Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lorain Overlook Apartments Then & Now

Here's an undated photo of my old apartment house: the Lorain Overlook Apartments at 2715 E. Erie. (Thanks to the Black River Historical Society for allowing me to copy this photo.)

The vintage photo is hard to date. There's no real landscaping, so the barren view makes me think that the photo dates back to the apartment's early days. There are also structures visible to the east of the building (I've been told there were garages at some point) – instead of the present parking lot – so that also makes me think the photo is earlier rather than later in the building's history.

The Lorain Overlook Apartments first showed up in the city directory in 1926 at 2709 E. Erie. (The previous person who had that address was Gurnie Randall; that makes sense, since the Overlook Apartments were supposed to have been built on or near the site of the old Randall's Grove picnic grounds. (Click here and scroll down a bit to read more about the history of Randall's Grove as it relates to the interurbans and local streetcars on the Lake Shore Rail Maps website.)

I've been told, and the city directories seemed to confirm it, that at one point the Overlook was the only real apartment house in town.

Here are some recent views from last weekend. (I couldn't exactly match the angle without standing on the front porch of the house directly across from it – sorry about that.) There are some minor differences in the fascia above the entrance, but the building is still in great shape.

Like I said, I used to live in these apartments back in the mid-1980's. I thought my apartment was pretty nice for a one-bedroom. And cheap too – I think I was paying $185 a month.

1985 City Directory Listing
My living room at the Overlook
My apartment had rounded archways between rooms, beautiful wood floors and even an ironing board that swung down from inside a door in the wall (right out of a Tom & Jerry cartoon.) I loved hearing the lake at night, and seeing it up close when I went to and from my car. I could see the lake from my windows too.

The faucets in the bathroom sink were interesting. You had two faucets; one for hot and one for cold. You would have to mix it up yourself to get lukewarm so you could shave.

My biggest complaint? Being so close to the lake, my apartment occasionally had huge centipedes. They might show up anywhere: on the floor, on the walls, in the sink, on my bath towels, etc. There were also some pretty exotic-looking spiders and beetles in the hallways. But that's all part of living in an old building I guess.

Back then, the Overlook was also on the bus route out of Downtown Lorain (since it's right on US 6) – so for a while I could step right out my front door and catch the bus to Cleveland. But it was on a limited schedule, and it was cheaper to drive to Aqua Marine Resort in Avon Lake, leave my car there and ride the RTA.


Anonymous said...

Very cool. I also lived in the Overlook Apt. in the early 2000's. I loved the location and the morning commute to Downtown Cleveland along Lake Rd. I've always thought this was one of the best kept building in Lorain. My apt was perfect for me at the time... cheap with free heat! Needless to say, I was able to wear shorts and t-shirts all winter long while in the apt! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I lived here twice the first mid 70's for a 1 BR 4th floor (in photo top flr front West side)
The second in an efficiency 4th flr again on the back in the 80's with great lake views and the summer zing, zing, of speed boats. There were like carports along the back of parking lot, once there was a house in between the bldg and the lot. The first time I lived here they still had the milk doors for each apt. I scared the heck out of neightbor, when I opened his milk box reached past the cereal and pushed
open his kitchen cabinet and spoke to him!! I loved the murals. I wonder if I could live on a 4th flr walk up today, my step dad gave me an old Journal bag that I would load up for the journey. My Mothers friend in the 60's was manager, she had a Doberman named "Leiba" who was sweet but cold be intimidating and parrot that led to many humorous stories with tenants. Sorry so long, thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

I lived here in the mid 1980. First a efficiency with a fold out bed then moved up to a 1 bedroom on the street side. I had the french door windows, which they have changed to the 3 tier but loved this place. Such charm and character. Glad to see they are keeping it up.

oom said...

There was covered parking to the East of the apartments and then East of that was a house which was rented out by the owners of the apartments. (late 60's, early 70's) My Aunt and Uncle lived in that house for several years. It was all torn down to make the present parking lot.

Anonymous said...

I lived in this building from 1979-1981, first in an ocean view efficiency and then in one of the corner, ocean view one bedroom units. There were quaint, quality features in these units that I adored - such as the original apartment size gas stoves, built-in cabinets with leaded glass doors in the tiny dining areas, a full sized Murphy bed that folded up into the closet area, built-in drawers and cabinets in the closets, clawfoot bathtubs, original hardwood flooring and as someone else mentioned, old ice boxes that had a little cabinet door that opened to the hallway for the iceman to leave the daily block of ice. I do remember struggling with the old windows, but other than that, I loved all of those original features. In the late 70's, all of this was novel and charming. The only modern feature was the refrigerator.

At that time, the downstairs lounge area was original to the 20's decor and design, with an old fireplace, a large chandelier and marble floors.

In the hallways there were small cabinet doors that opened up to shoots that went directly into the incinerator where we were instructed to drop our trash, which was burned in the incinerator used for heating the water for the old radiator system that heated all of the apartments. This heating system worked fantastically, one radiator unit heated the entire apartment. Even in the severest of temperatures, I often had to turn it down.

Based on a YouTube video I've seen, all of these features have been removed and the apartments have been modernized. I'm glad I got to experience the original design, while it lasted.

I will add, that there were some difficulties with the landlords at that time, an older couple who got into everybody's business and let themselves into my apartment when I wasn't home. They were difficult to 'overlook'. Vicki H

Dan Brady said...

Thanks for the great post, Vicki--and everyone who commented as well! I appreciate it! I enjoyed my time in the Overlook and I can see it was and still is a special place for many!

Exploring Almost Forgotten Gravesites in the Great State of Ohio said...

My father was a lather and he always talked about his work as a lather at the Overlook Apartments as one of the structures he worked on in the 1920s in Lorain. He also worked on the Palace Theatre and some Catholic churches in Lorain. So, I am so thrilled that the Overlook apartments are still there.

