Bay Village City Hall turns 100
One hundred years ago, in 1914, the Village of Bay was a young, growing town, having broken away from the township of Dover in 1901. At the turn of the century, a group of residents who lived north of the Nickel Plate Railroad tracks wished to secede from Dover after disagreements over the spending of tax revenues. The petitioners scheduled an election and voted themselves out of Dover and into a new community, called the Hamlet of Bay until being incorporated in 1903 as the Village of Bay.
THE VILLAGE GROWS
At the end of the 1800s, this farming community of North Dover was also a playground for the affluent. The Lake Shore Electric Railway’s interurban cars brought city folk away from the steamy city and to the cool retreat of summer cottages and the Dover Bay Country Club. Wealthy men, like John Huntington and Washington Lawrence, purchased large swaths of property and built lakefront homes.
By the early part of the 20th century, the community was undergoing a transformation. The interurban railway that brought vacationers to Bay also made daily downtown commuting a possibility. Families began buying parcels of land and the summer retreat evolved into a year-round residence.
The population was on the rise, from around 300 residents in 1900 to more than 750 by 1920.
NEED FOR A TOWN HALL
After breaking away from Dover, the village had no land of its own. Bay needed a town hall, as well as a place to build it.
In those first years, the town council often met in the homes of councilmen. Joan Kemper, current clerk of council, found the very first handwritten council minutes from a century ago in the vault at Bay Village City Hall. The book of minutes covers the proceedings of council from Feb. 19, 1903, to Dec. 17, 1915. Written in wonderful penmanship by clerk of council Isaac Clinton Powell, it verifies at least one instance of the location of a council meeting.
An Aug. 13, 1914, council record states that, "pursuant to the call of the Mayor, Council met at the residence of Mr. Calvin Osborn at 8:30 p.m." The mayor at the time was Albert Horace Wolf. (An interesting fact about Wolf, he owned an airport in 1920s located behind St. Barnabas. This might be where the airplane that took aerial photo shown with this story took off.)
Osborn was a council member and lived at 29560 Lake Road. This house was moved in 1995 to the historic Rose Hill Museum area in Cahoon Memorial Park and is now the Osborn Learning Center.
DONATION MAKES TOWN HALL POSSIBLE
Many of Bay's residents were descendants of the early settlers in the area, including Ida Cahoon, the last surviving member of the Cahoon family. Her grandfather, Joseph Cahoon, and his family were the first to settle in Dover Township, arriving in 1810.
Knowing that the city was in need of land, Ida donated a portion of her property for the new town hall. Ida would leave the remaining 115 acres of her family's farm, now Cahoon Memorial Park, to the citizens of the Village of Bay when she passed away in 1917.
THE CONSTRUCTION BEGINS
Now the city had the land to build its new Town Hall. In a meeting on May 12, 1914, council accepted the "lowest and best bid" of $8,300 by the John Kiser & Brother company to construct the new building.
Work started right away on the new Town Hall and continued throughout the summer. There must have been some concern about the quality of the work during construction because council passed a resolution at the July 7 meeting "that the building committee confer with the architect and if necessary take steps to stop brick work on the Town Hall until the work is according to specifications."
TOWN HALL DEDICATION
There doesn't seem to be any surviving record in the city's archives of a dedication ceremony for the Village of Bay Town Hall. When did it happen? I have a theory based on the council minutes. The minutes from the Nov. 2, 1914, council meeting noted that "Council [is to] meet at the New Town Hall building Nov. 3, 2 p.m." – the very next day. It's reasonable to assume that city leaders wouldn't schedule council meetings on back-to-back days. So the meeting at the new Town Hall on Nov. 3, 1914, was probably for the purpose of dedicating the building.
According to local historian Will Krause, the overall building style looks to be a blend of classical and colonial revival architecture. The front pediment and columns appear to be loose interpretations of ancient Greek architecture. The Greek revival style was brought to the area by early settlers from New England and upstate New York, and is often called the "Western Reserve." Around the time of the hall's construction, a new style was sweeping the nation.
"Starting in 1876 with the U.S. Centennial there was increased interest in the use of classical elements in buildings," Krause said. "Not as reproductions, but duplicating classical elements and putting them together in new ways – the way Victorians always mixed and matched elements in the various architectural revival styles. This style was used in the 1910s by elites as a status symbol to connect them with the founders of our country."
Krause, Westlake's assistant planning director and a former Bay Village resident, believes the hall's designer borrowed elements from the Western Reserve and colonial styles. "The building’s styles were combined in an effort to create a dignified, usable building – hence the brick main body of the building. What I think the architect was trying to do was to set the tone for the future growth of the community as a special 'village' with a connection to New England."
THE VILLAGE BECOMES A CITY
The Town Hall still bears the inscription "Village of Bay" above the front entrance. In 1950, with 6,917 residents, the Village of Bay easily passed 5,000-resident threshold and is certified as a city. Names for the new city were put to a vote, and the winner was “City of Bay Village.”
City Hall has been expanded over the years, with building additions in the 1950s, '70s and '80s, and the installation of a clock tower in 1990. The clock was the idea of the Bay Village Women's Club, who also provided initial funds for the construction. The club felt that there should be a clock tower in Bay Village and initially thought of adding one to the Bay Square Shopping Center across the street. But City Hall was decided to be the best prospect for the tower. Club member Janet Sondles' husband, James, an architect, donated his time to design the clock tower and the city's service department constructed it.
Viewing old photos of the original Town Hall, the building looks incomplete without the clock tower. That tall steeple atop the Bay Village municipal building is now the defining centerpiece of the city of Bay Village.