Monday, April 27, 2015

Dock Road & Arcola Creek - The Western Reserve Years of Madison Twp.

Lake County's roadways bear the names of many early county pioneers and businessmen.  The names Kniffen, Seeley, Vrooman, Garfield, Morley, Rockefeller, Casement are but a few examples.  Looking at the eastern half of the county one name stands out and bears mentioning today - the road is named Dock and the Arcola Creek area dates back in Western Reserve history to 1796.  The first permanent settlers who came to Cunningham Creek, Ellensburg or Madison Dock arrived around 1798 from New York.  Their names were Colonel Alex Harper, William McFarland and Ezra Gregory.  By 1803 Joel Russell and his family arrive to the area via a sailing vessel.  Known as expert shipbuilders they worked at Bailey's dock near a makeshift lighthouse.  Captain Cunningham arrived in 1811.  The discovery of iron ore in 1812 and bog iron found in the future Lake County led to early industrialization of the Middle Ridge area. The Old Tavern in Unionville was not only a stage stop but gained importance as part of the UGRR era in history.  Madison Dock became an important leg in a slave's journey to freedom - Canada or otherwise.  The year 1825 saw this area firmly entrenched in shipbuilding.  Neighboring Richmond and Grandon (Fairport) also had shipbuilding.  Over 52 vessels, mostly schooners were built in the county. The Bailey, Helena, Flying Dutchman and Madeline were just the names of a few vessels of importance in this era.  1831 saw another early settler Uri Seeley establish Arcole Furnance from the former Erie Furnace Company site.

Cunningham Creek was now known in the record books as Ellensburg and by 1835 a long dock built out into the lake was used by ships traveling the lake from Kelley's Island (limestone) to Buffalo (commerce).  Joel Norton became an important sail maker of the area.  The era of prosperity lasted into the next decade but by 1850 the bust period was at hand.  Depleted resources, a weathered dock and deserted homesteads left by transient workers shifted the industrial age to one of farming.  A name change to Chapintown or Centerville soon faded into what today is known as Madison Village.  Only a few of the original landmarks permeate the countryside.  The Arcola Creek Estuary remains as a connector to Lake Erie and a period in Western Reserve history not to be forgotten.

information gleaned from 1980 article by Sue Orris, Madison Historical Society

Monday, April 20, 2015

Willoughby's Chandler-Tucker Estate

As one drives the roadways of Lake County it is quite easy to miss county history as present day cityscapes hide or minimize signature structures from our past.  Fitting the bill is the story of the former Chandler-Tucker Estate located on Rt. 84 in Willoughby, Ohio.  In 1911 a property located on Ridge Road overlooking the Chagrin Valley to the south and Lake Erie to the north known as Elgercon is passed down to Gertrude Chandler Tucker.  The Chandler Family fortune was made by her parents who made a printing press (part of the Mayfield Historical Society collection).  In 1900 seventy-one acres of land are bought by Harrison T- Chandler.  This is the land that by 1913 becomes a prominent estate of the day.  Gertrude and her husband Stanley Tucker build a mansion, barns, out buildings and acquire more acreage (Burroughs Nature Club) in the valley that now is known as Gully Brook.  Their stone mansion faced Ridge Road and was built from materials from Cleveland's West Side.  Local railroads as well as horse and wagon transport aided in the construction project which now included stables, carriage houses, gardens, a greenhouse and garages.  Some pre-exisitng structures were relocated in the build.  In 1923 the one room school house was acquired on the site of today's YMCA.  The Chandler-Tucker estate remained a local fixture in Willoughby until Gertrude's passing in 1953.

At the time of her death the estate was left to Western Reserve University but a title transfer in June 1954 allowed the Willoughby-Eastlake School System to acquire the stone mansion and much of the property.  Twenty rooms in the mansion now were home to 200 elementary students.  A caretaker's home was used as the Sunnty Lane School for retarded children.  Another tenant house was used by the Community Fund and Red Cross organizations.  The barns were repurposed as industrial arts classes for the school system by 1955. Music, wood and metal shop out buildings came into play. As Willoughby's schools grew and moved out of the main mansion structures a Nursing School used the site.

