Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: A Portal Into Fairport's Past

    Oftentimes little gems of local lore can be just as fascinating as major moments in time.  Today's blog examines some back stories gleaned from historical text or photos about Fairport Harbor.

The First Truck -  Purchased about 1910 or 1912 it was a Chase.  Manufactured in Syracuse, N.Y. it arrived in Painesville and was Lake County's first motorized vehicle. Delivered to Fairport by a factory representative, it was bought by local businessman Matt Tuuri .  Tuuri was the proprietor of the Fairport Bakery and used his truck to travel the roads of Lake, Ashtabula and Geauga Counties.  Said to be the local P.T. Barnum, Tuuri and his bulldog 'Tom' had a team of spirited horses follow his truck in case the mires and ruts ditched his vehicle.

Islands in Grand River - Two islands once stood where the limestone docks are now located.  The western island was called Averill's Island; while the eastern island, which was the larger, was known as Grass Island.  The island further up the river was known as Ram Island and still remains.

Walnut Hill-  The hill on Third Street on which the Village Hall once sat was known for the large number of walnut trees that grew there.  Today the old Village Hall and former Senior Center is home to the Finnish Heritage Museum.  Walnut Trees still may be found throughout the village landscape and stand as tributes to a by-gone Fairport era.

Warehouses - Thirteen warehouses were located on the river front in Fairport's heydey.  Samuel Huntington built the first.  Twice lightkeeper Samuel Butler constructed the second.   The last of the old warehouses was erected in 1846 by Col. J.R. Morse and served the community for 16 years.

Steamboat Race -  June 4, 1901 marked a unique moment in village history.  Schools were closed and local business suspended for the day as the entire population witnessed a lakefront event.  A steamboat race between the Tashmoo of Detroit and the City of Erie, of Cleveland took place.  Over $50,000 was wagered on this Cleveland to Erie race.  The City of Erie won by a mere 45 seconds.

Riverside - Was the name of the Skinner Home.  Located at the corner of Skinner Avenue and St. Clair Street, during the gay-nineties, this estate was the summer resort of the wealthy.  Room and board ran $10 weekly for a single, $15 for a double.  Boating, hunting, walking paths and games of the day were highlights of visitor sojourns.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The City of Mentor's 'Gramma G'

'Gramma G' was Mentor's first and only woman mayor.  She lived in a red house behind the mansion in a park that now bears her name.  Her neighbors the Boltons, Kings, and Kreugers all recall as youngsters 'Gramma G'.  Born in 1899 Eleanor Borton was wed to President Garfield's grandson Rudolph H. For a four year period from 1952-1956, she served as Mentor's mayor.  In that time, Madam Mayor's vision set into motion the changes that transformed a small village into the county's biggest 1960's Gold Rush.

These 1950's accomplishments included teaming up with local businessman Ray Dawson to get Governor O'Neill to relocate the new Route 2 to free up 1000 acres of land for a Tyler Blvd. Industrial Park.  Her diligence in ending a gambling operation at the Old Newell Estate brought the residents what was originally known as Mentor Rec Park on Mentor Avenue.  This granddaughter-in-law also brought Ohio Water Service to the residents of Mentor.  Eleanor supplemented her $75 a month mayoral salary by finishing antiques.  It is even said that she painted the entire inside of the Old village Hall herself.

In time, Eleanor's vision led to the successful retail development along Mentor Avenue and North Center Street.  The 65 acre Mentor Recreation Park was renamed as a tribute to Eleanor in 1980.  While 'Gramma G' did not reside in Mentor in her later years, her passing in 1994 was an unofficial end to Mentor's only Woman Mayor and Gold Rush champion.

Originally posted June 25, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Mini Sketches of Early Fairporters

History is full of signature moments.  Certain events and individuals dot the pages of any history book or community lore.  Fairporters recall the names of Dr. Amy Kaukonen, Joseph Babcock, Donald Blakeslee, H.G. Ingraham, Matt Killinen, Hugh Prosser, Samuel Huntington, and others.  'The Diamond',  P.&L.E.Dock Co, Mardi Gras, Schoolhouse Fire, Walnut Hill, community athletic prowess still resonate in village memories.  Today we recall some little known early Fairporters.

