Monday, December 31, 2012

MMXIII --- Old Habits Die Hard

As 2012 draws to its end, I feel fortunate in many ways.  Having survived the Mayan apocalypse, I am once again free to pursue my annual New Year's Resolutions with full vigor.  In my youth, I grew up in a culture that saw family members and neighbors donate time to volunteering.  Whether it was at PS 14, St. Mary's Church, CYO, scouts, summer baseball , or local civic groups their support of this resolution made an impact.  As I look back, it was amazing how these small strides from my youth can become real game changers.  Their making a resolution to take on an extra task or volunteering twice a month for a good cause can blossom into something more meaningful than first expected.  In 2012 I continued this tradition.  Old habits die hard.  Since 1996 I have volunteered my time to a local lighthouse society.  Since 1997 I have volunteered time to 'Spirit of America', a free student boating education program.  Since 2000 I have donated many hours to Lake Metroparks programs.  Taking on that extra chore or task for a good cause has made all the difference.

Random acts of kindness and even the smallest act of goodness creates change and does have a cosmic effect.  So my first wish for all of you is to resolve!  Make a meaningful resolution- something you can stick with.  Take that first step.  Perhaps contact your local historical society or park system.  Volunteer - that way you can build on its success.  Share your resolution with friends or family.  This may motivate you to keep at it in 2013 when the going gets tough.  It may even get others to join in your resolution.

Secondly pay tribute to your local historical organizations.  Their contents, origins, library writings can provide you with a magical and seductive look into our county's past.  The vast ocean of literature and information now available digitally - via e-books, the Internet. etc. - poses a serious threat to the future of these physical structures.  These edifices and collections are likely to one day disappear, 'taking their phantoms with them.'  If you have a passion for history - actual sites - actual books - resolve in 2013 to visit these organizations.  More importantly - resolve to volunteer at these historical societies.  Your gift of time is a meaningful gift.  Your contribution will build on its success and may very well lead you to a better place.

Local Lore by Max will undergo a minor change in 2013.  Entries will be posted once weekly, on either Monday or Thursday.  Mentor's 50th Anniversary, Phantoms on the Bookshelf, and more hidden gems from Lake County will be featured.  Remember we are - Ohio's smallest county with the most history.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fairport Harbor Historical Society -- Volunteers Making a Difference

On March 2, 1945, a group of public-spirited citizens representing all civic, social, and cultural groups from the Village of Fairport met and organized the Fairport Harbor Historical Society.  Their initial goal may have been to save the Grand River Lighthouse, which had fallen on hard times since being decommissioned in 1925 after a century of use.  To this end their objective of establishing a marine museum in the lighthouse keeper's dwelling, rehabilitating the building for that purpose, and preserving the lighthouse as a historic monument became a reality on March 17, 1945.  By summer of that year, one room of the Fairport Marine Museum was opened and under way.  George Gedeon, president; George Henry, first vice president; E.H. Brown, second vice president; Lillian Luthanen, secretary; Irene Radike, treasurer; trustees Carroll Mitchell, John W. Laczko, Rev. Fr. Fabian Hoffman, Alma Saari and Joseph Guraly were elected.  The first membership role had 148 members.  On July 2, 1946, the Marine Museum was formally dedicated in a simple ceremony and three rooms were open to the public.  The FHHS was charged with preserving and perpetuating the historic sentiment of Fairport and the Great Lakes region.  In June, 1952 the Village of Fairport under the leadership of Mayor Arthur Ritari partnered to gain permanent title to the lighthouse for the express purpose of maintaining the historical society efforts.  Sixty-seven years have passed since that first calling.  A new group of volunteer officers and trustees hand down that which was handed down to them.  The membership role today totals 220, individuals and families.  The three displays rooms still contain navigational instruments, USLSS / USCG artifacts, uniforms, a lighthouse lifesaving car, foghorns, third order lens as well as marine charts and primary source photos.  The collection has grown to the point where displays are now thematically presented and rotated annually.  Civil War and War of 1812 collection items will be featured in 2013.  The second floor of the keeper's dwelling last housed a curator in 1991.  Today it is used as a library, archival collection room, and society meeting room.  The marine museum remains open to the public from late May through mid-September.  School and private tours as well as unique programming events remain core to the society's mission.

The Grand River Lighthouse at Fairport holds a special place in maritime history.  It is the first lighthouse to be saved from the wrecking ball.  It is the first marine museum in the U.S. situated on a lighthouse reservation.  Finally since 1945 it has been only volunteers who have taken care of Lake County's iconic National Historic Landmark.  No paid members have ever been on staff for the FHHS.  In 2012, approximately seventeen volunteers made a difference.  They donated over 4000 hours to caring for the lighthouse tower and keeper's dwelling.  Will 2013 be the  year you make the difference?

Charter Members Fairport Harbor Historical Society as of March 23, 1945

George I. Gedeon                    Hazel J. Farmer
Frieda Winchell                       Jane Elin Farmer
John W. Laczko                       J.V. Butterfield
Eero M. Liimakka                   Winona K. Zapp
Andrew H. Kraynik                Andrew Haynes
Maynard Hungerford             Mrs. Andrew Haynes
Rev. Fabian Hoffman             Elijah H. Brown
Jimmy Galm                           Lillian W. Luthanen
Carroll Mitchell                      Mrs. B.F. Harris
Irene Radike                           B.F. Harris
Pearl E. Killinen                    Robert Orosz
Matt Killinen Sr.                   Mrs. Andrew Haynes
Bernard L. Farmer                Mr. and Mrs. John Zimny

Contact Information-
Fairport Harbor Marine Museum and Lighthouse
129 Second Street
Fairport Harbor, Ohio 44077

Monday, December 24, 2012

' At Christmas, All Roads Lead Home '

Some of my favorite Christmas Quotations -

There has been only one Christmas - the rest are just anniversaries
                                                                              W. J. Cameron

At Christmas, all Roads lead home
                              Marjorie Holmes

Have Yourself a merry little Christmas, make the Yuletide gay
                                                                                        Ralph Gay

Christmas waves a magic wand over the world and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful
                                                                                               Norman Vincent Peale

Local Lore's message to all Lake County...

Joyeaux Noel                                      Vesele vianoce

                                 Merry Christmas

Froehliche Weihnachten                  Buone Feste Natalizie

Hyvaa joulua                Feliz Navidad

                       Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket

Thursday, December 20, 2012

1812 Key Dates in Fairport Harbor 2012 -- 'The Second Hundred Years'

Last week we examined the key events in Fairport's first hundred years.   Native American tribes, LaSalle the explorer, Joseph Smith of Kirtland and Mormom history, the USLSS, and the Underground Railroad all had roots in the history of Village of Fairport.  As the bicentennial year draws to its conclusion, lets look at highlights from the second hundred years.

                     1812-- Key Dates in Fairport Harbor --2012  Part II

  • 1903  Zion Church Cemetery established
  • 1903  Plum Street School constructed
  • 1910  Plum Street School fire
  • 1912  Diamond Alkali Era begins
  • 1915  USCG formed - Station Fairport established
  • 1918  St. Clair Street Bridge disaster
  • 1921  Dr. Amy Kaukonen - first women mayor in Ohio
  • 1921  Fairport High School built
  • 1922  Fairport Library organized
  • 1925  West Breakwater Lighthouse completed
  • 1935  Fairport Library building finished - CWA project
  • 1937  Indian Village unearthed in Fairport
  • 1938  Chestnut Street block party*
  • 1941  Mardi Gras era begins (*outgrowth of '38 event)
  • 1945  Fairport Harbor Historical Society established
  • 1946  Samuel Huntington Beach property deeded to Fairport
  • 1952  Project to save the beach began
  • 1953  Village and FHHS partner to save original Village lighthouse
  • 1956  Fairport Harbor Port Authority established
  • 1959  Morton Salt Company - Fairport Mine opened
  • 1959 'Harbor' is added to Fairport name
  • 1960  Fairport 'Skippies' - national football champions
  • 1976  The Diamond Shamrock closes
  • 1990  Lake Metroparks leases Huntington Beach property
  • 2012 Village Bicentennial

Book Credits -  Hometown Sketches -1936, Fairport Harbor, Ohio -1976, The Story of Fairport -1946, Fairport Harbor - 2003
FHHS contributors include Julia Lehto, Dan Maxson, Louise Nagy, John Ollila, Tom Ruffner, Helen Kasari-emeritus

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hidden Gems in Historic Downtown Painesville - Gartman Model Bakery and other Local Landmarks

History comes to us in all manners possible.  Quite often the changing landscape and architecture of today makes it difficult to notice the hidden gems from the past.  Last Saturday morning I had the opportunity to frequent some local businesses located in Historic Downtown Painesville.  While on my errands that morning, my wife and I experienced a walk back in time.  Here are four local landmarks worth visiting on your next trip into Painesville.  The building architecture, family owners, and products offered are sure to make a lasting impression.

