Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Penny Morgan's Place on Elyria Avenue

I find the whole Penny Morgan story – about her brothels outside the Lorain city limits on Oberlin Avenue (the current Mutt & Jeff location) and on Elyria Avenue during 1937 and 1938 – very interesting, in a old-time, wild-west sort of way. It's a tragic story too; for a series of $50 bribes that she made to Lorain County Sheriff William F. Grall to look the other way, he was sent to prison and she ended up taking it on the lam to avoid prosecution. I don't think the authorities ever found her.

I don't mean to judge her, or ignore her crimes either here on the blog. She may still be alive for all I know. I simply find this affair to be a fascinating chapter in Lorain County history.

Anyway, last week fellow blogger Alan Hopewell made a comment on my post, asking if I knew where the Elyria Avenue brothel had been located. So I decided to do a little research and see if I could find out.

The same 1939 city directory that listed 3700 Oberlin Avenue as being the location of Penny Morgan's tourist rooms also had a listing (at left) for Penny Morgan's real name: Maxine Barbour. ("Penny Morgan" was just her alias.) There she was, listed as being on the east side of Elyria Avenue, between Harriet and N. Ridge Road.

Unfortunately, since that area was outside Lorain city limits, there were no addresses listed. So where along that stretch of Elyria Avenue was Penny's place?

I cross-referenced the list of east side residents against a newer book (1960) that included numerical addresses for the same area. I found a few residents that were still on Elyria Avenue since 1939, including one that was a few doors south of Penny.

So now I had a few actual addresses to work with.

According to the newspaper accounts of the Sheriff's trial, many of Penny's neighbors were called to testify, including the resident whose exact address I had. That resident is indicated on the map below with the blue dot (in the lower right hand corner).

So it looks like Penny had to live close enough to that blue dot to be a 'neighbor' – meaning she must have lived somewhere nearby, likely somewhere between the House of Praise church and the blue dot. A location farther away would hardly qualify her as a 'neighbor' to the blue dot house.

According to the Lorain County Auditor website, there are a lot of homes along that stretch of Elyria Avenue that were built before 1900, and a few from the 1920s. So it kind of makes sense.

Anyway, it really doesn't matter where the brothel was; it might have been torn down by now anyway. But as anyone who reads this blog knows, I love a good mystery.

Perhaps Penny is still alive out there – somewhere – and can help me fill in the blanks in her story.

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