                                                          Dr. H. E. York

Dr. York was a progressive, and civic minded citizen of the community for decades.  Dr. H. E. York studied in Ottawa and graduated from medical college in Montreal in 1894.  He came to Fairport immediately after graduation and practiced medicine.  This Lake County physician was the division surgeon for the B&O Railroad as well as the Diamond Alkali Company.  He finished his distinguished medical career as Lake County Coroner.

                                                       'Fighting John' Guraly

A noted politic activist, this early Fairporter made his mark as a Democratic leader in Lake County during the 1930's.  His colorful political fights with Congressmen won approval of funding for the village water plant.  Guraly served on Village Council under three Mayors beginning in 1924.  As President of Council he spearheaded changes that reduced Federal and local governmental bungling / red tape that resulted in the passage of many initiatives favorable to Fairport.

                                                      Joseph Rider

Perhaps more associated with the famous Rider Tavern he built in Painesville, Ohio, Rider nonetheless was an enterprising early pioneer in Fairport.  He built his first local hostelry in 1803.  His Fairport hotel stood for many years during the early part of the 19th century.

                                                     Samuel Butler

Butler came to Fairport in 1816.  A trader, business man and merchant, he supplied immigrant ships with provisions and fuel.  He married Mary P. Welsh, said to be the prettiest girl in the Reserve in 1816 and their homestead on the west side of Eagle Street still remains, the oldest home in Fairport.  Butler became the first keeper of the lighthouse in Fairport in 1825.  In 1827 Butler was elected to the State Legislature.  He also served the community as the local Collector of Customs.  An Abolitionist, he was involved as a conductor for the Underground Railroad in Fairport / Lake County.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lake County Remembers The War of 1812 - Anniversary Program Today

Today marks the start of the War of 1812.  Primarily involving the U.S. and Great Britain, the war covered three years in our history.  Ohio furnished 1759 officers and 24,521 enlisted men during this period.  Although fought primarily in Ohio's Northwest ( The Battle of Fort Meigs and The Battle of Lake Erie), Lake County like many other Ohio communities indirectly gained from this skirmish.  The War's impact on Ohio created new towns, spurred new settlements and cemented cultural and geographical boundaries that still exist today.  Perry Township in Lake County was founded on July 1, 1815.  The township took its name after Commodore Perry.  Pieces of Perry's flagship 'Lawrence' as well as archival photos/ signage of the 'Brig Niagara' may be found in Fairport's Lighthouse and Marine Museum. Other local Lake County historical societies have some stories to share about the events stemming from years 1812-1815.

Today at 11:30am at the Gazebo on the Square in Painesville a Bicentennial Salute to the War of 1812 will occur.  President Madison's Declaration of War, a presentation of Colors (15 star U.S. Flag), and ringing of the County bicentennial Bell highlight the ceremony.  This 30 minute program, part of a statewide program for today will include comments from County Commissioners as well as Lynn Vandevort of the Lake County History Center.

Info: or

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Anchored in Community - Fairport Men's Civic Club

Fairport Harbor's residents have always been anchored in community.  From unwavering support of their schools to their annual Mardi Gras parade, community and cultural programming remain relevant in their village.  Of the many organizations in Fairport Harbor that still exist, one, The Fairport Men's Civic Club continues to provide unselfish service to the community.

The Civic Club celebrates its 87th year of existence in 2012.  Founded February 12, 1925 by a group of men who felt Fairport needed a men's club not bound by politics or religious principles, they gathered in room 2 of Harding High with their sole aim being service in the best interest of all community members.  Thirty-five charter members comprised the initial club roster.  Mr. H. Marshall became the first president.  Other notable names in this original group still dot Fairport's landscape.  They include V. Congos, G. Gedeon, M.C.Helm, E.E.Lawrence Jr., J.Pohto, T.Lintala, and Wm. Kivimaki.  The Civic Club's main endeavours have been and continue to be donating to various charities, sponsoring scouting, offering scholarships, and promoting varied entertainment events for the community.  In excess of $300 annually has been donated to these endeavours.  Organizations such as The United Fund, American Cancer Society, and Christmas Seals have received gifts.  The local school athletic department has received gifts in kind while club members have donated to specific village causes on an ad hoc basis.  Student scholarships are an annual priority.

