MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Random Acts of Holiday Kindness - Red Kettles and Handbells

As a retired teacher I have had the opportunity to participate in many charitable events.  As adviser of the school National Junior Honor Society we participated in the News-Herald Clothe-a-Child campaign, USO activities, Adopt a Soldier Campaigns,  Euclid Police Athletic League programs and many others.  One project I took part in was at the urging of my colleague.  We enlisted some students and stood outside a local Euclid supermarket ringing a bell and encouraging random acts of kindness as we sought donations for our 'Red Kettle'.  Each holiday season and each shopping trip that familiar sound of bells ringing and sighting of a kettle brings back fond memories.  It also lightens my pockets as I gladly donate my change to the cause.

The Salvation Army got its start in 1865 in East London.  A one time Methodist minister, William Booth and his wife Catherine founded a mission for the poor and undesirables of the era.  Originally known as the East London Christian Mission, William sought donations from the 'poor' while his wife pleaded with the rich to assist in their cause.  A family conversation in 1878 resulted in a name change.  The Salvation Army was born.  Alongwith this name change, came uniforms, colors(flag), and a quasi- military organizational structure. The familiar Salvation Army crest first seen in 1878 became known world-wide during the Boer War (1901) and WWI.   By 1880, the army had expanded into Australia, Ireland, and the United States.  A hurricane (1900) and San Francisco earthquake(1906) became signature events for the army's charitable causes.  Today the Salvation Army serves 124 countries and is known in 175 languages.  A 1994 study named them the fourth-most popular charity in the world.  In 2011 it was reported that the 'Army' was the world's largest social aid agency.  Their 'Thift' Shops are known as "Sally's" in the U.S.  Canada knows them as "Sally Ann's" and in Australia nearly 93% of the population refers to them as "op shops".

The Red Kettle -  The iconic kettle has an interesting backstory.  It first appeared in 1891 in San Francisco.  Joseph McFee, a Salvation Army volunteer and former naval officer recalled an event from his past.  Remembering a 'Simpson's Pot' he saw in Liverpool, England, Mc Fee asked the local authorities if he could use a crab pot in public to solicit donations for the army's charitable causes.  The use of the hand bell followed almost immediately.

I do not remember how much we collected in December 2003.  I do remember that when both nights ended, our kettles were nearly full as a result of the random acts of kindness of others.  Less than a week remains until Christmas Day.  In the hustle and bustle of these remaining days, while you are out and about, take a moment to listen for the bells and find the kettle.  Your few pieces of change will make a difference in the ongoing history of the Salvation Army.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Some Christmas Trivia and Fun Facts

There's no holiday like Christmas.  A recent river cruise of the 'Christkindlmarkt' in Germany and Austria revealed many things to me.  First, the local cable station there had one movie channel that played 'It's A Wonderful Life' at least three times daily.  This was well received by my wife who is in love with this 1946 classic. As for me, I can now attest to the statement that I know more about this holiday movie classic and German Christmas traditions than I did before.  Here is a potpourri of various Christmas trivia and fun facts to test your mettle.
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was a marketing promotion for what U.S. company in 1930?  (MontgomeryWard)
  • In Australia Christmas comes in the middle of summer.  Outdoor barbecues are a main part of the day's events.
  • Which ocean calls Christmas Island its own?  (indian)
  • According to Irish legend the Gates of Heaven open at midnight on what day?  (christmas eve)
  • The first artificial Christmas trees appeared in Germany.  They were made of goose feathers and dyed green.
  • "It's A Wonderful Life(1946) appears on television more than 300 times per year.
  • In the Charlie Brown  television Christmas classic, how much does Lucy charge for her pyschiatric services?  (five cents)
  • Greensleeves is another name for which Christmas song?  (What Child is This?)
  • Who was the first U.S. President to decorate the White House Christmas Tree?  ( Franklin Pierce)
  • The Gingerbread House has its origins in this country?  (Germany)
  • How many Wise Men are there according to the Bible?  (it does not say)
  • England created eggnog.  Which U.S. city was the first to try it? (Jamestown in1607)
  • Electric Christmas lights first appeared in 1895.  Flashing lights became popular in the 1930's.
  • El Nino, a weather condition got its name because it starts right after Christmas.
  • It wasn't until the 4th century that December 25th became the official date of the Christmas celebration.
  • What was the original name of the classic song 'Jingle Bells'?  (one horse open sleigh)
  • $1.87 begins what famous holiday story by O'Henry?  (gift of the magi)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lake County Holiday Happenings - desserts

Back from a week of visiting Christmas Markets in Europe, serving up good will with family friendly events that are unique and oftentimes free  continues to be the goal.  Here is another sampling of upcoming events that may pique your interest.

Concert Series -    December 19      Painesville United Methodist Church  71 N. Park Place
A touch of jazz, a touch of festive cheer returns to Painesville this week.  The Burning River Brass return with time honored carols and a Big Band Nutcracker in this holiday concert performance.  For more information, call 440-354--3642 or visit

Along the Tannenbaum Trail -    Dec. 16&17    A Wine Trail Experience
Visit Northeastern Ohio Wineries in this event.  You get a 16" Christmas Tree and decorate it along the way with wine themed ornaments.  For more information, call 1-800-227-6972.

Visit Santa in his house -  Wes Point Park - Downtown Willoughby
Santa will be coming to town on Wednesday thru Friday evenings 5-7:45p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 2-4:45p.m.  Stop by and share in the moment as holiday wishes become known.

Gifts from the Heart of Nature -  thru December 30       Holden Arboretum  9-5p.m.
The Corning Visitor Center is the site of this unique shopping experience.  If shopping is not your main goal, you can always explore the wintery outdoors on the surrounding arboretum trails.  For more information, visit

Menorah Lighthing -  December 20      Mayfield Village Gazebo
Mayfield Village will host its Menorah Lighting Ceremony at 7p.m. at the Menorah near the Gazebo.  For more information, call 440-461-2210.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lake County Holiday Happenings Tour - the main course

What if Christmas doesn't come from a store.  What if Christmas; perhaps means a little bit more.  These two lines from the classic Grinch story continue to be the theme as we look at some more family friendly holiday events that are free, unique or both. 

The Twelve Days of Winter Game -     December thru January 1, 2012       Penitentiary Glen
Take a turn, move along the life-sized game boards and discover through interactive play the many things that nature gives us in winter.  The exhibit is free and opens at noon daily. Special free activities are held on Saturday afternoons from 1-3pm.   For more information visit

Home for the Holidays -   December 1-2-3     Lake County History Center
Beautifully decorated in Victorian splendor, visitors may view the trimmings or make a purchase from the local crafters on site.  For more information call 440-639-2945

Spirit of the Season -  December 3      Veteran's Park  1 Liberty Street  Painesville
A parade begins this day of events.  Santa will visit and many holiday themed activities will be available for families young and old.  For more information visit

Downtown Willoughby Holiday Stroll and Tree Lighting     December 1-3
Stroll the downtown business district, visit the new welcome center, or sample the offerings from many local eateries.  For more information call 440-970-9644.

Wildwood Singers Holiday Performance -  December 9    Mentor Senior Center
This free concert will feature many of your favorite holiday classics.  For more information call 440-974-5735.

Serving up good will with Holiday Happenings - the dessert is our final installment.  Check back in a week for more family friendly holiday events.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Get 'Grinched' Again at Fairport this coming Saturday! Come Experience Harbor Holidays.

Serving up good will is what 'Harbor Holidays' is all about.  This isn't entirely a history blog today,  No, it is more of a celebration about what's good about the Village of Fairport residents.  It is a 'Rockwellian' slice of Americana that merits retelling.

In 1994 a tradition began in Fairport.  Named Harbor Holidays it features shopping, eating, visiting, and reveling in the holiday spirit of the season.  Area churches, businesses, and organizations open their doors from 10a.m.-4p.m. the first Saturday of each December and offer visitors an experience often lost in the hustle and bustle of recent decades.  Ethnic foods, crafts, and Christmas Market  experiences unite generations of families.  A village map is provided at any venue and the map denotes all the participating sites.

