Friday, March 2, 2012

Plank Road Boulder Monument

June 2010 Photo
Just a few steps from the Morning Journal (as well as the Nationwide Theatrical Agency sign I've been blogging about this week) is this monument in the small triangular park at the intersection of Broadway and Elyria Avenue.

It's largely overlooked by motorists and pedestrians, but it's a nice little bit of local history – both for the subject matter of the monument, as well as the monument itself.

Here's the story, as it appeared in the Wednesday, July 18, 1934 edition of the Lorain Journal and Times-Herald. Lorain was celebrating its Centennial that year.

Broadway 'Triangle' to Become 'Penfield Park'
Builder of Famous Plank Road to Elyria to Be Honored at Double Ceremony

As a result of the efforts of the Lorain Nathan Perry chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, the tiny triangular park located at the intersection of Broadway and Elyria-av, approximately at 17th-st, is to be given the name of Penfield Park.

This is in honor of the late Russell Penfield, the one-time prominent Lorain civic leader who was organizer and president of the association which built the old plank road between Lorain and Elyria.

It is in this park that the Nathan Perry chapter on Saturday afternoon is to dedicate the boulder monument to mark the approximate site on which the old toll gate house stood on that old plank road.

Plan Double Ceremony
Believing that some honor should be paid to the man who built the road, the Nathan Perry chapter officials requested permission from the Lorain Park commission to give the name of Penfield to the park. This permission has been granted unanimously by the commission, it was announced today.

So on Saturday there will be a double ceremony at the little park. Not only will the boulder monument be dedicated, but the group will also officially dedicate the park as Penfield.

The committee in charge is Mrs. Theodore Oehlke, chaiman; Miss Helen Fox and Mrs. C. Arthur Brown.


According to a copy of the Lorain Centennial Program at the Lorain Public Library, the boulder monument was dedicated at 2:00 P. M. on Saturday, July 21st.

A little bit more about the plank road is found in the history of the early days of Lorain that was written by William G. Wickens and appeared in the Journal in 1981. (That history is online here.)

In the article, Wickens states, "The plank road to Elyria had been built in 1833. It had been a great and progressive undertaking."

He added, "That road, made of split logs, was projected to the county seat by local capital and various toll houses were erected along the way about two miles apart to assure a return to the builders. That was the first "paved road" out of Lorain, if one will so call those crude rough-split open logs. No other efforts at paving were made after 1833 for almost sixty years. It was a long journey to the county seat, even over the plank road, and the famous "Half Way House," at the intersection of Elyria Avenue with the Junction Road to Elyria was erected to offer hospitality to wayfarers on their long trip to the county seat. A toll house long stood at the intersection of Broadway and Elyria Avenue in Lorain where a boulder now marks the site."


For years, the boulder monument was almost completely obscured by foliage. In recent years, the brush has been trimmed back and the boulder is now fully exposed.

June 2010 photo
Now, how about a sign or plaque identifying and rededicating the green space as Penfield Park?


ge13031 said...

Great ...I can't count the times I have been by there and never even knew it was there! Another plank road with about the same age ran on what is now rt 601 between rt 20 and the Milan docks. It was the first all weather road in the area and it enabled the local farmers to get their grain to the canal for shipping over the lakes and to the world. They had an almost unlimited supply of chestnut available locally that lasted much longer than today "treated" lumber. Firelands Historical Society has some photos of the planks that were dug up when the WPA repaved it in the 30s.

Drew Penfield said...

Nice post, Dan. I remember you saying that you were going to make a post about this sometime. Of course I have a special interest in this subject.

-Alan D Hopewell said...

I remember learning about the Plank Road stone in Lorain History class, which we had in seventh grade;do they still teach Lorain History?

Renee Dore said...

I just read the story of the Plank Road. I have read about it before and was familiar with the Boulder. I have always wanted to see all of these boulders around town lit up at night. just a thought.
Also does anyone know the route the Plank Road took to & thru Elyria?? There was a comment from Catherine Lyons Bowen in the 1930's how she remember as a little girl her family making the fall trip to Elyria to get winter supplies. They would stay for a few days. I wondersometimes when going down Lake Ave. if that was the way the road went.