'Anchored in Community' is a familiar phrase heard in Fairport Harbor.  Listed below is but a brief retrospect of projects the civic club has piloted.  A thoroughly incomplete listing of their random acts of kindness includes-
  • Sponsored a Carnival to support the Fairport Band -1925
  • Donated to Red Cross and Boy Scouts -1926
  • Cleaned up beach and reseeded park.  Replaced park benches-1927
  • Constructed baseball diamond on high Street-1930
  • Donated to new football stadium, established Milk Fund for needy-1931
  • Placed bronze tablet at lighthouse-1933
  • Sponsored display of Fairport at Great Lakes Exposition-1936
  • Helped establish swim and rescue programs at YMCA-1938
  • Aided Civilian Defense Program-1942
  • Sponsored Victory Gardens-1945
  • Continued support of Mardi Gras-1946
  • Supported Christmas Lighthing and Concert for village-1949
  • Held Halloween Circus Masquerade at Harding High-1952
  • Honored Pearl Killinen-1956
  • Purchased wheelchairs for village residents-1959
  • Supported 'Skippies'-1960
  • Supported McKinley Safety Patrol-1964
  • Erected Village Bulletin Board-1967
  • Sponsored Monte Carlo Night-1972
  • Joint project provided a bus for Senior Center-1975
  • scholarships to FHS students-all years
With this kind of unselfish service to its community, the volunteer members of Fairport Men's Civic Club remain anchored in the history of Fairport Harbor.  2012 marks the 87th year of their existence, residents with a desire to serve their community are welcome to join.  For more information, contact Village Hall or visit

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Roaring Twenties - The History Of The Kirtland Country Club

The Twenties were the heyday of the summer people of Lake County.  Prosperity flourished during this decade.  Waite Hill Village was incorporated, as was Kirtland Hills.  Mentor Harbor Yacht Club was founded.  Mentor Headlands Golf and Tennis Club flourished.  Madison's Golf Lake-lands were laid out.  Painesville Township Park (est. 1906) was thriving.  Golf Courses, public and private, were the rage.

In 1920 David Z. Norton and Edward W. Moore met with Mrs. Henry Everett.  Their discussions centered around her estate "Leo Doro Farms".  Norton and Moore  wanted to purchase the farm which consisted of 580 acres, 25 out-buildings, and her 1910 stone mansion.  Norton, Moore and colleagues John Sherwin and C.A. Otis garnered 78 friends and raised over $500,000 for the group.  In early October of that same year, the group bought the Everett estate for $350,000.  Some of the 155 new members of this original select purchase group are well known to local residents.  They include Arthur Baldwin, Elton Hoyt II, Howard M. Hanna, and Laurence H. Norton.

In 1921 with 233 charter members the Kirtland Country Club opened.  The Everett residence was converted into a clubhouse.  A dam was erected to provide a water supply.  Four tennis courts were constructed.  A polo field was laid out.  Bridle paths were put in.  Finally a noted English Designer was brought over to lay out an 18 hole golf course.  1922 was the year that the 'links' officially opened.  A swimming pool was added that same season.  A second polo field was needed by 1923.  The private club was a resounding Lake County success.

The Kirtland Country Club still exists today.  Located at 39438 Kirtland Road, Willoughby near the main entrance to Lakeland Community  College just off Rt. 306, the spirit of the Gilded Age and Roaring 20's can still be witnessed today.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Fairport Harbor Hometown Sketches - Daniel Babcock & Captain H.D. Ingraham

Fairport Harbor's Men of the Sea are endless.  Previous blogs have shared the histories of Frenchy the Pirate, Tom 'Sundown' Bowden, Capt. J. Babcock, G.F. Babcock, and Capt. Edward Stange among others.  Today's hometown sketches feature two more local mariners.