In 2000 the icon of the Winter Holidays, the Grinch first appeared at this village event.  He has returned to the village every year since.  The Grinch arrives in town on December 3 at 10a.m.  Fresh from his Canadian capers - he will be loose on the town.  Known to enter various places of business, he steals presents.  Stolen gifts will be donated to Toys for Tots.  His trial and book signing will be at the Fairport Harbor Public Library from noon-1:30p.m.  A public hearing will occur at 6p.m. from the top of the tower at the Fairport Lighthouse.  After the Grinch's classic transformation, the public is invited to the village park. The Grinch, his dog Max, and Santa will be available for free photos in the village gazebo.  Then the Young Adult Group of the Congregational Church on the Square will provide free hot chocolate and snacks in their hall for the children and their families.

I began this blog by stating that this piece is a celebration about what is good about people.  Dr. Suess's classic tale asks two questions.  "What if Christmas doesn't come from a store?"  " What if Christmas, perhaps means a little bit more?"  December 3 is the embodiment of this message.  The entire day is a little bit more.  It is free and family friendly.  The Grinch, Max, and Cindy Lou Who are volunteers.  The Grinch Gang, those who provide the behind the scenes efforts are volunteers.  The Village Police Department, Administration, and Service Department all willingly participate in the day's event.  The Library Staff donates countless hours to the day's programming.

So remember - Get 'Grinched' again this Saturday, December 3 at 6p.m. at the Fairport Lighthouse.  Dress warm and bring chairs.  Also remember that this free family friendly generational event is made possible by the generosity of ... The Young Adult Group of the Congregational Church on the Square, The Fairport Harbor Mardi Gras, The Fairport Harbor Historical Society, The Fairport Harbor Public Library, QSI, Concord Transportation, Castellano's Pizza of Fairport, Kathy Dusa, Deliver Me Food, Spear-Mulqueeny Funeral Home and the 'good will' of many other village residents, past and present.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lake County Holiday Happenings Tour - the appetizer

Winter is in the air.  Holiday programs have started.  Home for the Holidays is the operative saying.  Today we look at a small variety of local events that are unique, family friendly, and bound to be remembered.

Nativity Exhibit 'Wise Men Still Seek Him'  -  An exhibit of hundreds of loaned nativity scenes opens with a lighting ceremony at 6p.m. November 25 in Historic Kirtland.  Honored as one of the "Top 100 Events in North America", visitors may also view thousands of holiday lights and listen to Sacred Christmas Music.  This annual exhibit is free.  Hours are 9a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday -Saturday.  Sunday hours begin at 11:30a.m.  This events runs thru December 30. Visit for more information.

Fairport Harbor Library - Ten events dot their holiday calendar.  The first holiday program is a three day event November 29, 30 & December 1st titled Celebrate Peace.  December 3 is the immensely popular Harbor Holidays event at the library.  Coloring contests, hands on decorating events, and a book signing by the Grinch are just a small part of the family fun events that day.  December 6, 7, &8 will feature the Make A Gift - Give A- Gift  program.  The last program at the library will be December 13, 14, & 15 and will involve Ornament Making.  Visit or call440-354-8191 for more information.

The Grinch Returns -  The Fairport Harbor Lighthouse Tower has been the site on the first Saturday of December for the holiday appearance of Dr. Suess's infamous Grinch.  At 6p.m. on December 3, the Grinch will read his classic story to all the children and visitors gathered below.  Afterwards he will lead the children to the village gazebo where Santa & Grinch pictures will be taken.  Snacks and hot chocolate will be provided.  This free event is made possible by many community volunteers, local patrons, and The Congregational Church on the Square Young Adult Group.  Visit for more information.

Boar's Head Christmas Festival -  The fifth annual festival will be presented by the Zion Lutheran Church in Painesville at 6:30p.m.on December 6, 7:30p.m. on December9, and 4 and 7:30pm on December 10.The festival is an ancient and colorful pageant performed in the tradition of a medieval English manor house Christmas celebration.  All performances are free but reservations are needed because of seating considerations.  For details, please call 440-357-5174.

Old Fashioned Williamsburg Christmas Celebration -  The Historic 19th Century Jefferson Depot Village ( 147 E. Jefferson St.,Jefferson) is the site of this unique holiday event.  Borrowing from an old-fashioned Williamsburg theme, sleigh bells, wagon rides, ice sculptures, and gingerbread house contests are some of the events planned for the day.  For details call 440-576-0496.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lake County Mini Profiles - 'WWW' and 'The City on the Edge of Forever'

Today's mini profiles feature two famous people who resided briefly in Painesville, Ohio.  One was a kindergarten teacher whose students included William Windom (actor) and Jim Backus ( Mr. Magoo, Thurston Howell III et al.).  The other was a prolific scribner whose work 'The City on the Edge of Forever' is a classic Star Trek episode.

                                           Margaret Hamilton 'WWW'

Margaret Hamilton was born in Cleveland, Ohio.  She attended Hathaway Brown in Shaker Heights.  Her parents insisted she attend college. Upon graduation she became a teacher and maintained a lifelong commitment to Public Education.  It was however her stage career that brought Margaret her notariety.  Just six years into her career as an actress, it was the year 1939 that became her signature moment.  She accepted a role as the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz.  Her favorite book led to a role that would follow her forever.  Not even stints as Granny Frump on the TV series 'The Addams Family, Cora for Maxwell House Coffee, or a role on the soap opera 'The Secret Storm' could ever etch the roll of the wicked witch from the minds of the public.  She reprised the roll one last time for a Sesame Street episode before returning to the field of education as a school board member in NY.  In case you are wondering about the 'WWW', Margaret often signed her autograph with that acronym.  It stood for Wicked Witch of the West.

                                                   Harlan J. Ellison

Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1934 Harlan spent his childhood in Painesville, Ohio.  He became one of the country's most prolific writers.  He has over 1700 short stories, novellas, screenplays, teleplays, and essays to his credit.  His genre is speculative fiction.  His most celebrated works were the anthologies 'Dangerous Visions.'  Screenplays/ teleplays receiving recognition include I Robot and the Star Trek episode 'The City on the Edge of Forever.'  Other famous awards he has received include the Edgar Allan Poe Award, Bram Stoker Award, Hugo Award, Nebula Award, and a Lifetime Achievement Award in writing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Local Lore Visits Lake Erie College - A National Register of Historic Places Site since 1973

Seventy-seven sites in Lake County are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Some are famous residences. Their names include Talcott, Metcalf, Sawyer, Lyman, Hanna, and Kimball et al.  Others are places of worship. Two are Lake Erie lighthouses.  A historic district is one site duly registered. A school building is on the list.  Another structure is a city hall.  Some such as Ladd's Tavern or Lutz's Tavern are not as familiar.  One is an Administration Building (College Hall) on the campus of Lake Erie College.  It is clearly visible to anyone traveling on Mentor Avenue on  their way into downtown Painesville.  Its back story and the college traditions that sprang forth are worth sharing.

Founded in 1856, Lake Erie College has some interesting nuggets to share in our county history.  College Hall ( Administration Building ) came to be in 1859.  A south wing to College Hall followed in 1877.  Memorial Hall opened in 1890.  Former President Taft visited LEC in 1915.  The Cleveland Orchestra performed on campus in 1921.  A Skinner organ was donated in 1927.  At nearly $51, 000 in cost, it was the largest pipe organ in Ohio at the time of its arrival.  The women of LEC knitted sweaters for the British during WWII.  Dr. Benjamin Spock visited campus in 1963.  A world known Equestrian Center was begun in 1971.  Margaret Mead graced the campus in 1976.  A county and region Indian Museum was housed on campus beginning in 1980.  However it is the enduring college traditions that merit a deeper examination.