Gartman Model Bakery -  30 N. State Street
This bakery has been in business since 1898.  Family owned and operated since 1917, this third generation bakery offers 'scratch made' baked goods second to none.  A visit this December will feature truly unique Santa cookies, Gingerbread cookies and houses.  Donuts, cookies and freshly baked bread range from 25 cents to under $2.00.  Notice the bakery interior and old time photos.

Joughin Hardware - 20 S. State Street
Since 1877 this family run hardware store has served the Lake County community.  The building interior alone is worth a visit.  Couple that with every imaginable hardware service or product needed and one will come back time and again.

Nemeth's Lounge - 40 N. State Street
In existence since 1941, this lounge was voted the best non-commercial jukebox site in N.E. Ohio in 2005.  Joe Nemeth hand loads the jukebox himself.  Pithy pins like 'It's hard to be humble when you are from Painesville' adjorn the walls.  A visit here adds another link to the unbroken chain established over eight decades ago.

Bitzer's Furniture - 19 S. Saint Clair
Closed some years ago, this furniture store which began in 1915 is now home to Cards & Games Inc. / Dean's Card Shop.  The original freight elevator inside is worth the visit alone.  The current proprietor has a memorabilia and sporting artifacts collection suitable to all generations.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

1812 Key Dates in Fairport Harbor 2012 --- 'The First Hundred Years'

2012 has been a signature year for the Village of Fairport Harbor.  As its bicentennial year winds down, it is only appropriate to look back over time and recall some key events in their history.  Today we examine its first hundred years.

                     1812 -- Key Dates in Fairport Harbor --2012

  • 1200-1654  Erie Indians settlements in area
  • 1669  French discover Lake Erie
  • 1679  LaSalle 'Griffin' Expedition
  • 1779  Moses Cleaveland surveyed area
  • 1812  Grandon is established
  • 1818  Walk-in-the-Water - first steamboat on Lake Erie
  • 1825  Lighthouse at Grandon is built, first piers constructed
  • 1825-1860  Abolitionism and Underground Railroad links to Village
  • 1826  Schooner 'United States' - first ship built in Fairport
  • 1836  Grandon is renamed Fairport
  • 1838  East Beacon Light built
  • 1845  Fairport builds schooner 'Madeline'
  • 1868-1870  Nitroglycerine Company - Era in Infamy
  • 1869  First Fairport Church constructed - Congregational Church on the Square
  • 1870  Cavier & Fairport
  • 1871  Lighthouse at Fairport is rebuilt
  • 1875  New beacon light constructed
  • 1876  USLSS - Station Fairport established
  • 1885  Ore docks established
  • 1889  Village government reappears

This timeline is posted on the Fairport Harbor Historical Society / Fairport Lighthouse and Marine Museum website -  Some 26 historical blogs retelling the history of the village appear under 'Local Lore by Max' on the News-Herald or Historical Society websites.  Most entries appeared on Thursdays in 2012.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Kirtland Hills and Leonard C. Hanna, Jr.

In the history of Kirtland Hills, perhaps the most famous estate is that of Leonard C. Hanna, Jr.  Its story dates back to 1492.  In 1923, the John Wanamaker store in Philadelphia arranged the purchase of three stone houses in England.  The homes were disassembled and imported to America. One of these stone houses found its way to the County Line Road estate of Edmund S. Burke.  Burke, a wealthy Cleveland industrialist and Chairman of the Fourth Federal Reserve District used the former Philadelphia structure as a guest house.  The stone house, which dates to 1492 was reconstructed in 1925 and eventually found its way to its current location when Hanna purchased and re-erected it for a third time it in 1945.  The Kirtland Hills Hanna estate occupied 300 acres and was laid out in the style of an English feudal village.  A pool, covered bridge, guest houses, sheep barns, caretakers cottage, gate house and numerous other out buildings were also constructed.  Most faced Little Mountain Road.  Leonard Hanna and his family were one of Cleveland's wealthiest.  His fortunes were based on iron ore, coal, and Great Lakes shipping interests.  Hanna, a known philanthropist donated in excess of $100,000 to charitable causes. Hanna entertained many of his closest friends at his Kirtland Hills estate.  Their names are a Who's Who of American Entertainment - Cole Porter, Gene Tunney, Gloria Swanson, and Joan Crawford.  Hanna even let local families swim in his pool on Sunday afternoons.  Hanna's passing in 1957 resulted in the estate being subdivided by Gerald Wearsch.  New homes now dot the former Hanna property.  The original stone house, circa 1492 still remains and is privately owned.

Information was gleaned from Janet Murfey's 1988 compilation  - A Brief History of Kirtland Hills

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Get into the Yuletide Mood with these 'Free' Lake County Holiday Traditions

'Everything is free' is a phrase seldom heard much these days.  However the Holiday Spirit is alive and well in Lake County.  Following up on Monday's blog of uniquely free-to-the public holiday events, here are some additional annual free community events to revel in. So once again, let's delight in the details...

Burning River Brass - On December 13, Painesville United Methodist Church on the Square will host its annual concert series holiday tradition.  The eleven member brass ensemble will deliver a 7pm program featuring arrangements of their best jazz and most popular festive cheer.  Arrive early as seating is limited!

Fairport Harbor Public Library Holiday Programs -  If you missed the Fairport Harbor Grinch Visit last weekend, not to worry as several upcoming programs are equally enjoyed by all who visit the village.  No registration is required for these events and everyone is invited to participate: sleepers, crawlers, and wanderers.  December 6 is a program titled Love Soup while on December 11,12,13 the ever popular 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' and other favorites program will be offered.  Times are 10, 1 and Wednesday at 6:30pm.  Contact the library at 440-354-8191 with questions.

Christmas at the Lake County History Center -  A 'One Magic Christmas Tea' is being held on December 8.  'A Children's Victorian Christmas' is new in 2012 and being held on December 29.  All month long will feature lavish Victorian decorations throughout the center.  Holiday visitors and company can wander through over two dozen rooms of this former 1876 County Home.  Call 440-639-2945 for more information.

Additional community programs-
Sounds of Christmas - A 4pm Concert on December 16 -Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Madison.
The Christmas Post - A musical drama set in 1947 is being held on  December 14 and 16 at Erieside Church in Willowick. Call 440-943-0151 for more details.
Christmas Concert - Dulcimers, bells, and more - 3pm on December 8 at the Pilgrim Christian Church in Chardon.
A Christmas Concert -  Cleveland Institute of Music pianists and musicians will be featured at 6pm on December 9 at the first convenant Church in Willoughby Hills.  All are welcome.

Monday, December 3, 2012

'Everything's Free' Holiday Traditions Continue in Lake County this week

Last weekend saw three Holiday Traditions continue.  On December 1st, Harbor Holidays and the Grinch Event at Fairport Harbor Lighthouse took place.  In excess of 500 people attended the evening Grinch reading on Second Street.  December 2nd witnessed the continuation of one of Lake County's most beloved family tours.  The Lake County Historical Society held their annual bus tour.  Five unique sites were visited and a 'cookie tin' and holiday cookie awaited guests.  St. Gabriel's Church in Concord Twp. held its annual Handel's Messiah Chorus program.  Over 185 volunteer voices came together to pratice for nearly two months to bring the musical classic about the Life of Christ to the public.

This first full week of December offers some more traditional favorites for all to experience.  Both are free so lets delight in the details-

Unto Us a Son is Given -  The tenth anniversary nativity exhibit at Historic Kirtland is now open to the public beginning at 9am Monday through Saturday and from 11:30am-8pm on Sundays.  Nativity exhibits fill the visitor center and adjacent red schoolhouse.  This event is in its tenth year and has garnered many awards, including a designation as one of North America's top 100 events.  New in 2012 is a retelling of the age-old Christmas story, first done by St. Francis of Assisi almost 800 years ago.  St. Francis, dismayed by the material turn of Christmas, sought to bring back the people with the simple awe of Jesus' birth in a manger.  An 8-foot-long nativity in the Neapolitan style created by South Euclid sculptor Norbert Koehn is 2012's newest nativity.  True to the 18th century fashionings, Koehn, a student at Oberammergau, Germany spent over 180 hours creating his masterwork.  This Naples, Italy nativity and hundreds of other old favorites will be on display for free through December 30th.

