Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Almon Ruggles' Tombstones

If you've ever taken Lake Road (US Route 6) from Lorain to Sandusky, then you've passed through the community of Ruggles Beach. What you may not know is the story behind the Ruggles name.

This article below (and accompanying photo and caption) tells a little bit of the story. It was written by Sarah Welker and appeared in the April 22, 1958 Lorain Journal.


CONFLICT – These two tombstones in a little cemetery west of Ruggles Beach
differ on the date of birth of Almon Ruggles, who made a remarkably accurate survey of
the Firelands in 1806 and took a section of land for his pay.

Tombstones Disagree on Ruggles' Birthday

VERMILION – When Almon Ruggles, who was later to be the first postmaster of Vermilion, completed his survey of the Firelands in 1806, he took for his pay a section of land on the shores of Lake Erie in Berlin Twp.

Ruggles was the fourth person employed to survey the area which was to include 500,000 acres as a grant for the "Sufferers" of Connecticut. Three persons before him had tried and failed. His survey, made carefully, and taking into consideration the irregular shoreline of Lake Erie was just 27 acres over the grant, which considering the implements with which the 1806 surveyors worked, and the other limitations of the day, was a truly remarkable survey.

That Ruggles was a man of vision cannot be denied. While he probably did not foresee the steady stream of trucks and cars that now roll over the old road, he picked for his place of residence land with a potential for development.

Two markers in the little cemetery on a knoll just west of Ruggles Beach mark the resting place of Almon Ruggles. On each the date of death is given as July 17, 1840; but on one the age is given as 68 years, 4 months and 24 days, while the other lists it as 69 years, 4 months, 25 days.

No matter which date is right, the people of the Firelands are still in the debt of the man who made the survey.


This past Saturday I decided to drive out to the Berlin Township Oak Bluff Cemetery (just west of Ruggles Beach) and see for myself what the markers look like. A helpful cemetery worker directed me to them.

You can still make out the Ruggles name pretty clearly, but little else, as both stones have weathered a bit. They also need a good cleaning.

I was actually pretty amazed that 170 years later, that the markers are still legible (assuming they were erected when he died). Here's hoping that some historic organization out that way gets involved and ensures that the markers are cleaned and preserved. It'd be nice to erect a sign to honor Almon Ruggles' memory as well.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tornado-damaged Homes Then and Now

Archivist and historian Dennis Lamont sent me this vintage A. B. Reinhart photo (above) of some homes damaged from the 1924 Lorain Tornado. They're located on 5th Street, right across from Victory Park, which fronts West Erie Ave. (US Route 6).

Here's my 'now' shot from this past Saturday (below).

He also sent me this neat graphic comparing the September 1924 aerial view with the current one. According to Dennis, the Doane home is the one that is leveled in the vintage photo. "It was replaced with two smaller ones that are there today," says Dennis.

Thanks, Dennis! I never get tired of looking at Lorain Tornado damage photos (despite the fact that as a kid, I was always worried about another tornado coming back to wipe Lorain off the map once and for all).

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Stevan Dohanos Painting Mystery

Famed Lorain-born artist Stevan Dohanos, nationally known for painting more than one hundred Saturday Evening Post magazine covers, sometimes featured Lorain settings in his compositions – including the house in the cover shown above. The painting – known as "Star Pitcher" – ran on the cover of the July 20, 1946 issue.

Dennis Lamont had alerted me that a copy of the magazine was on Ebay, and I ended up buying it for a measly ten bucks. What I was hoping for was that inside the issue, the house's address would be identified. When I saw this (below) I was pretty excited.

Unfortunately, it doesn't say where the house was in Lorain. So I hit the newspaper microfilm at the Lorain Public Library from that period of time, reasoning there would be an article with a photo of the grinning owners in front of the house, holding a copy of the Post. I looked at film from well before and after the issue date – with no such luck.

I also had no success going through clippings in the Library's Special Collection files, as well as the Albert Doane Collection. I also checked the files down at the Black River Historical Society and came back empty-handed.

I driven around a lot of old neighborhoods in Lorain, including the old Charleston historic area, near the old St. Joe's, near parks (remember – Mr. Dohanos needed a spot from where he could sketch the house), and others.