Founders Day -  Timothy Rockwell ( Concord Furnance), Silas Trumball Ladd ( Ladd's General Store), Reuben Hitchcock (Judge), William Lee Perkins (lawyer), Aaron Wilcox ( Mayor, Painesville Academy Headmaster), and Charles Austin Avery (self made man) were the original founders of the college.  Borrowed from another institution, Founders Day began in 1894.  Descendants of the founders visit campus each year.  They come to share with students the history of the college.
Mountain Day - First celebrated in 1903, this tradition calls for classes to be cancelled and outdoor activities to be the theme of the day.  Originally known as Little Mountain Day or Mountain Day, students of LEC were offered an excursion to the Little Mountain Hotel owned by founder Charles Avery.  Once there, students experienced nature and various planned outdoor experiences as part of their total educational opportunities.
Tiberius - a four foot mascot, this quiet sentinel guarding the campus has had a most interesting existence on campus.  Tiberius I came to the campus in 1910.  He came from the home of Miss Harriet Young whose residence sat directly across from the Lake County Court House.  In 1950, Tiberius was kidnapped by students of CWRU.  Many leads were persued but all proved futile in the end.  Tiberius II came to campus in 1975.  He was an exact image of the original and was found in an antique shop in New York.  Vandals destroyed Tiberius II in 1984.  Tiberius III arrived in 2004 as a class gift.  Tiberius IV appeared on campus in 2008 and currently sits in the base of Tiberius II at mid-campus.
Stormy - Lake Erie College may have had its earliest roots steeped in seminarian and all women campus history, but athletics and school spirit necessitated a mascot.  A dog, a lightning bolt, and a unicorn have served this purpose in the past annals of college history.  1994-1995 saw a community and Alumni Magazine contest search for the newest mascot to the college archives.  Named 'Stormy', this mascot now represents this co-ed institution and is the brand most often seen on the green and white that is LEC.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Local Lore Celebrates 100 - Part Two

Here is a little post 100 blog quiz to test your recall.  Do you remember these 'Local Lore' tid-bits?

1.  Lake County's oldest dwelling, a stone house built on Pierson's Knob in 1841 was once known as the Vineyard House.  Today it is the home of ...
a.  Holden Arboretum  b.  Herb Society of America   c.  Lake Front Lodge   d.  Old Stone Schoolhouse

2.  This little known 1843 relic used during the Civil War may be found on the hill near this famous lighthouse in Fairport Harbor...
a.  H. B. Treat  burial marker   b.  foremast of the U.S. Michigan  c.  underground railroad tunnel entrance  d. Francis USLSS metallic covered lifesaving car

3.  Harry Kelsey Devereau of Wickliffe was the inspiration for the 'drummer boy' in the famous painting "Spirit of '76".  What Perry resident was the model for the 'fifer' in that iconic artwork?
a.  Daniel Beard  b.  Hugh Mosher  c.  Henrik Paine  d. Samuel Butler

4.  Uncle Dan ( Daniel Carter Beard) was celebrated for many things.  Which one was not a Beard contribution...
a.  Boy Scout of America patch  b. Indian Guides founder    c.  Camp Fire Girls founder  d.  Boy Scouts of America co-founder

5.  His original home is located near Big Creek Valley.  He was a noted abolitionist.  He founded the Cleveland Herald.  In 1822 he moved to our county and founded the Painesville Telegraph (1822-1976).  His name was...
a.  Jack Casement  b. Eber Howe  c.  Samuel Huntington  d.  Charles Parker

6.  'Coulallenby' was the name of this Czar of the Great Lakes ( Harry Coulby) estate located in Wickliffe.  What business venture made Harry a member of Millionaire's Row?
a.  Interurban railroad line  b.  Interlake Steamship Company  c.  Cleveland Cliffs Steamship Company    d.  C. P. & A railroad line

7.  In 1802 it was known as Wilson's Corners.  Today Lake County residents know this area as...
a.  Madison Township  b.  Concord Township   c. Timberlake  d.  Waite Hill Township

8.  This medical college located in downtown Willoughby from 1834-47 eventually gave birth to three famous institutions.  Which one is not an offshoot of this union?
a.  Lake Erie College  b.  Andrews-Osborne Academy  c.  CWRU  d. The Ohio State University

9.  Painesville was first named after this famous General?
a.  General Garfield   b.  General Champion   c.  General Richmond   d.  General Skinner

10.  Arabian Horses, Locust Farms, and a Well-Bred Shed are associated with the history of this Lake County park property that celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2010.  Name it...
a.  Holden Arboretum  b. Lake Farmpark  c. Penitentiary Glen  d.  Erie Shores

11.  Originally known as the Lakeshore Blvd. Estates this organization was responsible for the naming of all streets in what is now known as Timberlake.  Name the organization...
a.  Willoughbeach Association  b.  Hiawatha Club   c.  Willowick Rotary Club   d.  Lake County Toastmasters Club

12.  Willowick has been an eyewitness to history.  Which event is not associated with the city's history?
a.  Nike-Hercules site  b.  Interlake Steamship dock site  c.  Tinkerbelle   d.  G. P. Griffith disaster

13.  Which statement is not true as it relates to Lake County history?
a.  The first Mardi Gras was held in 1939 in Fairport
b.  Mentor was named for a character in Roman history
c.  Painesville Beach State Park (1953) was the original name of what is today known as Headlands State Park (1967)
d.  Four U. S. Presidents have at one time or another given speeches in Lake County.
Answer Key:  As my former students will remember and attest - all the answers are 'B'

Monday, November 7, 2011

Local Lore Celebrates 100 - Part One

One hundred is a magic number.  Unless it is pennies one hundred seems to be recognized as a notable milestone.  If you are a collector, one hundred of anything is significant.  If you are a coach, one hundred wins merits accolades. If you are a hoarder, one hundred of some things might result in problems.  As a student (public school, college, post graduate) and teacher, I doubt I even came close to writing one hundred papers total.  Today though marks my 100th blog for the News-Herald.  Local Lore has taken me on a fact finding journey throughout our county.  I definitely know more trivia and historical facts today than the sum total of all my years as a county resident.  It has been interesting to realize how much history surrounded me and how much I failed to see.  Today I look back on some of my favorite topics and some that generated feedback from those who read them in 2010-2011.

Old Ohio Schools: Lost Stories Then and Now - November 11, 2010
I found this website when I was starting The Euclid Central Alumni Hall of Fame some years back. The site features pictures of community schools from the past through the present.  Archival images tell the story of schools no longer standing, repurposed, or still in existence today.  The Tale of Willoughby Union High School was the main inspiration for the blog.

Historic Markers Dot Lake County, Roadways of Days Past - January 6, 2011
Lake County was the roadway of the Western Reserve. Stagecoaches traveled the Buffalo to Cleveland route.  Roads such as Girdled, Chillicothe, and Old State Road were major by-ways of pioneer travel.  U.S. Route 20 is the longest east-west road in the country.  This transportation route alongwith Lake Erie led many early pioneers to our region.  These men and women settled here and their contributions became cornerstones of Lake County and early American history.  The 27 markers that dot our county tell their stories.

Jonathan Goldsmith - June 2, 2011
He arrived in Lake County in 1811.  From 1819-1843 he was the most prolific architect of the era.  He designed over 30 homes and buildings, most of which still exist today.  Some notable area homes are the Howe, Seeley, Mathews, Sawyer, and Corning residences.  A lighthouse in Fairport, two Cleveland mansions, and banks in downtown  Painesville and Geauga County were also Goldsmith designs.

The Incident of Lewis and Milton Clarke - April 21, 2011
In August 1843 the Clarke brothers spoke at what today is the Madison Post Office site.  Born free men, the brothers were forced into slavery for over 20 years.  Having escaped and traveling in abolitionist Ohio, Milton was briefly caught in Madison by slave catchers.  Residents of Lake County rose up and helped secure his freedom.  Milton became the inspiration for the character George Harris in Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous novel Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Ann C. Whitman, Confidential Secretary - October 13, 2011
Born in Perry, Ohio she left college to intern and began a career that included working for President Dwight D. Eisenhower and NY Governor/Vice President Nelson Rockefeller.

Other favorites -

Lot #32 - November 18, 2010    The current site of Brennen's Fish House in Grand River, this building has stories both sullied and historical to share.
Do You Remember? The Interurban / Willoughbeach - August 29, 2011   Turn of the Century Willoughby and Willowick featured a Lake Shore Blvd. area void of houses.  Instead railways, resorts, beaches, summer cottages, and an amusement park dotted the Lake Erie shoreline.
USCG Station Fairport - August 4, 2011  An anniversary celebration on this day featured the history of the USLSS / USCG site at Fairport.  The station and the iconic village lighthouse in Fairport have been a part of Lake County history since its earliest days.
The Reeve of the Shire - November 15, 2010  Traced the history of the sheriff's department from the time of Robin Hood to Thomas Jefferson's declaration of the position in our country.  The history of those who served in Lake County is examined.
Mini Profiles: Men at Work - September 29, 2011 and its companion piece Women at Work - October 20, 2011  Names such as Jesse Storrs, A. E. Vrooman and Charles Ruggles permeate the early contributors to the Industrial Age.  Martha Elwell and Frances Casement were early pioneers from Lake County in the fields of education and women's suffrage.