Boar's Head Festival -  Another unique event, free to the public takes place this Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday at Painesville's Zion Lutheran Church.  Over 90 costumed volunteers will tell the story of Christ as celebrated in the Middle Ages manor of King Wenceslas.  The devil is personified in the image of a Boar's Head.  A Yule Log, Yule Sprite, and festive musical tribute will move the audience gathered through the journey of the One who has come to set man free from the devil.  Four performances are scheduled and free to the public.

Thursday will look at some other upcoming free productions in Painesville, Painesville Twp. , Fairport Harbor and other local communities.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Begin Your Holiday Traditions in Fairport Harbor with The 'Grinch' et al.

Since 2003 a unique family friendly event has been in place in Lake County's best kept secret Fairport Harbor.  The village hosts an annual Harbor Holidays day in which local merchants and community churches open their doors to ethnic food and holiday gift purchases. Harbor Holidays begins at 10am at the lighthouse and continues with the community organizations from 11-4pm. The Fairport Harbor Library hosts Gingerbread House experiences, coloring book contests, Grinch Drawing activities, book sales and more.  A book signing visit by the Grinch takes place at noon.  The Fairport Harbor Congregational Church on Third Street sponsors a community dinner and dessert auction. It begins at 4pm.  At 5:30pm the streets surrounding the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Marine Museum are closed off by the FHPD and families can bring their blankets and chairs to await the annual visit from 'The Grinch', fresh off his gift stealing crime spree about town.  At 6pm a word from the Mayor, a possible song from the 'Whoville Choir', and a retelling of the classic Dr. Suess story by the Grinch himself await those who are true believers.  Pictures with the Grinch, Max his dog, and Santa follow in the park.  Hot chocolate and snacks will be served by the Young Adult Group at the Congregational Church afterwards.

December 1st Schedule:  The Grinch is coming !!!

Harbor Holidays  10am-4pm -  Stop by the lighthouse, village churches or community merchants to sample ethnic foods, purchase holiday gifts or stocking stuffers, or simply stroll back in time when window shopping was the norm.  Event maps and Harbor Holiday guides are available at each participating organization.  Witness the mischievous Grinch stealing gifts throughout the day.

Harbor Holidays at the Library -  Ornament making will be available from noon-4pm.  The Grinch will be on site at noon to autograph his book (copies available to purchase that day).  A bake sale and book sale hosted by Friends of the Library occurs all day until 5pm

Fairport Harbor Historical Society Grinch Event - After a day of shopping at the lighthouse museum gift shop and community businesses, the Grinch, fresh from Mount Crumpit or Canada will appear atop the lighthouse tower at 6pm to share his classic autobiographical story.  Photos and light snacks will follow.

Toys for Tots - The FHPD and local VFW Post will be accepting gifts for the needy all day.  Come fill the cruiser and make a memory!

The weather promises to be good, the Grinch Gang will be in rare form, and an enjoyable time will be in store for all the true believers who come to N. E. Ohio's best kept secret - Fairport Harbor.  Thanks to all the volunteers and organizations who sponsor this free event.  They include The Young Adult Group at the Fairport Harbor Congregational Church, Fairport Harbor Public Library, Fairport Harbor Historical Society, Fairport Harbor Police Department, Fairport Harbor Village Administration, Fairport Harbor Mardi Gras, Kathy Dusa, Jeff's Garage, Deliver Me Food, Castellano's Pizza Cove, Great Lakes Boat Works, Mollie, Cat, Cyndi and the Grinch Gang.  Special thanks are in order to the former Fairport Harbor Business Merchants Association members who began this event and hosted it through 2009. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Blogger Celebrates 200

Today my fact finding journey throughout our county hits 200 entries.  If one hundred of anything seems to be viewed as an accomplishment, then two hundred means I have been around awhile.  It is my hope that while the vast ocean of literature and information now available digitally - via e-books, the Internet, etc. - offers one so many facts pertaining to any historical need, that I have been able to share with you in an abridged format the hidden gems and tid-bits of local lore that make Ohio's smallest county rise to the forefront of all others.  This smallest county located on the lake does indeed have the most history.

Favorite blogs revisited - I learn many interesting facts each time I research a topic.  While it is difficult to attach importance to any one topic, here are three from 2012 that I call favorites.

August 6, 2012 - Lake Erie, Eyewitness to History -  Our lake is our greatest ongoing resource and is often overlooked.  Lake Erie is just over 4000 years old and shares its history with Native American tribes and early pioneering history.  Louis Joliett, Colonel Talbot, Joesph Smith, LaSalle and many others called our shores home at one time or another.  Maritime commerce, prohibition era rum running, and iconic American industrialists all established roots in Lake County.

June 25, 2012 - 'Gramma G' -  Born in 1899 as Eleanor Borton, this first and only women mayor of Mentor is beloved in city history.  Eleanor (Barton) Garfield's record of accomplishment in the decade of the 1950's included the Route 2 transportation project, establishing Mentor Recreation Park, and pioneering Mentor's future business corridors.  As mayor, recorded tales even mention her painting city hall.  Her antique shop and home behind the Garfield Presidential House were popular stops by many of Mentor's leading families.

September 27, 2012 - Fairport Profiles - Donald Blakeslee - The Village of Fairport Harbor has a storied history that just this year celebrated 200 years.  Donald Blakeslee attended the local school there.  Upon graduation his love of flying and the events of history intersected.  In the annals of WWII history, his 500 combat missions and nearly 1000 hours of flight time stand atop the pinnacle of U.S. Air Force aviator history.  His storied career is widely recorded in two countries, the U.K. and U.S.

Seven Question Quiz from Yesteryear - (blogs 101-200)
1.  Which school first began from a log shanty erected by Peter French?
a. Thomas Harvey HS  b. Center Street School  c.  Willoughby Union HS  d.  Lake Erie College
2.  They arrived in 1938 and for the next 42 years became the first family of this city? - Their names were Dr. William J. Rucker and Mildred Rucker
a.  Madison  b. Painesville   c. LeRoy Township  d.  Kirtland
3.  This county landmark is celebrating its second century.  It was first located on Bank Street and was visited by our 41st President.  Name it
a. Hellreigels Inn  b. LC Fairgrounds  c. Rider's Inn   d.  Painesville Depot
4.  Captain Simeon Reynolds and his family had a road named after them (Rt. 306), built the Little Mountain House, and had many local farms.  What product made them famous?
a.  roses    b.  peppermint oil crop  c.  tree farms   d.  vineyard grapes
5.  Which is not a famous Ghost Story from Lake County?
a.  Melonheads  b.  Punderson Manor  c.  Blue Girl   d.  Fairport's ghost cat
6.  Caesar A. Graselli and Lammot duPont contributed to this commercial disaster in 1870 in Lake County?
a.  Arcola Creek Dock  b.  Fairport Nitro-glycerine Explosions   c.  Griffith Fire   d.  St. Clair Bridge collapse
7.  Mary A. Evans and Luella Bentley were the first principals in 1868 and led the school for 42 years.  Name the school?
a.  Center Street School  b. Lake Erie College  c. Andrews (Osborne) School  d.  Willoughby Medical College

Answers:  As my former students remember - all the answers are "B"

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hotels on the Summit Part II

For more than a century rich and influential families from all over the country spent their summers in residence at the various hotels that sprung up on the Kirtland Hills plateau known as Little Mountain.  They reached the summit via stagecoach from Mentor.  Some of the notable visitors were Cleveland's elite such as Jeptha H. Wade, John D. Rockefeller and Congressman (later President) James A. Garfield.  They came to Ohio's highest elevation, 1266 feet to witness a landscape of marvelous wildflowers such as Lady Slippers, Solomon Seal, Wintergreen, and the last forest of virgin Eastern White Pines west of the Allegheny Mountains.  The Lakeview House and the Stocking House were the first to appear.

The third hotel, the Little Mountain Eagle, was built in 1857 by William S. Gardner.  The main building was three stories high with two story wings on each side.  An observatory was located on the top of the section.  The Little Mountain Eagle House was primarily used by people taking the 'water cure'.  They boarded there seeking remedies from ailments of the times.  The Eagle, also known locally as the Gardner House did not last long in 19th century history.  It was in time closed down and became known as the 'Haunted House'.

The fourth and final hotel built on the summit was the Pinecrest Hotel.  It was constructed in the late 1880's by a company headed by C.A. Avery.  The Pinecrest Hotel was the most elegant and pretentious hotel on the 'summit'.  It was three stories, t-shaped and surrounded by a magnificent veranda.  Guest suites had individual baths attached, private balconies, open fireplaces, an electronic bell system, gas lighting, and elevators. A Rotunda, drawing room and state of the art fire plug hose system was in place.  Western Union Telegraph and Post Office Express stations were on site.  A laundry facility was another in-house perk.  Cottages lined the main building and were of various sizes to accommodate guest needs.  A house orchestra, billiards, bowling alleys, concert schedules and every amusement possible were provided.  A livery was maintained and countryside drives offered.

