Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How O. A. Hafely Helped Build Lorain Part 1

If you ever lived on the east side of Lorain in an older home (like me), then there's a good chance that your house was built by O. A. Hafely. My 1940's colonial on Nebraska Avenue was a Hafely-built home, and appropriately enough, Hafely Drive was only a few blocks away.

I found this article on Mr. Hafely on microfilm at the Lorain Public Library. It's from the Saturday, March 1, 1969 Journal. It was written by Staff Writer Bob Cotleur and is a nice history of this unique gentleman. With the kind permission of the Morning Journal, here is the article. (I've broken it in two parts as it is fairly long.)


How O.A. Hafely Helped Build Lorain
Staff Writer

When O. A. Hafely was born, about the time Teddy Roosevelt was charging up San Juan's Kettle Hill, someone slipped the spirit of the times into his mental makeup.

True enough, Hafely today confines his charges to the pursuit of golf balls. Once, though, the Hafely charge was new house after new house, street after street.

Hafely built more new homes in Lorain than anyone else. Before or since, and he could also say, back in 1940, "there ain't hardly a street in town I didn't build at least one house on."

Latecomers will remember what he did with the Randall, Wallace and Faragher farms on Lorain's east side, starting in 1940.

You can see it there today as the homes from Eastlawn to Cleveland Blvd., from the Euclid allotment to Longfellow Park. One of the streets, fortunately for posterity, is called Hafely Drive.

Hafely's breed of man is a dying breed. The world is poorer for it.

Ask him about his homes and he answers with pride, "never had a lien or a lawsuit and always paid my bills on time."

Not a word about style or architecture.

Even his language is hardy. He talks about the time "Ford Thompson's funeral parlor was blown down by the tornado in '24. We had the new second floor up already when the state (building) inspector came along, said the city had no right to give us a two-story permit and closed (the job) down."

That incident led to Lorain's first local building code, the zoning board, board of appeals and member number 1 – O. A. Hafely himself.

He tells it like this.

"I got up at five in the morning and drove to Columbus in the first closed car I ever owned, Ford Thompson and I, and went right to the state engineers. They didn't want to see me, but I remember that saying about getting your foot in the door. That's what I did.

"I stuck my foot in the door and wouldn't leave.

"We had quite an argument. Argued all afternoon. But we got the funeral parlor OK'd. You see, Ford Thompson was going to live on that second floor and they didn't know that.

"But while I was there one of the engineers said 'if you didn't live in a hick town you wouldn't have the state on your back'.

"Hick town! That got me mad. That was my home town he was talking about. I decided to do something about it."

What he did was work long hours at night and on weekends to get the city a building code and a building inspector. But when he was ready, city council turned it down because they said they the money to pay the inspector's salary.

"So we got the builders together and raised the building permit fees to pay his salary. Council said that was fine and voted it in. But right away we found it wouldn't work unless we had a zoning board."

He went to work on it, formed a board which included himself. The city of Lorain wasn't a "hick town" any longer.

O. A. doesn't remember or can't recall some of the salient features of his building career, such as how many homes he built, but he does remember his zoning board battles.

He fought people who wanted to tack store fronts "from their porch to the sidewalk in front of their homes, just so's they could open a grocery store or somethin'."

His answer was a loud, firm "no".

"I think the zoning board did a lot for the city," he said in what has to be the understatement of the past four decades.

But he wasn't happy about his membership on the Zoning Board of Appeals when he felt the time came for him to resign. The board wanted him to stay and wouldn't hear of a resignation.

"Well, then I told them I wan't going to any more meetings."

They accepted his resignation.

Next: Part Two

1 comment:

Loraine Ritchey said...

You know I remember Bob ( the MJ writer) he used to act at Chef Henri dinner theatre.... he was always so full of tales and stories miss him this brought back memories of my own Loraine