Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hole-in-the-Wall Part 2: the Claus Farm

1896 Map showing the two Claus (spelled Clause here) farms
While many local residents have fond memories of sneaking onto Hole-in-the-Wall beach near Oak Point as teenagers, the "other" Hole-in-the-Wall is much lesser known.

That's because as opposed to being adjacent to a resort area, this Hole-in-the-Wall was part of the Henry B. Claus farm, where Quarry Creek empties into Lake Erie.

Historian and archivist Dennis Lamont explained the story to me in several emails over the last few years.

First of all he pinpointed the location. "This is directly across from the little two stone graveyard on Route 6 between the power plant and the Fairlane yard sign. Before they rebuilt the road and filled in the valley, it was a pretty steep grade on each side."

Dennis pointed out that both the Nickel Plate railroad and the Lake Shore Electric Railway both had bridges over Quarry Creek. Both bridges had a built-in feature to allow the Claus family to access the lakefront.

"When the Nickle Plate came through, they had to build a cattle pass in the trestle so the farmers could take their cattle and horses down to the lake," Dennis noted.

According to Dennis, the Claus hole-in-the-wall was also the location of a terrible accident on the Nickel Plate Railroad. On July 17, 1912 an engine and baggage car were backing up from Lorain, heading west towards Vermilion to pick up a group of Crystal Beach picnickers. The cars jumped the track, and fell forty feet from the trestle into the ravine below.

Here is a Willis Leiter photograph of the accident. The view is looking west. The Lake Shore Electric Railway bridge is not visible in this photo, but it was just to the south of the Nickel Plate bridge.

The Claus family eventually lost their "Hole-in-the-Wall" beach access when Lake Road was improved between Lorain and Vermilion in 1933. But the family didn't give it up without a fight.

An article in the August 14, 1933 Lorain Journal and Times-Herald mentioned the Lake Road construction delay due to negotiations between the government and the family. It stated, "The strip now being improved cannot be connected at its west end with the present road unless the dispute between Henry B. Claus and the highway department is settled.

"The right of way is clear up to Claus hill, where the new road will join the old Lake-rd after cutting out several curves and hills.

"Claus wants $4,500, claiming that the new route will block off the present by-pass under the railroad and street car tracks, which allows access from his Lake-rd property to the beach. The state has offered $1,700. Efforts to bring the two together on a compromise arrangement are underway. G. A. Resek, attorney for Claus, says the case is near settlement.

Henry B. Claus eventually had to settle for less. The August 17, 1933 Lorain Journal and Times-Herald reported, "The last bar to the progress of the West Lake-rd. construction was cleared today with settlement of an injunction suit brought against the state highway department by Henry B. Claus, Lake-rd farmer.

"Claus procured a court order restraining the highway department from entering his property to locate a new section of the Lake-rd from Beaver Creek to Claus' hill. He asked $4,500 damages for this property to be confiscated by the state to lay down the new road. The state had offered approximately $2,000.

"The case was settled for approximately $3,000, it was learned today."

Here's an undated aerial photo showing the Henry Claus farm situated next to a widened Lake Road. At the edge of the photo, you get a glimpse of the culvert allowing Quarry Creek to flow under Lake Road. The photo was in a collection of photos at the Lorain Historical Society taken shortly before, during and after the construction of the Ford plant in the late 1950s. That's Old Lake Road winding its way down from the top of the photo.

Up until about four years ago, the Claus farmhouse still stood on the south side of  Lake Road just east of the small family graveyard on the other side of Quarry Creek.
Here's a 2011 aerial view (below).

And then suddenly – and quietly – the two buildings were torn down, along with the other buildings near the graveyard. Today there is no evidence that the farms were ever there – except for the two gravestones.

Here is a current Bing Maps view (below).

However, if you know where to look, you can see exactly where the "Hole-in-the-Wall" under the Nickel Plate Railroad bridge and the Lake Shore Electric steel trestle was located.

Al Doane and a friend visited the site in 2012 and took some pictures. He noted in an email, "The train workmen have marked where the hole in the wall is by the two painted white poles set in the Right-of-Way track bed.

Here is his photograph showing those poles.

Looking north at the location of Claus' Hole-in-the-Wall
(Photo courtesy of Al Doane)
Al also provided a great photograph showing how the filling in of the former ravine didn't entirely erase all evidence of what was there before. As seen in the photo below, according to Dennis, the stone part of the abutment is what's left of the Lake Shore Electric's bridge.

(Photo courtesy of Al Doane)
Lastly, here's what the location of Claus' Hole-in-the-Wall looks like today (below). Note the two sewer pipes emptying into the lake. As Dennis observed, "It's hard to imagine a wooden trestle on the Nickel Plate and an 180 foot long steel bridge on the Lake Shore Electric – along with Claus' cattle pass and a beach."

Thanks to everyone who contributed historical information and photos for these two posts.


Mark said...

Great Article!!

Anonymous said...

I am pretty sure this is the " Claus" home. http://loraincountyauditor.com/bha_static/lorain_prs/photos/asrimg/converted/video/P0000035/P0017136.jpg Bill N

Dan Brady said...

Hi Bill!
Wow---it sure looks like it to me. DId the house get moved, rather than demolished?

Anonymous said...

Check out this Parcel on the Lorain auditors web site.. Parcel Number: 0100008000004 ..............Bill N

LoraineRitchey said...

I remember those head stones when I first came here - there were weeping willows one or possibly two - I used to think with all the chaos around the spot how serene and peaceful that little plot and then the willows were gone one day and what was left stopped being serene and peaceful but just sad.....

Amy Legg said...

I believe my brother lived in this house when I was little. Was this house used as a rental in the 70's? It looks just like the house I remember. I recall a house near the Ford plant and he lived upstairs. It was really isolated.