Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Own a Piece of Avon Lake History

Now's your chance to own a historic piece of commercial property in Avon Lake. The Avon Lake Wine Shop is currently for sale by owner, along with the buildings behind it.

The Arcadia Images of America book on Avon Lake includes some great photos of the building as it appeared in earlier incarnations. Its principal use through the years has been as a grocery store, and the book dates the building back to at least 1915.

One of the photos from the Images of America book shows the store as an IGA in the 1950s (below).

Courtesy the City of Avon Lake and the book Images of America Avon Lake
From that same time period, here's the store's listing (complete with typo) in the 1952 Avon & Avon Lake Directory. (I've included the listing of the Avon Lake Garage as well, since it was located behind the grocery store.)

1952 Directory listing
The grocery store's official Lake Shore Electric Railway stop was Stop 52, and for many years that was its address.

It's fairly difficult researching the Avon Lake Wine Shop building, as the Avon Lake Library has a very sparse collection of vintage directories from over the years. All I could really determine during two trips to the library is that during a brief time in the late 1950s, there was no business listed at that address.  I also found that the Avon Lake Wine Shop was already located there in 1969.

It will be interesting to see if a new owner finds another use for the building.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Admiral King Vs. Lorain High – for the First Time


Louis Trotta and Carole Wasco pose
with "Harvey," the goat which is the
mascot for Admiral King High School.
Here's the milestone ad for the first ever football matchup between Lorain High School and the then brand-new Admiral King High School. The double-spread ad appeared in the Journal on September 21, 1961 – 53 years ago this past weekend.

The ad has a few interesting features. I had forgotten all about St. Mary High School predating Lorain Catholic High School. And there's plenty of well-remembered sponsor companies listed.

I miss the old Buckeye Conference, which dates back to the mid-1950s. It was a mighty conference, that's for sure, with both Lorain public high schools, Elyria, Findlay, Fremont Ross, Marion Harding, Mansfield and Sandusky.

Anyway, according to the Journal, a crowd of 8,000 watched the first matchup of Admiral King and Lorain High. Admiral King prevailed, winning 28-8.

I had also forgotten about Admiral King's mascot: a goat. A photo and caption (at left) that appeared on the front page of the Journal on the day after the game identified him as "Harvey."

I'm assuming that the high school named for Admiral Ernest J. King adopted the goat mascot as a tribute to the U.S. Naval Academy's football team, which has had a goat named "Bill" as their mascot for decades. (You can read about it here.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Vanishing Sheffield Lake Cottages

Sometimes change happens right under your nose – very slowly – and you almost miss it.

For example, back in October 2011 (in this post), I wrote about a pair of adjacent lakefront properties in Sheffield Lake that were both for sale. Located immediately west of the 103rd O.V.I. grounds, both properties had vintage cottages or otherwise very old buildings on them.

Here's an aerial view from 2011 of what I'm talking about. 5475 E. Lake Road is shown in outline.

At the time I wondered if the old structures would survive the sale of the properties. Three years later, I have my answer – apparently not.

While driving to work recently, I noticed that two of the buildings at 5475 E. Lake Road are already gone, and the land is being cleared. The house dated from 1911.


A sign for Colabianchi Builders is posted near the road, signaling that a beautiful new home is in the works.

So these two structures are now history (below).

I wouldn't be surprised if the cottages to the west are the next to go.

There's still plenty of traces of Sheffield Lake's heritage as a cottage community to be found along Lake Road. But they're fading fast and will be gone before we know it – or notice it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Dairy Queen on Route 20


I exchange a lot of emails with the person behind the great Oberlin In The Past Facebook page. As we both feel it's our duty to perpetuate local history online, we have a lot in common. And The Oberlin In The Past Facebook page is a gem, always full of wonderful, rarely seen vintage photos.

A week or two ago we were discussing soft serve ice cream stands in the Oberlin area, including the gone but not forgotten Dari Land on Route 58, as well as the Dairy Twist on Route 20 east of town, which is still in business and very popular.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
I remarked how the Dairy Twist sign is obviously a retrofitted Dairy Queen sign, and a question arose. Did Oberlin have an actual Dairy Queen – and when?

I had to admit I didn't really know. I remembered my father taking my brothers and I fishing at Oberlin Reservoir in the early 1970s, and getting soft serve ice cream afterwards somewhere out there in that neck of the woods (on Route 20 if I remember correctly). But I have no idea what the name of the place was.

So I had to look it up in the few vintage Oberlin phone books and old Lorain County directories available at the Lorain Public Library.

It turns out that the Oberlin area had not one, but two Dairy Queens.

The first one – as best as I can tell – showed up in the phone book for the first time in the 1957-58 phone book (below). It was on Route 20 West.


The listing promptly disappeared in subsequent editions.

It wasn't until the 1973 edition of the Dickman Criss-Criss Directory that Dairy Queen appeared again, this time on Route 20 East (below).

As you can see, Dairy Queen and many other listings have no address at all, and are arranged alphabetically (for maximum confusion for someone trying to figure it out 40 years later). 
The Dairy Queen on Route 20 West apparently didn't last very long either. It too seemed to disappear in subsequent books.
I did find a listing for something called Polar Freeze Bar on Route 20 West in the 1978 book, but I don't know if it was a dairy stand or a poorly insulated tavern.
Anyway, the Dairy Twist seemed to first appear in the 1981 directory, and an online website that features businesses and their incorporation dates states that it was established in 1984.

At any rate, the company made great use of the former DQ sign, and I'm glad they found the recipe for success in Oberlin.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Joseph Ule's Windmill & Storybook House

For the last two days, I'd been writing about the old house that overlooks the golf course, seen above in an aerial photo courtesy of Bing Maps. (By the way, since I posted that article, I'm thrilled to report that I'm getting a lot of help from some of the area's finest local history buffs in tracking down the history of the house and even – perhaps – the man who built it. I'll have much more to say in a future post.)