It is hard to single out one piece of history as more important than another.  Each fact serves as a cornerstone to our county's story.  Some facts are well known and others are hidden gems.  Local Lore's first one hundred features are now out there.  The next hundred are waiting to be told.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lake County History Redux - Some Nuggets from the Twentieth Century

As we examine the history of our county, some topics lend themselves to detailed back stories and lengthy histories.  Today we peruse the annals of Lake County facts for those topics that are somewhat limited in recorded history but equally worth remembering.

Thompson Raceway -  It is the oldest continuous drag strip in Ohio.  It has been in operation since 1958.

Painesville Speedway -  This paved oval / figure 8 configured track has been in operation at its present site since the 1950's.  It is a NASCAR sanctioned site.

Painesville Township Park -  Currently a Lake Metroparks property on Hardy Road, the original park was founded in 1906 some distance west of the present site.  Its old pavilion was later used for a few years as company offices by the Diamond Alkali Company.

Fairport Yachts / Tartan Yachts CC - Long a business staple of Fairport - Nursery Road, its main campus is now located in Painesville.  The company's boat design and boat building roots date back to the 19th century.  The tall ship / schooner Madeline was built in Fairport.

The Burroughs Club -  This club was the beginning of a trend towards park planning and a movement towards preserving natural beauty spots.  Its history dates back to 1916 when a group of nature enthusiasts took the writings of famed naturalist John Burroughs and tapped the skills of new county arrival Dr. C. M. Shipman to make Lake County a horticultural mecca.  Shipman is honored for his efforts with a piece of Mentor Marsh bearing his name.

Wilson's of Willoughby -  The name was first mentioned to me by my uncle.  Sidney S. Wilson Co. of Willoughby had " Everything from Little Wooden Toothpicks to Heavy Lumber Wagons".  The store was located along the west side of Erie Street from Glenn to Spaulding.  The store sold dry goods, draperies, millinery, shoes, books, groceries and vehicles.  Samuel Smart took ownership of Wilson's of Willoughby and saw his company grow to be the largest country store between NY and Chicago.

R. A. Marsh and the Lake County Auto Industry -  A short lived factory located in Painesville, it began in 1913.  It was to be the main production site of the 1914 automobile named the 'Vulcan'.  Inefficiency and poor management strategies ended the company's tenure in 1915.  The Erie Car Company took over the site in 1916 before leaving the county forever.  A car factory in Willoughby existed for a minute in Lake County history.  It was the site of the Ben Hur car.  Only one car was built before it became a footnote in history.

Lewisite Gas - The former Ben Hur plant in Willoughby (see paragraph above) had a most unique role in history.  The plant made the highly dangerous methyl gas used in WWI.  The chemist soldiers were sworn to secrecy and not allowed to mention Willoughby.  The plant was surrounded by barb wire and at first leaving the grounds was forbidden.  The 1919 Armistice saved the German Army from seeing this gas used in combat.  Trains conveyed the toxic gas to the coast and the Atlantic Ocean received its deadly cargo.

Cleveland Crane and Engineering Company -  New trends in industry arose in the 1900's.  New equipment was needed and being developed for homes and stores.  Modern production lines were in their infancy.  Cleveland Crane built a plant in Wickliffe to manufacture overhead cranes used to move heavy equipment.  This brought automation to the docks at Fairport in 1906.  In 1911 The Diamond Alkali company came to Lake County and again Cleveland Cranes provided the labor machinery needed for 'The Diamond' and chemical companies that followed.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Our First School Teacher(s)

Education is a cornerstone of all eras in history.  Our early pioneers knew this.  Moses Cleaveland was a Yale graduate.  David Abbott had an advanced education.  John Walworth and Samuel Huntington were educated men.  Roads such as Girdled, Chillicothe, and Corduroy connected early townships and villages. This drew our first settlers together.  Educated professionals came to serve our new communities.  The pioneers agreed a little learning could come in handy at market.  Learning to read from a family Bible was a start, but formal schools, the Three R's and more were on the horizon.

Abraham Tappan came to the Western Reserve in 1801.  A member of John Walworth's supply party, he served as an agent for the Connecticut Land Company.  His early years here in the county saw him survey areas west of the Cuyahoga and assist with the layout of Chillicothe Road.  He also served as a postmaster at Unionville and Associate Judge of Geauga County ( Common Pleas).  Tappan is best remembered for being our first county school teacher.  In the winter of his first year in the county, he taught in a small log cabin on the bank of the Grand River.  A dozen pupils were collected for that first class.

Ten years passed after Tappen's class before further formal classrooms reappeared.  In 1811 Miss Kate Smith of Euclid taught in a Mentor log cabin.  In 1812 Franklin Paine became the first schoolmaster of a two story frame building on the square in Painesville.  Mary Crary of Kirtland taught her first class in Madison in 1813.  Aaron Wheeler served as a teacher in Unionville's school in its first year (1814).  Estelle Crary held her first classes in Kirtland in that same year.  1814 also saw Lovinia Hulbert become the first teacher for the Leroy- Thompson joint school district.  Schools in Perry and Concord followed the very next year.  A nephew of Governor Samuel Huntington arrived in 1816 and served three generations of learners.  His name was Flavius Josephus Huntington.

The list of our first school teachers are familiar pioneer names:  Crary, Huntington, Paine, and Tappen.  Their early efforts led to the first high school in 1823 ( Painesville Academy).  A medical college came to Willoughby in 1834.  A teacher's seminary in Kirtland followed in 1838.  The public schools ( 500 students, 10 teachers) of Painesville were established in 1852.  From these pioneer beginnings our modern school system had begun.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lost Stories: Yesterday and Today - The Lake Shore Resorts

The annals of Lake County history are filled with the works accomplished by our first pioneers.  Since the late eighteenth century , many rapid changes in the pattern of life occurred during the hundred years that followed.  An Industrial Revolution mushroomed.  Lake County cities grew accordingly.  Agriculture remained a staple of our lake shore region.  One significant change was almost hidden amid the quiet and comfortable life of our county's growing prosperity.  It was the realization of the leisure and recreational possibilities of our greatest resource - Lake Erie.

On Hardy Road, a lake resort called Linden Beach was founded in 1870.  Situated on what had been Governor Huntington's farm, the dining room and tent colonies flourished for the next quarter century.  To the west of Linden Beach, the Shore Club was established in 1898.  The Shore Club sat on the farm properties of the Lathrop and Smart families.  The Club House was a two story frame structure with porches.  Cottages were built adjacent to the Club House and Clevelanders came to vacation there through 1921.  The Club House sat on what became the Diamond Alkali Company property.

Mentor-on-the-Lake was flourishing during the 1890's.  A summer hotel at Salida Beach on Lake Drive was popular.  The resort hotel was three stories with wide porches.  Managed by R. A. Parks, the hotel was later sold to a church for use as a girl's society ( Holiday House).  Mentor Headlands was another lake resort.  Willoughbeach Park ( opposite the present Shoregate Shopping Center in Willowick) was in many ways the most famous resort in its day.  Located alongside the Interurban railroad line, by 1898 an amusement park was added to the site that already included cottages, bathing areas and dance pavillions.

Other famous Lake County resorts included the Little Mountain House, the Little Mountain Eagle and the Stocking House.  1831 saw Simeon Reynolds build a large hotel known as the Little Mountain House.  Although the topography made it a beauty spot and desired destination, Reynolds use of recreational activities cemented its allure to those who sojourned.  1850 saw D.W. Stocking of Chardon build the 'colossal' hotel resort of the era.  Lasting over 25 years, it served as the Little Mountain Club to Cleveland's millionaires.  Dr. H. R. Gatchell and Dr. Storm Rosa combined with William S. Gardiner in 1855 to operate their Little Mountain Eagle House. It began as a  treatment site for invalids but also served as a boarding house for some years after.  Charles Avery bought the Little Mountain House in 1868,  Renamed the Lakeview House, Avery prospered.  He added cottages to the hotel footprint.  Every amenity and every recreational amusement of the day was present.