                                                  Keeper Daniel Babcock

Daniel Babcock was the last lighthouse keeper of the Grand River Lighthouse at Fairport.  The son of Capt. Joseph C. Babcock, he was born in the residence of the lighthouse and passed away in 1936 at his Third Street home.  Daniel Babcock was asst. keeper of the lighthouse, working under his famous father from 1901 until 1919.  From 1919 through 1925 when the lighthouse was decommissioned, he served as keeper of the lighthouse.  Daniel and his father Joseph took care of the lighthouse continuously during its entire time of service.  These two Babcock men turned on the light and watched it burn for over a half-century and then extinguished it for all time.  Both the lighthouse and dwelling remain today as a museum and tribute to their place in maritime history.

                                               Captain H.D. Ingraham

The late Capt. Ingraham was a member of one of Fairport's pioneer families.  Born in 1854, his passing 79 years later is still remembered in the village history and at the local lighthouse.  Ingraham's father, born in the village in 1832, was a vessel owner and builder.  In 1889 H.D. went into the service of the American Transportation Company at Fairport.  He looked after the interests of tugs and piloted them as needs arose.  He is best remembered for his many years on the Lake aboard his tug 'Annie'.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Historical Marker #43-6 The 'Y'

Look hard as you drive by the Chase Bank parking lot on Liberty and Richmond Roads in Painesville and you'll notice a lone brown marker on the sidewalk.  Drive down Mentor Avenue and you'll come up to a older building at number 933.  I've driven past these places an infinite number of times in my life.  I even stopped in 933 Mentor twice this year as part of Lake County's 2012 B-Fit Challenge.  Like most people, I missed an opportunity to learn about another hidden tidbit in our county's history.

Rabbit Run Theater is celebrating Charles Dickens this summer season.  Yes, the same Dickens who visited Ohio, and wrote A Christmas Carol (1843), A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations et al.  Dickens always wrote about the social inequities of his hometown London.  His characters transcended their times and remain vibrant today.  London 1844, saw another man, 22 year old George Williams found an organization that also transcends time and crosses all social lines.  He named it the YMCA.  At first the Young Men's Christian Association sought to unite the different social classes in faith based goals.  By December 1851, retired sea captain Thomas Valentine Sullivan branched out the YMCA to the Old South Church in Boston.  His goal was to unite the sailors of his era in a fellowship based outlet.  1853 saw a freed slave Anthony Bowen establish a Washington DC YMCA for blacks.  San Francisco formed a YMCA in 1875 that was Asian based.  The YMCA movement had begun.

The 1860's saw two unique features to the YMCA movement come to be.  Housing became available on the property to assist those making the urban trek from rural America.  Then in 1869 the first gymnasiums were added to the Y's.  William Morgan was the pioneer in this movement.  Volleyball got its start in this era of Y-history.  1891 saw a man named James Naismith contribute a peach basket & ball game to the world.  His creation - basketball had its early genesis at the Y.  George Corsan added swimming to the Y-programs in 1909.  Joe Sobek invented racquetball in 1950 and shared it with the YMCA.

The Painesville YMCA (marker #43-6) got its start on December 29, 1866.  The site used was the First Baptist Church.  Fellowship was the goal.  Within two years membership outgrew the church and a new home was secured at 71 Main Street.  A third move occurred in 1905 when the YMCA purchased the former Steele Mansion.  The Painesville YMCA merged in 1922 with the county YMCA (933 Mentor Avenue).  Rebranded nationally as the 'Y' in 2010, the Painesville branch is the second oldest 'Y' in continuous existence in Ohio.

Local history is everywhere.  Sometimes it is lost to the annals of time, other times like Fairport's Lighthouse or Garfield's home it remains intact for visitors to see.  Sometimes you just drive past it. Our county parks allow one to walk in the footsteps of local history.  The Central Y at 933 Mentor Avenue invites you to come and be their guest or to join and experience the fellowship that is now 168 years in the making.