Thursday, January 28, 2016

Saving Mentor's History -- Part I

For many years now I have shared brief glimpses of local history with my followers, both in print and at select events in person.  These stories offer a glimpse into a past that the general public has never seen or known.  Most of what is shared has been the result of the diligent research, time consuming detective-work, and passions of those who came before me.  As time marches on the past history is being stream-rolled into oblivion, soon to be lost to current and future generations.  Much like the seven day newspapers, LP's, bookstores, cameras and typewriters- these photos, artifacts and personal histories might never to be published or shared.  Recent news stories, on-line postings, apps, and social media now reach readers and draw attention or a glance followed by a "like" or "dislike".

Late in 2015 a new Images of America book was released on Mentor, Ohio.  Its author  is Thomas G. Matowitz Jr. and he is a 25 year resident of Lake County's biggest community.  His interest in this collection of images and histories took root nearly 50 years ago when Mentor was first becoming a city.  However the history of Mentor spans more than two centuries.

It began in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War.  Mentor was one of the first towns settled in the Connecticut Western Reserve beginning as an outpost in 1797.  Growth was definitely slow and steady as Mentor did not explode onto the county scene till 1963.  Rather it began as a series of farms, artisans and nurserymen.  In Mentor's earliest days circa 1820 the family names Hopkins, Corning, Hart, Munson and Newell were prominent.  Our 20th U.S. President called Mentor home when he purchased the old Dickey Farm on Mentor Avenue.  The early twentieth century Cleveland's business giants established Great Summer Estates along the Mentor Avenue corridor.  An interurban railroad line and Great Lakes shipping industry put Mentor at the epicenter of a growing county history.  Eleanor B. Garfield served two terms as Mayor in the '50s and transformed the city from an agrarian based to industrial centered community.

Unfortunately the progress of the late '70s and early '80s razed much of the original architecture and early history of the village.  If one looks hard the 1868 Mentor Knitting Mills, 1915 Mentor Christian Church and original 1950's Mentor Recreation Park can be recalled.  These images and many more are waiting to be experienced as you go 'old-school' and turn the pages in Matowitz's newly-released book.

source:  Images of America - Mentor, 2015, Thomas G. Matowitz Jr.  et al.

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