Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Amish Country Revisited

Deb's Golden Bear in Apple Creek
The day after Thanksgiving, the spouse and I headed back down to Amish Country. (Remember our hijinks with the GPS last time?)

Well, we still managed to get lost this time. Although I printed out a nice MapQuest itinerary showing how to get to Kidron from Berlin, the spouse revealed at the last minute that she wanted to stop at Lehman's Hardware in Kidron first.

We tried using the MapQuest instructions in reverse to get to Berlin, but we still got lost and ended up in Apple Creek. Three maps that we had didn't help either, as none of them seemed to have the obscure numbered road we happened to be on!

While turning around in Apple Creek, I happened to notice this cute little ice cream stand called Deb's Golden Bear drive-in. It looked like it was shuttered for the season, which is fine since I didn't need ice cream after my usual Thanksgiving overeating.

Lehman's Hardware in Kidron is a great place if you are into nostalgia. Besides carrying tons of old-fashioned merchandise, the whole place is decorated with antiques. We only spend a couple of hours there, but you could easily spend the day there exploring every nook and cranny.

Along with our other purchases, we picked up a couple of bottles of hard-to-find root beer: Dog N Suds and Frostop. (Do you remember that the Berardi's in Huron used to be a Frostop drive-in with the huge rotating root beer mug on top?)

Lehman's also had dozens of other rare soda pops, including Kickapoo Joy Juice.

After our usual trip to Berlin, we stopped at the Everything Rubbermaid store in downtown Wooster on the way home. The store is located right on the square in a four-story historic building with wooden floors. It's crammed with great Rubbermaid products (lots of close-outs) so we stocked up. What did I buy? A manly Rubbermaid mini-cooler to replace my (ugh) soft fabric purse-like First Federal Savings of Lorain lunch bag.

As usual, instead of dinner at Der Dutchman or some other Amish restaurant, we headed over to our favorite Perkins on US 250 in Ashland to have a nice supper with the locals, and even got our favorite server (April) again.

I still think that Perkins outlet is the best one we've ever been to in Northern or Central Ohio. We saw the same manager hustling around again as usual; he's always there every time we go. The service and food is always great and April even sent us home with coffee to go for our one hour drive back to Sheffield Lake.

All in all, a great day trip – and we did it without the GPS!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sisters Chicken Then and Now

The weather is getting crummy, making it tough to take good photographs. So I gotta squeeze in some final 'Then and Nows' while I still can, before it snows!

Here's another one of those 1986 Lorain shots that were on Ebay for a while. This one shows the former Sisters Chicken & Biscuit restaurant that was located at the corner of Fifth Street and Reid. (Prior to that, the location was City Parking Lot Number 4.)

Sisters Chicken & Biscuits was a subsidiary of Wendy's beginning in the early 1980's. Apparently, the chain never quite clicked with the public and was sold off by Wendy's to its largest franchise owner in 1987.

Coincidentally, this Lorain restaurant at 221 Fifth Street first appeared in the city directory in 1987. (There was also an outlet at 940 N. Leavitt Road near the intersection with Cooper Foster Park Road.) Unfortunately, the Lorain restaurant didn't make it and the building was vacant by 1993. Another restaurant (Chello's) moved in later, before the building became vacant again.

Today the site is the home of the Social Security Administration building. Here is the link to the Morning Journal's account of the relocation of the Lorain office.

That brick box is really crammed onto that property!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Giants in Lorain

After crossing the Bascule Bridge heading west on Saturday morning, my bleary eyes came upon this odd site: a giant Santa Claus in Veterans Park who seems to be yelling across the street to an equally gigantic (and toothy) Nutcracker who seemed to be guarding the fortress known as Lorain City Hall.

Last year, the menacing nutcracker with fists clenched (I still think that nutcrackers are a dubious Christmas icon at best) was positioned at the bridge approach at the intersection of Broadway and West Erie just a hundred feet away. I like that this year the Light Up Lorain committee installed the non-threatening tin soldier (holding a candy cane) there instead.

