In the shade of the old sycamore tree
Have you ever noticed the row of sycamore trees on the north side of Wolf Road between Bassett and Saddler roads in Bay? Have you noticed them on Bassett and Walker roads? Ever wonder why they are there?
These trees are called American sycamores. You can tell an American sycamore from the way it sheds its bark, which leaves the trunk with a blotchy appearance. They are mostly found in Bay along Walker, Bassett and Wolf roads where our German families settled. This tree species is native to the Arctic, Central Europe and North America. They can be found as far south as Argentina today. They date back to the Cretaceous age, millions of years ago.
There used to be 34 trees standing along Wolf Road. Today there are 30 on Wolf, three on Bassett and 11 on Walker. The trees stand like a row of soldiers guarding the houses on the north side of Wolf Road. These trees were planted by Henry Meilander Jr., a member of an early German family, to beautify his lot line along the newly constructed Wolf Road which became his southern boundary. His brother, John, also planted some trees along his lot line on Bradley and Walker Roads.
Already a small German settlement was growing up in western Dover Township when J. Heinrich Meilander Sr. and his wife, Marie, came from Cleveland to live here in 1860. Henry settled on the west side of Bradley Road, south of Walker Road. The land cost $1,500 and Henry paid it in full by 1866. Later he added 52-plus acres north of Walker Road on the west side of Bradley Road.
Here Henry raised his family of four boys, August, Frank, Henry Jr. and John; and three daughters, Henrietta, Ella and Anna. August inherited his father’s property south of Walker Road. Anna married Frank Starke and moved next door. John farmed the property north of Walker. Henry Jr. built his home on the southwest corner of Ednil and Bassett roads. Frank bought 40 acres complete with house on Bassett just south of Henry Jr. Westerly School was built on Frank Meilander’s property. All but Frank’s house are still standing.
In the 1920s, city council and the mayor of the Village of Bay decided that we needed another east/west road through the village to help reduce the traffic flow on Lake Road. Wolf Road (named for the John Wolf family on Bradley) materialized and by 1925, the roadway was complete up to Cahoon Creek.
Work then stopped for four years due to lack of funds. A bridge needed to be built across the creek, and then the road could continue west in front of Parkview School and out to Bradley Road. In 1928, work was begun again to extend Wolf Road west to Bradley Road.
The city owned the property in front of Parkview School so obtaining that right-of-way was easy. Many of the western farmers complained bitterly that their farmland was again being cut in half (the interurban already having been laid in 1897).
Much dickering and discussion took place as to where this road was to go west of the school. Whose land was it going to cut across and how many corners were going to be cut off to make it straight? In the end, concessions were made and no corners were left dangling. Two elbows (as we have on Bassett Road in Westlake today) appeared and maneuvered the road around the corners and through the farm fields. After the elbows, it was a nice straight stretch westward to Bradley Road passing along the shared property lines of the Albers, Waldecks and brothers Meilander, then cutting across Saddlers and Aldrichs.
This is when Henry got the idea to plant the sycamore trees. The Albers and Waldecks donated forty-three-by-one-thousand feet of land along their shared lot line for the road. Over the years the elbows have been softened and become easy curves past the high school.
Another small snippet of Bay history saved. So, now you know the story of why we have a row of sycamore trees lining Wolf Road.
I am a historian for the Bay Village Historical Society. Member and Past President of the society. Lived in the village since 1936.