The Little Mountain and Lake Shore memories may be waning in 2011.  Today few houses remain.  Little Mountain is mostly private property.  Lake Cottages were razed.  Clubs lost their members.  Former summer home visitors like James A. Garfield, George Hopper, and Harry Coulby bought their own residences. The growing Cleveland auto industry allowed for new vacation spots to emerge.  Only pictures recall what once was.   However, for nearly a century the pattern of  social life made Lake County a destination.  The new 'branding' from the Lake County's Visitors Bureau is " Think Lake County".  It seems that Lake County never has lost its appeal.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Northeast Ohio Museums - Discover Two Hidden Gems in Lake County

Museums come in all sizes.  Some museums dominate the landscape.  A lighthouse in Fairport is one example.  A historic church in Kirtland is another.  Some museums are famous homes.  The Presidential Home of James A. Garfield on Mentor Avenue is one such site.  The Mathews Home on the campus of Lake Erie College is yet another.  Some communities have unique structures that tell a story.  Painesville's Rider's Inn, Unionville's Old Tavern, and Wickliffe's Coulby Mansion are examples that come to mind.  Properties can be a living museum.  Holden Arboretum and Lake Farmpark are two local sites that bear mentioning.  History surrounds and often when not large in size can be missed.  Today, we look at two museums often missed by visitors and students of history.  Both are one room school houses, hidden gems in Lake County's history.

Old Stone School House -  Located at 7125 Ravenna Road in Concord Township, this school house dates back 171 years.  Built in 1840, it served as a one room school house until 1923.  It became a private residence for many years afterwards.  In time, it became the business office of a local builder.  The site was purchased in 2001 by Concord Township and history was revisited.  Three years of renovations and volunteer efforts were rewarded on May 31, 2004 when the Old Stone School House reopened.  On the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 4-7pm visitors may enter the old schoolhouse and view education in its earliest setting.  The Old Stone School House also serves as the History Center for Concord Township.

Riverside School #2  -  Situated at the bottom of a small hill in Kirtland, this old school house is located at 9045 Baldwin Road.  Currently a Lake Metroparks maintained property, the school house still serves its original purpose.  The school house first opened in 1894.  Grades 1-8 were served and thirty students were in the inaugural class.  The school's motto was 'Learn and You Will Know'.  The school remained open through 1921.  It became a private residence in the years that followed.  In 1988, Anthony S. Ocepek donated his residence to the park system with the sole intent of making it an educational center.  His desire has been realized as the School House serves as a nature center to this day.  The Center is open to visitors and school field trips. Advance notice is required.  Programs may be found on the Lake Metroparks website.

Webster defines a museum as a building in which objects of historical, artistic, or cultural interest are stored or exhibited.  Both one room sites meet the criteria and remain yet another example of Lake County's hidden history.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lake County Mini Profiles - Women at Work

Earlier this month, we examined some of the Lake County contributions in the decades following the Civil War. The men who affected these changes in the patterns of American life were not alone. The Industrial Revolution changed agriculture and industry.  New nationalities came to Lake County. These changes soon affected women's roles in society.  The Painesville Steam Laundry opened in 1887.  Homes could now afford a hired girl.  In turn, women of privilege began to have leisure time to devote to their communities.

Women's Temperance Union  - There had been a few early attempts to encourage temperance.  Early pioneer settlers to the Western Reserve had little to offer but whiskey.  However after the Civil War, women began to unite to work for prohibition.  Painesville's branch of the Women's Temperance Union began in 1874.  The group opened a public reading room as an alternative to the numerous area saloons.  For the next twenty-five years the reading rooms operated until the public libraries came into being.

Equal Rights Association - H. C. Gray of Willoughby was the first advocate of women's suffrage in Lake County.  His 1851 advocacy at the state level garnered little support.  G. W. Clement revisited the cause in 1880 as he sought the right for women to vote for local school boards.  Support increased but no changes came.  In 1883, Mrs. Frances J. Casement undertook the leadership role in Lake County's Equal Rights Association.  An inveterate letter writer and dogged chapter president of the cause, she made inroads into a fundamental shift in women's rights.  Martha H. Elwell of Willoughby carried on the crusade and by 1895 women received the right to vote for local school board members.  Two women were elected that year to the Painesville Board of Education.

Lake Erie Female Seminary -  Opened in September, 1859 this Painesville institution weathered the storm of the Civil War and under the leadership of Principal Lydia A. Sessions became a community cornerstone.  The 1868 appointments of Mary A. Evans and Luella Bentley as Principal and Assistant Principal proved wise.  They led the school for the next forty years.  Lake Erie Female Seminary grew.  In time it changed its name as college level studies were  being offered in 1897.  By 1898, a new name Lake Erie College had been chosen.

The Mathews School -  Mrs. Samuel Mathews, daughter-in-law of Painesville's pioneer doctor, started her school in her home circa 1870.  Her  preparatory school for Lake Erie Seminary took in both day pupils and out-of-state boarding pupils until it closed in 1900.

These early pioneering women from the last half of the nineteenth century affected changes that carried over into the next century.  Their contributions provided a growing awareness of Lake County's most enduring resource - its citizens.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Fairport Harbor Historical Society presents 'Reflections of the Sole Survivor' ... An Evening with Dennis Hale

On November 29, 1966, gale-force winds ripped the freighter Daniel J. Morrell in two and sunk the vessel in Lake Huron.  The Morrell was a 603' lake freighter built in 1906.  It had left Buffalo, N.Y. and was on its way to Taconite Harbor, Minnesota when the witch of November struck.  Around 2am, the freighter was in its death throes.  Of the twenty-eight crew members only watchman Dennis Hale and three others made it to a life raft. Facing thirty foot waves and frigid waters, Dennis persevered two nights clad only in a life jacket, peacoat and underwear to become the sole survivor.

Mr. Hale will share his lake experiences and this unbelievable true story of survival.  Author of Sole Survivor (1966), his new autobiographical book Shipwrecked ( 2010) will be available for sale after the program.  This free program will begin at 7pm on Thursday, October 20th.  It will be held in the community room of the Fairport Public Library.  The library is part of Fairport Harding High School located at 329 Vine Street.  The event is sponsored by the Fairport Harbor Historical Society and Friends of the Library.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lake County Profiles: Ann C. Whitman, Confidential Secretary

Ann C. Cook was born in 1908 in Perry, Ohio.  At the time of her death in 1991, Ann C. Whitman's career had become the subject of Robert Donovan's 1988 best selling biography 'Confidential Secretary'.  What had began as an Antioch College work study program to N.Y., led her to secretarial career stops that included not only Mrs. David Levy, whose husband was a founder of Sears, Roebuck and Company, but also the 34th U.S. President, and a N.Y. Governor / U.S. Vice President.

In 1929, Ann C. Cook left for N.Y.C. to assume a secretarial internship for the wife of Sears, Roebuck and Company founder David Levy.  Ann never returned to Antioch College in Ohio.  She remained in the position of secretary for Mrs. Levy for the next 16 years.  Married in 1941, her next career step presented itself during her position with Radio Free Europe after WWII.  Ann was recruited by Dwight D. Eisenhower's Campaign Staff to be his personal campaign secretary.  This led to her appointment as his White House secretary for the next eight years when Eisenhower became the 34th U. S. President. She managed all his correspondence and was responsible for his personal files and letters kept in his White House office.  This amounted to thousands of letters monthly.  In 1961, she followed Eisenhower to his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  She remained in his employ through the establishment of his farm as a National Historic Site.

