Monday, January 30, 2012

A 'Hike' into the Past - The Halle Farm, a Gorge and the Penitentiary Glen Reservation

Today Lake Metroparks Penitentiary Glen Reservation comprises 424 acres of forests, wetlands and nearly 7.5 miles of hiking trails.  Acquired in 1974, this Kirtland property was once the summer estate, working farm of Samuel and Blache Halle.  All that remains today is the original horse barn that now serves as the park nature center.  Today's blog will take us back on a brief hike into the history of the Halle Legacy.

The Halle Brothers Company:
 The Halle Brothers started their company in Febraury 1891.  Their retail goods business expanded in 1902 and just nine years later their annual sales revenues exceeded 2 million dollars.  A high end retail store, business continued to prosper for them downtown.  By 1926, their sales revenues had passed 14.8 million dollars.  The Pioneer Building was acquired in 1927 and Halle Brothers located their retail business directly across from Playhouse Square.  For awhile the success of their business and the theater district was unparalleled.  Expansion occurred and Halle Brothers migrated into new territories and states.  However by mid century, history was not as kind.  Rivals Higbees and May Company chipped away at their customer base.  Downtown Cleveland faltered as suburbs grew and industry relocations stalled their business model.  Chicago's Marshall Fields bought out nine stores in 1970.  The remaining six stores limped into the 1980's.  Halle Brothers of Cleveland closed forever in 1982 and became a footnote in the history of Cleveland.

The Halle Farm:
In 1912 the Halle family, Halle Brothers Company of Cleveland, moved into their summer estate and working farm.  The Burnette family was hired to be the caretakers of the farm.  Maude Dolittle, a Massachusetts teacher was hired to be a summer naturalist for the kids. Much is known about the estate and working farm as artifacts and primary sources are housed in the original horse barn which now serves as the park nature center.  Inside the center, a memory lane display and artifact touch boxes are on display.  "Then and Now" kiosks and cottage replicas are available for viewing.  The Halle Farm photo albums present a glimpse into early 19th century life on the estate.  The original paneled stable trophy room and equine library / sitting room is now a park meeting room.  The trails on the property are open to the public to walk or snow shoe 365 days a year.  The Halle Farm may have officially ended in 1974 but the Lake Metroparks leasing of the site allows visitors to catch a glimpse of this storied history.

The PG Gorge:
Settlers came upon the gorge as early as 1880.  The gorges divide the park into two sections.  A one hundred foot wall makes the terrain difficult to traverse.  With restricted access, the gorge's name was borrowed from the traditional definition of a penitentiary.  Guided hikes are offered and adjacent trails offer scenic views of the reservation daily.  Inside the nature center, a gorge media exhibit allows one to experience its terrain in a unique format.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: A Fairport Hometown Sketch - Captain Abraham Skinner

Captain Abraham Skinner - 1755-1826

Abraham Skinner was born in Glastonbury, Connecticut.  One of ten children, his early family history laid claim to being a descendant of the Skinners from the Salem Witchcraft Craze period.  Abraham also saw action in various campaigns during the American Revolution.  A noted seaman of the era, it is his arrival in 1798 that interests us today.

Capt. Abraham Skinner arrived with General Edward Paine to the Western Reserve in 1798.  A land agent for Henry Champion, he purchased land in the Painesville and elsewhere (Summit and Cuyahoga Counties).  Between 1799-1805, he made five trips to the Lake shore region, eventually bringing his family here to settle.  By May, 1803 he had acquired over 300 acres.  By November of the same year his holdings increased by another 380 acres.  In time, Skinner and Eleazor Paine accumulated over 3240 acres in holdings.  1803 saw Skinner begin to lay out a town known as 'New Market'.  The landing at 'New Market' was approximately two miles from the river mouth  ( present Skinner Avenue and N. State Street).  His residence and warehouses at this Lake shore location became a major commercial hub.  His newly built road and government funded harbor access linked business trade from Beaver, Pennsylvania to Akron, Ohio.  Commissioners contracted with Capt. Skinner in 1807 to build a log cabin that would serve as a residence, jail, and courthouse for Geauga County.  'New Market' continued to thrive.  Skinner, Samuel Huntington, and John Walworth became the early pioneers of Fairport.

