Thursday, July 28, 2011

Another Hidden Gem - This one has been in 'bloom' since 1936

Only a few of Mentor's existing businesses were founded before the year 1950.  Of the ten, five were florists and greenhouses.  Today's blog looks at the one located at 9294 Mentor Avenue.  Mark Havel is the third generation owner of a family business dating back to January 1936.  Havel's Flowers and Greenhouses offers the usual assortment of  both annual and perennial plants and flowers.  Cornstalks and pumpkins can be purchased each Fall.  Holiday trimmings await the drivers who pass each festive December evening.  The Havel's also offer personalized service and readily share their years of gardening experiences with all customers.  However, it is the ornamental greenhouse that captured my interest the first time I visited.  It continues to do so each time I visit or drive by.  This greenhouse is the hidden gem in Lake County's history that bears retelling.

Joseph Havel secured the green ornamental greenhouse from the George Ball estate in Cleveland in 1937.  Its history is worth noting.  Michigan born Grace A. Ball  (1869) married Clevelander Herbert H. Dow in 1892.  Grace's father George was the founder of Midland's first bank.  Her husband Herbert H. Dow studied at the current CWRU campus and pursued a scientific research path that resulted in the establishment of the Dow Chemical Company (chlorine beach et al.).  The Ball estate was located in Gordon Park, a  Gordon family homestead which eventually became a 122 acre outdoor recreational area near East 72nd Street.  At one time before the freeway was built, it joined with Rockefeller Park and Wade Park.  From 1954-1986, the Cleveland Aquarium sat on part of the Ball estate property.  Today ball diamonds have replaced the estate and the aquarium exhibits have long since been relocated.  The Cleveland Police Department have also used the property. Today all that remains from Cleveland's Gilded Age and one family from Millionaire's row is a Mentor Avenue ornamental greenhouse with a unique back-story.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Hardware Heaven" - Joughin Harware in Downtown Painesville

Every city, town, or village has stories to tell.  Oftentimes it is a famous person or event.  Historical landmarks are often another proud piece of local lore to share.  Many of Lake County's Historic Districts have undergone significant changes since the county's establishment in 1840.  Villages such as Fairport or Madison still have the look and tell-tale signs depicting their past. Willoughby has reinvented its historic Vine Street sector into a new visitor destination.  One such city that has undergone significant changes recently is Painesville.  Downtown Painesville has experienced many changes in recent decades.  Recreation Park has partnered with Lake Erie College to become an improved and vibrant sports venue.  New businesses have claimed old sites such as Bitzer's Furniture and the downtown hub.  Lake East Hospital (1902-2011)  has been torn down and a new downtown landscape is in progress.  Today, I look at a store that has stood the test of time.  As a volunteer curator of a local 1871 lighthouse, repairs are an unending part of a week, month, or year.  Recently, I stopped at a local hardware in downtown Painesville.  Located on 23 South Street, Joughin's Hardware is a stop I should have made once the original Mentor Hardware relocated.  Like Mentor Hardware, Joughin Hardware is a store that is a maze of isles, rows, corners, and crevices that contain thousands of items.  When it comes to hardware, big box stores like Lowe's and Home Depot have nothing on Joughin's.

Founded in 1877, Joughin claims to have 37,000 products available for the consumer.  The store has been in the Joughin family for four generations.  Joughin Hardware is even older than Coca-Cola, Cheverolet, and four states.  The next time you need any hardware product for a home, business, or outdoor repair, I encourage you to stop by Joughin and experience a slice of Americana.  Walk into a store that remains a living timeline to the past. Wander the floors of items for sale.  Visit with employees connected by ties that bind.  You may occasionally find a cheaper price somewhere else, but you will have missed a chance to experience a moment and hidden gem in Lake County's history.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lake County's Maritime Anomaly - Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light

Lake County has a unique maritime anomaly.  Two lighthouses dot the mouth of the Grand River as it enters Lake Erie.  The Grand River (Fairport Harbor) Lighthouse dates back to 1825.  Built by Jonathon Goldsmith at a cost of $5,000, it was vital to the commercial shipping industry that made Fairport and Grand River the second leading port of the era.  The original lighthouse, first manned by Samuel Butler was replaced by the current lighthouse in 1871.  Fourteen keepers shone the Grand River light for one hundred years.  Today, the iconic Grand River (Fairport Harbor) Lighthouse remains as a marine museum and is maintained by the volunteers of the Fairport Harbor Historical Society.

The Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light on Lake Erie is located at the mouth of the Grand River.  Fully operational in 1925, it replaced the Grand River (Fairport Harbor) Light.  The West Breakwater Light has a most interesting history to it.  In 1917, Congress allocated $42,000 for the construction of a new breakwater lighthouse on the Grand River.  Part of that allocation included the demolition of the 1871 lighthouse at the shore of the Grand River.  World War I delayed the project start.  In the meantime, a group of civic minded Fairport residents were able to not only delay the demolition of their village lighthouse but to eventually acquire it and maintain it to this day.  In June 1921, the iron shell of the new breakwater lighthouse made its 147 mile journey on the steamer Wotan from Buffalo to Fairport.  The 42' two story keeper's cottage structure was prefabricated studding, floor beams, rafters, sills and such.  June 9, 1925 marked the official completion of this new lighthouse.  An original 4th order Fresnel lens flashed white light ( three seconds on, three seconds off) each evening for the Grand River's newest guardian of the night. Maintained by the USCG, the light is now automated (300mm optic) and the structure closed to the public.  It is possible to walk out along the rugged breakwater to view the lighthouse.  Misconceptions  have led some to believe that this was the first light at the mouth of the river.  The FHHS archives contain information and archival photos that show the original skeletal tower and piers that existed prior to the 1925 light.  Piers existed on both sides of the Grand River.  $1000 was allocated in 1825 for a pier.  1831 saw another $1000 provide a beacon light on the channel.  Additonal funds in 1834 allowed the project to be completed by 1838.  The east pier extended 600' and housed four lamps.  The west pier extended 900'.  Both piers were extended over time and are fondly recalled by the senior residents of the village.  The lighthouse remains an active navigational aid and the Grand River still serves as a port to a limited number of vessels per season.

2006 saw an effort by a group of community activists to take ownership of the breakwater lighthouse.  Their goal was to preserve the site for future generations.  Monetary concerns prevented the non-profit group of historical societies and activists from their goal.  2009 saw the U.S. General Services Administration offer the West Breakwater Light for public auction.  Bid efforts by local businessman Jerome Osborne ( October 2009) and Texan Scott Monroe ( November 2010) resulted in failed ownership attempts.  A third bidder (July 2011) is now under review and may prove in time to be the lighthouse dwelling's newest keeper.

The iconic Grand River Lighthouse in Fairport is open to the public on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays thru late September.  The West Breakwater Lighthouse can be viewed from Headlands Beach or from the Huntington/ Fairport Lakefront  Metroparks Beach site daily.  Both Lake Erie sentinels are hidden gems and part of a Lake County history chapter that is awaiting your visit.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Remarkable Lake County - "Have you experienced Marker #17-43?"

History exists in so many places.  Some local histories like lighthouses, classic houses, cemeteries, or bridges are quite obvious.  Local historical societies preserve stories and artifacts from their communities.  Thus, important local sites such as Native American settlements, a Finn Hollow, and a Willoughby Medical College are remembered.  Other pieces of local lore such as an Amy Kaukonen, Jack Casement, Hugh Mosher, Sam Huntington, or The Spirit of '76 are passed down through the generations.  Today we look at a site that may be overlooked or understated when one considers important local history.  I have visited friends at the docks located there.  I have walked the nearby trails. I have seen its signage posted on the Lake County roadways.  I, like many Mentorites have driven by it hundreds of times.  Historic Marker #17-43 is The Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve and Marina.

The Mentor Lagoons wetlands is one of the few remaining riverine marshes surviving along Lake Erie.  The lagoons are a large estuary where the Grand River once flowed into Lake Erie.  Today it is mostly a marsh.  The 1.5 miles of nature contain dunes, the riverine marsh, nurseries for fish and waterfowl, as well as a migratory stopping place for neo-tropical birds and butterflies.  Estimates have over 150 species of birds using the preserve in some manner annually.