The Gilded Age of America had an everlasting impact on our country.  The 19-20th c. industrialists and businessmen who made America came to Lake County.  From Cleveland's elite who came to Little Mountain to America's early pioneers, some of whom began operations in Lake County, our county shared a chapter in America's Gilded Age.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fairport Harbor Potpourri

There is always a danger whenever you compile a list, give a speech or choose to highlight an event that something/someone important will be left out.  Any attempt to condense over two hundred years of community history into a brief format is an effort in futility.  I know this to be a fact.  It has happened to me not only in 2012 but many a time previously.  Good intentions and well thought out notes succumb to a momentary lapse.  For the better part of 2012 I have shared the history of Fairport Harbor.  As the village Bicentennial Year draws to close, here are some more random nuggets and lesser known facts from a by-gone time.

  • From 1925 until 1955, Fairport was a hotbed of community basketball.  A tight schedule was formulated and the gymnasium floor was in use six days a week from early morning to late evenings.  Some of the more notable teams included Hilberg's Market, Parrish Drugs, Fairport Dairy, Colgrove Drugs and the Maloney Sheriffs.
  • On March 1, 1891, the mayor and clerk purchased ten street lamps and posts, to be installed on Water Street, High Street, and Second Street.  D.A. Lewis was paid 40 cents to light the lamps.
  • August 7, 1918 is a date which lives in transportation infamy.  The weight of a Fairport-Painesville trolley caused the St. Clair Street Bridge to collapse.
  • A challenge appeared in the Telegraph on February 13, 1895.  It called for a horse race on the half mile long track laid out on the ice.  Life preservers were provided. The entire article is on display at the FHHS.
  • The first library in Fairport was on the second floor of the Kasvi Temperance Hall on Eagle Street.  138 volumes mostly in the Finnish language were in the stacks.
  • A more interesting Finnish custom was known as 'fun mail'.  After programs on holidays, mail consisting of cards were placed in a box at the hall or church.  They were then delivered to the people by calling out their names.
  • Coffee Hour or Coffee Table is a custom celebrated in Fairport to this day.  Between 3-4pm Finnish people who were at home sat together, drank hot black coffee, ate 'Nisu' or some other snack and conversed.  Members of the FHHS still practice this custom every Tuesday afternoon and meeting night.
  • Margaret Tobias was a notable graduate of Fairport Harding High.  This mezzo-soprano was a soloist in Europe, S. America and the U.S.
  • William Perry was a notable painter who hailed from Fairport.  His works were featured at various state museums.  Some of his paintings are still on display at the local high school, library, FHHS and FHM.
  • Gene Kangas was a locally reknown sculptor.  He was also a teacher at Cleveland State University.
  • Ed Wakely was a CIA graduate in 1950 and has had a distinguished career in graphic art and paintings restoration work.
  • Carroll C. Mitchell was the first resident curator of the lighthouse museum.  He served from 1954 until his death in 1970.  His wife Margeret Mitchell carried on his legacy until her death in 1972.
  • Pearl E. Killinen's death in 1971 was keenly felt by the village.  She was the historical society accessions chair, trustee, resident historian and driving force in securing National Landmark Status for the 1825-1925 lighthouse.
  • 1893 marked the year in which the first Fairport concert band was organized.  The 'Sulo' Band was under the conductorship of August Albert.
  • The Hungarian Culture Club was incorporated in May 1935.  Charter members included Paul G. Kallay, Anton Esterhay, Anton Kochis, Louis Bartich, and Joe Petrusz.
  • Ladies Aux. to VFW 26 Gold Star Post No. 7754 held its first installation ceremony in June 1952.  Norma Saari was the first president and 36 women became charter members.
  • Don Thall was Fairport's longest tenured businessman.  He was 1953's 'Man-of-the-Year and still is beloved by local residents to this day. Don was a fixture at his shoe store into the early 2000's.
  • The American-Slovenian Club was chartered in 1947.  Andy Hervatin was president.
  • Joseph C. Babcock, one of Fairport's Civil War veterans was also a keeper at the village lighthouse for many years.  The Babcock Family served as keepers of the lighthouse for its entire history from its opening in 1871 to closing in 1925.
  • Regular mail service came to Fairport in 1801.  In 1813, the postage rate was a quarter for one letter.
  • USLSS-Station Fairport (1876-1915) was originally located at the base of the Grand River Lighthouse hill. G. Francis Babcock and N.M. Rasmussen, both of Fairport served as its only chiefs.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hotels on the Summit Part I

The Village of Kirtland Hills was incorporated in October 1926.  Named after ornithologist Dr. Jared P. Kirtland, who lived from 1793-1877, the village encompasses just over 13 miles.  A drive thru Kirtland Hills will reveal some interesting facts. One little known fact is that the first officials were elected in Elton Hoyt's stable.  Another is that Riverside School on Baldwin Road was used as the Village Hall thru 1952.  Three churches exist within village limits.  Perhaps the most interesting known fact is that the top of Little Mountain is at an elevation of 1266 feet, the highest point above sea level in Ohio.  The plateau, the start of the Allegheny Mountains includes more than fifty acres and is shaped like a saddle.  Girdled Road crossed the summit from east to west at one time. Deep caverns nicknamed 'Devil's Kitchen', 'Devil's Bedroom', and 'Table Rock' were interesting summit rock formations known to early Native Americans.  It was here on this summit that many influential families came for over a century to spend their summers.  Their residences were the various hotels that sprung up on the Kirtland Hills famous mountain summit.

The first hotel on the summit was built and operated by Captain Simeon Reynolds.  Reynolds made his fortune from peppermint oil, a lucrative crop of the time.  His hotel built in 1831, was originally called the Little Mountain House, and later the Lakeview House.  An indoor bowling alley and observation platform where guests could view Lake freighters / boats were amenities unique to the era.  Captain Reynolds was even known to fiddle for dances at his tavern.

A second hotel on the summit was built in 1850.  D. W. Stocking of Chardon was the builder and its namesake.  The Stocking House accommodated over two hundred guests.  In 1872, the Little Mountain Club (comprised of notable Cleveland businessmen)  purchased the house and used it as their private clubhouse for the next sixty years.  Of the summit's four hotels, the former Stocking House survived the longest.  It was demolished in 1941.

Hotels on the Summit Part II will appear next Monday.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fairport Harbor Remembers ...The Ultimate Sacrifice

In the center of the village park, a monument stands as a tribute to all those Fairporters who served their country.  Today's blog is a continuation of the May 24th entry.  As Veterans Day approaches, we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Vietnam - Budd Hood

Korea - Mervin Norris, Amen P. Otto

WWII - Robert G. Aho, John B. Bodak, Arthur B. Congos, Delmar A. Gray, Wilho Hill, George E. Katila, Albert G. Kiika, Norman Luoma, Oswald E. Mackey, Edwin A. Minninen, Donald W. Mattson, Leighton P. McCormick, William S. Ode, David J. Orris, Delbert E. Pohto, Daniel J. Reboczi, Arthur R. Sekki, Arnold M. Stuuri, Joseph T. Svigel, John J. Toth, Jr., Steve Urban, Toivo Wasara

WWI -  John E. Cooper, Matt Jacobson, August M. Luoto, Thomas A. Praskis

Monday, November 5, 2012

'Prop Girl' - The Story of Aviation Pioneer Patricia J. Hange

A March 13, 2006 article made mention of Master Mechanic Pat Hange.  In the article it noted that to date she was the first and only woman fully qualified to have received the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award.  She was nominated and won the award in 2000.  This Geneva born and Willoughby Cook Cleland Airport based aviation pioneer is just another hidden tid-bit in the history that is our Lake County.

Pat was reared early on in the aviation industry.  As a young girl, she spent countless hours with her father who served in the Air National Guard.  After WWII and before 19 years of age she was a 'prop girl' or lineboy fueling planes.  Minor engine repairs soon followed and full time employment at the former Willoughby Cook Cleland Airport resulted.  Entering a aviation training and certification program, her studies / training consumed  the decade of the 50's.  A degree was confirmed in 1964.  Pat also spent ten years as an inspector of aircraft parts for Thompson Products (TRW). 