According to the Morning Journal, this year's Light Up Lorain was a big success.

Santa must have vanquished his nutcracker foe. This morning I drove through the area again; Santa was still standing tall, and the nutcracker was a pile of deflated fabric.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Day After Thanksgiving

Nowadays, the day after Thanksgiving means only one thing: Black Friday.

Which to me seems like a ridiculous name. It certainly isn't similar to Black Tuesday – October 29, 1929 – when the stock market crashed. It's a good day – heck, even a great day – for shoppers and a retailers alike. So why is it Black?

Anyway, to a lot of Baby Boomers like me, the day after Thanksgiving used to mean one thing: special cartoon programming for kids who had the day off from school.

Since my memory isn't always the greatest, I went back to the newspaper microfilms to see just what was on the day after Thanksgiving from the mid-1960's to the early 1970's. As it turns out, there really was just one TV network that did this: ABC. And more often than not, it was a wholesale rehash of the Saturday morning cartoons from that period.

The website confirms my suspicion with a description of ABC's traditional day-after-Thanksgiving cartoon block which you can read here.

1967 seemed to be a banner year as far as I'm concerned. The day started off early with Bullwinkle at 9:30, followed by Milton the Monster, Casper the Friendly Ghost, The Fantastic Four, Spider Man, Journey to the Center of the Earth, King Kong, The Beatles and George of the Jungle last at 1:30.

Here's the TV listing for Thanksgiving 1967 with the next day's listing under it. (Give it a click so you can read it.) It sure is weird remembering how stations signed off back then – and how some of them signed on with a Farm Report!

1967 Thanksgiving Day TV Listing
Here's ABC's animated turkey (remember him?) promoting the 1972 cartoon festival. By then, I must not have been watching; I don't remember any of those cartoons!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving - 1959 style!

Here's a full page ad that ran in the Journal at Thanksgiving time the year I was born: 1959. It's comical that the family seems to be right out of a 1950's sitcom.

Click on the ad so you can read the roll call of vintage Lorain, Elyria, South Amherst and Oberlin firms that sponsored the ad.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cleveland Greyhound Station Then & Now

If you're doing a little traveling during the holidays – specifically a bus trip back to Northeast Ohio – then this post might be of interest.

The vintage postcard shows Cleveland's classic Art Deco Greyhound Bus Station. It's probably fairly new in this shot.

Over the years it got pretty run down. Then, the station, which had been built in 1948, got a much-needed facelift and it looks better than ever today. (This January 2008 USA Today article tells about the revamp.)

Anyway, during one beautiful autumn day last month I ventured downtown during lunch and grabbed this shot of the station.

Here's another vintage shot from Ebay from the other angle.

And yet another from Ebay.

And here's my corresponding shot. Cleveland's skyline sure has changed since then.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Big Boy's Dual Identities

Before I close out my series on Manners Big Boy, I thought I would point out something that has confused me for some time: there are two different Big Boy mascots.

The one you see the most often is the one with checkered overalls above, hoisting his namesake sandwich. He's kinda chubby and has that distinctive upswept hairdo. He appeared in all those comic books that were given away at Big Boy restaurants. (Click here to read more about the comic book.)

Courtesy of

He was featured prominently in the movie Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) when Dr. Evil escaped at the beginning of the movie, by launching himself into space inside a rocket shaped like a Bob's Big Boy statue.

Dr. Evil's Big Boy-shaped rocket in orbit
The other Big Boy is the one that we grew up with in Northeast Ohio, featured in the Manners ads. This lad isn't as chubby, and has a slingshot sticking out of his back pocket. He also wears a paper hat with the Manners name on it. (Sometimes it just says "Big Boy".)

In his early appearances, his overalls are plain. Later on, they have stripes.

He was featured in his own comic books too.

1961 comic book giveaway
So why are there two different Big Boys?