I've even driven around one of Stevan Dohanos' old neighborhoods (in South Lorain), looking for a house with that distinctive single window on the second floor and unique porch. All I got for my effort was a bunch of suspicious looks from people sitting on their front porches. (I'm lucky they didn't call the cops.)

Anyway, I'm putting out the call for help. Does anyone recognize this house?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lorain County Fair Ad Mascot Giveaways

It's good to see that two of my favorite old-time advertising mascots still have a presence at the Lorain County Fair – both at the Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc. house.

The good folks there are giving away two nifty items. Above is a Willie Wiredhand sliding tile puzzle (remember those?), and below is a leak detection kit featuring Willing Water on the front. (The leak kits – which contain a colored tablet that you drop in your toilet's tank– have been given away at the Fair for years.)

Speaking of Willing Water, I recently noticed that he has a permanent presence on Route 6 at Shell Cove Park in Sheffield Lake (my town). He's featured on the educational kiosks there.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

2011 Lorain County Fair Wrap-up

Rutana Concession's Hot Apple Dumpling Booth

Went out to the Lorain County Fair in Wellington the other night and had our usual good time, despite a late start.

The highlight of the night was a fantastic Rutana Apple Dumpling. They're always good, but for some reason this year's were really great – hot, fresh and huge. (We get them without ice cream so we can enjoy the extra sauce we requested.) The girls in the booth were super-friendly and quick too.

You can visit the company's Facebook page by clicking here.

Of course, a trip to the Fair means Midway Oh Boys for dinner. After inhaling mine, I was sitting on a bench (listening to the Roadhouse Band) when I felt a tap on my back. "Was it worth it?" asked a gentleman sitting on the bench behind me.

It seems he and his wife were from Ashland, and were trying to decide whether to have Oh Boys for dinner. "If you're looking for an unbiased opinion, I'm the wrong guy to ask," I laughed. "I eat these all the time!"

I convinced the couple to give Oh Boys a try, and they enjoyed them. "There's nothing like this down where we live," he added. He told me that the next time I'm down around Wooster, I have to get a pizza at Coccia House. He says they're fantastic – a really, thick, delicious pizza.

Anyway, here are a few shots of the Fair.

This guy won best of breed and he still looks grumpy
"Hey, are you done petting me already?"

Cap'n Frosty still sails on his Dairy Clipper

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Corny Thoughts

My salt shaker watching me shuck corn on a Sunday afternoon
Hey, don't forget to take advantage of the many roadside stands selling sweet corn in Lorain County, as well as the surrounding areas.

In our house, sweet corn goes with anything; no attempt is made to have the meal make sense. (Actually that rule is in force most of the time.)

When it comes to sweet corn, everyone has their old favorites. The fellow that I work with is from North Ridgeville, and he says that Sweet's is really good. As for me, I usually try to sample Fenik's Sweet CornShipula Farms, and my wife's favorite: Hahn Farms out in Huron. We had some from there last week and it was so terrific we had to go back and get some more on Sunday.

Now, the absolute worst sweet corn I ever had is the stuff I got from a local grocery store about a month ago. (I would have liked to buy some local corn, but it wasn't quite ready yet.) The grocery store advertised it as 'Ohio corn', so that eased my conscience.

As I shucked each ear, a new horror was revealed, necessitating immediate amputation of the inhabited and decimated portion. By the time I was done cleaning the half-dozen ears, I had about three short cob stumps. (At that point, I should have just made pipes out of them; here's how if you're interested.)

The wife wanted nothing to do with this stuff, but as a corn-aholic I was determined to taste it. All I can say is that after eating a row or two of each, I decided to let whatever those things were that had eaten most of the corn finish the rest of it.

The moral of this corny tale: BUY LOCAL from the family that grew it!

Anyway, be sure to leave a comment and tell us about your favorite farm stand with the yummiest sweet corn!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

More on Mitiwanga

Looking east on US Route 6
Here's another look at Mitiwanga, that tiny blink-and-you-might-miss-it resort community on US Route 6 just east of Huron.