Finally on May 16, 1812 the town of Grandon was born.  Skinner had laid out 125 lots and the town was recorded and officially entered into the Geauga County files on June 8, 1812.  Twenty-four years later, on March 14, 1836 an enactment from the General Assembly of Ohio recognized Fairport as the new name of Grandon.  Although Capt. Skinner had passed away in 1826, his pioneer efforts and vision continue to permeate and impact the continuing history of Fairport Harbor today.

Sources provided by the Fairport Harbor Historical Society Library -
Fairport Harbor 1976 edition
Hometown Sketches 1796-1936
The Story of Fairport, Ohio ( Sesqui-Centennial July 1946)
Fairport Harbor  2003 edition -Arcadia Press

Monday, January 23, 2012

WHHS offers January 25th Program: "Early Indians of Ohio"

The Willoughby Hills Historical Society will be holding their first meeting of the year this Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 7p.m. The meeting will take place in the society meeting room located at the Willoughby Hills Community Center.  The featured speaker for the program that follows will be Ann Dewald, the Director of the Indian Museum of Lake County, Ohio.  Her program will be 'Early Indians of Ohio'.
The public is welcome to attend.  Handicapped parking and elevator access are available.  For more information about this program or the WHHS, please contact Frank or Mary Cihula at 440-946-5557 or e-mail

The Indian Museum of Lake County:  (entire article posted 11/22/10)

The Indian Museum is a part of the Lake County Chapter of the Archeological Society of Ohio.  Founded in 1980, this non-profit organization is comprised of over 100 volunteers and is charged with preserving the artifacts of Native America cultures of Ohio, warehousing the stories of these cultures and sharing educational programs to all members of the public.  The Indian Museum contains over 26, 000 artifacts dating back to 10,000 BC - 1650 A.D. as well as Native American crafts from 1800-2008.  Collections include the Fairport Collection of the Cat Indians and Celts, the Whittlesey Culture, and arrows from the Paleo and Plano eras of history.  A museum research library contains over 1000 books and periodicals.
The museum is located in downtown Willoughby.  They are housed in the Technical Center ( old Willoughby Union High School), Building B, Door #3.  Open year-round, for more information, please call 440-951-3813.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment : Ecumenical Music Festival Kicks Off Fairport Harbor's 200th Birthday Celebration

A Bicentennial 'Ecumenical Music Festival' on Sunday, January 22, 2012 will be kicking off Fairport's  year-long celebration of community, cultures, and history.  The program begins at 2:00 pm and will be held at the Zion Lutheran Church.   Located at 508 Eagle Street, everyone is invited.

The Early Churches of Fairport Harbor- 

The ecclesiastical history of most New England, early American communities followed the pattern of home-church-school.  Grandon was founded in 1812, settled and renamed Fairport in 1836.  While Fairport continued to grow and become a thriving hub of commerce, the history of its churches wouldn't arrive for nearly another half century.

The oldest church in Fairport is the Congregational Church on the Square which had its beginnings in 1869. The church was an outgrowth of the Congregational Church founded earlier in nearby Painesville.  The church was constructed for a cost of $1741 and its cornerstone was laid July 31, 1869.  As the church grew, additional space was needed.  Relief came in 1900, when a new church was built on the same spot.  The church on the square remains an active house of faith.

The First Evangelical Lutheran Church cited 1890 as its earliest date of existence.  Reverend William Williamson of Ashtabula served the Ashtabula-Conneaut-Fairport Harbor followers until his death in 1916.  The present church was constructed in 1928.  World events forced changes onto the church and in 1943 the church became part of the American Lutheran Church.

Zion Lutheran Church of Fairport Harbor had its origins as a direct result of Finnish immigrants.  Arriving in Ohio as early as 1880, nearly 200 called Fairport home just seven years later.  Although Reverend Williamson conducted early services, the Finns called to the Church of Finland for a pastor.  Reverend Abel Kivioja arrived in 1891.  The first church appeared in 1892 and the Zion Church was incorporated in 1893.  Today's church edifice came along in 1924.  Dating back to 1903, the Zion Lutheran Church owns the only cemetery in the village.

On the corner of Sixth and Plum Streets, a church was built in 1896.  The Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church cost just over $300.  Conceived as early as 1889, the early church history is open to some discussion.  However, it is known that by 1903 the church was chartered.  Renovations were made in 1964 and the church still active stands today.

