Monday, June 27, 2011

" Fairport Mardi Gras Celebrates 70th Birthday" - Why not step into a local tradition?

Why not step into a local tradition June 30th through July 4th?  Journey down to Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park for fireworks, a patriotic parade, Midway Rides and more as you experience a 'Slice of Americana' seventy years in the making.  Fairport Harbor's Mardi Gras is more than a few days of gala festivities, parades, queens, rides and games.  According to Webster's definition it is "unique" and one of a "kind".  Fairport's Mardi Gras definitely has met that criteria and then some.

The first Mardi Gras  was held July 4, 1939 and was an outgrowth of the 1938 Street Party to celebrate the paving of Chestnut Street.  Extremely well received by the community, residents began a campaign for a second event soon thereafter.  Mayor John O. Rendrick embraced the residents wishes and in 1941 a Fairport tradition began.  The village was decked out in special decorations, competitions were held throughout the day, USCG and nautical themed activities were featured, and a parade was held that evening.  An estimated 10,000 Lake County residents attended the event.  What has made the Mardi Gras unique and one of a kind are the two key elements that still continue thru today.  First, it has been and remains a strictly local event.  A village committee comprised of Fairport residents plan the annual parade theme, five day event schedule, and day to day organization in its entirety. Second is the unique aspect of allocating proceeds to projects and causes beneficial to the village at large.  The local schools, the lighthouse historical society, VFW, Boy Scouts, fire and police departments are just a handful of the organizations that have benefited from the generosity of the Fairport Mardi Gras Committee.

The 2011 Mardi Gras kicks off with a parade not to be missed on Thursday, June 30th at 7pm.  Residents begin securing spots on the parade path in the early afternoon.  Visitors should arrive beforehand to secure their prime viewing location.  A 5K race is scheduled for 9am on July 2nd.  Midway Rides, a Beer Garden (sponsored by the Painesville Area Chamber of Commerce), musical performances, a kid's day, lighthouse tours (noon-7pm), the FHPA boat launch, and a Lake Metroparks beach that is northeastern Ohio's best kept secret await all visitors through July 4th.

Visit for more detailed information.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Remarkable Lake County - The Backstory of Historic Markers #16-43 & #7-43

"The Spirit of '76" is one of America's most famous paintings.  Archibald Williard was the artist.  The first version of the iconic trio appeared at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.  Copies of his painting were made available in 1891 and have graced nearly every 'patriotic' milestone since.  Wickliffe and Perry (Lake County, Ohio) enter the history of this most famous painting in that Williard selected  the final drummer and fifer images based on local residents.

#16-43  Henry Kelsey Devereau and "The Spirit of '76"

Born in 1859 in Cleveland, artist Archibald Williard chose Harry (family nickname) to portray the drummer boy in what was to become one of America's most famous 'patriotic' paintings.  At the time, Harry was a cadet at the Brooks Military Academy.  Harry married a Mildred French in 1885.  They settled at her father's estate in 1910 in Wickliffe. Their estate was located at the present site of Telshe Yeshiva College.   In the years that followed, Harry's passion for breeding horses led to the establishment of the Trotting Horse Breeders Organization and other charitable causes.  He died in 1932.  His marker is located on Ridge Road near the front entrance of Coulby Park.

#7-43  Hugh Mosher and "The Spirit of '76"

Located on Main Street in Perry, Ohio is the historic marker of Hugh Mosher.  Born in Perry in the year 1819, Hugh Mosher is the celebrated fifer in Archibald Williard's iconic painting.  Mosher was a fifer major in the 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.  Considered the finest fifer in the state, Mosher spent his post Civil War years performing throughout the state at parades and civic events.  Mosher was celebrated for his generosity as much as his portrayal in Williard's 1876 painting.  Mosher died in 1896 and is buried in Brighton (Lorain).

With the 'Fourth of July' looming, many local parades and patriotic events are held.  A visit to Historic Markers #16-43 and #7-43 are two more hidden gems to experience as you drive the roads of Remarkable Lake County, Ohio.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Civil War Week continues in Lake County - June 21-24, 2011

Recent blogs highlighted General Jack Casement, Samuel Butler, Eber Howe, and James A. Garfield.  All were Lake County Civil War  notables.  The story of former slaves Lewis and Milton Clarke's evening in Madison Twp, and the USS Michigan / N. Rasmussen connection to Fairport are still other memorable events.  A Civil War re-enactment that included artillery demonstrations, sutlers, marches, drills, and camp life took place over this past weekend at the Lake County History Center.  Civil War 150 Ohio continues this week with a series of interesting single day events that explore some unique aspects of that era.

