Friday, October 24, 2014

A Visit to Swift's Hollow – June 1948

Here's an interesting article that ran in the Lorain Journal on Tuesday, June 8, 1948. It's about a visit that the Silver Buckle Riding Club paid to the Swift House ruins, and provides a nice, capsule history of the place.

Riders Pay Swift's Hollow Visit

Swifts Hollow by state route 113 on the Vermilion river near Birmingham began after the war of 1812 when it was given to Joseph Swift, a war veteran as a bonus for his services to this country.

On the grant which comprised 150 acres of rich bottom land beside the river, he cut large oak, cherry, and whitewood trees to clear a field for planting.

He produced excellent crops of corn and wheat which were readily marketed in the lake ports nearby. He bought more land, cleared more fields and raised more crops and his wealth grew.

Dogged By Trouble
In 1841 he moved from his pioneer homestead into a house he built of Pillared Greek revival style, one of the finest in pioneer architecture ever erected in Ohio.

Altho only a few of the foundation stones can be found now in a tangle of weeds people still talk about the Swift house and how it became haunted after the Swifts left it.

Misfortune beset the Swifts after they moved in their new home. Swift lost money in an early railroad venture through here. He over-extended himself in land and lost money signing notes for friends. His four children died of black diphtheria and were buried along the river's edge.

Headstones Gone
Headstones were erected but all traces of them are gone and patches of myrtle have covered the burial ground. The property went to ruins and ghost stories began to spring up about the place which kept anyone from living there. The home stood vacant for years and in the 1920's fire broke out and destroyed it.

Northwest of Swift's Hollow is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Pelham Blossom, which was built from lumber torn down from an old Mennonite orphanage which once housed 68 children. The orphanage failed because of lack of funds and the children were sent to a home in Indiana. Later Mr. and Mrs. Blossom bought the property.

The early days of the region were recalled at a recent outdoor get-together of the Silver Buckle Riding club in the hollow. Joe Bickel of Birmingham told the story of the ill-fatted Swift.

Meet At Home
The members who are from Birmingham, Henrietta, Florence, Wakeman, Kipton, Brighton, Elyria and Rochester met at the home of Howard Greene east of Birmingham on route 113 and rode down the Gore Orphanage-rd, named after the orphanage, to the hollow.

Members of the club are Mr. and Mrs. Guy Radecliffe, Mrs. Stella Sharp and son Eldon, Mike Polansky and son, Mr. and Mrs. Green and family, Roy Radecliffe, Mr. and Mrs. William Jackson and family, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Bickel, Earl Smith and son, Jerry Howe.

Fourteen horses began the ride. Kenneth Bell brought his tractor and trailer.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

John Grandetti 1958 - 2014

Admiral King Marching Band Trumpet Section with John Grandetti circled
(photo from the 1975 Trident Yearbook)
It was very sad to see that fellow Admiral King Class of 1977 Graduate John Grandetti passed away on October 18th after battling cancer for six years. I only knew John from Admiral King Marching Band (he did a great impersonation of Curly from the Three Stooges) and had no idea of his illness.
Here is the link to his obituary in the Akron Beacon Journal.
John had quite an impressive career in sports after his marching band days. He played basketball and baseball at Admiral King High School. He then attended Kent State on a full basketball scholarship and after graduation, played basketball in Europe. He came back to Lorain and coached basketball at Admiral King High School, and later was head coach of the girls basketball team at Rittman High School. (Click here for an article from the Wooster Daily Record about his hiring as coach, as well as the story of his cancer.)
He finished up his coaching career as assistant basketball coach at Canton McKinley High School.
John was a nice, funny and talented guy when I knew him in Band, and I offer my condolences to his family.

1923 Swift House Fire as Reported by the Mansfield News

Driving out on Gore Orphanage Road over the weekend reminded me that I had this old article. It is about the fire that destroyed the Joseph Swift House on the evening of December 6, 1923 – and ultimately gave birth to the legend of Gore Orphanage.

The article (at left) appeared in the Mansfield News on Friday, December 14, 1923. Unfortunately, it contains much misinformation – so much that I was a little hesitant to post it. (It's similar to one that appeared in the Chronicle, which I posted here.)

The Mansfield News article implies that Mill Hollow and Swift's Hollow are the same place. It identifies Joseph Swift as a Virginia planter – a Southerner – instead of a New Englander. It also includes a few fanciful ghost stories that have little to do with the actual history of the house.

But the article does have some kernels of truth, so it's evident that the author of the piece probably did visit the house, or at least was familiar with it.

Here is the article (below) as it appeared in the Mansfield News.



Many Mansfield people will remember the old colonial house – said to be haunted – which stood in Mill Hollow, or Swift's Hollow in the Vermilion river valley, several miles south of Vermilion. The place was visited yearly by cottagers from Ruggles Beach and Mitiwanga, as well as by other people from the country round. The house was destroyed by fire recently, according to news from Lorain.

The mansion was said to have been erected about 1818 by a Virginia planter, and was built in typical colonial style. The timbers were hewn out of heavy wood, largely walnut with much of elaborate carving which ornamented the beautiful doorway and full length windows, was carried there on ox carts all the way from Connecticut. Four imposing pillars, which gave the place a southern atmosphere, graced the porch extending across the front of the house.

There were about twelve rooms in the place, all on one floor. Most of them contained large fireplaces. The ceilings were very high, and the halls spacious and dark. Large cupboards and numerous closets contributed to the spooky atmosphere of the house. Names of visitors from all over the country, including autographs of some of the Mansfield young people had been written over the walls.

The colonial house was the only one left standing in the valley, a very lonesome but beautiful place. High hills, once river banks, overhang the hollow. A stately entrance to the estate has its traces left in the old stone posts that stand at the edge of the yard now overgrown with brambles.