Below is the entry for Mitiwanga from a facsimile edition of Lake Erie Vacationland in Ohio, a 1941 travel guide compiled by the Ohio Writers' Program of the Works Projects Administration.

Postcards featuring Mitiwanga are easy to find on Ebay, although trying to get 'then and now' shots of them is just about impossible, since all the cottages and buildings are well off Route 6 (if they do indeed survive).

Nevertheless, here's a variety of Mitiwanga postcards to give you a bit of the flavor of the resort.

Wild Waves Hotel, postmarked 1932

The Wild Waves Motel maintains a website here.

For a great collection of vintage Mitiwanga photos, as well as the definitive history of the resort, visit the Vacationland page on Drew Penfield's Lake Shore Rail Maps website by clicking here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Midget City

I saw this postcard for Midget City and almost didn't recognize the building, even though I pass it regularly on our Sunday drives out to Tofts in Sandusky.

The back of the undated postcard reads:

MIDGET CITY. The largest little city in the world. Located on Lake Road in Mitiwanga, Ohio on Lake Erie. A complete city in an outdoor setting, constructed entirely by one man. Visited annually by thousands of people. The PATIO at the west end of entrance is an ideal spot for good food and refreshments.

Several online copies of this postcard on Ebay are postmarked from as early as 1945 to as late as 1951.

Of course, I brought my camera on Sunday and made sure I got the 'now' shot of the same view of the Patio. Although Midget City is long gone, the Patio Tavern is still around.

Here's another postcard (below) featuring Midget City. (Both postcards are courtesy of the New Tribes Mission website.) Although it is a slightly different setup, you can recognize enough of the buildings to know it's the same attraction. Plus the fence around it looks similar in both photos.

Midget City in Milan, courtesy Roadside America
Midget City apparently was moved around a bit. It was also in Milan, Ohio for a time before Mitiwanga. Postcards of the attraction when it was in Milan are 'real photo' postcards, and show a different setup with a very low picket fence around the whole thing.

The facsimile edition of Lake Erie Vacationland in Ohio, a 1941 travel guide compiled by the Ohio Writers' Program of the Works Projects Administration, has Midget City located on State Route 113. It describes it as "an interesting re-creation of an entire community – streets, bridges, railroads, houses, commercial and industrial buildings, with interior lighting and a moving train. The tiny structures, all in true scale, were built by L. T. Cronk as a depression hobby."

So it looks like it was in Milan until at least the early 1940's before being moved to Mitiwanga by the mid-1940's.

There is also a little bit of information about the attraction's move to Florida over at the hilarious Roadside America website.

Next: More on Mitiwanga

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Home Dairy Phone Book Ads 1950's-60's

Here's a couple of Lorain Telephone book ads for Home Dairy. The above ad is from 1956 and the one below is from 1961.
I must have really studied the bottle graphics as a kid (probably why I ended up in graphic design) because I really remember that 'Morning Noon & Night' tagline. I didn't know what it meant, but I remember it!

I also see that the ads push the company's origin date back to 1901, compared to the Library's online History of Lorain's date of 1905.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Home Dairy Memories

Summer 2011 Photo
I was heading over to pick up a Rosie's Pizza a couple of years ago when I swung down E. 34th Street and saw this unique building, which I later discovered was the former Home Dairy plant.

My parents had Home Dairy products delivered to our home for years. My father was good friends with Ed Lopatkovich, whose family started the company back in 1905, according to the Lorain Public Library System's online History of Lorain.

The first house that I lived in during the early 1960's had that little door in the garage that the milkman could put the milk in. (It was also good to stash things in while playing.) Later, when we moved over to Skyline Drive, the new house didn't have the little door. We still had Home Dairy milk delivered, right into the 1970's I believe, but the milkman left the milk in the garage next to the steps.

Remember the wire tray that had slots for the empty milk bottles? It's strange to think of it now. I can still see that tray sitting there with our empties in it. Once we were playing with some kind of ball in the driveway, and it flew into the garage and hit the tray, breaking some of the bottles.

Having a milkman is another memory that will soon be largely forgotten when my generation is gone. Milk bottles sitting on steps are already something that kids only see on old Tom and Jerry cartoons.