St. Anthony's Church had its early roots as a mission under the administration of St. Mary's Parish in Painesville.  From these humble beginnings in 1887, the ten Catholic families in Fairport continued to grow and by 1899 on an acre of land a new Fairport Church was under construction.  July 15, 1900 became the official date of dedication.  Nationality ( Hungarian) versus territorial based issues arose in the years to follow but by 1947 an official decree resolved all differences.  The school built in 1926 continued to thrive.  A rectory was built in 1953 and St. Anthony of Padua remains a vibrant parish to this day.

Prior to WWI, Hungarians emigrated to the U.S.  In time many found their way to Fairport.  A Hungarian Reform Society existed as early as 1896 in Fairport.  A reformed congregation was established in 1910 and the first church was dedicated in 1913.  The present building was erected in 1928.  The church remains active to this day.

St. Michael's Byzantine Catholic Church was built in 1926.  The people of the Byzantine Catholic rite had first began to arrive in 1892.  These Ukranians and Slovaks shared various sites prior to 1926 and even traveled to Parma and Cleveland to celebrate their religious beliefs.  A church rectory followed in 1927 and Fairport's small yet diverse population had yet another cultural church.

The Inspirational House of Prayer (recent history) as well as the church histories mentioned above have all come to Fairport Harbor as a tribute to the rich cultural history and community that had its beginnings in 1812.  Come this Sunday and celebrate an ecumenical music festival that kicks-off a year-long history of the hidden gem known today as Fairport Harbor.

Monday, January 16, 2012

1812-2012 The Chardon Bicentennial Edition

Destination Geauga - Chardon, Ohio is best known for its maple sugar industry.  It is also known for its 106 inches of annual snow accumulations.  Today's blog celebrates a major event that is occurring this year with  Lake County's neighbor Chardon.  Located on some of the earliest known pioneer trails, the years 1795-1848 saw the area of Chardon active with  settlers.  Captain Edward Paine came to Chardon in 1812.  He built the first log cabin there and his home served as the town courthouse too.  Paine served as town recorder from 1811-1835, postmaster circa 1813, and town auditor from 1820-1822.  The town grew quickly in the early 1800's.  Modeled after the traditional New England style city landscapes, Chardon was thriving until a massive fire in 1868 destroyed nearly the entire town square.  Quickly rebuilt in 1869, the town today remains largely unchanged.  While the Chardon Bicentennial celebration officially will be recognized  from July 27-29, 2012, the citizens of the community have finalized many unique educational, social, and cultural programs for 2012.

WinterFest 2012 will take place on the Historic Chardon Square this Saturday, January 21, from 8am to 11am.  A pancake breakfast, games, dog sled demonstrations, elegant ice creations, and a snowman contest are but a few of the day's events.  Free snowmobile rides will be available at Mel Harder Park.  The Log Cabin will be open, its fireplace welcoming visitors and its volunteers providing general information to 2012's schedule of possibilities.

For more information on WinterFest or  Chardon's Bicentennial, please call 440-247-3077 or email  The official Chardon Bicentennial sites are or  You may also write them at Chardon Bicentennial Committee P.O. Box 121, Chardon, Ohio 44024.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment : A Brief Look at the Early History of Fairport Harbor

Located thirty miles east of Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie is Fairport Harbor, Ohio.  Fairport's past is rich in history and local lore.  However today Fairport Harbor may be one of Ohio's best kept secrets.  Situated on the mouth of the Grand River,  Fairport is home to two local lighthouses, a magnificently groomed Metroparks beach, local cultural organizations, boating access to Lake Erie and to a village community celebrating 200 hundred years steeped in early American history / lore.  The early history of Grandon (1812), renamed Fairport (1836), designated Fairport Harbor (1959) is the story of the Western Reserve.  Each Thursday in 2012, this blog will feature a bicentennial moment from the Village of Fairport Harbor.  As the Bicentennial Year unfolds, I welcome your help and article contributions.  If you have any Fairport Harbor books, documents, family histories, photos, etc. that you would like to donate to the Fairport Harbor Historical Society archives / library please call 440-354-4825 or stop by some Tuesday afternoon with your contributions.  I look foward to sharing your history, and Fairport's history with your fellow community residents as well as the visitors to the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Marine Museum.

Latitude 41degrees 45' 28" and Longitude 81 degrees 16' 40" - The Early Years...