A second marriage and a brief return to the corporate world led her to her final secretarial position.  She was hired to be the personal secretary to N.Y. Governor Nelson Rockefeller.  Later, she followed him to Washington D.C. when he became the U.S. Vice President under Gerald Ford.  Ann C. Whitman retired in 1977.  As mentioned earlier, journalist Robert Donovan sought Ann out in 1988 and released a biography titled Confidential Secretary in the same year.  Ann C. Cook of Perry, Ohio may have left Lake County in 1929, but her life's story has become yet another hidden gem in the ever increasing history of Ohio's smallest county.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lake County Mini Profiles - Men at Work Part II

As mentioned earlier, the decades after the Civil War saw many rapid changes in the patterns of American life.  Know-how developed.  Specialized agriculture grew. Nurseries expanded. Improved soil management led to new markets.  Lake County played a major role as the twentieth century loomed.  Today we look at some other contributors whose ideas led to the new technologies of the day.

Coe-Wilkes -  In 1851 H.H. Coe and Leonard Anderson of Painesville formed a partnership to make steam engines and sawmill machinery.  They built their factory at Jackson and St. Clair Streets.  After the Civil War, Coe joined his new business partner Frederick Wilkes and the company expanded.  Wilkes had experience with Arcole and owned Geauga Furnace.  Together, they added new markets to their portfolios.  With gas streetlights on the horizon, they designed lamplighter machinery that could cut thin stock from giant logs and a clipper machine.  The rotary lathe, a roller drier and other fine precision machinery became a company benchmark.  After Wilkes retired in 1891, Coe's son Henry joined the Rt. 84  business and renamed the company Coe Manufacturing.  Travel down Rt. 84 and you will find that Coe still exists today.

Frank Burrelle - Born in Painesville in 1856, Frank Burrelle began his career as a NYC law clerk.  It was what he overheard two businessmen say in 1888 that led to his continuing fame today.  The businessmen were worried that they could not keep abreast of all the media and trends of the beginning industrial era.  From this concern, Frank and his wife founded Burrelle's Press Clipping Service.  They ran their business from their home until a fire nearly ended the company permanently.  Today known as BurrelleLuce, the company specializes in media and measurement services for major corporations.

George Henry Hopper -  Born in England, Hopper emigrated to the U.S. in 1841 at age 4 and settled in Cleveland.  He learned a trade and became a cooper. In time he started a business that manufactured product for the newly formed Standard Oil Company.  In 1879, he moved to Madison Twp. and settled in a home located on County Line Road.  Legend has it, that Hopper amassed a fortune perfecting a traveling tramp's formula to seal barrels of oil.  Hopper, remaineda Madison resident until his death in 1898.

J.H. King, C.M.Wheeler and H. Hinkley -  In the decade of the 1860's, Fairport Harbor's chief industry had nothing to do with imports, exports, or the port at all.  The chief industry was a nitroglycerine factory in two warehouses on the east  pier.  Owners King, Wheeler and Hinkley built storage facilities on the west bank and shipped explosives to the ore mines on Lake Superior and to the oil fields in Pennsylvania.  A terrific explosion wrecked the factory on November 1, 1870.  Village homes were ruined and every window in town was shattered.  The three owners made good on the damages but the nitro plant was never rebuilt.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rail Fanning Day comes to the Painesville Depot

Rail Fanning Day is this Sunday at the Painesville Depot located at 475 Railroad Street in Painesville.  What is Rail Fanning Day?  Webster, does not define it, but in a nutshell: It is the art of watching railroads in action.  Nearly four trains per hour pass by the depot.  The last passenger train left the Painesville station in 1971.  However, the historic depot is currently on the CSX Waterfront Main Line and the depot, at the moment under restoration,  will be open for visitors from 10am thru 5pm. 

On February 8, 1848, the Ohio Legislature incorporated the Cleveland, Painesville and Ashtabula Railroad Company.  The railroad reached Painesville by 1851 and over a hundred year history had begun.  The Lake Shore Railroad Company took control of the line in March, 1869.  By June, 1869, it had consolidated with the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway.  The Painesville Depot opened in 1893 for the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Line.  Built by the architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge of Boston, Massachusetts, it was a crown jewel in the Ohio railroad era. The depot cost $18,075 to construct.   Richardsonian Romanesque in design, the depot featured sandstone walls, a slate roof, and a red oak interior.  The New York Central was formed in 1914 and consolidated with the Lake Shore and Michigan Line.  The NY Central and the Painesville Depot continued on for the next 57 years.  The last passenger train left the depot in 1971 and the station remained dormant for the next few decades.

The Depot attained Ohio Historic Marker ( #18-43) status in 2002.  The Painesville Depot Organization (a non-profit) acquired the site and its volunteers have been in the process of restoring the railroad depot as well as taking inventory of its artifacts for the depot museum to follow. Their mission is to maintain the sentiment and history that is railroading.  Sunday, October 9th is Rail Fanning Day at the Painesville Depot.  So come relax and enjoy the ride!

For more information, visit

Monday, October 3, 2011

Celebrate a part of a 'Bygone Era' this weekend - Ashtabula County's Covered Bridge Festival

Some Covered Bridge Festival Facts:
  • 18 covered bridges dot Ashtabula County, more than any other Ohio county.
  • The Mechanicsville Road Bridge is the second longest single span covered bridge in Ashtabula County.
  • The Smolen-Gulf Bridge measures 613' and is the longest in the U.S., also the fourth longest in the world.  The bridge was named after former county engineer John Smolen.
  • Covered bridges can last in excess of 150 years.
  • Guided or drive-it-yourself tours are available.
October 8 and 9 marks the 28th annual covered bridge festival at the Ashtabula County Fairgrounds in Jefferson Township.  It is an event I have experienced twice in recent years.  The festival began in 1983 when a dedication of the State Road Bridge took place.  Nearly 2,000 people showed up that first time.  The event grew and the ambiance and Norman Rockwell experience continues today.  Pancake breakfasts, parades, antique engine displays, crafts, tractor rides, a farmer's market and more add to this slice of Americana.  The guided or drive-it-yourself tour offers a chance to follow two distinct courses, one short, the other longer.  Both allow you the opportunity to view spectacular fall foliage and immerse yourself as you travel across the early transportation routes of the Western Reserve.  The road names Girdled, Chillicothe, and Old State recall this bygone transportation history.  A highlight of this weekend's festival will be the dedication of the shortest bridge.  At 18' and constructed of white oak, poplar. spruce and pine, the West Liberty Street Bridge adds to the local lore that is just a few miles beyond the borders of Lake County.  If you are looking for an event that is laid back, non-commercial, and generational family based, I suggest you experience the bridges of Ashtabula County sometime soon.

For more information, visit

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lake County Mini Profiles - Men at Work Part I

The decades after the Civil War saw many rapid changes in the pattern of American life.  Lake County, Ohio was no exception to this change.  While the great fortunes rocketed, major cities industrialized, and immigrants joined the fabric of local communities, Lake County's accomplishments were almost hidden.  Agriculture remained the primary focus and the small town shopkeepers founded the seeds of progress.

A.E. Vrooman -  Raised on Dock Road in Madison, he developed an onion topper.  Manufactured in Painesville by he and his father, this topper was the first machine of its type.  Patented and marketed throughout the northeast, Lake County became the first area in the state to produce onions for shipment.

Jesse Storrs -  In 1854, Jesse Storrs left Courtland County, New York and settled in Painesville Township, Ohio.  He purchased eighty acres and planted trees.  Storrs' business grew to be the largest departmental nursery in the U.S.  Fruit trees, ornamental shrubs and vines, evergreens, roses, annual flower and vegetable seeds were all sold by Storrs and his partner James J. Harrison.  Many of Storrs' apprentices became the county nurserymen still known today.

J.W. Penfield and Son -  Penfield arrived in 1834 as a young boy to Willoughby, Ohio.  Their family farm is the current site of the Pine Ridge Country Club in Wickliffe.  His interest in drainage led him to build the first machine to make drain tiles (1854).  His machine was exhibited at several fairs and soon garnered considerable interest.  His business grew and by 1872, the J.W. Penfield factory stood on the east end of the Pelton Street bridge in Willoughby.  Penfield sold not only the simple product (tile) but the machinery to make the product.  His modern factory was a decisive improvement on the mill system.