Fast foward to the 60's and beyond.  Chandler Road was renamed Shankland Road in 1958 and in '63 the YMCA found its home on their property.  A public swimming pool opened in 1965.  1959 saw a high school built on the Chandler-Tucker estate and a middle school followed in 1972.  The Little Red Schoolhouse was moved and situated on the property in 1977.  1981 saw a police station dedicated on their former estate.  The Gully Brook property was targeted in 2004 to become part of Lake Metroparks- an event that officially came to be just a few years ago.

The Chandlers and Tuckers are laid to rest in a mausoleum in Cleveland's Lakeview Cemetery.  Their mansion and property located on Rt. 84 and Shankland Road are there to view on your next trip thru Willoughby, Ohio - another hidden gem in our county's history.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bus Tour to Highlight Our Remarkable Lake County

Founded in 1840, Lake County is Ohio's smallest county but when it comes to history it may stand atop the list. Seventy-nine properties in the county have been designated National Historic Sites.  Another twenty-seven sites have garnered historical markers from the Ohio Historical Society.   Lake Metroparks is offering a bus tour this month on Wednesday April 29.  A  brief lecture precedes a driving tour of some of our county's hidden architectural and historical gems.  Revisit a cityscape when mansions dotted the Wickliffe and Kirtland communities.  See some of the early homes in downtown Willoughby dating back to 1810.  Travel the roads of Mentor, Painesville and other local townships for often missed gems dating back to the Western Reserve Era and early American history.

Tour Highlights include-
‘Couallenby’ – Harry Coulby’s humble beginnings belie his importance in county history.  He became Czar of the Lakes as a shipping magnate and Wickliffe’s first mayor in 1916.
Mooreland Mansion-  The Grand Summer Home of Edward Moore encompassed 1300 acres in its day.  Built in 1898, it entrance was located where the Olive Garden currently occupies at the Great Lakes Mall.  This interurban railroad baron’s family lived at Mooreland until 1981 on what is now Lakeland Community College.
Lantern Court – Warren and Maud Corning married in 1928 and within a year began construction of their Georgian-style home.  An investment banker by trade this summer home became their full-time residence after WWII.
Other sites include Frank Rockefeller’s site, Mentor Knitting Works, Havel’s Florist and much more.

For tour information visit

Monday, April 6, 2015

Interurban Railway Changes Lake County Forever

The year was 1896 and from Detroit to Buffalo and as far south as Wheeling a new system of transportation was impacting the communities far and wide.  In Northern Ohio and specifically in Lake County these changes would influence our county footprint forever.  The first electric railway system developed in 1896 ran from Cleveland to Painesville.  Shortly thereafter it stretched into Ashtabula and in 1910 beyond Buffalo.  The C.P.&E. (Cleveland,Painesville and Eastern RR) and the C.P.&A. (Cleveland, Painesville and Ashtabula RR) were their official names.  Their hub was located in a depot in downtown Willoughby.  Also located at the depot/barn hub was an electric generating plant.  This railway syndicate was conceived, developed and operated by two local gentlemen Edward Moore and Henry Everett.  In time this partnership added the LSE line (Lake Shore Electric) to their venture.  The year was 1901 and the routes now covered Cleveland to Toledo and spanned passenger lines to Willoughbeach, Fairport and Painesville.  The main line ran from Public Square to Painesville.  Stops 40-49-55-89 traversed Lake County.

The impact of Moore and Everett's syndicate of electric railways was far reaching in many ways.  First farmers from Lake and Ashtabula counties now had a means to move their produce more economically to Cleveland. Conversely, consumers now had access to downtown Cleveland and the shops located in the heart of the city.  Secondly, the C.P.&E. line allowed the beginnings of the 'country estates' era in Lake County.  The Halle Farm, Couallenby, Rockefeller Estate, Hanna Estate and Mooreland Mansion are just a few famous names from our past.  Third electricity came to Lake County due to the interurban.  Homes in Willoughby, Mentor, Madison and such now had low cost power as a reality. 

Some Interurban Trivia -
Willoughbeach (Lakeshore in Willowick) and Euclid Beach Park tourism and amusement seekers used the interurban daily.
The last numbered stop was Park Place in Painesville - number 89.
Rockefeller and Moore both had private interurban lines on their properties.
Gavi's catering in Willoughby now occupies the old electric plant.
The old barn and hub depot is now occupied by Willoughby Brewing Co.-stop #40.
The James A. Garfield residence had a stop - number 55.
The interurban railway line changed an 8-hour carriage trip to an hour.
The Little Mountain Estates of the 1800's gave way to summer farms for the wealthy.