It was during the early 60's that Pat met Harriet Hamilton.  Harriet was a teacher and operator of the Lenox Flight School started in 1962 in Ashtabula, Ohio. Pat and aviator Harriet  Hamilton became charter members of the  Cleveland Soaring Society.  Harriet asked Pat to join her at her flight school.  Hamilton would teach and Pat would maintain the fleet.  A partnership blossomed in 1962.  Within two years the ladies moved their flight school to Bartow, Florida.  Success followed.   By 1974 Pat Hange had earned certification status in jet engine repair.  Hange and Hamilton continued their aviation pioneering ways for the next few decades.

Pat Hange has been inducted into the International Women's Air & Space Museum located in Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio.  Her story and those of other N.E. Ohio women aviators are but a one tank trip away.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Fairport Fire Department Years Ago

Painesville Telegraph, October 15, 1890  -  The Fairport Flats are a mass of smouldering ruins...

Painesville Telegraph, July 6, 1891  - broke out in a row of houses under construction on the south side of Seventh Street...five were destroyed.

Soon after these two devastating fires, it was decided by the town council that a fire department would have to be formed.  The regular meeting in September 1891 passed an ordinance to establish a fire department complete with one thousand feet of fire house, two nozzles, a dozen coats, hats, a ladder, badges and necessary items.  Thomas Irwin was appointed the first chief on September 29th.  Thomas Murray was appointed assistant chief.  George Paytosh, M. Leino, J. Weisson, John Barkinen, Henry Hervey, Albert Conners, Elias Warren, James Arraogon, James Dixon, James Chapman, E.E. Lawrence, William Becker, N. Nelson, M. Pedro and F. A. Winters became the first firemen.

A fire in November 1893 at the ore docks highlighted the need for a horse cart to be ordered for the newly formed department.  The horses proved to be a burden on the village by 1912 as food costs soared.  However it was 'The February 10, 1910 Plum Street School Fire' that paved the way for a fire truck to be purchased by 1917.  The delivery of an American-LaFrance Co. truck at a cost of $10,900 proved prudent as a future fire at the Arlington Building was contained due to these past key village purchases.

Some Fairport Fire Department Nostalgia -  Buckets were scare in the first eight decades for the village.  'Bucket brigades' of town men, women, and children were the only means of organized fire fighting.  In 1911, horse power replaced manpower.  A team of spirited horses were purchased.  Gus Wolff and his horses Dick and Tom were always ready to respond to the fire bell.  When financial burdens retired the horses in 1912, Gus hauled the fire wagon hitched to his coal truck.  The old fire bell was cast in 1893 and hung for many years atop the village hall cupola.  Used to sound the call for fire duty, it also sounded daily at 8pm to indicate curfew.  In 1968, the original fire bell was enshrined in a brick frame structure on the lawn outside Village Hall.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Ghost Stories of Lake County - Pastoral Terror - 'Melonheads'

Country legends date back to the times of Beowulf and Grendel.  Urban legends date back to the latter 19th century and their stories are often known worldwide.  The pastoral terror of the 'Melonheads' is one such urban legend.  It is not only told here in N.E. Ohio but also in parts of Connecticut, Southern Michigan, Kentucky, and Oregon.

The 'Melonheads' is a well known tale that originates on the Kirtland and Chardon borders.  Folks passing through or living near the bridges on Wisner or King Memorial have heard or reported sightings of these malformed humans with unnaturally formed heads.  Urban legend has Dr. Crow(e) or Kroh's wife looking after them.  In time she passes.  These children with enlarged hydrocephalic heads run amok.  They become animalistic and feral.  Dr. Crow loads them into his car and abandons them along the Chagrin River.  Motorists and hikers near Wisner and King Memorial Roads have reported encounters with these strange figures over time.  It has been said that if you wear dark clothes you can escape them due to their poor vision.

A local Chardon man named Ryan Orvis tells of the the 1950-60's story of a young child with hydrocephalus syndrome.  It is said that his appearance frightened the local youngsters.  A neighbor and TB researcher Dr. Crowe / Kroh lived on the street.  He befriended that child and they were often seen traversing the Wisner Road area at dusk.

From the wayward spirits to the haunted structures, Lake County has its ghost stories and urban legends.  Steeped in partial truths and local lore, these tales have become part of the fabric of our county history.  Wandering ghosts,  a haunted lighthouse, a mysterious girl in blue, stolen cadavers from a local medical college - while I have never personally witnessed any of these tales - others will tell you differently.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Two Programs to conclude Fairport's Bicentennial Celebration

Two programs will be the culminating pieces of the Grandon (1812), Fairport (1836), Fairport Harbor (1959) Bicentennial Celebration.  Past programs included an Ecumenical Concert, Village Birthday Party, Lighthouse Flying Lanterns Launch, Mardi Gras Boat Parade, Summer Party in the Park and numerous historical lectures.  Lecture topics profiled famous Fairporters, Harding High School, Village merchants and signature events.  Tonight will feature the seventh and final educational lecture series topic.  The Diamond Alkali and Docks will be tonight's subject.  Bill Branthoover, former Fairport Superintendent will be the keynote speaker.  The event begins at 7pm and will be held at the high school auditorium.  This coming Saturday will see a noon program officially end the celebration with a time capsule ceremony.  The Fairport School Band and Mayor will be featured celebrants.

                                      The Diamond Alkali and Ore Docks

For the majority of the 19th century, Fairport was a leading port for Lake Commerce and transportation.  In its hey-day the docks and warehouses located on Water Street handled over 3000 vessel's visits and nearly a million dollars in cargo annually.  French explorers, Native American Settlements, early Mormon History, Underground Railroad History, and other signature moments in Western Reserve History all met in Fairport at one time or another.  The rise of the Diamond Alkali site in 1912 enabled Fairport to be the epicenter of the 'Chemical Corridor' of the Northeast until 1976.  The Diamond's motto 'Chemicals You Can Liver By' truly resonated in Fairport's community history.

                                  Time Capsule Ceremony Ends Celebration

This Saturday at noon in the school auditorium will mark the end of a year-long tribute to the 200 year history of Fairport Harbor.  The school band and Village Mayor will preside over the event.  Family histories, Fairport Lighthouse and Historical Society contributions,  Finn Museum documents, Mayoral letters and village artifacts will be enclosed in a time capsule.  The sealed time capsule will then be stored for the next fifty years at the lighthouse museum. At the designated anniversary the future graduating seniors and first village bicentennial baby will revisit the capsule.

Thanks to all those community members who contributed to the 1812-2012 Celebration of Fairport Harbor.  Special thanks to Bicentennial Committee participants and co-chairs P. Spivak, M. Scruggs, members, E.Kangas, B. Lukshaw, C. Lipscomb, J. Ollila, K. Langford, P. Mackey, K. Paulino, D. Maxson.  Deep appreciation is extended to former Mayor F. Sarosy, current Mayor T. Manross and members of Village Council for their time and efforts in this endeavour.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Ghost Stories of Lake County

'A Stop in Willoughby' was the title of a 1960 episode from Rod Serling's Twilight Zone.  Serling was looking for an idyllic American town, an everyman town.  Like all cities and towns Willoughby has its unexplained stories, its wayward spirits and haunted structures.  Today we look at two of downtown Willoughby's legendary tales.
                                             Who is the Girl in Blue?

December 23, 1933 is the setting of this unusual tale.  A young girl arrives in the terminal in downtown Cleveland.  Headed for Erie, Pa. and Elmira, N.Y. she pays 15 cents for a ticket to stop in Willoughby.  The reason is unclear to this day.  Arriving at the doorstep of Miss Mary Judd's Third Street Boarding House during the early hours of Christmas Eve she takes a room.  A desire to attend a local church service leads to the most enduring part of this mystery.  She heads out dressed in a blue coat, blue dress, sweater and scarf.  It has been reported she wandered into a copse of wooden trees.  Lost and soon engulfed by the menacing branches, she never returned.  Another report mentioned a stranger being sited on Second Street near the railroad station.  A third account mentioned a girl throwing herself on the tracks in front of a train.  The only remains found were remnants of a blue purse.  The unidentified girl was laid out to rest at the McMahon Funeral Home through January 5, 1934 in hopes of resolving this tragic mystery.  No one came.  Buried in the local cemetery, her epitaph read ' Girl in Blue.'  Her gravestone became a famous local landmark and her story endured for over 60 years.  A News-Herald article retold the story on the 6oth Anniversary of the event.  A reader in Correy, Pa. named Ed Sekerak had the key to solving this mystery.  He knew the family.  'The Girl in Blue' was Josephine ' Sophie' Klimczak.  She had emigrated from Poland in 1901 to Pennsylvania.

