Tuesday, June 11, 2024

What to do with Admiral King's Birthplace? – June 1964

Sixty years ago, the City of Lorain was trying to figure out what to do about the birthplace of its most famous and accomplished son: Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander-in-chief of the U. S. Fleet during World War II.

The home in which he was born, located at 113 Hamilton Ave. in Lorain, was in danger of being torn down, as its then owner had other uses in mind for the property. 

The article above on the front page of the June 9, 1964 Lorain Journal explains. It notes, "A Lorain memorial to the city's favorite son, or kindling wood. This was the apparent alternative for a modest but historic frame home on Hamilton Ave., marked only with the street number "113."

"The house, now vacant for some time, was the birthplace of the late Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, World War II hero.

"Councilman - at - Large Jerry Keron said he was told the site is being cleared for another purpose, and that the residence will either be moved or demolished.

"The question raised, according to Keron, was whether the city would be interested in buying the house and moving it to another location, perhaps on park property.

"Efforts have been made on a number of occasions to have the Admiral King birthplace set aside as a memorial, either at the present or some other site."

The next day in the June 10, 1964 Journal, an editorial appeared, acknowledging the dilemma.

The editorial ponders whether the old King home was suitable for a museum. But it correctly notes that King rated "more recognition than he has been given. History will show that he was a great man – one of the greatest in the time of crisis when world dictatorship was threatened." However, the Journal editor was in favor of leaving it up to the civic leaders as to what to do about the home.

An article in the June 13, 1964 Journal floated the idea of moving the home to "a strip of park property across from Century Park on E. Erie." Consequently the house would be located near the U. S. Naval Reserve Armory on Cleveland Blvd., "whose personnel would have a special interest in the Admiral King memorial."

Another article on June 26, 1964 suggested making the house part of the Admiral King High School site.
Despite the discussions and suggestions, no action was taken to save the house. It did not make the news during the rest of 1964 or even 1965.
In September 1966, the house was still standing – and talk about making it a museum or memorial began anew. Here's an article that appeared in the Journal on September 10, 1966.
About that time, Mayor Leonard P. Reichlin of Elyria suggested moving the house to Elyria, where it would receive the respect it deserved at the county seat as a museum. But Lorain Mayor Woodrow Mathna shrugged off the suggestion in this article from the Sept. 14, 1966 Journal.
A small editorial in the September 15, 1966 Journal thanked the Elyria Mayor for reminding everyone "that nothing has been done about creating a display of Admiral King memorabilia." The paper suggested that the high school named after him would be the logical place, unless a special building was erected for that specific purpose.
But the Journal apparently had the last word about the house. "As for saving the house in which the Admiral was born," it noted, "that would be a useless gesture. It is an insignificant little frame building. Preserving the structure would not serve to honor the memory of Admiral King. But to display his mementoes and to preserve in films, photos, voice tape, drawings and words the outline of his life and military career would properly honor him."
Today, the "insignificant little frame building" is slowly vanishing. Here's a view (so to speak) from last weekend.
I would not be surprised if it is eventually condemned and replaced by the Admiral Ernest J. King Memorial Grassy Spot®.
Admiral Ernest J. King's birthplace has shown up on this blog many times. This 2011 blog post includes some "Then & Nows" over the years. And this 2010 post includes some more Journal coverage from Sept. 1966 when the Elyria Mayor offered to take the house off of Lorain's hands. And this post included a nice shot of the house at the time of the Sept. 2011 dedication of both the Admiral Ernest J. King Tribute Space and the new Admiral Ernest J. King Elementary School.
A June 2011 view


Anonymous said...

The city should have the house moved and put on the western edge of Lake View Park.Remember there used to be a house there about 20-25 years ago.Then it and the surrounding land was bought by the city and Lake View was expanded and the house torn down.The city could move it to there and have a little summer time only museum.But city officials could probably care less about another dilapidated old house unless it's being torn down.

Rick K said...

The city of Lorain seems to have a disregard for historical items. In addition to the Admiral King birthplace, I would point to the mast of the iconic battleship USS Arizona sunk at Pearl Harbor on December 7,1941. When the upper portion of the ship was salvaged, Admiral King had the ship's mast sent to lorain where it served as a flag pole for many years at the naval armory located on Lorain's east side. When the armory was torn down some years ago the mast was offered to the city of Lorain which promptly refused the relic. It was eventually sold to an Arizona resident and was erected and dedicated at a site in Phoenix Arizona. It's sad that the city of Lorain couldn't find a place for the mast, even placement at Admiral King school.