Our milkman was named Bill, and I can still remember seeing him slowly walk up the driveway with our milk, lifting the garage door, picking up the empty bottles and leaving our order. He had a distinctive way of shouting "Milkman!" when he was leaving that I can still hear in my mind; another faint echo of my childhood.

In this age of garage door openers and parental fear for the safety of their kids, I don't think milkmen will be making a comeback anytime soon. In fact, do kids still go through milk like we did as kids, drinking it at several meals and pouring it on cereal every day?

Reusing milk bottles was a pretty environmentally friendly thing to do, though. I wonder if they will ever become popular again?

Thanks to Alan Hopewell for the vintage Home Dairy photo, courtesy of the Black River Historical Society website!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The William Jones Mansion

Lorain's City Hall in the days when it was a private residence.
William Jones, an early shipbuilder, erected the building for a home.
Here's another article about a great old house. It's about the William Jones mansion, and it appeared in the pages of the Lorain Journal and Times-Herald on July 14, 1934. Of course, you know the building as the old Lorain City Hall that was demolished in 1974. (The photo and caption that ran with the article is shown above.)


Jones House, 'Mansion' of '70's, Now Used for Muny Offices

Little did William Jones, an early settler in Lorain, and a pioneer shipbuilder, dream when he laid plans for his home on W. Erie-av. that the building some day would house the administrative office of the city 65 years later.

The present mayor, E. A. Braun, lived in the house as a boy.

Coming here from the New England states in the late sixties, Jones decided to build a home. He selected the present site of the city hall, then a quiet section. Work was started in 1870. Most of the carpentry was done by John F. Prince and Westwood Prince. When completed, it was a mansion and the pride of the city.

Bought by City in 1899
In 1877 the house was bought by John Stang, step father of the present mayor.

Stang was a contractor who built many of the docks along the river, also the main abutments of the Erie-av bridge. He died in 1899. About four years later, the building was bought by the city and used as a combination city hall and municipal court building.

Prior to this time, the city offices were in the old Wagner block which stood on the site of the Broadway building. All the offices were moved to the Stang building together with the police offices. The jail was at No. 1 fire station on 4th-st. and prisoners were taken from there to the city hall for arraignment.

City council also met in the building on the second floor. The interior of the building was remodeled from time to time with the offices shifted from floor to floor.

The amount paid by the city for the building was about $30,000, and it was only a few years ago that the last of the bonds were retired.

For a nice gallery of vintage photos of the mansion, click here to visit Loraine Ritchey's That Woman's Weblog.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Thomas Folger House in Avon Lake

Ever wonder about the story behind that big house on the lake at the end of Route 83 in Avon Lake? Well, wonder no more. Here's the story, a great article from the Wednesday, April 19, 1967 Lorain Journal, written by Staff Writer Sandy Rider. (The photo and caption from the article are above.)


The 'Heart' of Avon Lake is Big Old White Building
Staff Writer

AVON LAKE – The womb of Avon Lake is in that big old white building they call the Avon Lake Park Hall.

There Avon Lake was nursed, rehearsed and born. Early settlers, government and a court of law were nourished inside its walls.

THE TIME – way back when it gets too foggy to remember details anymore.

FARMERS WITH purple stained hands and tired backs traveled dusty roads to get to Thomas Folger's big white house on the lake. Folger collected, weighed and boxed the grapes for the long trip by Nickel Plate rails.

Sometimes a starry-eyed couple came to the large white house to be married by Folger, justice of the peace.

Folger's children ran through the long halls with high ceilings and played hide and seek.

THE TIME – 1926 when the old duffers can remember –
The leaders of the village were trying to set up a government. They met in the room downstairs in the large white building they bought for $56,000. There they rolled up their sleeves and carved out a government.

W. R. Hinz of 31692 Lake Road, had quite a job as clerk, he remembers. "I had a devil of a time paying all the bills the former clerk had thrown in the wastebasket," he said.

The park hall was remodeled. Walls were knocked out and bedrooms were converted into offices.

It was a real tooth and nail government then.

THE TIME – 1950's
The thriving government outgrew the big, white frame building. It moved into a spanking new brick one on Avon-Belden Road in 1955 or 1956.