                             Eli Tarbell and The Willoughby Medical College

N.E. Ohio's first medical college came to Willoughby in 1834.  In its thirteen year existence it saw 160 students enter its doors.  Its demise came from a local legend of students stealing corpses from their graves.  One such famous tale is that of Eli Tarbell.  Mr. Eli Tarbell of New York came to downtown Willoughby to visit his daughter Mrs. Phoebe Burr.  Tarbell dies of typhoid fever and is buried in the local cemetery.  Legend has it, that on the third day of mourning Eli appears before his wife and tells of his dismemberment.  A visit to the cemetery ensued.  The ground is soft, torn up, and the grave is empty.  A local uproar occurred.  Investigations and public outrage set into the motion the demise of the college.  The mangled remains are returned.  The medical college faculty leave in time, forming two new medical schools in the wake of this storied scandal.  They became the medical campuses of CWRU and OSU.  The medical building located in downtown Willoughby was used as the female seminary from 1847-1856.  A fire destroyed the building that year and an unsuccessful restart moved the seminary to a sister seminary located in Painesville.  That Painesville Seminary became Lake Erie College.

Other local ghost stories in Willoughby include the Willoughby Coal Building and the Van Gorder Mansion.  As you travel the roadways of Lake County don't forget to make ' A Stop in Willoughby.'

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment : " Chemicals You Live By" The Diamond Alkali

If Lake commerce and the Grand River docks dominated the 19th Fairport century scene, it can be said that the Diamond Alkai / Diamond Shamrock Corporation story consumed the 20th century chapter of Fairport business history.  The Diamond Alkali, a chemical company incorporated in West Virginia by a glass businessman named T.R. Evans from Pittsburgh, began in 1910.  The Painesville-Fairport area was a perfect source to pool the resources needed for glass manufacture.  Salt, limestone, coal and water could be effectively harnessed, economically assembled then successfully transported.  The ability to make derivatives on site only added to the relevance of this Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Viriginia triad glass manufacturing site.

The "Diamond's' first plant was built on the site of the original Painesville Township Park in 1912.  Production of soda ash started early that year and customer demand proved steady.  Within three years capacity was increased to 800 tons daily.  WWI became the 'boom' years and the 'Diamond' became a leading government supplier of caustic soda and bicarbonate of soda.  By 1924-25 the plant had added calcium carbonates, Portland cement, coke, and magnesium oxide to its production list.  Magnesium oxide production would later prove useful as a key element in the the production of WWII incendiary bombs.  Later contributions by the 'Diamond' would include chlorowax, a resin used in flame retardent paints and plastics.  Periclase was produced.  It was a material used in refractories.  Post WWII products included hydrochloric acids, paraffins, and ammonium bicarbonate.  Carbon Tetrachloride and silicates remained at the core of the plant's production.  Fairport's Diamond Alkali reach spanned 100 miles from Toledo to upstate New York.  The plant became the focal point of this northeastern chemical corridor of the era.  The Diamond's motto became " Chemicals You Can Live By."  The plant now encompassed over 1660 acres.  Docks, a company freighter and nearly 1300 employees were mainstays in this chapter of plant history.

1948 marked an important date in the plant history.  The world headquarters moved from Pittsburgh to Cleveland.  As the manufacturing landscape changed, the plant aggressively pursued a merger with Standard Oil and Gas.  This occurred in 1967 and the company became known as The Diamond Shamrock Corporation.  Events between 1972-75 changed the manufacturing landscape once again.  eight plants of a similar nature to the Diamond closed.  Raw production was giving way to new synthentics. Pollution and environmental issues arose.  Ultramar was now the new name of the corporation and New Jersey became a secondary home.  Fairport's Diamond Plant closed its doors in June 1976.  An era dating back to 1912 had ended.  In 2001, Valero Energy purchased the Ultramar Company.

Today the 'Diamond' is a memory.  Remnants of the plant still exist.  Portions of the docks lie under the surface of the Lake. The Bluffs where the plant once stood are now barren fields.  Discussions about repurposing the property remain stalled.   Artifacts and a detailed model of the plant are housed at the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Marine Museum.  Former employees still reside in Fairport and meet occasionally.  The 'Diamond' remains to this day firmly rooted in the village.  Its storied history is a large patch in the bicentennial quilt that is Fairport.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Ghost Stories of Lake County - Collegiate Ghosts of Painesville

Painesville has had a long history firmly rooted in the annals of Lake County history.  Edward Paine, General Jack Casement, architect Jonathan Goldsmith, U.S.Presidential visits, underground railroad stops, and a historic rail depot are but a handful of well chronicled places.  A walk through Evergreen Cemetery is a walk through an early American history book.  Every city also has its unexplained stories.  Today's chapter examines the alleged apparitions of Lake Erie College, Riders Inn, a bridge, and some other lesser known haunted sites .

Lake Erie College has six known stories of the supernatural kind.  Here is but a brief synopsis of the campus tales.  Andrews Dorm is said to be haunted by former President Mary Evans.  Her poltergeist has been confirmed by many former residents.  College Hall, the oldest building on campus has a ghost named Stephanie residing on the fourth floor.  Stephanie is rumored to have been killed in the belfry around 1800.  The fourth floor is now closed off, but Stephanie still peers out from her window.  The Fine Arts Building has its own apparition.  A ghostly man with dark skin has been seen there.  Also the 'Green Room' is alleged to be haunted by theater majors.  Fowler Dorm residents report the tale of a ghost appearing in the mirror.  This brown haired female specter is perhaps from the seminary era in its campus history.  Kilcawley Hall routinely has toilets flush for no reason and spectral visions appear when sinks are full according to those who live there.  The Morley Music Hall is home to Mrs. Morley, who is often seen wandering about in her white flowing gown.

Other Painesville Hauntings -  Riders Inn on Mentor Avenue has a long history associated with the property.  Two ghosts are commonplace to all who frequent the establishment.  Mistress Suzanne is reported to be a very genial hostess despite her circumstances.  She was killed by her third husband Joseph Rider.  The other spectral figure on the property is that of a Civil War soldier who once stopped there.  The Painesville Fairgrounds have had reports of children seen playing tricks on visitors in attendance.  The children perished in a 1964 fire on the property.  The North St. Clair Bridge has its ghost tale.  According to legend, Snake Bite Scroggs killed a young couple who ventured too near his fishing hole one day.  For some, their tragic hanging and Scrogg's presence is still felt to this day.  The Rite Aid Pharmacy sits on the former site of a local theater.  It is said spirits still haunt the site.  The former T.W. Harvey High School reported activities by former students on its premises.  Things falling, items being moved about, and whispers have been attributed to a student who tragically passed on school property in the early 1900's.  The Lake County Poorhouse on Riverside Drive is a Gothic style building with a basement jail.  Its story was told by A&E on November 7, 2010 with an episode entitled 'The Forgotten.'  The last two alleged ghost stories take place in residential homes.  The homes are located on Carroll Avenue and Monroe Blvd.  The locals can share these stories with you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Ghost Stories of Lake County - Haunted Lighthouse

Lighthouses are among the oldest structures in America.  Like the castles found in Europe, they are lasting tributes to our past - proud, sturdy, majestic, and sometimes even haunted.  Most ghostly lighthouse tales fall into the category of oral history.  These chilling accounts of hauntings replace the nostalgic whims of being a keeper on an idyllic seaside landscape.  As the sun sets, spidery shadows rise up from the dusty corners.  A trick of light becomes a scary face.  Curious creaks and scrapes echo thru the lighthouse towers.  Some tales are eyewitness accounts.  Others are remnants of lighthouse lore passed down through generations.  Ghost stories are an inseparable part of maritime history.   Such is the case as we visit Fairport Harbor's Haunted Lighthouse.

In 1871, Captain Joseph Babcock, a veteran of the Civil War, moved his family into the light station at Fairport.  Two of his children were born there.  Tragedy soon found the Babcocks.  Their son, Robbie died of smallpox.  Shortly after his death, Mrs. Babcock fell critically ill.  Bedridden, she received many cats to help her cope with her lonely days.  Her favorite was a stray gray puff cat presented to her by Captain Babcock. Sentinel, as he is now known, became her constant companion.  One day he suddenly disappeared.  Despite many efforts, repeated searches yielded no trace of Sentinel.  Mrs. Babcock passed a short while later.  Her beloved feline never was found.  The lighthouse was officially decommissioned in early 1925, ending its hundred year service.  Hard times befell the structure before it was saved by the village residents in 1945. 

