Thursday, January 31, 2013

The House Across from Dairy Mart

The house at 521 E. Erie Avenue
Often as I drive down E. Erie Avenue in Lorain, I'm fascinated to see so many commercially zoned properties located in otherwise fine old residential neighborhoods. I wonder how it came to be like that, and I assume that the neighborhoods were wrecked by greedy developers.

For example, I've admired this stately house (at left) on its large lot at 521 E. Erie Avenue for many years now. Every time I get stuck at the traffic light in front of it, I think about what a great-looking house it is, and how unfair it is that it has to face a Dairy Mart store.

Surely, there had to be some great old house across from it at some point that was torn down and replaced by a Lawson's (the predecessor to Dairy Mart.)

As it turns out, I was wrong. There's been a grocery store at that Dairy Mart location since at least 1905 – maybe even earlier.

In 1905, there was Geiger and Ingraham's. It was followed by a variety of other grocery stores, including East Side Grocery (1912), Matthew Smith Tea, Coffee & Grocery (1921), A&P (1937), and Merves Brothers Food Mart (1942). (The dates shown merely mean those stores happened to be at that location that year.)

Merves Brothers were there the longest, until the late 1970s. Then the address went vacant in the 1978 directory. Lawson's first appeared in the directory around 1980.

As for the house, the 521 E. Erie address appeared in the 1912 directory with Fred A. Burgett, a contractor, as the owner. His name did not appear in any of the previous directories and it can't be determined if someone else built the house at an earlier date.

Burgett remained in the house until around 1952 according to the books. After that date, the house seemed to change occupants every few years.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that a national chain store doesn't always come in and wreck a fine old neighborhood. Often, the chain store – in this case a Dairy Mart – is merely a modern version of what was already an accepted part of the neighborhood for decades.


Linda Jean Limes Ellis said...

I definitely remember Merves Grocery on the SE corner of Colorado and East Erie. I walked to it in the 1950s and would buy some things that we couldn't find over at Reagans Grocery by the bridge. Merves wasn't, shall we say, the most pristinely clean of stores. I think I remember once we found bugs in the cereal! I hate to say that, but it was a larger store and not too far away, so my parents would send me there to pick up a few things they needed. Yes, I have seen the house you wrote about Dan. It certainly has been a survivor on that corner. It is too bad Mr. and Mrs. Angelo Catalano aren't here reading your posts about the East Side. They knew so much first-hand about the old days in Lorain. I am so glad I visited them and listened to their stories of the people and the times back to the days of the Lorain Tornado. If their son, Bob, isn't part of this group, he should be because he is older than I am and he should remember even more than I do. But, thank you for posting the historical information that would otherwise never see the light of day if it weren't for all of your research, Dan!!

Dan Brady said...

Thanks for all the great comments and reminisces, Linda!

Anonymous said...

My father and mohter owned Merves Bros. and oput 4 children through college through it. We all worked in the store. My parents worked extremely hard to provide for us. It was very hard to remain an independent store owner. He did free delivery to keep his customers as the neighborhood changed. He provided credit to those who needed it and when for health reasons he closed the store, he was still owed money. I NEVER remember bugs in any cereal, That must have been purchased from others.
Gayle Merves Spe;ts