Monday, July 20, 2015

Woods Social Inn

1759 Broadway – home of Woods' Social Inn – is the beige building
Lorain's past is full of little-known tales of businesses and the people behind them. Some of these tales can inspire us today.

The story of Woods Social Inn is one of those stories.

An article in the Lorain Journal of June 21, 1955 shined a light on the Inn, its founder and his son.

It read, "Founded 36 years ago, Woods Social Inn, 1759 Broadway, is Lorain's oldest Negro business establishment.
"Porter W. Woods was a steelworker in 1916 when he decided to go into business for himself. He opened a barber shop and poolroom at 1846 Broadway and in 1919 purchased a rooming house at the present location of the Inn.

1919 City Directory partial listing for Broadway
"He remodeled the rooming house to make room for his barber shop and a poolroom. In 1927 he added two rooms and bath to the upstairs and added 20 feet to the downstairs which originally contained 1,000 square feet of space.

"In 1936, Woods obtained a beer and wine license to become the first Negro dispenser of alcoholic beverages in the city.
Trade token for Porter Woods' business
"In 1941, James A. Woods, a licensed barber, became manager after his father was forced to go into semi-retirement because of illness.

Porter Woods' obituary from the Oct. 26, 1945 Lorain Journal
"After the founder's death in 1945, the son became owner of Woods Social Inn, one of the most popular dine and dance spots for Negroes in Lorain county.

"In 1947, the Inn was remodeled and enlarged, the work taking three months during which time Woods managed the Elks Lake Erie Lodge baseball team."

The 1950s indeed was the heyday of Woods Social Inn. 

A few online websites that feature the Five Stars musical group state that they performed at the Woods Social Inn in early January 1955. (Click here to visit one of those websites, which referred to the Social Inn as "one of the most popular night spots west of Cleveland." This website also mentions the Social Inn.)

1958 City Directory listing
Surprisingly, the building apparently was still a home for travelers. The 1956 edition of the Negro Travelers' Green Book, a guide that listed establishments that catered to African American travelers, included a listing for Porter Wood Tourist Home at 1759 Broadway in Lorain.

By the early 1960s, the nightclub was winding down. Sadly, the Woods Social Inn name disappeared as of the 1965 city directory, apparently bringing to a close the sound of music at that location. 

A barber shop run by James Wood continued to be listed at 1759 Broadway throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s. James Woods passed away in early January 1984.

Obituary from the Journal of January 8, 1984
Today, Broadway traffic passes by the former home of Woods Social Inn, unaware of its historic role as an entertainment and lodging haven for African-Americans in Lorain County.

Special thanks to Jo for her suggestion of the Woods Social Inn as a blog subject.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow thanks for the post! I was curious about the Woods Social Inn, when I stumbled upon it on the websites mentioned. Great post about another part of the past!

Thanks Again, Jo...