Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sheffield Lake’s Original G.A.R. Highway Sign

Sheffield Lake’s current G.A.R. Highway sign,
located near the entrance to the boat launch
Seeing Lorain’s brand new replica Grand Army of the Republic highway signs reminded me that as recently as the early 1990s, Sheffield Lake still had one of the originals.

A 1980s article in the Chronicle-Telegram by Frank Aleksandrowicz provided a capsule history of the signs and even mentioned the one in Sheffield Lake that had somehow survived. The article, entitled "Grand Army Highway Has Its Own Story to Tell" stated, “In 1942 the G.A.R. National Convention adopted a design for the uniform highway sign and the sons continued to carry out their fathers' plan.

“They urged State Highway authorities to place and maintain the approved signs on both sides of the highway at not more than five-mile intervals. A white background with blue lettering and G.A.R. insignia and a red numeral were proposed.

“Original signs were made with baked enamel on metal and later replaced with aluminum markers as theft and vandalism occurred. The markers now are few.

“Ohio has one visible sign in the original pattern in Sheffield Lake, with the G.A.R. insignia missing.”

I first remember seeing that G.A.R. sign on E. Lake Road back in the mid-1970s. It became sort of a landmark to me whenever I drove through Sheffield Lake.

And then suddenly, it was gone.

I made a few calls to Sheffield Lake City Hall to find out what happened to it. I was told that the sign had been loaned to Vermilion so that the city could make some copies.

About a year or so later, I noticed that Vermilion did indeed have brand new G.A.R. highway signs installed near its park on Route 6. But Sheffield Lake's sign was not back up in its familiar spot.

So I called Sheffield Lake City Hall again and asked about the original G.A.R. sign. “I don’t know anything about that,” the person on the phone admitted to me.

Later that year, several of those newly-minted G.A.R. Highway signs sprouted along Route 6 in Sheffield Lake. One sign was posted by the park (now the boat launch) where Lake Breeze meets Lake Road, and the other was installed by Erie Shores Park at Abbe Road and Lake Road.

I eventually found out through someone at City Hall that the original sign had been vandalized (it was missing its insignia), and that’s why it wasn’t put back up.

It has been many years since all this happened in the early 1990s. The replica sign at Abbe Road has since been removed. The sign by Lake Breeze eventually became faded, so a replacement sign was installed.

But that original G.A.R. Highway sign that somehow managed to survive for decades along U.S. Route 6 in Sheffield Lake is long-gone.

Despite the loss of that vintage sign, Sheffield Lake’s legacy as a Grand Army of the Republic Highway city endures, and complements Lorain’s recent participation.

In addition to the sign near the boat launch seen at the top of this post, another G.A. R. sign is appropriately posted in Sheffield Lake on the private grounds of the 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry at the east end of town, not far from where that original sign was posted.

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