Thursday, October 6, 2016

Dr. B. W. Donaldson’s Lake Breeze Memories – Part 4

The front view of Lake Breeze House during its heyday of the 1880s
In his Thoughts on Lorain, Ohio, Dr. B. W. Donaldson included some firsthand reminisces about spending summer on the grounds of the former Lake Breeze House. The old hotel and cottages were located on the property that Mr. D. D. Lewis purchased, and served as accommodations for the Lewis family and some of their summer guests – including the Donaldson family.

As he explained, “Prior to 1900, Mr. D. D. Lewis, a superintendent of the Johnson Steel Company had purchased a strip of land one mile east of Lorain city limits. It was called Lake Breeze, and was on the lakefront. It had a hotel, dance hall, barn and three or four cottages. A group of families from Elyria leased the property for a few years consecutively.”

Rear view of Lake Breeze House
Dr. Donaldson has pleasant memories of staying at Lake Breeze during the summer. He wrote, “We had much fun at Lake Breeze.

“Four or five of the men and boys played either mandolins or guitars, so we frequently had concerts or jam sessions. I have never forgotten a parody that I learned on “Down On The Farm” and others as well.

"One night after the ladies had prepared a lunch, some of the single men found the cake and hid it on the roof of one of the cottages.

“Later on, to get even, the women nailed the men’s shoes to the floor of the tent.” The women used the excuse that a storm was coming and they were just making sure that the shoes didn’t blow away.

The cottages at Lake Breeze House
The dance hall at Lake Breeze House was also the subject of one of the stories. Dr. Donaldson wrote, “Several times dances were held in the old dance hall after we had spent days sweeping and cleaning out the hall. It was full of spider’s webs and dead lake flies.

“We decorated it with streamers and Japanese lanterns. Guests came from both Elyria and Lorain.”

How did the summer vacationers staying in the cottages get water to bathe? Dr. Donaldson explained their unique solution. "Among the inconveniences was a dearth of water for cleaning purposes. The men planned a system whereby we would not have to carry pails of water from the lake.

“Over some weekends we all helped to make a square crib, which we towed out and filled with large rocks that were rafted to it. A drum was placed on the bank, and spiked in the ground. A cable was put underwater from the drum to the crib. We could then attach a bucket to the cable and by means of a handle on the drum, we could let the bucket down into the lake.

“When it filled we could draw it up. There was a standing tank piped to the hotel, but no running water in the cottages. It was all rather crude, but we had a wonderful time.”

The gang sometimes ventured out into the surrounding area for entertainment. As Dr. Donaldson noted, “There were occasional trips to the lakefront at the river’s mouth. Picnics were held at Glenn’s Beach or the island in back of the steel plant, which was reached by launch, and provided swimming and dancing.

“We did not have a fine park on the lakefront except at Randall’s on the east side, which was privately owned and it also had a few cottages.”

If you're interested, you can read an in-depth history of Lake Breeze House courtesy of Dr. Charles E. "Eddie" Herdendorf and the Sheffield Village Historical Society. Click here for a downloadable edition of the Summer/Fall 2013 issue of the Village Pioneer. It's also chock full of fantastic photos and information about the history of Lake Breeze Road that you won't find anywhere else.
There's also a good history of Lake Breeze House on Drew Penfield's Lake Shore Rail Maps website, including a history of Sheffield Lake as it relates to the Lake Shore Electric Railway.

All photos on this post are reproduced courtesy of the Lorain Historical Society. 

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