Years passed and the keeper's dwelling became home to the FHHS and its curators.  The last curator to live at the lighthouse (1987-1991) reported strange sightings.  A gray cat appeared out of nowhere and dashed about the room.  The gray puff cat became a frequent visitor.  His upstairs sojourns were in the same room where Mrs. Babcock slept.  Visitors to the lighthouse would report similar sightings on the property in the years to follow.  In 2001, the museum was installing A/C and the installer was met by a mummified cat in the basement.  Are the ghost cat and the mummy one and the same?  Many visitors to the Fairport Harbor believe it is so.  Paranormal groups have come to the lighthouse and recorded voices and images.  In fact the Ghost Cat has had two local and five cable segments examine his past. The voice is believed to be that of Babcock's son Robbie.  The shadowy images of a feline lend credence to the eerie legend of the Ghost Cat.  The mummified cat, Sentinel remains on display in his lighthouse keeper's home to this day.

As current curator and volunteer FHHS President at the lighthouse, I can't say it's haunted because I have never personally seen the ghost cat.  But there are visitors here who say that they disagree..

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Ghost Stories of Lake County - Squire's Castle

Legends, tales, and local lore all share the trait of being fairly well known, generally accepted, steeped in minor truths, yet mostly fictional in terms of accuracy.  An essential component to any good ghost story is an old and creepy structure.  The specter usually has a significant association with the house. Or ghosts attached to the area are known to move into houses erected on the property.  Today's blog examines the first of several ghost stories of Lake County.  We begin with Squire's Castle.

Nearly a century ago, F. B. Squire acquired 500 acres in Willoughby Hills.  His intent was to build a summer estate.  A three story gatehouse was begun.  Contained within this initial structure was a basement trophy room.  Ornate in design, this summer home was despised by Mrs. Squire, who preferred their city life in Cleveland.  She avoided visiting the estate for some time, but eventually made sojourns there to please her husband.  Lore has it that she developed insomnia and often walked the gatehouse at night carrying a red lantern.

One night on her travels it is said something startled her.  Whether it was a reflection from a trophy or she looked into the face of some spectral figure will never be known.  What is alleged is that she ran down the stairs, fell, and broke her neck.  Mr. Squire found her the next morning.  Guilt ridden, he ceased construction and abandoned the estate, moving back to the city forever.  The Cleveland Metroparks bought the property in the 1920's.  The estate is a shell of its former self as portions of it have been removed and the basement filled in.  Park visitors still claim at night to see a ghost carrying a red lantern.

Another version of this ghostly tale has Mrs. Squire as a sleepwalker who was awakened by the howling of wolves.  Running down the hallway, she stumbled, became caught in some rope and accidentally hung herself.  Rangers on the site consider both these stories to be a nuisance and often tell visitors that the Squires never lived there at all.  In fact, Mrs. Squire is said to have passed some miles away.  Could it be then be true that other apparitions from the area then moved into the castle?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Finns, Hungarians, Slovaks

Cultural History of Grandon, Fairport, Fairport Harbor

All communities have ethnic groups in their origins.  Fairport was no different.  Land, opportunities, religious freedom, and education were just some of the reasons to settle here.  For Fairport's immigrants it was these ties that bound them ----- Commerce on Lake Erie & The Grand River

The Finnish People:

  • First sons & daughters of Finland arrived in NE Ohio in 1872
  • Most arrivals hailed from the Vaasa Province (western Finland)
  • Primogeniture prevailed
  • 1868 Aksel Sjoberg family arrived in Titusville, Pa.  Followed the railroad to Chardon, Ohio
  • Panic of 1873 ---depression led to few new arrivals until 1880
  • Settlers came to Ashtabula Harbor, Girard, and Burton
  • Iron Ore & Standard RR Gauge
  • 1886 – Penn. & Lake Erie Dock Facilities
  • 1887 – Finnish population swells to over 200 in Fairport / Finn Hollow
  • Pohto, Ollila,Killinen, Katila become notable names
  • Kasvi Temperance Society founded – 1893   (525 Eagle St.)
  • Mayors of Finnish descent – Rendrick, Asuma, Kaukonen, Ritari
  • Second Wave after WWI (40), last wave after WWII (30 families)

The Hungarians:

ü     From 1871-1913 over 2 million Hungarians arrived, mostly settling in Pa., N.Y., N.J., and Ohio
ü     26% of these immigrants arrived in Cleveland/ NE Ohio, nearly 11% of them right here in Lake County
ü     Cultural Heritage / isolation/ return/ lost heritage
ü     St. Michael’s Byzantine, Hungarian Reformed, St. Anthony’s of Padua

The Slovaks:

v    1884  --- Michael Pillar
v    M. Pillar & Michael Bendick ---worked the iron ore docks
v    Paul Locotosh- 1885
v    John Matsko, Joseph Kocak, Michael Petro, George Paytosh, John Pennock…dock workers
v    George R. Cage (Tug), John & Michael Volanski (Freighters)
v    1884-1911 – immigrants arrived here in great numbers
v    1912-1929 – most arrived from Pennsylvania

Monday, October 1, 2012

Goblins in the Garden 2012 - October 6 & 7th

October has become a popular month in recent years.  Fall's foliage, the season's harvest and All Hallow's Eve have combined into a must experience weekend at Holden Arboretum this coming Saturday.

Founded in 1931 by Albert Fairchild Holden, the arboretum honors the memory of his daughter who passed in 1908.  Originally conceived as an out-of-state memorial site (Harvard University), Albert made the bequest local at the urging of his sister.  What began 81 years ago as a 100 acre donation now totals over 3600 acres - 600 acres of which hold specific plant collections.  Twenty miles of trails and five specific gardens also are found with the holdings.

Goblins in the Park will be held this weekend October 6 & 7th beginning at 10am.  A trick-or-treat trail, wagon rides, straw pyramid climb, cornstalk maze are some of the experiences awaiting visitors.  Face painting, live musical entertainment, and a 'Seussical' parade at noon are part of each day's highlights.  The public, civic groups, and local merchants are encouraged to enter the popular Scarecrow Row competition which is located in the long held traditional place within the gardens.

Lake County's Fall celebration's will never look better than a Goblins in the Park experience.  So take the 'Fast Pass' and experience the history that is Holden Arboretum.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: WWII Decorated Flying Ace Donald Blakeslee featured at Fairport Harbor Program Tonight

The sixth installment of Fairport's Bicentennial Year Lecture Series will be held tonight at 7pm at Harding High Auditorium.  Three profiles will be presented. Each presenter will be a community member with ties to this featured personality.  N.W. Rasmussen and Dr. Amy Kaukonen will be two of the three histories presented.  Rasmussen, a USLSS Chief and Kaukonen, Ohio's first women mayor and county prohibitionist have been featured in previous blogs.  Today, we highlight the story of Fairport's Donald Blakeslee.

                                                     Donald Blakeslee

Blakeslee was born in Fairport Harbor in 1917 and passed away at the the age of 90 in October 2008.  As a child, Donald became fascinated in airplanes while attending the Cleveland National Air Shows of the 30's.  Before the decade was over he even bought a Piper Cub.  By 1940 Blakeslee ventured to Canada where he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force.  Sent to Britain, he fought combat missions.  In 1942, he was transferred to the US Army Air Forces and assigned to the Fourth Fighter Group.  In time, he became Commander of the Squadron.

By war's end, Donald was credited with 500 missions and over 1000 hours of combat flight time. Both facts are believed to be the most credited to any fighter pilot in aviation history. On March 6, 1944 his command dropped 4000 pounds of bombs on Berlin.  On April 8, 1944 his group downed a record number 31 Luftwaffe planes in a day.  In a ceremony in England on April 11, 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the European theater, awarded Colonel Blakeslee the Distinguished Service Cross.  His award was the result of his destroying 30 German planes to date. Additionally, Donald also was instrumental in escorting shuttle bombers to Russia, an arduous task in that era.   Blakeslee's career continued through 1965 when he retired.

Tonight's program is being sponsored by the Fairport Harbor Historical Society.  The Village Bicentennial Committee, High School Principal Tom Fazekas, and keynote speakers Jim Rasmussen, Lasse Hiltunen, and Craig Blakeslee invite the public to this unique look back into Fairport's place in history.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Three Programs Highlight This Week

Three events take place this week that are worth attending. These events and others of a similar nature may be found by logging onto / bookmarking,,, or

Monday, September 24th  --  Flying with the First Families
                                                 7pm at Morley Public Library

John L. Haigh Sr., former chief steward of Air Force One will be on hand to share his program titled 'Flying with the First Families: My Honor to Serve the Presidents.'  His talk will share his experiences flying with our U.S. Presidents and their families.  Unique anecdotes and primary source tales will be shared with the audience from Chief Steward Haigh's insider perspective.