Tuesday, June 21 - 1-4pm - "Soldier's Songs" explore the world of Civil War music.  Emphasis will be placed on the importance of music in the daily lives of the soldiers and various tunes will be performed live for the visitors that day.  Unique pieces to the LCHS collection will be available for viewing.  

Wednesday, June 22 - 11:30-1pm - The Civil War comes to Fairport Harbor.  Visitors will convene on the iconic Fairport Harbor Lighthouse reservation and the curator will provide an outdoor and indoor tour of the unique Fairport Harbor Historical Society Civil War collection.  Highlights will include abolitionist activities, war history of the USS Michigan foremast, and the biographies of two famous keepers of the era.  Free - tower restoration donation welcomed.

Wednesday, June 22 - 1-4pm - "Hardtack to Home Cooked" - What were the foods popular during the war years and how were they prepared?  Culinary exploration from the battlefield to the kitchen will be the day's program.

Thursday, June 23 - 1-4pm - "Medicines and Miracles" will be the presentation.  A lack of medical knowledge affected both sides during the war.  Thousands of lives may have been lost during the War between the States, but remarkable innovations saved many more and paved the way to trauma care improvements. 

Friday, June 24 - 10am&1pm - The Western Reserve Railroad Museum will feature an interactive Civil War era program for children ages 5-12.  A fee is involved.

LCHS Program Fees -  $5 adults, $3 children for indivdual dates.  Entire series - $18,$10  Non-members add $1-2 for adults.
For information visit:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lost Stories:Yesterday and Today - Hart Nut and Washer Company

Mentor's Old Village District offers a unique look back into days past.  The oldest house stands at 7597 Center Street.  The first public library building is located at Center Street and Nowlen.  An elegant home that began as a barn still exists on Perkins Drive.  On Station Street stands a well remembered site built in the year 1868.  Constructed at a cost of $11,500, the building still exists today and is home to a tavern and several other businesses.  Originally built for the Hart Nut and Washer Company, it was Mentor's first ever industrial site.  Built of bricks from a kiln on Garfield Road, washers and nuts were never made there.  A barrel factory, a cider mill, and several other enterprises did call it home.  Following the ill fated washer and nut company was a flour mill.  In 1896, the building was purchased by the Mentor Knitting Mills.  Makers of Mentor Comfort Underwear, the company sold their product to every state in the Union.  'Local Lore' even reported an unusual suicide at the factory.  A. M. Herrion, the president of the company, entered his factory one evening and committed suicide.  An involuntary motion by Herrion launched the gun into a vat of dye.  The lack of a weapon created a bizarre sheriff investigation that took quite a while to resolve.
The third major business to reside in the building was the Lake Shore Chemical Company from 1916-1917.  They made a poison chemical used during WWI.  The Salvet Company was fourth to call the Station Street site home.  Arriving in 1923, their product was a series of animal tonics.  Fifth in the timeline of businesses was the Ames Bag Company.  Makers of cloth bags for salt, the Ames Company was replaced by the Columbia Match Company in 1938.  The owner James Weaver and sons enjoyed a long and successful run at the site.  Makers of match products, they purchased the building in 1955. The Columbia Match Company is now a part of days past, but the building remains largely unchanged and still in use today.  Easily seen from the Center Street overpass or just a short jaunt off of Jackson Street, one can drive past Mentor's first factory site or venture inside for business needs or a tavern outing.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lost Stories: Yesterday and Today in Mentor, Ohio

History is often lost on today's youth.  The Mentor of my youth no longer exists.  Pencils, slide rules, LP records, typewriters, and transistor radios replaced by calculators, computers, iPods, and cell phones.  The sites of my youth are now almost gone (Center Street Mill, Bargain Fair, Bavarian Inn, Castello Florist, Mentor Post Office, the Drive-In et al.) and until I reached the AARP generation, I didn't give it much thought.  Occasionally at family events or with friends a story of days past is revisited.  Today's blog asks the question, Do You Remember?