The early history of Fairport is the history of the Western Reserve.  The area known today as Fairport Harbor is adjacent to the Grand River and is situated on the southern shores of Lake Erie.  This area became an important port of call for immigrants, for commerce to the Upper Great Lakes Region, and as a haven from volatile storms that dotted Lake Erie. 
The earliest archeological evidence found in Fairport were the Erie Indians (Cat Indians).  A partial 1937 dig confirmed their presence from around 1650-1654.  It is believed their sudden end came at the hands of the Iroquois.  The next mention of people in this area came in 1760.  Major Robert Rogers and his group were thought to have taken haven at the mouth of the Grand River during a severe storm. 
A deed of cession in 1786 saw Connecticut give up lands granted in a charter from King Charles II.  The land became known as the Western Reserve and included what was to become Grandon (1812), renamed Fairport (1836), designated Fairport Harbor (1959).  Historical accounts of Geauga and Lake Counties referenced pioneer families as early as 1798.  Samuel Fowler was deeded 3246 acres that year.  John Walworth purchased 2000 acres in Painesville in 1799.  This property was sold to Samuel Huntington.  In January 1801, Samuel Fowler deeded to Abraham Skinner and Eleazer Paine twenty-five percent of his land holdings.  While their homes were not in Fairport proper, it did lead the way to the first home being built in Fairport just two years later.  Joseph Rider built the first home in Fairport in 1803.
May 16, 1812 saw the original village of Grandon laid out by Captain Abraham Skinner, Samuel Huntington and others on land deeded by Samuel Fowler in 1798.  Grandon became a thriving port of call.  Commerce grew, a lighthouse was added in 1825, immigrants soon followed, and early American history continued to unfold in this corner of the soon-to-be Lake County.  Grandon changed its name to Fairport in 1836 and a new era in history unfolded. 

The next Bicentennial Moment will appear on Thursday, January 19, 2012.  Follow the history of Fairport Harbor each and every Thursday.  From the well known, to the hidden gems and nuggets, I will travel the timeline of Fairport Harbor and share her stories.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A 'Hike' into the Past - A Brief History of Gildersleeve Mountain

Last week the story of early Lake County conservationists was shared.  Applying the essays and teachings of naturalist John Burroughs and forming a Burroughs Nature Club locally, a group of community gentlemen preserved important areas of interest for future generations.  Today we examine the history of Gildersleeve Mountain.

Gildersleeve Mountain is an area of land located 18 miles from downtown Cleveland.  Situated 1,163 feet above sea level, it is less than seven miles from the shores of Lake Erie. This land area begins the Allegheny Plateau.  S. A. Gildersleeve settled in this area of Kirtland circa 1808, hence the name Gildersleeve Mountain.  While the trees, foliage, wildflowers, and animals are quite diverse, it is the unparalleled vistas that make Gildersleeve Mountain most unique.  From the mountain, one can see Mayfield Heights, the downtown Cleveland skyline, and the shores of Lake Erie.  On clear days Lorain, Avon, and the stacks of Besse-Davis are visible.  Point Rondeau, Ontario is just 54 miles off and while the Canadian shoreline is not visible from Gildersleeve, the Canadian waters 28 miles out are.  In the past sweeping views from Perry, Ohio to Willoughby, Ohio were the norm.  Gildersleeve Mountain also has some important contributions into the early history of the county.  The Chagrin watershed is a result of the mountain.  Settlers came to this area and harnessed the power of the water to establish towns and businesses here.  The Quarry Creek Ravine near the Old South Church property was the location of the Stannard Quarry Company which provided stones for the Kirtland Temple.

Today sixty percent of Gildersleeve Mountain is within the Chapin Forest Reservation.  Gildersleeve was acquired in 1949 by the State of Ohio.  Since 1966 it has been maintained by The Lake Metroparks.  Whether you visit Chapin Forest (located on Chillicothe Road in Kirtland) in the winter months to cross-country ski or snow shoe - or you walk the trails in any other season -  many spectacular views await you as you hike into the Gildersleeve Mountain past.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A 'Hike' into the Past - Gildersleeve Mountain, Halle Ravine, Gully Brook et al.

Gully Brook, located in Willoughby is the Lake Metroparks newest property.  Targeted since 1990 as part of an openspace master plan, Gully Brook opened in 2011.  Gully Brook, its tributaries, hemlock ravines, carpeted wildflower landscapes were well known as early as 1916.

