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.