       A partial Timeline of Mentor History-
  • 1814 Warren Corning build the first frame building.  It stood on the corner of Center Street and Mentor Avenue.  It was the D.G. Branch Tavern.
  • 1815  Mentor Township is formed.
  • 1833  The first Mentor Township Hall was built on Jackson Street.  The Hopkins and Sawyer families were donors to the project.
  • 1851  The Cleveland, Painesville and Ashtabula Railroad reached Mentor.
  • 1854  Mentor Cemetery was established.
  • 1855  Mentor Village School District was formed.
  • 1868  First factory was built on Station Street.  It was known as the Hart Nut and Washer Co.
  • 1876  James A. Garfield purchased the Dickey Farm ( an original Corning property).
  • 1888  Mentor Village Hall is constructed.
  • 1916  Wayside and C. Merkel Nurseries are begun.
  • 1921  Klyn Nursery was established.
  • 1922  Mentor Lumber and J. Fracci Florists opened.
  • 1923  Mentor High School (Memorial site) replaces Center Street School. Center Street School becomes an elementary - JHS.
  • 1925 (1940)  Wyant nursery was established.  Public retail site began in 1940.
  • 1926  Nick Castello Florist opened.
  • 1928  Bosley Nursery began.
  • 1937  Joseph Havel salvages ornamental greenhouse from George Ball estate in Cleveland.  Florist business opened in Mentor Twp.
  • 1942  Fire Station #1 on Jackson Street is opened.
  • 1961  The Great Lakes Mall is opened.  It was the largest in the U.S. at the time.
  • 1965  The new Mentor High on Center Street is opened.  Memorial becomes a JHS.
  • 1973  The Cleveland Museum of Natural History dedicated 619 acres of Mentor Marsh property as a nature preserve.
  • 1986  Center Street Mill torn down.
The list is not meant to be all inclusive but rather serves to remember just a few of the lost stories from yesterday.  Stories remembered from my school years or passed down to me from my family and neighbors.  Either way, this is a Mentor heritage tour worthy of exploring as you drive the roads of Lake County.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fairport Harbor - Northeastern Ohio's Best Kept Secret

Surveyed in 1812 as Grandon and incorporated as Fairport Harbor in 1836, this little village situated on the corner of the Grand River and Lake Erie may be NE Ohio's least known hidden gem.  Two museums, a 21 acre pristine beach, a village port authority, the only lakefront restaurant outside of Cleveland for over twenty miles, and many tourism / community sponsored cultural events make Fairport a destination not to be missed.

The iconic Fairport Lighthouse and Marine Museum is located at 129 Second St on the Lake bluff.  Built in 1825 by reknown Western Reserve architect Jonathan Goldsmith, the lighthouse stood witness to much of Ohio's early history.  The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1871 and stands today as a reminder to days past.  Since 1945, the volunteers of the Fairport Harbor Historical Society have maintained the tower, keeper's dwelling and outdoor structures.  The foremast of the US Michigan (1843), a working foghorn, the original third order lens,  and USLSS/USCG artifacts are on display.  Primary sources from the village history and nautical relics of the Great Lakes also await visitors.  On any Wednesday, Saturday, or Sunday from 1-6pm one may even climb the 69 steps of the tower and view the freighters that still stop in weekly.

What began as an idea in 2002 became a reality just five years later when the Finnish Heritage Museum opened its doors to the public.  Housed in the 1922 building that originally served as a Police Station, volunteer Fire Department and most recently a Senior Citizen Center, the museum is located at 301 High Street and is open Saturdays 10-3pm.  Monthly programming, outstanding cultural displays and genial volunteers help immerse visitors into a unique Finnish experience.  Recent acquisitions to the museum include cultural family costumes and the Tuuri Bakery master kantele maker.

At the base of the lighthouse hill on Huntington Avenue ( named after local resident and Ohio Governor Sam Huntington) is the Lake Metroparks Fairport Harbor Beach.  Twenty one acres of pristine beach and a beachfront boating harbor await visitors by land or lake.  Metroparks beach programming include a Spirit of America boating program for teenagers, public kayak, sailing, jetski/PWC (classes and experiences) as well as beach adventure camps for children.

From a village tourism and community programming aspect, Fairport has much to offer year in and year out.  The annual Mardi Gras on July 4th weekend features a slice of Americana.  The village parade and the beachfront festival should not be missed.  Village concerts, Pirate's Day, Perch Fest, a Lenten Masquerade Ball, a Library Yard Sale, September Community Days, December's Harbor Holidays and Grinch visit, and this weekend's Village Valuables Garage Sale ( lighthouse, village park, neighborhood streets) all offer visitors a distinctive taste of village life.

Fairport Harbor- another hidden gem as you travel the roadways of Lake County!