Anyway, if you look down in the lower right hand corner of the above photo, you can see the windmill and storybook house that Joseph Ule built on Kolbe Road.

You might remember that I wrote about the windmill before (back here). But what's this about a storybook house?

Well, below is a great article that tells the whole story of Joseph Ule and his creations. The article was sent to me by Rick Kurish and appeared in the Chronicle-Telegram on July 9, 1954.

This photo of the storybook house (below) accompanied the article.

Rick also generously shared his reminisces with me about his growing up in that area.
He wrote:
"I grew up on Kolbe Road, and my parents moved there when it was part of Amherst Township, and they were surrounded by farm fields. A riding stable grazed their horses in a pasture bordering my parents' property. The area is now all built up and a part of the city of Amherst. The pasture behind my parents place is now a woods that is part of Lorain County Beaver Creek Metroparks.
Anyway, I was familiar with the Joe Ule property, passing it several times a week. I believe Joe Ule moved to the area in the early to mid 1930s. 
You can see the township school house that Rick
mentioned in the 1896 map above near the Jaeger property
There was an abandoned brick Township Schoolhouse on the corner of Kolbe Road and Longbrook Road. The bricks from this building were used to build the rather fanciful house now on that corner. The house, is not nearly as old as it looks. Neither is the windmill, which from my almost daily observation was built between about 1954 and 1960. I think the house dates from about 1937.
The Ule property consisted of about 50 acres along Kolbe Road and Beaver Creek. Joe Ule was an amateur gentleman farmer, who preached organic gardening, before it was well known. In fact he planned to grind the grain from his own farm using the windmill. I can remember reading about him speaking before many agricultural groups.
Sometime in the early 1960s, he sold about 40 acres of his property to the city of Lorain. This became Kennedy Park. This still remains an undeveloped park along Beaver Creek, in the area of Jaeger road. Shortly after this he moved out of the area, to Florida, I believe. He died there in a boating accident in 1969 or 1970.
Hope I haven't bored you too much! Regards --- Rick"

Thanks, Rick! It's impossible to be bored when I receive such nice surprises in my email! Thanks for your research help. As always – I appreciate it!

Anyway, here's what the storybook house looks like today, courtesy of the Lorain County Auditor website (below).

I did shoot it myself this past weekend, but it was a cloudy day and my photo wasn't so hot (below).


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The House Overlooking the Golf Course Part 2

Here's the full-page article I mentioned yesterday (below). Written by Lou Kepler, it ran in the Journal on September 7, 1961 and reveals the unusual history of the house – which is much older than I imagined.

According to the 1961 article, the house was built by Baron von Bonn, an exile from Germany. It supposedly dates back to around 1851.

The article raises a lot of questions, though. If the house really is that old, wouldn't it make much more sense if it was built by the Jaeger family?

1896 Township map showing the house
(just to the left of the "A. C. Jaeger" name)
At the time that A Standard History of Lorain County (1916) was published, the Jaeger family had already been in Lorain County for more than seventy years, making the family's approximate arrival in the area around 1846. Adam Jaeger is identified as the patriarch of the family. According to the book, he was a German school teacher and "a man of unusual education for his time." The book also notes that "after coming to America he located on a farm in Lorain County in 1843 and lived there until his death, being both prosperous and influential."

I wonder if Adam Jaeger himself was "the German baron" who built the house? I suppose that it's possible that the story of the house's heritage could have been mangled, especially if the Jaegers came from Bonn, Germany.

But this is all speculation on my part. I guess I'll have to do some more research (groan).

I did look in the city directories a bit trying to sort all this out. The bad news is that researching that part of Lorain is almost impossible. Aside from finding it on old maps, there are no listings of the road or its inhabitants until around the 1960s in the city directories, since it was outside of city limits until then.

One interesting aspect of the article is that the house is mentioned as being located on Jaeger Road. For many years, Jaeger ran from Leavitt Road all the way to Oak Point Road.

Detail of 1938 Map
The Kubasak home wasn't on Jaeger Road for very long, though. By 1963, that portion of Jaeger Road west of Kolbe Road had its name changed to Longbrook Road. 
Today, the house looks much the same as it did in the 1961 photo. The beautiful fountain seen in the 1961 photo appears to have been a casualty sometime during the ensuing years.
Here's my photo from over the weekend (below).

It's a difficult house to get a drive-by photograph of, and I apologize to the current owners if they were wondering why the same car kept going up and down Longbrook past their house.
The house is still owned by the Kubasak family, and I hope they have enjoyed many happy years in their wonderful, historical home – apparently one of the oldest in Lorain.

Perhaps one of the family members can shed some light on this Baron mystery through a posted comment.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The House Overlooking the Golf Course Part 1

If you're driving along Kolbe Road in Lorain and happen to look west towards the well-manicured golf course of the FoxCreek Golf and Racquet Club, you might notice a large, stately white house in the distance.

Turn west onto Longbrook Road and the house looms into view, dominating the wooded, country vista.

Like me, you might have assumed that the house is merely a 1960s or 70s colonial, built by a professional man – perhaps a doctor or lawyer – who wished to be close to the golf course. 
A view of the house from the vantage point of where Beaver Creek flows under Longbrook Road
But the house's stylized facade is quite deceiving, and belies the history to be found within its walls.

Please stop back here for tomorrow's post, where you can read a 1961 Lorain Journal article that reveals some of the surprising history of the house.

Aerial view of house courtesy of Bing Maps