Charles Ruggles -  In the spring of 1869 Charles Ruggles introduced 'net fishing' at Fairport.  In his first season he caught 1500 sturgeon.  Although no market existed for sturgeon at the time, he sold them to local nuserymen Storrs and Harrison.  This became the impetus for the first commercial fertilizer in the country.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cleveland's Bygone Millionaire's Row Comes to Willoughby Hills on September 28th. An Evening Program about Life on the Avenue.

A stretch of Cleveland street on Euclid Avenue (US Route 20) was once the most beautiful street in America.  From the late 1860's through the early 1920's, the richest and most influential men in Ohio and the country lived east of Cleveland's University Circle.  Their homes celebrated the Gilded Age of Cleveland.  Some of the names that dotted Millionaire's Row included John D. Rockefeller, George Worthington, Charles F. Brush, Samuel Mather, and Jeptha Wade.  Others included Marcus Hanna, John Hay, Dr. Worthy S. Streator, and the infamous Cassie Chadwick.  Architect Charles Steinfurth designed 15 of these famous mansions, the Mather mansion located on the CSU campus being the last.  Sadly, most of these homes have been lost to history.  Some industrialists had their homes razed at the time of their deaths.  The Great Depression re-purposed some.  Local expansion carved into some mansion properties.  Dunham Tavern and Forest Hills Park ( gifted to East Cleveland by Rockefeller) remain as some of the oldest tributes to Cleveland's early history.

The Willoughby Hills Historical Society, Willoughby Historical Society and Willoughby Hills Public Library have joined together to co-sponsor an evening program about this bygone era in Cleveland history.  It will be held this Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 6:30pm in the O'Ryan Room at the Willoughby Hills Community Center.  The program is titled Who (and What) Built Cleveland's Millionaire's Row?  The program will feature an illustrated talk about the builders of the mansions.  Additionally, the lecture will move downstairs and examine those that helped run the mansions.  Finally, personal tidbits about life on the Avenue and some local lore will close out the program.  The event is free but it is necessary to register prior to the event.  Call 440-942-3362 to reserve your place at this Millionaire's Row retrospective.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Then and Now - Part II - The Lake County Historical Society Story

The story of the County Poor House may have ended in 2004 but a new chapter in the history of Lake County began shortly thereafter.  2007 saw a joint effort by the Riverside Local School District and The Lake County Historical Society re-purpose the former poor house site.  The 54 acre property and institutional building are now the permanent home of the Lake County History Center.  The 30,000 square foot building with out buildings now sit on eight acres.  Four exhibition rooms have been completed, a community room, kitchen and offices are functional, and additional room exhibits are underway.  A barn theater has been realized.  The Jack E. Daniels Living History Center spans the property.  This eight acre complex is also the site of a museum, research library, school and community programming venue.

The Lake County Historical Society was founded in 1938 by Laurence H. Norton.  Norton and fellow citizens had a goal of creating a local chapter of the Western Reserve Historical Society.  Included in this goal was the care of the James A. Garfield Presidential site.  This new historical society collected historical records and artifacts of Lake County.  Seventeen years later the LCHS incorporated.  1983 saw the National Park Service assume control of the Garfield site on Mentor Avenue.  The LCHS moved to Kirtland Hills where they remained for the next 25 years.  The new site of the history center was a Holden Arboretum property.  It was the summer home of Arthur D. Baldwin.  'Shadybrook' as it was known served the history well.  The historic village was added.  An annual heritage festival was well received for many seasons.

The Lake County Historical Society remains true to this day in its mission.  Its research library, programming, and museum collection provide residents and visitors alike with opportunities to be part of the living history that is our hometowns.  The Center offers open hours seven days a week with Wednesdays being free during the daytime hours.  Whether you visit 415 Riverside Drive in Painesville Twp. in person or access their site at, the LCHC merits your attention.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Then and Now - The Story of The County Poor House (1852-2004) - Part I

A two storied T-shaped building stands at 415 Riverside Drive in Painesville Township.  Since 2007 it has been the new home of the Lake County Historical Society.  From 2004-2007 it belonged to the Riverside Local School District.  For the 152 years prior, it was the County Poor House.

The site of the County Poor House was originally the Pettingel Family Farm.  In 1852 the county purchased the farm and 110 acres.  Benjamin F. Morse and Col. Arthur McAllister of Cleveland were hired to construct an institutional building for the County Poor.  McAllister was a primary architect in the designs of the mansions on Millionaire's row as well as the Soldiers and Sailors Momument in Public Square.  A two storied t-shaped institutional design was conceived.  Four rooms in the front portion of each story were designed as quarters for the superintendent.  Two separate wings, one for men, the other for women connected to the quarters.  A kitchen and residential accommodations were included. Basement cells were constructed for the needs of the severely ill.

1897 saw the addition of a cottage hospital.  The hospital served the entire county until the first public hospital appeared in 1924.  The County Poor House remained viable until 2004.  The last nine residents were moved to newer facilities and the era of the County Poor House came to an end.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A County Cornerstone - Downtown Painesville's First Church Congregational

A  donation for an emergency American Red Cross Blood Drive brought me to today's blog topic.  It got me to thinking that churches were architectural cornerstones to communities.  People often built their homes near their places of work or worship.  I wondered how old was old when it came to area churches? Every city, village, or township has an old church from a bygone era.  Certainly, The Old Stone Church on Public Square in Cleveland was the area's oldest?  It was built in 1819.  Then I came upon the history of the Bible Baptist Church in Madison.  Its presence was established in 1814.  Next, I came upon the story of The United Methodist Church in Mentor.  It was established in 1811 as part of the gifted property of Clark and Margaret Jordan Parker.  Which returns me to today's topic.  In 1810 the First Church (Presbyterian) was established by Rev. Nathan B. Darrow.  Located on 22 Liberty Street in Painesville, it has had a continuous presence there since the original 13 members gathered for worship. It celebrated its bicentennial in 2010.

First Church as it stands today is essentially the same as it was in the 1860's.  The cornerstone is still present.  Philosophical issues about the topic of slavery resulted in the church leaving the Presbyterian Church for the Congregationalist Church in 1868.  The 1863 pipe organ from the Garrett House of Buffalo has been replaced.  However, the church architecture, Rose Window, and history have merited Historic Building Marker Status and placement on the Mentor Avenue Historic District Register.

Whether you visit the church as a weekend guest or simply have a chance encounter ( Red Cross Blood Drive) bring you inside, First Church Congregational in downtown Painesville is another hidden gem in our county history.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Mentor Heritage Tour Continues - Mentor Lumber and Supply

Only a few of Mentor's existing businesses were founded before the year 1950.  Ten of these existed in the lifetime before freeways and shopping centers.  Only one, C. Merkel & Sons can be traced back to the late nineteenth century.  The next two businesses to arrive were in 1922.  One was J. Fracci Florist, the other was The Mentor Lumber and Supply Company.  The first Mentor Lumber Company was located on Hart Street.  It was relocated to Center Street and eighty nine years later the original building still stands today.  Even the construction of the Center Street Overpass in 1972 can not hide the familiar sign from view.

In 1963, Jerome Osborne, Harry Fishleigh, and Bob Sanderson teamed up to buy The Mentor Lumber and Supply Company.  The addition of Pete Davidson to the mix marked the beginning of Mentor's full service lumber yard.  The Chardon Lumber Yard was acquired in 1965 to give the company a Geauga County presence.  In 1988, the Mentor Door and Millworks was established.  Custom doors, mantles, stairs, and woodworking were now possible under the company umbrella.  1992 saw remodeling needs addressed as Mentor Installed Services opened.  A kitchen and bath design center opened in 1998 when the Mentor Lumber Showroom & Design Center was founded.  2000 saw a new Chardon division site open.

Whether you can remember going by the original Mentor Lumber Company on a Mentor school bus pre-1972 overpass as I do,  or you can only recall the site you see today, The Mentor Lumber and Supply Company chapter remains a living piece of the history of Mentor and Lake County.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lake County Profiles: Robert Manry and the Tinkerbelle

A heart attack may have claimed his life at the age of 52, but the life story of Robert Manry was as full as any Lake County history book chapter could be.  Manry was born in June, 1918 in India. His parents were missionaries.   A student of the world, he learned to sail on the Jumna River.  He left for the U.S. in 1936 to attend college.  Arriving in Ohio in 1937, Manry selected Antioch College.  WWII interrupted his studies.  Some political issues resulted in a brief jail sentence before he served in the European theater as an Army photographer.  After the war ended, he returned to college and in 1948 earned a degree in political science.