Historically, the Mentor Lagoons area has had a 200 year impact on northeastern Ohio.  In 1797, Charles Parker, a member of Moses Cleaveland's survey party came upon the area.  He platted lands for the Connecticut Land Company and a marsh settlement came to be.  In 2002, an archeology field experience determined two distinct periods of history utilized the lagoons.  In the Late Archaic Period (1600-1000 BC), Leimbach Thick Pottery was found.  AD 1000-1600 Native American artifacts confirm that the Whittlesey culture had a presence there.  Since the early 1900's many attempts to commercialize the lagoons have been undertaken, but none have proved enduring.  An attempt in the 1990's to dramatically change the area resulted in the 1996-1998 acquisition of the properties by the city of Mentor.  Using eminent domain status, Mentor has made the Lagoons and Marina a historic site to be enjoyed by all.  The Mentor Lagoons Marina is a safe harbor for boating enthusiasts and  recreational boating courses are offered there.  Nearby, The Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve is now five miles of hiking trails and distinct vistas.

Summer is only half over.  A visit to the Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve and Marina site is a one tank trip worth considering.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fairport Harbor Historical Society sponsors Antique Coin Roadshow on July 17th

Museums, especially small historical society based sites need to be creative to continue to attract visitors.  New displays, thematic calendar years, or educational programming are the most commonly used practices.  The Fairport Harbor Historical Society and its volunteers maintain  The Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Marine Museum.  Since 2009 the historical society has sought to expand the museum's appeal to more than just the most ardent lighthouse enthusiast.  2011 will see a  September Art Show during the Perchfest weekend for a third straight year.  Sunset/ Moonrise Private Tours (wine & cheese party) began in 2010 and continue into 2011.  Added to the private tour nights this year are three additional collaborative kayak / lighthouse tour summer evenings with Lake Metroparks.  Coming this Sunday, July 17th is another new niche program.  From 1-6pm an Antique 'Coin' Roadshow will be held.  Free to the public, local coin expert Tom Jerpbak will be at the lighthouse to educate the public.  Tom is the proprietor of Ye Olde Oaken Bucket in Painesville.  Tom can appraise your old coins ( pre-1964 are most valuable), offer sale advice and even purchase your coins during the event.  You may even schedule an appointment at his shop for another date if you choose.  While you are there, you might even want to stop in the museum or climb the 69 steps of the lighthouse tower and experience the beauty of Lake Erie from a unique vantage point.  Whether you are interested in celebrating Fairport's past or simply interested in participating in its present, a trip to 129 Second Street is well worth your time.

The Fairport Harbor History Society - sixty-six years strong

The Fairport Lighthouse and Marine Museum is situated on a lighthouse reservation dating back to 1825.  It is the first Great Lakes lighthouse Marine Museum in the State of Ohio as well as in the United States.  Founded in 1945 by the Fairport Harbor Historical Society ( an all volunteer society), the museum is devoted to preserving and perpetuating historic tradition and sentiment in Fairport Harbor and the Great Lakes Area.  The FHHS maintains a research library.  The FHHS has an artifact collection featuring the 1871 tower, keeper's dwelling, and several outdoor structures.  The mainmast of the 1843 iron hulled USS Michigan is on site.  The Pilothouse of the carrier Frontenac (properly appointed) is open to the public.  USLSS and USCG artifacts are featured including a working foghorn, lyle gun, and lifesaving car.  The FHHS holds educational programs of historical interest in the spring and fall.  A quarterly newsletter 'Through the Porthole' highlights society events and informs members of museum projects.  Nineteen other special events dot the 2011 museum season and offer niche experiences at the lighthouse.  The museum is open 1-6pm onWednesdays, Saturdays, Sunday, and all legal holidays.

For more information on Tom Jerpbak's visit on July 17th or any other FHHS event please call 440-354-4825 or visit

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Preserving the Heritage" - The Madison Historical Society

An earlier blog celebrated 200 years of Madison history.  Surveyed as early as 1795, Madison Township was formed in 1811.  Madison Village came into existence by 1867.  Over the course of these years Ellensburg, Cunningham Creek, Arcola Furnace, iron ore, Dock Road, abolitionism, and ship building added to the local color and history that is Madison, Ohio.  Another blog even featured Madison's own cartoonist Frederick Burr Opper, a pioneer in newspaper comics.