The chubby one in the checkered pants is more or less the 'official' one, meaning that he evolved as the mascot for Bob's Big Boy in California, where it all began in 1936. You can visit the Bob's Big Boy website here.

When Bob's Big Boy decided to franchise their sandwich, Frisch's in Cincinnati (owned by Dave Frisch) was the very first licensee. They had the rights to Big Boy in Ohio, Kentucky and a few other states.

You can visit the Frisch's Big Boy website here.

The Frisch's mascot ended up looking a little different from the Bob's Big Boy version. And he still does to this day.

According to the Tom Feran article, Bob Manners bought the rights to the Big Boy from Dave Frisch and thus ended up with the Frisch version of the mascot.

I actually like him better than the Bob's version.

To me, he's got a lot more personality. He looks like a fun-loving kid with his slingshot. He's actually taken a bite out of the double decker, rather than delivering it to a customer. He's running away with it!

Here's how he looks now (below).

Compare it with his chubby counterpart at the top of this post. It looks like the now hatless, hapless mascot is slowly being forced to conform to his double-chinned double! Note the wavy hair and checkered overalls. Plus, it looks like he has been forbidden to sample the burger. "Don't eat it, just deliver it as per our instructions," he's been told by the corporate suits.
Nevertheless, the two different Big Boys coexist peacefully. And I still like the Frisch's one better.
Back in the fall of 1999, I took a road trip to Columbus to shoot along U.S. Route 40, the National Road. I snapped my way (no digital camera then) from one side of the town to the other, shooting a variety of things.

One of the subjects was this Frisch's Big Boy which was right on U.S. 40 on West Broad Street. 

I read online that it's gone now, replaced (just like the Kahiki, Columbus' famous Polynesian supper club) by a Walgreens. Ugh.
And as a final note, after writing about Big Boys for several days now, I just had to have one! (It's been about 12 years since my last one!) So after a haircut and some business out in North Olmsted last week, on a night that the spouse duped me for dinner, I headed out to the Big Boy at 12920 Brookpark Road in Cleveland.

I walked in, ordered a Big Boy for take-out, and sat down. They had a nice display of Big Boy items for purchase in the lobby, including a nodder, a bank and a travel mug. No comic books, though. 
Back in the car, I excitedly unwrapped my Big Boy. It looked great – huge – and tasted fantastic. As I told my co-worker the next day: "It was the best thing I ate all year."
Until Thanksgiving dinner, of course.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Hoop/Manners Story Part 2

1966 Phone Book ad
Manners had an immediate presence in Lorain County with the purchase and conversion of three Hoop Drive-ins, and the construction of a brand new outlet at 2173 N. Ridge Road near the intersection of State Route 254 and State Route 57. (Meanwhile, the lone Hoop Drive-in also continued on for a bit at 2017 N. Ridge Road, which is where Clinton Avenue meets N. Ridge Road.)

Manners really believed in promotion, and the company ran large ads in the Lorain telephone book (like the one shown above) touting their signature Big Boy double decker burger. The company also ran big regular ads in the Lorain Journal.

November 18, 1968 newspaper ad
It was hard not to be aware of Manners if you were a kid growing up in Lorain, with two restaurants on the west side. I've mentioned before how Manners used to give away free Big Boys for good report cards.

Since the Big Boy name was franchised, different restaurant chains bought the right to use it in certain territories. While Manners had the rights for a while in Northern Ohio, they must have lost them or decided to drop them at some point because by 1970, the ads no longer featured the Big Boy name or its iconic slingshot-carrying mascot.

1970 phone book ad; note the generic double decker burger
The Manners restaurants began to disappear in the early 1970's. The lone exception was the one at 2173 North Ridge Road. It was the only Manners left in town by 1975. (The Henderson Drive location, discussed in a separate post last week, had become Poor Richard's Pub.)