Useful websites:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lost Stories: Yesterday and Today - Lake East Hospital

On a recent drive into Painesville, I passed the remnants of a city historical cornerstone.  Like the YMCA marker nearby, the recently demolished Harvey High School, and the old Post Office building I frequented in the square, it is a story soon to be lost to local lore and past history.  Dr. John H. Mathews came to Painesville in 1814.  Considered to be the first physician in Lake and Geauga Counties, his residence at 309 North State Street was the earliest known public hospital facility of the era.  Today the relocated residence stands on the northern end of the Lake Erie College Campus and is open to visitors.  The Lake Hospital System has origins dating back to 1834-1847 as part of the Willoughby Medical College.  However it is 1902 that officially is recognized as the start of the first public based hospital system in Lake County.  The New Connecticut Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution sponsored and began work on this project in 1902 and by July, 1904 Lake East Hospital opened its doors.  It was located at the Stephen Mathews Residence on Washington Street. Fiscal concerns were an immediate issue and by 1924 the Lake County Commissioners assumed control of the ever expanding hospital.  Horse drawn ambulances were the norm and patients were carried upstairs in stretchers before the installation of an elevator.  Progress continued, improvements were made, and additions were built.  1961 saw the expansion and creation of a Lake West Hospital in Willoughby.  Finally in 1985, both hospitals became part of the newly titled Lake Health System.  Lake East may be nearly gone as of this writing, a victim to progress and new downtown plans. In its place,  Tri Point Hospital (Concord Twp) stands as Lake County's newest and most modern hospital.  Lake East Hospital, the birthplace of my wife, and its ER wing, the place of many of my athletic mishap visits are now just two lost stories in the history of Lake County's first hospital.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lake County Profiles: Jonathan Goldsmith (1783-1847) - Landmark Architect

Jonathan Goldsmith was a master builder and early architectural pioneer in Cleveland and Painesville history.  Born in Connecticut, he first apprenticed as a cobbler, then as a carpenter-joiner.  Arriving in Ohio in 1811, he fought in the War of 1812 before embarking on an architectural career that has been well documented in the Western Reserve annals of early American history.  His legacy includes more than 30 homes or commercial buildings in Painesville (1819-1843), a handful of others in Lake/Geauga Counties, and ten more in Cleveland ( circa 1830-1837).  His late Federal and early Greek Revival style, influenced by the late 1700's thoughts of Thomas Jefferson, are easily seen in the structures still standing.  Goldsmith was also an inventor and patent holder.  His creation of the multiple plow was a boon to the farming industry in his time.  Goldsmith endured some financial hardships later in life.  Ingleside, his last home was located on the present site of the Lake County Fairgrounds.  The Fairgrounds purchased the home in 1911.  A fire destroyed the home in 1929.  Goldsmith was buried in Painesville Twp. Cemetery.  His tombstone is clearly marked and his many dwellings dot Lake County's landscape as a tribute to his pioneering past.

A Listing of Goldsmith Structures still standing-
  • Dr. Everett Denton Residence        1816                  55 Mentor Ave.      Painesville
  • Uri Seeley Residence                     1819                  969 Riverside Dr.   Painesville
  • Eber D. Howe Residence               1822                  215 Mentor Ave.    Painesville
  • Judge Aaron Wilcox Residence     1827                                                 Painesville
  • Dr. John Matthews Residence        1829                 309 W. Washington St. - first Painesville Hospital, home was relocated to Lake Erie College campus and is now the Alumni Center
  • Lewis Morley House                     1836                                                 Painesville
  • Joseph Sawyer Residence              c 1820              9364 Forsythe Rd.  Mentor
  • Dr. Charles Livingston Residence c 1827                                              Painesville
  • Isaac Gilbert Residence                 c 1827                                              Painesville
  • Nathan Corning Residence            c 1830              8353 Mentor Ave.  Mentor
  • Robinson Elwell Residence          1833                 3742 Erie St.          Willoughby
 Other Notable Buildings-
  • First Presbyterian Church           c 1830                                               Painesville
  • Painesville National Bank          1834                                                  Painesville
  • Bank of Geauga                          c 1830
  • Goldsmith House at Hale Farm  c 1830                                              Bath
  • Fairport Harbor Lighthouse       1825-71             129 Second St.       Fairport Harbor
  • Fairport, Painesville, Warren Railroad  1836       First Railroad in Ohio
  • Judge Samuel Cowles Mansion  1834                 Euclid Ave.           Cleveland
  • Truman Handy Mansion             1837                 Euclid Ave.           Cleveland