Since 1978, The Madison Historical Society has been preserving this heritage of Madison Township and Madison Village.  The society maintains a research library.  The society has garnered an extensive artifact collection.  The society offers programs of historical interest.  The society publishes The Times - a bi-monthly newsletter featured upcoming events and articles of historic interest.  A book on Madison (Arcadia Press) is also available from the society shoppe.

A current project of the Madison Historical Society and community residents is now underway.  They seek to preserve the historic Unionville Old Taverne.  Supporters are encouraged to vote online under the National Trust for Historic Preservation's "This Place Matters Community Challenge."  As you may recall, the Unionville Taverne was not only a famous stagecoach stop of the 1800's but also a stop on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War era of history.

Those interested in upcoming society events or in joining the Madison Historical Society may contact them at P.O. Box 515 or call 440-417-1959.  The history of Madison is a living document, its past now celebrated, its present welcoming your participation.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"Preserving the sands of time." - The Perry Historical Society of Lake County

history. n 1. the study of past events. 2. the past considered as a whole> the whole series of past events connected with someone or something. 3. a continuous, typically chronological, record of past events or trends.

Formed in 1992 to collect and preserve for future generations historic items that originated in Perry Township, North Perry, and Perry Village, the Perry Historical Society of Lake County and its volunteers have been "preserving the sands of time" for nearly two decades.  Located at the intersection of Center and Main Street, the society occupies the original 1875 Town Hall building.  On its front lawn sits the Ohio Historic Marker honoring Hugh Mosher, who was born in Perry and is the fifer in the iconic American Revolution painting the "Spirit of '76."  Inside the museum are items that include photographs, documents, letters, collectibles, clothing, and relics from Perry's early history as part of the Western Reserve experience.  Museum  exhibits are also on display at the Perry Public Library and the Tarbuck Center.  Members of the society disseminate knowledge about Perry and its snapshots in time in many ways.

The museum is open the second Saturday of each month from noon-4pm.  Society members meet at 10am the second Saturday of each month.  Tuesday mornings from 9:30-noon find work sessions in progress at the Manchester West School site.  The society produces a quarterly publication 'The Perry Heritage' highlighting important upcoming events, museum stories, and village memories.

Persons with questions, wishing to join, or volunteer their talents may reach the Perry Historical Society at 440-259-4541.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Roadways of Days Past - U.S. Route 6 and the Pleasant Valley Road Bridge

Local Lore by Max has devoted many history related blogs about interesting people and places of Lake County.  We have learned that U.S. Route 20 is the one of the longest east-west roadways in the country spanning 3365 miles.  We have learned that the Buffalo to Cleveland stagecoach routes made the Unionville Tavern of Madison and Rider's Inn of Painesville important stories in early American history.  Homes and buildings designed by Jonathan Goldsmith permeate the Lake County landscape.  Today's blog looks at an often overlooked structure in Willoughby Hills.  Jefferson may have its wooden covered bridges. Painesville-Fairport may have their Richmond Street and Main Street Bridges, but the Pleasant Valley Bridge at 37965 Pleasant Valley Road in Willoughby Hills is a transportation cornerstone worth noting.

The single lane bridge was constructed in 1881 by the Wrought Iron Bridge company of Canton, Ohio.  It was built to replace a wooden bridge that portaged the nearby west branch of the Chagrin River.  Architecturally, it is a 163 foot-long Whipple Truss (double intersection Pratt through truss).  One of less than ten remaining in the state of Ohio, it is possibly the longest bridge in the county.  At the time, it was built to sustain the Euclid-Chardon Road traffic on U.S. Route 6.  Known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, the G.A.R. was a major thoroughfare for 71 years.  A new bridge bypass to the south replaced the original G.A.R. in 1952.  The original bridge was closed in 2001 for three years to undergo dismantling, inspection, cleaning, and restoration.  The Truss bridge with its artwork, name plates atop the overhead portals, and mostly original wrought iron materials has since reopened to local traffic.  The Pleasant Valley Bridge is now owned and operated by the City of Willoughby Hills.  Efforts by the city and the Willoughby Hills Historical Society secured it Historical Marker status in 2007. 

Marker #26-43 remains on its original site and is visible to all drivers who frequent U.S. Route 6 daily.  The G.A.R. thoroughfare remains today as an important link to the transportation history of Lake County, Ohio.