Robert Manry was a reporter for several Ohio and Pennsylvania newspapers before assuming the position of copy editor for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1953.  He resided on Royalview Road in Willowick, Ohio during these years. An ad for an old "whitecap" by the Old Town Canoe Company of Maine resulted in the purchase of a 13' 6" sailboat in 1958.  The sailing adventures of his youth were about to be renewed.  He named his new vessel the Tinkerbelle.  No cabin or deck existed initially and he rigged an awning to his sailboat as his first major improvement.  Traveling with his son, his first voyage aboard the Tinkerbelle occurred in 1964.  They sailed 200 miles to Thunder Bay, Ontario.

1965 became Manry's year of infamy.  A unique 78 day solo voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in his tiny wooden boat became a worldwide phenomena.  Manry left Falmouth, Massachusetts, USA and reached Falmouth Corwall, England on August 17th.  The story of his travels were widely celebrated, highly documented and he wrote a book about his trip in 1966.  The Tinkerbelle (Harper and Row) was a best seller.  Manry never returned to his position with the Plain Dealer.  A new career as a lecturer presented itself.  Also, the purchase of a new vessel (the Curlew) in 1967 led to new adventures and stories to tell.

In 1966, the City of Willowick renamed the old Nike site Manry Park in honor of their famous resident.  Tinkerbelle is now on display at The Western Reserve Historical Society Museum in Cleveland.  The story of Robert Manry (1918-1971) remains as another gem in the history annals of Lake County.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lighthouse Art Festival returns to Fairport

The Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Marine will be hosting a special event on September 10 and 11.  Returning for a third season is the annual lighthouse art festival.  Taking place the same weekend as the Lake County Perchfest ( on the Metroparks Lakefront Beach just at the base of the lighthouse reservation), visitors may climb the lighthouse tower for a scenic view of Lake Erie, experience the artifacts in the keeper's dwelling museum, or view and purchase gallery quality collections of maritime art pieces.

Noted Great Lakes artist Bill Csatary will be on site Saturday, September 10th to sign his collection of prints, lithographs, and maritime themed pieces.  His portraits, oils, watercolors, and acrylics have been highlighted in many area shows.  Bill Csatary is a graduate of Cleveland's West High School,  a US Army veteran, and a retired science educator from the Parma Schools.  His artistic talents began as a hobby and evolved into well received art shows.  His gallery quality collection includes new pieces and all items will be on sale at the Fairport Harbor Marine Museum.

Visitors to the Perchfest will find new t-shirts featuring the Bill Csatary print of the Fairport Lighthouse with a caption of "Come for the fish-Come for the fun."  The Lighthouse and Marine Museum will have extended hours during the Perchfest weekend, noon to 7pm both days.  The Lighthouse Art Festival is free.  A small admission fee is charged to climb the tower.  Fees collected are used for tower and keeper dwelling restorations.  Volunteers of the Fairport Harbor Historical Society maintain the lighthouse properties and will be onsite to share the history of Fairport's iconic light.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Do You Remember? The Interurban Line and Willoughbeach Park

April 25, 1895 was the day that the Cleveland Painesville and Eastern Railroad became chartered.  The first train car went into service on July 1, 1896.  Another line along Lakeshore and Vine Street followed in 1898.  From the late 1800's through 1926 this railway line connected Painesville to Cleveland.  At one point the C.P. & E. headquarters and main terminal were located in downtown Willoughby.  Stop 43 was near Erie Street and Glenn.  A car barn was nearby.  The Shoreline created in 1898 had ten stops on its route.  Local landowners Edward Moore and Henry Everett had properties on the north side of the railroad.  The men established Willoughbeach Park on this land.  From this site came an amusement park in the summer of 1898.

Willoughbeach Amusement Park had a dance hall, pavillion, baseball fields, beach, campgrounds and many additional amenities.  The C.P. & E. became the main transportation source to this area resort.  By 1910, annual church and business picnics were booked at the park.  Willoughbeach thrived.  A 25 cent round trip ticket made the amusement park an early equal to Geauga Lake Park, Euclid Beach Park and Cedar Point.  A rollercoaster was added to the park in 1925.

May 1926 proved to be the date in history that led to the eventual demise of Willoughbeach Amusement Park.  The C.P.&E. ended services that month.  It seems the Cleveland 'General' and other auto brands expanded the reach of travelers to more distant amusements and recreational possibilities.  The beach and camping grounds at Willoughbeach remained open into the late 1930's before becoming a footnote in the history of Willowick.  On your next trip down Lakeshore Blvd., try to imagine an era of railroad lines, beachfront resorts, summer cottages and a northcoast shoreline void of residential homes.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Do You Remember? The Original Face of Vine Street

As curator of the FHHS, I often find myself sitting at the desk in the society library room.  All around me are old city directories, tax ledgers, yearbooks, and many more primary sources.  Local residents can draw memory maps detailing buildings that once stood in Fairport.  Business facades on Third Street and High Street give an insight to the village past.  Our society history books and museum archives contain photos of the village's nearly 200 years of existence.  Recently, I had the need to drive into downtown Willoughby.  My stops...along the way included Vine Street.  Today, the face of Vine Street has changed.  However, today's blog is a mini quest to uncover the ethnic origins and early history of Vine Street.

Willoughby, like many Lake County cities, once had a distinctly Irish and Italian neighborhood.  In the mid-1800's, Irish families moved into the city.  They sought jobs felling trees and laying track for the coming railroad.  Mom and Pop businesses, such as grocery stores, bars, and hardware goods stores sprung up.  This was the Willoughby my uncle grew up in.  His house was on the property next to the railroad bridge.  His family were Italian laborers, who like many Italian laborers built homes close to work and church. He walked daily down Vine between Erie and Skiff.  He attended Willoughby Union High School.  He graduated in 1941, served in WWII, returned and remained a resident.  His father recalled the Immaculate Conception Church, a small wood framed structure with a rectory built in 1869.  My uncle remembered the Penfield Brick Yard, located north of Vine near the railroad.  My uncle recalled that as the trains rumbled through downtown Willoughby, the engines used coal instead of wood.  My uncle recalled the Vine Street of the 1920's and 30's as being lined with tidy homes and businesses whose owners were named Angelotti, Borrelli, Carmody, Clair, DeMilta, and Venditti.  My uncle remembered a large clock on the downtown bank facade.  Employment opportunities decreased in time.  The train station closed.  Families moved on.  Even my uncle moved five minutes down the road into Mentor.

Vine Street has been revitalized over the last decade or so.  New businesses are thriving, visitors gather at the local eateries, and special event programming call attention to the city.  As you walk downtown Willoughby, look around Vine Street.  It is one of the entrances into the history of the city.  Notice the tile that spell out hardware store on the corner.  Walk over to see where the CP and E rail system was housed.  Check out the old Union High School and the memories it could share.  Stroll the sidewalks and imagine the Irish and Italian neighborhoods that once were present.  Look into the business windows and imagine the hard-working immigrants who once worked inside.  Each gave so much to the community.

Every city, town, or village has a similar story to tell.  Historical markers share important facts about the Lake County you live in.  Architectural cornerstones exist in many historic districts to remind us of what once was.  Opportunities exist to experience what was handed down to you.  Honor the heritage that is Lake County.  Your local historical society can share its collected knowledge with you as well as suggest programming and events of interest.  Better yet, volunteer in your community or historical society.  Be an eyewitness to the living history that is still evolving today.

Old Vine Street Occupants - just a sampling

Reece Carrell                   1889-1918         largest landowner in county
Asa Cottrell                     1827-1911         wagonmaker
Nathan Clark                   1842-1912         tailor
Charles Jenkins               1840-1920         village clerk and lumberman
Capt. Ranson Kennedy   1819-1887         hardware and Lake captain
J.W.Stewart                     1876-1957        harness maker
Orin Talbot                     1831-1939        wholesale merchant
J.H.Wilber                      1824-1895        jeweler
Richard Yaxley              1835-1917        gun smith and farmer