Friday, March 5, 2021

Lorain Skyport Building

Did you know that a remnant of Lorain’s high-flying airport days is still out there on Leavitt Road?

Well, although the hangar and other buildings of Long’s Airport are long gone, across Leavitt Road is the building that was the home of Lorain Skyport.

1952 Aerial showing Skyport building (circled)
A look at the 1950 Lorain City Directory reveals that 2505 Leavitt Road was the address of Lorain Skyport, run by Ray McClenaghan. Today, the building at 2505 N. Leavitt Road is currently home to Full Gospel Ministries.

This was also confirmed to me many years ago by a knowledgable member of the Black River Historical Society (now the Lorain Historical Society).

I remember as a kid seeing the building, sitting all by itself and resembling a hangar (it hadn’t been structurally altered yet to how it looks now) and seeming right at home across from Long’s Airport. It was all closed up for many years.

Anyway, I guess it seems only proper that the building is now used by, er, sky pilots.

Learn about the good work being done by Full Gospel Ministries through its food distribution service here

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Smith & Gerhart Expansion – Feb. 11, 1961

Most old-time Lorainites remember Smith & Gerhart, a popular Downtown store that's been the subject of many posts on this blog. 

As you can see in the photo above, sixty years ago the store was still expanding, with an addition over the alley. The photo appeared in the Journal on Feb. 11, 1961.

I asked my mother about Smith & Gerhart, since I know that she had shopped there over the years. How did it compare with Kline’s?

“Smith & Gerhart was much classier than Kline's,” she pointed out. “The store even had an elevator.”

“I bought all my material there,” she added. Like many other students, Mom made all of her own clothes that she wore to Lorain High School.

Mom said she bought jewelry at Smith & Gerhart from time to time. She remembered that she bought her first ring there. She still has that ring.

Smith & Gerhart closed in 1980.

The view this week

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Bill Long & His Airports – Part 3

By the late 1960s, Bill Long was well-established as Lorain’s aviation pioneer. He had already been the subject of a 1959 article in the Lorain Journal when he was 74 years old. Thus by 1967, at the age of 83, he had become even more larger than life – and consequently was profiled again in the Journal

Here’s the article, which appeared in the paper on May 19, 1967.

In the article he mentions many of the famous people that he rubbed elbows with, including Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford.

By the time of the 1967 article, the City of Lorain had been trying to acquire Long’s Airport for other uses for some time. In this article, which ran in the Journal on Dec. 16, 1968, Long apparently agreed to sell – but like previous agreements, this one crashed and burned as well.
Bill Long passed away a few years later on Feb. 9, 1971. (I posted his obituary here.) What became of all the things he accumulated over the years – his aviation trophies, scrapbooks and antique cars? They were all sold in a series of circus-like auctions held at his house and his airport. This article from the May 23, 1971 Journal tells the somewhat sad story.

It would be interesting to find out what, if anything, of Bill Long’s personal effects ended up down at the Lorain Historical Society.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Bill Long & His Airports – Part 2

Older Lorainites (like me) remember Long’s Airport on the Northeast corner of Meister and Leavitt Roads. 

How long was it there? The article below from the July 30, 1945 Lorain Journal notes, “Lorain has a new private airport today, designated as “Lorain Airport.”

“The new flying field is at the northwest corner of the intersection of Meister-rd and Leavitt-rd, across Leavitt-rd from Port Mills, operated by Ray McClenaghan.

“The new field is owned by William Long. W. A. Spademan is assistant manager.”

Meanwhile, Ray and Ruth McClenaghan bought Port Mills in the mid-1940s, and changed the name to Lorain Skyport. 
1948 Lorain Phone book ad

It’s a little confusing when one consults phone books and city directories from the late 1940s to research Lorain’s airports. The main thing to remember is that both airports housed flying schools. The flight instruction school at Long’s Airport was called Buckeye Airways, Inc.

1947 Lorain Phone book listing
1947 Lorain Phone book ad

By the late 1950s, operations were winding down at the Lorain Skyport. In early January 1956, Lorain contractor Clem Rice purchased a strip of the Skyport property to build 20 homes along Meister Road, with an option to purchase the entire airport property. The entire development would eventually consist of 200 to 300 homes.

By 1960, Long’s Airport was the only airport in Lorain. But there was still plenty of activity there. In May 1960, preparations were being made for a Fly-in Air Show.

This article from the May 20, 1960 Lorain Journal shows the newly painted hangar. (By the way, the late, local historian Rodney Beals noted in a

And here’s a photo from the actual event, which ran in the Journal on June 6, 1960. That’s Meister Road in the background of the photo, which is looking south.
And here’s a 1964 view of Long’s Airport, courtesy of the Lorain Historical Society.

