Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Jordan’s Boats in Sheffield Lake – Part 1

As the years go by, Sheffield Lake’s roots as a lakefront cottage and resort community are slowly being erased.

Cottages and grand old homes are torn down, and replaced with newer structures. Memories of long-ago local businesses begin to fade with each passing decade.

Fortunately, locals with an appreciation for Sheffield Lake’s "good old days” sometimes take the time to contact me and share their memories.

Gretchen from Sheffield Lake contacted me last year to do just that. Her boyfriend is Tom Jordan, Jr. and his family ran Jordan’s Boats for many years. At the time that Gretchen emailed me, she was living in a cottage where the old boat house once stood. (The cottage has since been sold.) She was able to tell me a lot about the former Jordan home, and the surrounding property that today is home to Heron’s Roost Apartments.

She wrote, "I live on the Jordan property, where the old boat house/rental use to be. There are eight townhouses and three rental homes on the property (we live in the cottage). Anyway, I've always wanted to do research on the original house, and a smaller farm house on the property.”

Gretchen sent me a photo of that original house (at left) that Tom's grandfather bought back in 1943.

While researching the house, Gretchen spoke with Tom’s aunt. Gretchen explained, "Her parent's bought the house and property in 1943. Her father told her it was a summer vacation place for a soup company executives. (She can't remember what soup name....but said something like Campbells.)

"The property had a huge 17-room house that had no heat, so her father had to install a heating system using the natural gas on the property. It had its own water tower, a tennis court and stables. The stables had an apartment above it where the caretaker lived.

"The basement had a very large wine cellar stocked with old wines, some local. Her father made the children take all the wine bottles and dump them out, for fear they would try to sample them. Her older brothers were off in the service but soon to be back, so her father busily got the house in shape, adding a large wrap around porch, for their arrival.

"He started a boat rental (not sure of the year) and eventually moved the stables that were close to the road, down to the lake and converted them into a bar/restaurant known as the Jordan Boathouse.  Mr. Jordan (Sydney) later went on to become mayor.
"When Tom Sr., my Tom's father, purchased the property off his father, he had the house and boathouse taken down by the fire department in a controlled burn, sometime in the early 70's. He then built the Heron's Roost apartments (8 units) and built a cinder block building where the boat house was. That building later became a boat rental, then his office building, and now a rental property. A gas station was built in front of the apartments, not sure when or how long it was there.
"He purchased the small farmhouse on the east side of the property and moved into that while the apartments were being built.  According to Tom's Aunt, an older woman named Mrs. Maison lived there with her brother and would make brownies for the kids. My limited research checked the 1942 directory and found no one named Maison in the directory.
"Eventually his father built the large contemporary house that now stands next to the cottage and behind the farm house.
"I've attached a photo of the original house.....quite grand in its day. The big oak tree in the photo is still here, along with the retaining wall behind it.
"So my dream is to find out when the big house was built, who this soup company was, and who lived in the farm house on the east end of the property.”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to provide much help to Gretchen with her research on the large old house. The earliest listing I could find was in the 1950 Lorain City Directory, with Sydney Jordan living at 4281 East Lake Road. I did find Mrs. Hazel E. Mais living at 4313 East Lake Road with her brother in the 1940 Census; they are also in the 1920 and 1930 Census listings for Sheffield Lake on that same stretch of Lake road. 

Next: The property today

1 comment:

Tony Tomanek said...

I remember Jordan's well. We rented boats at "Dels" or "Charlies" in Avon Lake. I was not a fan of the design of the half-house when it was built.