|Courtesy Dennis Lamont and Drew Penfield|
In the years before French Creek Reservation was created, there wasn’t much out there on French Creek Road, except for farms and woods. But for a time beginning in the early 1940s, there was Nick Serbu’s Tavern
And it was located right near the entrance to what would later be French Creek Reservation.
I had first heard about it back in 2011 from Drew Penfield
, webmaster of Lake Shore Rail Maps
, the internet home of the comprehensive history of the Lake Shore Electric Railway interurban line. Drew was researching a former Lake Shore Electric car (No. 178) that had been purchased by Nick Serbu
of Lorain and used as a tavern.
Drew provided the photo shown at the top of this post showing LSE 178 at its new home. You can see “SERBU’S” on the roof of the ‘house' portion of the building.
Drew knew the house had been located on French Creek Road, near Abbe Road; we just didn’t have an exact location – yet.
The vintage Lorain city directories provided some information about the business. From about 1942 until the mid-1940s, Nick Serbu and his wife Eufrasina operated the tavern. But in those days, the bar didn’t have a numerical address; indeed, French Creek Road wasn’t even listed in the directory; the tavern’s address was simply, “Lorain Road.”
It was several years later (in 2018) when I ran across the photo below in the Arcadia book
about Lorain County Metro Parks.
The photo caption noted that, ”Some homes on acquired land are historically significant; some homes are not. Then there is this French Creek Reservation home. Simply called the Bogdom [sic] home, this house shows ingenuity and history. The rear of the home was actually a former interurban electric railcar.”
Now we knew that the house was on land acquired by the park district. Surprisingly, the photo caption did not make note of the tavern business.
The “Bogdom home” mentioned in the caption was actually the home of Mary Bogdan, the sister of Nick Serbu.
It remained for longtime blog contributor and researcher extraordinaire Dennis Thompson to tie up some loose ends with a visit to the Lorain County Records Center, as well as the Lorain County Auditor.
As Dennis noted, the 1930 Sheffield Township map did not include the Serbu name, but it did reveal a previous owner of the property: William A. Day.
You can see the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh Railroad tracks indicated as crossing French Creek Road near what it today the entrance to the park. Yesterday’s blog post included a 1970 article that mentioned, “The Pine Tree site is in the Burrell Woods area of the park and will be reached from French Creek Road by an access road built along an old railroad spur.”
According to Dr. Charles "Eddie" Herdendorf of the Sheffield Village Historical Society, "The Lake Erie & Pittsburgh Railroad (LE&P) was formed in July 1903 to build a rail line from Lorain to Youngstown and eventually on to Pittsburgh. The 105-mile projected route ran in a direct line between Lorain and Youngstown, passing through Berea and Ravenna. It was not intended as a passenger route, its clear purpose was to form a direct link between lake industries and the coal reserves of the Mahoning and Ohio valleys. The section between Berea and Ravenna appears to have been completed early on, but the portion in Lorain County was not completed until 1917, in conjunction with the new Cromwell steel mill.”
But getting back to Dennis Thompson’s research.
Dennis found this 1962 tax map showing both the Bogdan and Serbu names on the property. (See area outlined in red on large map and rotated close-up map below.)
Finally, Dennis obtained two aerial maps – from 1952 and 1962 – from the U. S. Geological Survey website. He indicated in red where the former Serbu’s Tavern was located.
Lastly, here’s the same area today.
Thanks to Dennis for sharing his findings.