Local residents of Lake County were familiar with the scenic and oft spectacular natural areas.  Essays published by naturalist John Burroughs influenced a group of local area men to meet and form a Burroughs Nature Club.  This club founded circa 1916 featured speakers and club explorations to places throughout Lake County.  Hiking, identifying wildflowers, studying nesting hawks and owls became club interests.  These early naturalists and conservationists worked to preserve these haunts.  These places included Gildersleeve Mountain (Chapin Forest Reservation), Halle Ravine (Penitentiary Glen Reservation), Mentor Headlands and Marsh as well as Gully Brook.  In fact it was as early as 1925 that the call for a 'natural woods preserve' at Gully Brook appeared in a Willoughby newspaper.  Construction of I-90 during the 1950's carved out portions of the Gully Brook valley.  Streams were diverted and foliage forever changed.  An effort in 1990 by the Willoughby Natural Areas Conservancy targeted Gully Brook as worthy of protective status.  Federal grants and local funding followed and Lake Metroparks newest park and watershed are now protected for future generations.

Resolutions abound each New Year.  A resolution that can easily be kept is this.  Take a hike at each of the above mentioned parks and reconnect, or rediscover the natural history that a group of local gentlemen from 1916 helped to preserve for our generation and future ones.

Please Note:  Beginning Thursday, January 12, 2012 and continuing every Thursday thereafter  'Local Lore by Max' will feature a Bicentennial Moment about Fairport Harbor as the village shares its rich history dating back to 1812.  Monday blogs will continue to explore the history and hidden gems of Lake County as usual.

Monday, January 2, 2012

How About Some Fun Facts - January 2

Ten Fun Facts About the New Year-
  • It was on New Year's Day in 1976 that Life Magazine was discontinued after a 36 year run.
  • Bangor, Maine drops a purple beach ball decorated with Christmas lights.  A walleye drops from its perch each New Year's Eve in Sandusky, Ohio.
  • In 1904, The New York Times sponsored a large public fireworks extravaganza in the city to celebrate the new year's arrival.  When fireworks were banned just three years later, they replaced the show with a lighted 700 hundred pound ball that dropped from Times Square. Today that ball weighs over 1200 pounds.
  • Auld Lang Syne means "Times Gone By".  Partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700's, it was published after his death in 1796.
  • The festival 'Hogmanay' is celebrated in Scotland to celebrate the new year.
  • 'First Footing' or the door custom is a British Isles celebration that removes the old year while ushering in the best of luck for the the coming year.
  • The Tournament of Roses Parade began in 1886.  The first Rose Bowl football game was played in 1902.  Chariot Races replaced the football game through 1915.  The parade and football game became permanently linked in 1916.  Both continue today.
  • Apples and honey are eaten to symbolize a sweet new year in Rosh Hashanah.
  • The ancient Greeks used a baby around 600 B.C. to signify a new year.  The baby was carried around in a basket to honor their God of Fertility, Dionysus.
  • The New Year's Waterford crystal ball is six foot in diameter and weighs over half a ton.

"Happy New Year"  That greeting will be said and heard for at least the first couple of weeks as a new year (2012) gets under way.  The 'New Year' brings such a new found sense of responsibility, renewed hope in lost endeavors, and pledges to change the way we think, eat, and feel.  My last blog 'MMXII - Carpe Anno' encouraged people to volunteer, to commit a few hours to a local non-profit historical society.  2012 will inevitably see many opportunities present themselves.  Two communities will celebrate their bicentennial in 2012.  July 27-28-29, 2012 will be the celebration for Chardon, Ohio.  May 16 will kick-off the official bicentennial celebration in Fairport Harbor.  Both communities will host various programming throughout the year.  I hope you will pledge to take the time to visit both of these communities as they celebrate the moments that are their history.

For more information, visit-
Chardon Bicentennial Committee                    Fairport Harbor Historical Society
P.O. Box 121                                                  or
Chardon, Ohio  44024                                        Fairport Harbor Tourism Council                               

2012 will see a minor change in postings for Local Lore by Max.  Monday's posting will continue to highlight various historical events and feature hidden gems in Lake County's history.  Beginning January 12, 2012 all Thursday postings will feature bicentennial moments from Fairport Harbor.