Monday, May 13, 2013

Lake County's Great Horticultural Industry - A Brief Retrospect

According to a July 30, 2012 News-Herald article,  'Lake County's Great Horticultural Industry' is the working title of a book in progress by Jim Zampini and Albert Rhone.  A recent lecture presented in conjunction with Mentor's Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration featured Nurseries as the main topic.  As a youth, I remember several former nurseries dotted the landscape on my way to school or sports activities.  Here is an incomplete listing of nurseries then and now with some key dates in Lake County history.  Do you recall Stropkey (1938), Martin's (1934), Klyn (1921), Gilson (1947), Secor, Wyatt (1925,1940), Havel's (1936), Wayside (1917), Kern (1941), Bosley (1928), Horton's, Kallay (1932), Youdath, West, Bowhall, Cole, C. Merkel & Sons (inc. 1917), and others.  To Castello's, Fracci (1921), Demeter,  Ballantine, Borlin and other florists I save you for another date.

Location is the key to any industry's success and it seems Lake County's southern shoreline, soil and climate guaranteed the right mix of ingredients for sustained horticultural industry growth from the outset.  Madison and Perry became the hotbed of the industry's origins and Fairport-Nursery Road and Route 84 became the start of the nursery corridor of the U.S.  In time, Painesville, Mentor, and Willoughby joined in the horticultural industry expansion.

Jesse Storrs arrived in Lake County in 1854 and is generally considered the first to venture into the industry.  With his purchase of 80 acres on Bacon and Fairport-Nursery Road, he grew trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, evergreens, and roses.  In a short time his efforts and hybridized plants made Storrs the leading U.S. Nursery Giant.  J.J. Harrison of Painesville sought to start his own nursery enterprise but partnered with Storrs instead and another chapter in Lake County history began.  Harrison's expertise in tree grafting and reproduction led to new stock and assured Storrs, Harrison and Company as leaders in horticultural sciences.  By 1927, their company occupied 1500 acres and was the country's largest departmental nursery.

Storrs was also the training ground for the future nurserymen who would eventually dot the county landscape.  In fact by the late 1930's and into the next decades Lake County became known as the nursery capital of the world, shipping products all over.  Famous names to emerge from the Storrs employment ranks included Cole, Dugan, Bosley, Wayside, Klyn, Youdath and others.

M.H. Horvath came to America and settled in Mentor.  His landscaping enterprise led to experimenting with roses and in time great commercial success.  J.J. Kern and Melvin Wyatt also founded nurseries in Mentor and developed specialized rose products.  Phillip Hagenburger arrived in the Mentor area in the late 1800's and in time established a greenhouse enterprise on Hart Street.  Harry Coulby built his Wickliffe Villa in 1895 and hired Italian immigrants to work his property.  Nick Vitantonio and Mike Marinello established vineyards on Euclid Avenue.  Wayside Gardens occupied the Daniel Sawyer house property on Mentor Avenue.  Felix Zampini and Sons began in Painesville on a 1/4 acre lot.  By 1962, Zampini Nursery had relocated to Perry and was a county leader in the industry.  Son Jim's impact and far-reaching influence was acknowledged in a July 30, 2012 article by the local paper.

As you travel the roads of Lake County, if you look closely you will see remnants of the nursery captital of the world.  Many nurseries still exist, i.e., Martin's, Secors, Wyatt's, C. Merkel while some gave way to a bowling alley and drugstore - Horton's but all-in-all Lake County's status in the discipline of horticulture is unrivaled.

Some information gleaned from Marilyn Bergen article and 'Roses to Retail' by B. Davis

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