Thursday, September 27th  --  Fairport Harbor Profiles
                                                    7pm at Harding High School Auditorium

The sixth installment of Fairport's Bicentennial Year Lecture Series will highlight three notable figures in the Village history.  Family members will be the keynote speakers as they share the histories of N. Rasmussen, USLSS Chief circa 1900, Dr. Amy Kaukonen - First Women Mayor in Ohio, and Donald Blakeslee - WWII Flying Ace.

September 29th -- Perry Historical Society Plans 20th Anniversary Party
                               2-5pm at Perry Historical Museum

This Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary celebration for the Perry Historical Society.  the museum will be open for tours, children's musical entertainment and games.  The highlight of this free afternoon will be a historical appearance by Confederate General Jeb Stuart and wife Flora, portrayed by Dan and Ruth Frazier.

Once again as you travel the roads of Lake County, its past history permeates from all corners of its landscape.  Stop by one or all of these events this week and take the time to learn the stories from your hometowns.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Fairport Personalities

 Two hundred years of history provides many interesting stories to share.  As the year winds down, we have shared many interesting profiles, tid-bits in local history, and factual accounts of Fairport's development.  A program at Harding High on Thursday, September 27th at 7pm will celebrate three Fairport residents who had signature moments in community history. Today we recall two other members worthy of mention.

                                              Edward Rasmussen

Edward was the son of Fairport's most reknown seafaring man Captain N.W. Rasmussen.  In village history, Edward was proprietor of Rasmussen's Restaurant on High Street.  A veteran of a World War, he served four years as a Deputy Sheriff before serving two terms as Sheriff of Lake County.  His tenure as sheriff was significant in that he was the only office holder from the Village in its previous 75 years.

                                             Neal Katila

Neal Katila was born in Fairport and graduated from Harding High.  Neal learned his craft in the old Fairport Publishing House, print shop on Eagle Street.  Neal and his brother Carl launched their printing business located on High Street in 1929.  Their business printed both the Merchant News and Fairport Beacon newspapers thru February 1959.  Other publications of the Neal Printing company included the Harvey yearbook-Harbinger, LEC school newspaper, high school annuals, cookbooks, church commemoratives and such.  While the brothers did provide custom printing and services throughout Lake County it was their affinity to providing local news service and merchant advertising to Fairport that is best remembered.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Mayor Ritari (1946-1955)

Beginning with George Riker (1889-1896), Fairport Harbor has had 31 Mayors in its history.  Some such as Dr. Amy Kaukonen and Niels M. Rasmussen are known in history for other major contributions to our county.  Four Mayors were of Finnish descent (first generation), the first of whom was said to be the first woman mayor in Ohio and the U.S.  Tim Manross is Fairport's newest Mayor, elected in 2011.  While each Mayor has left a footprint on the Village of Fairport, it is Arthur J. Ritari who helped with 'keeping  Fairport on the Map' in the modern era.

Fairport's chief executive was born in Fairport in 1904.  He graduated from the high school in 1922. Arthur attended Mount Union College and Ohio State University.  Graduated from OSU, he was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1930.  Ritari served as Village Solicitor from 1932-1940, serving four councils.  During the Rendrick administration, his legal advice helped Fairport secure the water plant and street paving projects.  He married Ethel Lawrence (daughter of famous Fairport merchant E.E. Lawrence).

It is during his tenure as Mayor of Fairport that two signature village events occurred.  Ritari was solely responsible for all the contact work with the heirs of Samuel Huntington, who deeded the Huntington Beach property to Fairport in 1946.  Huntington Beach is still under village control today as part of a cooperative lease with Lake Metroparks.  Ritari's second signature event involved the local lighthouse and marine museum.  The Fairport Harbor Historical Society had saved the iconic lighthouse from the wrecking ball many years earlier.  Its volunteers established a non-profit museum on the site and maintained control of the property until 1952.  In June 1952, the lighthouse property had been deemed government surplus property.  This declaration meant the FHHS could not legally gain title to their lighthouse and museum.  Ritari urged immediate action to regain title of the site.  His efforts in making the museum a historic venue and the lighthouse a monument gained steam.  On May 14, 1953 Ritari was able to get Congress to give the deed to the village.  Furthermore this quitclaim deed from the Department of the Interior guaranteed that the FHHS and lighthouse museum would continue in its mission of preserving the history and sentiment of Fairport and the Great Lakes area.  For $1.00 per year the FHHS continues to lease Lake County's famous landmark, thanks to the civic mindedness of Fairport's twenty-third mayor.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pete's Pond, Just-A-Mere, Corrigan's, Rockefeller and Wickliffe's Summer Farms

A small building houses the Wickliffe Board of Education.  It was once the stable to the Rockefeller summer farm.  Wickliffe City Hall was once the estate of shipping magnate Harry Coulby.  Old quarry stone may be found on the trails surrounding Pete's Pond adjacent to Wickliffe High School.  These are remnants from gardens that were part of Millionaire's Mile estates.  Ridge Road at one time sloped down to Lake Erie and vineyards dotted the landscape.  This is part of Wickliffe's early history, a history that began around 1887.

Lake Metroparks entered into a cooperative recently with Wickliffe Schools and is currently undertaking the preservation of Pete's Pond, a local landmark.  A man named Pete acquired the pond property in 1947 and by 1951 the pond was a well known entity.  Pete's Pond is roughly 19 acres and empties into Gully Brook.  It's early history is the backstory today.

Pete's Pond is located on Rockefeller Road.  Yes, Rockefeller as in John D, the Standard Oil magnate who once was part of Cleveland's Millionaires Row. John's youngest brother Frank and his wife Helen bought 158 acres of land off Ridge Road circa 1887.  They built and named their summer home Lakeland.  These homes or summer farms in Lake County were a retreat away from the industrial pollution found in nearby Cleveland.  Frank Rockefeller's farm was one of six located in Wickliffe.  Known as Millionaire's Mile, other farms on Ridge Road included Corrigan's ( Pine Ridge Country Club site), Coulby Mansion (Wickliffe City Hall) and Just-A-Mere- the Joseph Nutt estate.

That time in history has passed, the Wickliffe summer farms are now memories, lands were sold and subdivided.  However a walk through the Pete's Pond property or a drive down Ridge Road may offer you a brief glimpse into another chapter that was Lake County's past.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: More Fairport Harbor Profiles

Today we share the stories of two more members of Fairport Harding High's Hall of Fame. One alum made his mark in the world of business, the other had a role in arguably one of the 20th century's most significant events.

                                                 George Daly Jr.

A '58 graduate of Fairport Harding High, George earned his doctorate in the discipline of business.  He served as Dean and Professor for the McDonaugh Business School at Georgetown University.  His research and publications were used by agencies at the National level.  George never forgot his hometown as he donated a computer room to the high school and a children's literature wing at the library.

                                                 Henry G. Kuivila

Kuivila graduated from the Fairport Schools in 1935.  A year later he was utilizing his educational knowledge at the Diamond Alkali.  By 1948 Henry had earned his degree in chemistry from The Ohio State University.  A Ph.D. from Harvard came shortly thereafter.  A career as a Professor at New Hampshire University and NY University followed.  Kuivila's greatest moment may have come when he worked on and contributed to one of the 20th century's defining events - The Manhattan Project.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Fairport Harbor Profiles

Each city, village or town has its memorable persons.  Oftentimes athletics, world events, or singular moments allow some to become larger than life and become legendary in the annals of community history.  Fairport Harbor celebrates its bicentennial month of September looking back at some of the local residents who rose to prominence in their chosen professions over the years.  Today's entry pays tribute to three hidden gems in village history. All three women were inducted into the Achievement Hall of Fame at Fairport Harding High.

                                             Jesse Owen Hayduk Winter

From the Fairport Class of '36, this inductee began her journalistic career at the age of 16 as a reporter for the Fairport Beacon.  Upon her graduation from FHS she was a correspondent for the Painesville Telegraph until its closing.  Her career spanned 52 years and her accounts of Lake County events remain as eyewitness testimonies to local history.

                                             Christine (Kapostasy) Jansing

This '74 graduate of the Fairport Harbor schools has a family name well remembered in village annals.  Christine carved out her own legacy and continues to do so in her chosen profession.  After a 17 year run on local TV as a news reporter, she joined NBC Nightly News in 1998.  She has appeared on and contributed segments to the Today Show, Dateline, and MSNBC as well as covering world events.  Her reporting has included notable events in the Middle East, Olympics, Space Shuttle Missions, and even 9/11.        

                                              Christin Zalar

A member of the Class of '73, this  Fairport Harbor graduate was the main consultant in the 1996 Life Flight Eagle Program at George Washington University.  Her contributions revolutionized the field of emergency medicine and transport protocols.  A Professor of Emergency Medicines at GWU, her numerous published books and articles are used today by Life Flight and other emergency personnel.