Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Abridged Chapters in Fairport History

Hon. John Walworth
Lake County's first settler was the Hon. John Walworth, who settled on Fairport Road.  A saltwater sailor, he settled on land first deeded to him by Samuel Fowler in 1798.  He bought 1,000 acres of land from Fowler in 1799 and moved to Fairport and remained there until 1806. When President Jefferson made him the Collector of Customs, he left Fairport for Cleveland. He transferred his property to another notable figure in Fairport and Ohio history by the name of Samuel Huntington (April 2011 blog).

Docks Started
An Act of Congress in March, 1825 appropriated nearly $1000 for the construction of a pier at the mouth of the Grand River.  Grandon and later Fairport would both realize the benefits of this initial enterprise.  In 1885 Henry W. Oliver, representing the steel magnates of Pittsburgh visited Fairport.  The result was the establishment of ore docks in Fairport.  Dock construction and immigrant labor campaigns began as early as 1887.  Narrow track gauges in Painesville were rebuilt in 1896 and 52 miles of track connected Fairport to Niles, Ohio.    By 1890 the ore and coal slips reached out 1000 feet and were 300 feet wide.  Five sets of Brown Hoists, 37 McMyler hoists, two steam shovels, two locomotives, and a machine shop helped the newly founded port industry accomodate six vessels at a time.

First Steamboats
In 1818 the Walk-in-the-Water became the first steamboat to traverse Lake Erie and reach Fairport.  She was a sidewheeler and put in for fuel.  She was on her way to Detroit.  The steamboat 'Fairport' was built on the east bank in 1838 from native timber.  Equipped with a 30 hp engine from another vessel the 'Fairport' was 135 feet long; breath of beam 22 feet; depth 9 feet.  J.C. Oliver was master.

Early Hotels
Fairport's first hotel was the Eagle Tavern located on the corner of High and Second Street.  The growth of the ore docks and shipping industry allowed for the rapid growth of the hotel industry, aka. 'Saloons'.  A large, ornately furnished Jones' Hall was a more infamous hotel.  It was located on the N.E. corner of Water and Third Street and featured a gilded bar and huge mirrors.  Another famous Grand Hotel of Fairport was The Arlington.  Featuring steam heat and electric lights, it was located at the corner of High and Third Street.  The Arlington was destroyed by fire March 8, 1931.

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