Strangely enough, the Hoop Drive-in made at curtain call at 2405 W. Lake Road for a few years starting in 1975. But by 1980, it was Tudy's Coffee Shop, followed by Bonnie's Place (in 1982). Sadly, by 1985 it was storage for Jeancola's Market. It would later spring back to life as Antigoni's, and later, the Fish Shanty and others. The restaurant sign has said Pete's Family Restaurant for quite a while, but I think the current business occupying the building is called the Beachcliff Diner.

Former Manners at intersection of Leavitt Road and US Route 6 in Lorain
The Manners at 2173 N. Ridge Road near Route 57 (which opened on July 12, 1967) was still in the phone book in 1977. Then, in 1978 it returned to its roots as it was very briefly Bob's Big Boy. By 1980, it was also a Tudy's and by 1983 it was listed as vacant. It was also Twigs Family Restaurant around 1986 before becoming Imperial Gardens Chinese Restaurant in the late 1980's. Today, the North Ridge Park office park is at the location and there is no evidence that there ever was a restaurant there.

Former Manners Big Boy location on North Ridge Road near State Route 57
The Manners building at the southern end of Oberlin Avenue is gone as well. The property has been used for years to display a variety of small sheds and other buildings for sale by Storage Buildings Unlimited.

Looking east across Oberlin Ave. at former Manners location

To read a nice story about the Manners restaurants by noted Plain Dealer reporter Tom Feran, click here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Hoop/Manners Story Part 1

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the Hoop restaurant on Henderson Drive was the first of four units in Lorain.

As of 1957, there were three locations: 1850 Henderson Drive, 2405 W. Lake Road and 2017 N. Ridge Road.

By 1958, another location was added: the corner of Foster Park Road and Oberlin Avenue. Thus there were Hoop Drive-ins on the east, west, southeast and southwest sides of Lorain.

1960 Telephone book ad showing all 4 Lorain locations
By 1961, however, the Henderson Drive unit became part of the Manners Big Boy chain.

The three other Lorain Hoop restaurants continued to be listed in the phone book as of 1965. Apparently there was also an Elyria restaurant as well at 146 E. Bridge Street.

Then, a deal was struck between Richard Head, the owner of the Hoop restaurants, and the Manners restaurant chain. On August 3, 1966 this article appeared in the Journal, signaling what appeared to be the end of the line of the Hoop chain. But as we will see in a later blog post, that was not quite the case.


New Manners Drive-In To Be Built on SR 57

A new Manners Drive-in Restaurant will be built on the northwest corner of SR 57 and SR 254, it was announced yesterday by Robert L. Manners, president of the firm.

No other details were divulged except that land acquisition is in progress.

MANNERS RECENTLY purchased three area "Hoop" restaurants which were operated by Richard Head, now a Manners associate.

The "Hoop" restaurants were located at SR 254 and Oberlin Ave., W. Erie Ave. west of SR 58, and at 146 E. Bridge St., Elyria.

Manners also announced the purchase of four El Dorado restaurants in Cleveland.

MANNERS FOUNDER and principal stockholder began "as a cook with another man as manager" in 1939, just east of Euclid Beach Park on old Lake Shore Blvd. in Euclid.

His first unit "was a cinder track," he said, "and we served cars at the curb while peeling potatoes by hand."

Manners said he hopes to build about three new restaurants a year and "overhaul" older Manners units "as soon as possible."

A new Manners Hospitality College in East Cleveland will aid in training all future employees, Manners said.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What used to be where that building is? The Hoop – among others!

Right next door to the former Gulf station on Henderson (you can see it in the background in the photo above) is this building. Until fairly recently it was part of the national Denny's chain, but before that it was different things to different generations of Lorainites, and its location was home to one of Lorain's iconic businesses.

If you go right back to the very beginning, this was the location of the first restaurant in the chain of local restaurants called The Hoop, showing up in the city directory in the mid-1950's.