In its place came the court. Avon Lake had grown too sophisticated to rely on a rural justice of the peace. The days of meeting in a resident's home over a cup of coffee to haggle over lawsuits were gone.

THE TIME – THE 1960's
Now the almost 13,000 residents of Avon Lake come to the large, white frame building on the lake to the municipal courtroom. Now lawyers and judges define the fine points of law in the room downstairs. And the clerk keeps piles of records in cubbyholes upstairs.

There are some who would like to tear down the large white building and move the court to the city hall on Avon-Belden Road. They say it is too crowded. They say the 12-man jury is forced to sit with their knees almost on their chins during court and there aren't enough offices upstairs for all the officials.

But the people that have known the building want to keep it that way.

Avon Lake attorney Gerald Smith says "There may not be enough room for court, but I hate to see it torn down."

JUDGE ROBERT Hensen, "It's in much better shape than when we first came in. We used to wonder if we'd come back the next day and find ashes."

People around Avon Lake have gotten used to the large, white building on the lake. They may not even know its official name but they would miss it if it was gone.

It has become more than a pile of lumber nailed together. It is the womb of Avon Lake.


Here's my shot of how it looked a few weeks ago.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cedar Point Then and Now Part 2

I've mentioned in this blog before how my family used to hang out over by the games area right before we left Cedar Point, to maybe ride the Space Spiral for a night view, or get some cotton candy to eat on the way to the car. That twilight image on the postcard above really takes me back to the good old days of going to Cedar Point with my family. It evokes the feeling of a boardwalk by an old-fashioned amusement park, such as Coney Island or Palisades Park.

During my day at Cedar Point last Sunday, however, I was pooped by 6:30 and hankering to leave – so there was to be no lingering by the Fascination building after dark. In fact, the building is quite different now anyways (below).

I hate the fact that Cedar Point looks so cluttered now throughout the park, with too many rides crammed into tight spaces. A lot (if not most) of the old-time park atmosphere is lost forever, sacrificed in the name of entertainment.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cedar Point Then and Now Part 1

Last weekend, I paid a visit to Cedar Point for the first time in probably ten years. My wife's company picnic was held there, and it provided a good excuse (especially the cheap tickets and free eats) to go back and see how the park was doing.

My wife and I kept at least one of the Brady family traditions alive: taking the unmarked 'back way' in to the park, past Weeping Willow trees and all of those expensive homes. (The last time we went, we came in on US 250, to my regret.)

The 'back way' seemed pretty long to me, just like when I was a kid, when my siblings and I were chomping at the bit to get to the Point. But eventually, the Space Spiral loomed into view (at right), and it was just like old times.

Of course, the Cedar Point of my youth is long gone, replaced by one with spectacular thrill rides that appeal to today's kids. The rides that once were very big twenty years ago seem to be largely ignored by much of the guests today, and I found that the lines were short for old favorites such as the Iron Dragon, the Corkscrew, and the Mine Ride.

Unfortunately, one of my favorites and the only ride I wanted to make sure I got on – the Space Spiral – was closed since it rained (another of our Cedar Point family traditions). Oh well.

I did manage to get a couple of 'then and now' shots, though. Here's a vintage postcard of the Pagoda Gift Shop.

And here's my 'now' shot.

Frankly, I was surprised to see that it was still there – with the same name. (I thought for sure it'd be called X-TREME T-SHIRTS or something!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The 103rd O.V.I. Then and Now

On April 3, 1967 this photo and caption appeared in the Lorain Journal. One of the oldest buildings on the 103rd O.V.I. grounds in Sheffield Lake was slated to be torn down, and was being used for training firemen.

I found a vintage reunion photo of the same building during my latest visit to the 103rd O.V.I. Civil War Museum in May (below).

And here is another view of the same building from a 1924 newspaper article that is also in the Museum.

And here is a long shot of the grounds now. The long-gone building was slightly to the east of the end of the driveway.
By the way, the Civil War Museum is open during the Pancake Breakfasts. Proceeds from the breakfasts help support the Museum, which is really pretty impressive and close to home to boot.

The next Pancake Breakfast is Sunday, September 18... don't miss it!