Anonymous said...

Hey Vicki H. Was that Lew and Jenny??? Unbelievable if it was. My friend and I lived there and when we had a gentleman caller. They stopped us in the hall to inform us that there would be no menage a trois (sp) at the Overlook. We had to ask around to find out what that was??? lol We still laugh about it.

Unknown said...

You all make the Lorain Overlook Apartments sound really great! Except for the bugs... Do you think it's still that bad?
G Alvarez

Unknown said...

Hi, I really enjoyed reading this! I lived at the Lorain Overlook from 1993 Until last year. I lived in apts 407, 408, 403, and 412 over a period of 21 years. I always had a lake view but because of the trees on the west side of the building my view was limited in 403. My first apt was 407. It was an efficiency with a hardwood floor and a huge window overlooking the lake. I loved it there.. my rent was 285.00 a month when I first moved in! My last apt was 412 and I was there for 9 years. I had a great lake view from the side and also a neat street view! I finally had to leave due to problems with my legs- I could no longer do the stairs. Even a lower apartment would not work unfortunately.
I do miss the lake view but not those stairs! I enjoyed my years there and met many wonderful people including my best friend and soul mate, who has since passed away. I still keep in contact with a few people that I knew when I lived there.
Thank you for the memories. If you ever find any photos of the old ball room, I would love to see them! It was renovated into apartments :( in the late 90's. I wish they would have kept it and used it as a community room.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I lived there on the third floor in an efficency . we were just married and got the apartment with the money from our wedding. it was in december 1970 we paid $75.00 we only had the thigs we got from our wedding. towels,glasses,dishes etc. we got a dining room table from my mom , and the landlady let us have a mattress we had in our living room. we were only there a month , till the end of january . due to my husband being drafted. I got pregnant and very ill so I had to go back home. we lived in Lorain and then moved to Cincinnati ,Ohio and we visit every year. we recently have retired and are moving back into an efficency on the first floor. due to leg problems. I missed the lake and cant wait. It will be our 50 th anniversary next december. he wont be drafted and I wont get pregnant, just another chapter of our lives. the circle will be complete.

Phil Van Tee said...

My wife and I lived there in
'76 and '77. Paid $100.00 a month.
I worked summers at Cedar Point as a juggler those two years - made $140.00 for 56 shows a week, so between that and my wife's job as a Lorain Telephone Company operator, we did pretty good for a while.
Manager's name at the time was Lou Sallay (wife Jenny?).
We had a 1 bedroom 'garden apartment' - the one in front on the eastern section of the building.
This apartment was half underground, so it was fairly cool in the summer (no A. C. units back then).
The centipedes were ever-present and pretty nasty.

Dan Brady said...

Hi Phil! Thanks for leaving the great comments.

In case you missed it, be sure to visit my 4-part post from when I moved back into the Overlook for a year in 2018!

James said...

I lived in Overlook back when they first began doing the renovations, around 1980. I lived in a 4th floor efficiency right over the front awning and my name is in the listings you posted.

I have TONS of stories about that place and some would burn off both your ears!! I saw some pretty weird stuff go down....

One apartment was a stash house for some Columbian cocaine dealers at a HUGE scale. I was taken there by another tenant who told them I was "good people". The guy liked me and wanted to turn me onto something very lucrative but I just couldn't get into moving that poison onto the streets...He was getting pretty damned rich himself, buying all kinds of expensive cars, watches, clothes, etc., etc. but I'm just not that unscrupulous........You may know who I mean.

The head Columbian told me I could have as much as I wanted up front, no money. I'm not joking at all. They wanted to move that stuff ASAP I could have walked out with 30 kilos of pure, uncut Columbian blow that day.

The apartment was packed with chest high stacks of keys everywhere, just like a warehouse.
As soon as you walked in there were several stacks in the little entry way and the bedroom was full. A sofa, coffee table, a few chairs, kitchen table and cots for these guys to sleep on was the only furniture.. They were all packing shoulder holsters with pistols. I guess they carried it up there in the dead of night. It was unbelievable....A few months later I was at the apartment of the guy that took me there when the Columbian showed up soaked in sweat, frantic, because he'd been at a neighbor's house and saw a bunch of DEA raid his house across the street. He ran a couple of miles to Overlook and asked the guy I knew to take him to the bus station so he could book out on a Greyhound to NYC....Dude had like, $30,000 in his pockets.

Apparently I was living there when you were but I don't remember you. But I'm also good at minding my own business and try to keep a low profile......You may recall me because I frequently was carrying an electric guitar in and out.

Doris and Peg (Margaret) were running the place when I lived there and were real sweethearts. They always had their doors open and I visited them often. They were very kind to me and Doris gave me a key to her place when she was out of town so I could use her microwave, watch cable, and even told me I could entertain girlfriends there!! They may have been elderly but they were Cool!!!

When I moved in they were still doing renovations on the place. There was a tall, rangy fellow supervising it, I can almost recall his name...............Anyhow, he had a real sensitivity to the place and hated some of the things they were doing. Consequently, he tried to avoid destroying as many original features as possible, one thing he did, and I know this because I saw it, was covering over the original murals at each end of the main downstairs hallway in a non-destructive way with drywall so they could be uncovered later. Perhaps you could pass that on to the current owners....

I really enjoyed living there....I was young and robust and the stairs didn't bother me much, even carrying a guitar and big amp up and down them a couple times a week.....I never saw bugs or centipedes at all...........Maybe they were too worn out to come my way after getting to the top of the stairs..............

There's more I could tell but I'd have to do that over the phone.

BTW, where did you get your living room sofa and chairs? I had some VERY similar around 1972...

Thanks for all the pictures and for bringing back many, many memories...