1955 Hoop telephone book ad showing neon hoop on roof of restaurant
A 1955 newspaper ad included some information about the owner and his view of the business. It stated, "Mr. Richard Head, owner of the Hoop Restaurant, came to Lorain from Cleveland four years ago with a definite purpose in mind – to serve the people of Lorain the BEST in foods at POPULAR prices. Situated in an ideal location and designed in a modern trend, the Hoop will make you more relaxed and comfortable to enjoy your dining. Because of this home cooked food and courteous service, Mr. Head is working on an expansion program which will include several restaurants throughout Northern Ohio."

By the early 1960's however, this particular restaurant had become Manners Big Boy.
It continued as part of the Manners Big Boy chain until about the mid-1970's, when it became Poor Richard's Pub.

It was very briefly the Quarter Horse Restaurant and Saloon in 1981. But by the mid-1980's, and into the 1990's it was the Double R Ranch House. (I remember this restaurant the most.)

By the late 1990's, however, there was no listing for the address at all. It wasn't until about 2004 or so that another national chain – Denny's – decided that 1850 Henderson was a great location.

Photo courtesy of Lorain County Auditor's website
Unfortunately, Denny's closed in January 2011 (which was reported on the Morning Journal site here). The building is currently for sale.

Here's hoping that another business moves in and keeps the kitchen open at that historic restaurant location.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What used to be in that building?

Here's another building that I've wondered about on Lorain's east side. It's at 1443 Colorado Avenue, across from the shuttered Wonder Bread store.

I've always kind of admired this stylish building and hoped that someone would fix it up right.

Anyway, it first showed up in the City Directories in 1955, as the home of Ashyk's Drapery Shop.

By the 1958 book, it was a branch of Central Bank. The bank was a longtime tenant, from 1958 until the early 1970's. ( I don't remember this at all. I have very little recollection of Lorain's east side while growing up, until around '74 when I became pals with some guys who really liked to ride their bikes all over Lorain. )

Very briefly, the building housed Shannon Pizza in 1975. After that it became the longtime home of The Times (or The Lorain County Times) until at least 2000.

A few other businesses were in and out of there since then. Today, as the photo shows, it is the home of Art of Cutz.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What used to be in that building?

Over the years, I've passed this building at 1906 Henderson Drive many, many times while heading west over the High Level Bridge (the Lofton Henderson Bridge). Almost every time, I've looked at the building, wondering what brand of gas was sold there in its heyday – as well as wondering just when was its heyday.

Today seemed like a good day to hit the city directories in the Lorain Public Library to find out.

There was no listing of Henderson Drive in the books that I could find until around 1950, and even then there were no listings for anything on that side of the bridge. It wasn't until the 1958 book that the building showed up, as Gully's Gulf Station.

Within 2 years, the station apparently changed hands and became Larry's Gulf Station.

Two years after that, it showed up in the 1962 book as George & Lucy's Gulf Station.

Surprisingly, the building's career as a service station ended in the 1963 book, when it became the home of Black's Muffler Service. I never would have guessed that it had happened that soon.

By 1975, it was still Black's Muffler Service, but it was vacant by the 1978 directory.

Since then, it has been home to a variety of businesses, including Northside Motors (1981), Lorain Cab Company (1986) and Al's Storage Center (or Al's Service Center) beginning around 1988. I'm not sure what's in there now.

By the way, Gulf is still around, although it didn't seem to be popular enough to sustain a service station in a heavily traveled location in Lorain. Maybe it was the challenge of turning in and out of the place while fighting bridge traffic that discouraged motorists from becoming regular gas customers.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hazel's Restaurant Then & Now

Although this blog is supposedly dedicated to Lorain County nostalgia, I seem to rarely venture outside my hometown Lorain city limits. So every once in a while, I try to remedy it with a visit to another fine city, in this case Elyria.

I'm embarrassed to say that I still don't know my way around Elyria very well. It's probably how the spouse (who grew up in Sheffield Lake) felt when I took her down Oberlin Avenue in Lorain early in the dating game. "I have no idea where we are!" she confessed to my great amusement and disbelief.