At this place many years ago, the young folks of the whole country round used to gather to enjoy the hospitality of the Swift family. The commodious residence was well fitted for entertaining of all kinds, and help was so plentiful, if one may judge from the large servant quarters built, southern style, at the rear of the mansion.

There are several stories as to the ghost that "haunted" the house, and had kept people from living there for many years. One tale runs that the southerner who built the house and brought his family there lost three of his children soon after arriving, when they contacted a contagious disease from handling goods of a peddler's pack. The family were said to have left the place immediately afterward, and never to have been heard of afterward.

Another story is that the Swift family, of prominence in that part of the country, occupied the farm a great while ago, Mr. Swift owning many acres of rich river bottom land. His son, only a short time before his wedding day, went to his new home in that same valley to clean the well, and was overcome by "black damp" and died. The whole hollow was said to have been haunted from that time on.

The mansion in ruins was a famous spot for tourists as well as people living nearby. Several artists have used it in studies. College hikers from Oberlin were fond of the place. All will regret to hear of its destruction, as it was indeed an unusual spot of northern Ohio.

Tomorrow, I'll post a newspaper article about a 1948 visit to the Swift house ruins.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October Opening Ads: DeLuca Bakery (1959) and The Sands (1964)

Here's a pair of vintage Opening ads that ran in the October pages of the Lorain Journal.

First up is an ad from October 24th, 1959 for the opening of the new DeLuca Bakery location at 8th and Reid in Lorain.

I've written about DeLuca Bakery before, including a 3-part series back here. I sure wish the family would reopen an outlet somewhere; their bakery is as iconic as Yala's Pizza in Lorain.
And next is the Grand Opening ad for The Sands on Colorado Avenue, which ran in the paper on October 5, 1964. It's such a great name for a nightclub, invoking the coolness of its namesake Las Vegas hotel/casino.
I also did a few posts on The Sands, including a 1967 ad (here) and the eventual demolition of the building when it was home to Margie's Magpie Inn (here).

Looking at the ad, I wonder what the 'surprises for the men' were?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Own a Piece of Sheffield History – the Matthew Webber House

While out shooting fall foliage in Sheffield on Sunday, I noticed that this house on Old Colorado Avenue was for sale. It's located on the corner of old Colorado Avenue and Lake Breeze.

The house was featured in the Summer & Fall 2013 edition of the Village Pioneer. Editor Charles E. Herdendorf, Ph.D., provided a detailed history of Lake Breeze Road in that issue.

According to the magazine, the house was apparently built in the 1880s by Matthew Webber. The "large Folk Vernacular-style farmhouse" has five bedrooms and an original fireplace. From the 1930s into the 1950s the house was owned by Michael and Rosella Bruder, who operated a dairy farm there.

Read more about the house here.

And in case you're interested, the house is listed by Virginia Lindsay, Realtor, part of "The Lindsay Team" at Keller Williams Greater Cleveland West and Sell and Rent Cleveland.

Aerial view of Webber House Courtesy of Bing Maps

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall Foliage 2014

Fall is my favorite season, and it's a tradition here on the Brady Blog to post some of my photos of local autumn color. (It's also a public service for transplanted Lorain Countians pining for a look at what's going on at home.) I usually grab my Canon Powershot and head out on Sunday afternoon to some of the rural townships in western Lorain County: Brownhelm, Vermilion and Henrietta.

Last weekend, the trees hadn't completely changed, and I only got a few shots. Here's Mill Hollow from the weekend of October 12th (below). I posted this one on Facebook and it received a nice reception.

Yesterday (a week later), it was a completely different view. We'd had quite a few windy nights and rain lately, and many of the trees were stripped of their leaves (below).

The rest of the shots below are all from Sunday, October 19th.
Here's a view (below) of Claus Road looking north from Cooper Foster Park Road (the spouse took this one for me out of her window).
Closer to Lorain, the Root House is still a favorite photo subject of mine. This was another one of my patented over-the-shoulder shots (below), where I'm glad to get anything at all.
I also spent a little time in Sheffield Village on Sunday. This is a shot of Old Colorado Avenue (below). Several dogleg remnants of the old road still exist in a few spots. This view is looking west.
Lastly, I headed out to – where else? – Gore Orphanage Road, another favorite spot. It was, not surprisingly, quite busy out there since Halloween is coming. There were people on the bridge and a bunch of cars parked at the old Swift Mansion ruins site.
I still think Gore Orphanage Road is one of the most beautiful drives in the fall (below).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Benny's Ad – October 16, 1964

I've written several times about Benny Hart's nightclub, as well as some of the acts that appeared there. It's fun to try and find out if the performers ever hit the big time after their Lorain appearances.

The ad above – which appeared in the Lorain Journal on October 16, 1964 – 50 years ago yesterday – shines the spotlight on Billy Webb. He's identified as a well-traveled comedian, emcee and impressionist who performed all over the country, including gigs at the Morrison Hotel in Chicago, the Holiday House in Pittsburg, Fontainebleu in Miami Beach and Ben Maksik's Town & Country in Brooklyn.

Also on the bill were The Stags, fresh from a Las Vegas engagement.

I did a little online research trying to find out about Mr. Webb. He's identified as a Pittsburgh comedian and impressionist in the April 15, 1965 Evening Standard in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. The article notes, "He has appeared in many popular supper clubs throughout the United States and Canada where his version of "Laugh Clown Laugh" has been termed a "classic." He seemed to be particularly active in the Uniontown area as a master of ceremonies for a lot of events.

Here's hoping that Mr. Webb enjoyed a fine career, and that he or a family member finds this post and posts an update.