In the photo, you can see the hangar with LORAIN on its roof; the new homes near Mark Drive; and the former Black River Fire Station at Meister & Leavitt (at the bottom center). 

Next: Celebrity

Monday, March 1, 2021

Bill Long & His Airports – Part 1

I’ve accumulated several news clippings about “Bill” Long and his Lorain airports (yes, he had two of them). The articles provide a timeline of sorts for anyone interested in how Lorain became a hotbed for airports, and Long’s role in making it happen.

In July 1928, the idea of the City of Lorain having an airport was being promoted, and rapidly gaining in popularity. The original proposal was to lease an airport owned by Bill Long that was located on West Erie Avenue, about a mile west of Lorain.

As this article from the July 24, 1928 Lorain Times-Herald noted, “The plan in mind is to lease 80 acres of land fronting on the Lake-rd a mile west of Leavitt-rd now being used by William Long as a commercial airplane site. Expenses of the airdrome would be defrayed by the taxing of companies using the field for passenger and freight flights.”

This article commended “the site west of Lorain on the Lake-rd, now being used by William Long, as probably the most suitable of any in the vicinity."

I’m not sure what happened, but the plan to lease Bill Long’s airfield never got off the ground. Instead, a new airport – Port Mills – opened on the northeast corner of Meister and Leavitt Roads on July 27, 1929. It was operated by Lorain Airways Service, Inc., headed by Richard W. Mills and his son, Leland, who was the manager of the field. At the time it was said to be “the largest privately owned airport east of Mississippi.”

But that didn't stop Bill Long from promoting his airport as “Lorain’s Oldest Airport” in this ad that appeared in the Lorain Journal on October 12, 1929.
Next: Bill Long’s second airport

Friday, February 26, 2021

Lorain Aviator “Bill” Long Passes Away – Feb. 9, 1971

As I’ve mentioned a few times, the early 1970s were a time of great change in Lorain. It was like the city was getting a major makeover, and quickly transitioning from the Lorain that our parents grew up in to the city that we know now. 

Besides the obvious physical changes taking place (such as the demolition of structures in preparation for a new City Hall and Urban Renewal projects) there was also the human factor – the passing of well-known local individuals that were larger than life.

One of them was aviation pioneer William “Bill” Long, who passed away fifty years ago this month on Feb. 9, 1971. I’m sure it would be difficult for many newer Lorain residents to believe that there was an airport run by Bill Long on Leavitt Road where the P.C. Campana Industrial Park is now located (or that there was another airport before that, across Leavitt Road and extending east almost all the way to Oberlin Avenue.

Anyway, here is the obituary for Mr. Long that ran in the Journal on Feb. 9, 1971. His passing was front-page news.

I’ve blogged about Bill Long and his airport before on this blog, including a post featuring a 1959 interview with him written by Journal writer Edward Brown.
Our good friend Bob Kovach shared these great photos of the hangar and another building at Long’s Airport, as well as a personal reminisce of Mr. Long. This post featured a photo of an old Lake Shore Electric car that sat on Long’s Airport property.
Longtime blog contributor Rick Kurish wrote a post about Benoist Flying Boats that included a mention of Bill Long’s 1917 Curtiss MF “Seagull” hydroaeroplane.
And I wrote about how our house on E. Skyline Drive was on the flight path to Long’s Airport back here, and how a plane crash-landed on a nearby vacant lot.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

U. S. Steel Shuts Down Last Open Hearth Furnaces – Feb. 25, 1971

For many older people that lived in Lorain all their lives, the sight of a sky filled with orange-colored smoke coming from “National Tube" was just part of day-to-day life. I remember seeing it as a kid on W. 30th Street in the early 1960s and wondering what it was.

But that all came to an end when U. S. Steel shut down the “smoke-belching open hearth furnaces” mentioned in the front page article above, which appeared in the Journal on Feb. 25, 1971 – fifty years ago today.
As the article notes, “The new $80 million basic oxygen steelmaking complex will completely replace the open hearths which have been spewing heavy clouds of orange smoke for years.
“The basic oxygen process of steelmaking, known by steel men as BOP, will mark a new era in steel production at the Lorain steel facility founded in 1895.
“One of two 220-ton BOP furnaces is now in operation on three eight-hour shifts daily producing about 220 tons of steel every hour without smoke.”
Of particular interest in the article is the number of employees at the mill. The article notes, “The steel plant is operating at a high pace with an estimated 7,400 production workers to meet increased demands for steel and steel products.
“More than 400 new employes have been hired at Lorain Works since last Dec. 13.”
It sure made for a good life for those workers (who earned every penny), and a robust Lorain as a result.
So when did the Open Hearth era begin at the mill? The year was 1909. Click here to read all about it.