I'm not that bad in Elyria – I can find the town square, the hospital, Cascade Park, and Stewart's Appliance– but that's about it. Finding anything else means Google time!

That's what I did to find the location for Hazel's Family Restaurant, shown at the top of this post in an undated photo from an old city directory (from the 1950's I believe).

I had assumed the restaurant, located at 615 Cleveland Street, was long gone. So it was a pleasant surprise to see that the business is still there and apparently doing well (although I was disappointed that the cool signage had been updated).

It was quite easy to shoot south down Abbe Road, turn right and arrive at the restaurant.

According to its sign, the business has been there since 1945. The little research I could do revealed that originally, at least, there really was a Hazel: Hazel Olmstead, who was the manager and, I assume, owner (although there seemed to be many Olmsteads involved with the enterprise in 1947).

The widening of Cleveland Street in front of the restaurant robbed it of its sidewalk and treelawn. Also, over the years the trees have unfortunately disappeared, and another building is crammed next door.

Hazel's proximity to the junction of so many highways probably contributed to its success over the last sixty-some years. I'm just glad to see any business manage to survive that long in Lorain County.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lorain Arena Restaurant Grand Opening November 1959

Keeping the Lorain Arena theme going...

I found this ad on microfilm by accident at the library on Wednesday night, so I quickly scanned it and cleaned it up a bit. It's a full-page ad that ran in the Friday, November 13, 1959 Lorain Journal, promoting the opening of the Arena Restaurant, located in the stylish building in the front of the skating rink (I've mentioned it before on this blog back here.)

One thing I've noticed after looking at a lot of old Journals on microfilm is that grand openings of restaurants and other businesses in Lorain back in the 1930s, 40s and 50s used to be something really special, almost always warranting a full page or at the very least a half page newspaper ad. (I'll bet the Morning Journal is nostalgic for those days!)

Giving something away – in this case, orchids – seemed to be a popular gimmick too.

The ad above is also typical in that it shows a photo of the person responsible for keeping their customers happy. That's the way it should be.

Along with the grand opening ad, there were always a bunch of other ads in the same edition congratulating the new business. These were usually taken out by some of the contractors and other well-wishers. Seeing all these ads together really created a lot of curiosity and interest for the new business. It also united the community a bit to pull for the success of the new endeavor.

Nowadays, new restaurants open with barely a peep in the newspaper – maybe a small ad at best. Is it that surprising that a lot of them fail?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Last Days of the Lorain Arena – 1968

I haven't mentioned the former Lorain Arena for a while in this blog. It's still for sale (here), and still listed by blog reader Bill Latrany.

The other day on microfilm I found the article at left, which fills in a bit of the history when the building was making its transition from skate arena to industrial use. The article is from the September 17, 1968 Lorain Journal.

Rather than make you squint at it using the unpopular Blogger viewer, I've transcribed it below.


Council Sounds Death Knell On Lorain's Skating Arena
by Tom McPheeters
Staff Writer

Pleading that they are not really "nasty old men", Lorain City Council last night approved a zone change to allow light industry to operate in the Lorain Arena.

At a public hearing before council's meeting, the rezoning faced opposition from roller skaters, who will now lose the one roller rink in Lorain.

The skaters were aware that their real argument was with the owners of the Arena, who maintain that they must close down because business simply is not good enough to continue.

So some of the sharpest questions from the audience were aimed at finding out why the failure, and why the city had done nothing to save a valuable recreation facility.

Mrs. Jesse Ceja, of 2110 Homewood Drive, Lorain, who had been active in organizing opposition to the closedown, asked the owners, "why couldn't you come to us and ask for help."

She maintained that the Arena had never been run in a way that would make it attractive and that skaters had put in many hours of work over the years helping to keep it going.

"Give us a chance to help you make your business what it should have been when it started out," she said.

Speaking for the owners, lawyer Ray Miraldi agreed that "perhaps there has been some mismanagement." To be realistic, he said, it is necessary to recognize that the owners have never gotten a return on their investment, still have a large debt, and simply can't afford to subsidize recreation.

Asked why the city never stepped in, Mayor Woodrow Mathna replied it had never been asked, and probably would have been reluctant to spend the money if it had been asked.

Councilman-at-large Michael Bulzomi added that the Youth Center had considered the Arena as a home at one time, but found it unacceptable. They had also considered roller skating at their present building, but lack of space and money to make it feasible at present, he said.

Council, obviously anxious to see that the roller skaters had their full say, allowed an hour for the public hearing. However, said Councilman William Parker, "we cannot control, through zoning, what goes out of an arena. We can only control what goes in."

Motor Homes Inc., the new tenant, is very satisfactory, he said. He emphasized that the operation, fitting insides to camper vans, is very "light" industry.

According to Ray Tripp, who will manage the plant, work on alterations should start in the next few days, just as soon as workers can be hired.

Plans, which were approved at a special meeting of the Planning Commission earlier yesterday, call for sales and accounting offices to be built in the front of the present Arena structure after the canopy and sign have been removed. The front lot will be landscaped and provide 11 visitor parking spaces.

There will be 25 employee parking spaces on the west side, allowing an access lane for fire trucks, and 76 spaces for the camper units on the east side of the building, enclosed by a cyclone fence.


Speaking of the Lorain Arena, here's a link to a great article about by award-winning writer Alana Baranick about Jeanne Krenek of Lorain, who was well known in the skating world and who sadly passed away in September. She skated and trained/coached many others at various Lorain County roller rinks, including the Lorain Arena and Lorain Skateworld. (Contrary to what the article says, however, the Lorain Arena was not built on the site of the Coliseum.)

The article also includes a great vintage photo gallery of Jeanne skating and performing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Leavitt Road Mystery Building

Building formerly at intersection of Leavitt Road (in foreground) and Grace Street

Sometimes it's fun just to poke around in the Black River Historical Society's photo files. You never know what you'll find. In this case, I found just what this blog doesn't need: another mystery.
It was in the BRHS files that I found a small packet of photos labeled 'old motel being torn down' and recognized the building immediately. It used to be on the southwest corner of Leavitt Road and Grace Street, a few blocks south of West Erie Avenue.

I passed this building hundreds of times over the years, wondering what its story was. I always thought it was kinda cool in a retro way.

Here's a view of the rear of the building. Whoever used to live there was all set for winter, judging by that firewood stash.

And here's a view of the front left of the building (below). The brick building at the far right of the photo was the home of Bob's Firearms for many years.

It's a strange little building, with the separate, private entrances and mailboxes. It looks like a motel. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any concrete evidence in the city directories that it ever was one – or an apartment house either.

What's really strange is that the building seemed to be both an apartment house and a commercial strip unless I am misreading the city directories. In addition to average people living there, through the years there were various businesses apparently located in the building, including a donut shop (Bob's Sweet Cream Do-Nut Shop), a jewelry store (Heald Jewelers), a launderette (Nite & Day) and a barber shop. Maybe they were located in another building on the property. Does anyone remember?

It also looks like the barber who had a shop on the property lived in a house immediately south of the building at 1446 Leavitt Road. Here's that house, and a glimpse of the mystery building (with a dumpster behind it) just before demolition in this shot from the Lorain County Auditor's website.  

Throughout the 1960's and 1970's the mystery building was usually half-empty.

By the 1980's, the tenants consisted of a few retirees. And by the early 2000's, the building was gone. Today, only the original house at 1446 Leavitt remains on the property, having been expanded and renovated so much that it is virtually unrecognizable.

Here is the 'now' shot of the property today (compare it with the photo at the top), showing the renovated house and the site of the demolished building. Only its driveway remains to indicate that something was ever there.

If anyone remembers anything about the demolished building, please leave a comment! I'd love to know if the low, one story building was originally a motel that was later converted to apartments – and if there was another commercial building in the back.