Magical History Tour

Cleveland Grays Armory Museum

This month’s Magical History Tour is at Cleveland Grays Armory Museum, located approximately 15 miles from the Westlake/Bay Village area in downtown Cleveland. The information in this article was sourced from a tour given by Bernie Browski, as well as the museum’s website and brochure.

On Bolivar Road, the Cleveland Grays Armory stands a silent sentry amid the bright lights and thunderous applause of Cleveland’s Progressive Field and Playhouse Square, an imposing reminder of times gone by. Chartered in 1837, the Cleveland Grays were an independent militia whose members served in volunteer units during the Civil War, Spanish-American War, Mexican Border Campaign and World War I.

Although the early 1900s saw federal legislation moving the country away from state-run militias through the establishment of the National Guard, the Grays declined joining the Guard and became instead a private militia. Since then, members of the Grays have volunteered in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, the Grays take pride in their past and present service as America’s oldest independent armory, offering public tours of the Armory on the first Wednesday of each month between noon and 4 p.m. at $8 for adults and $5 for students, seniors and military.

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Volume 10, Issue 1, Posted 9:31 AM, 01.09.2018

Holiday at Finwood Estate

This month’s Magical History Tour is at Finwood Estate, located less than 15 miles from the Westlake/Bay Village area, next to Lorain County Community College in Elyria. Information in this article was sourced from the city of Elyria’s web page on Finwood Estate and from Annette Solet, recreation supervisor for the City of Elyria.

From the tangled black mass of skeletal trees lining Abbe Road blazes a multitude of Christmas lights, beginning near the street and stretching back into the surrounding woods. A drive cuts through the trees, snaking its way to the brightly-lit house twinkling merrily through the branches: It's Christmas time once more at Finwood Estate.

Originally built in 1929 as the private residence of common pleas Judge Guy B. Findley and his wife, Finwood Estate is now owned by the city of Elyria and operated by the Elyria Parks Department throughout the year for private rentals. During the Christmas season, however, Finwood's doors are flung open to the public as the property is transformed into a veritable winter wonderland known as Holiday at Finwood. This tradition is in its 32nd year, according to Annette Solet, recreation supervisor for the City of Elyria and prime mover behind the event.

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Volume 9, Issue 24, Posted 9:59 AM, 12.19.2017

Exploring Lawnfield, home of President James A. Garfield

The Observer is pleased to introduce our newest columnist, Rachel Polaniec. Rachel grew up in Elyria and has lived in Westlake for the past 5 years. She has a passion for historic sites, studying living history museums as a student at Case Western Reserve University and participating in historic reenactments with her family. Her column will explore Northeast Ohio's rich history, touring sites that aren't too far from the Westlake/Bay Village area. Perhaps you'll be inspired to let the Magical History Tour take you away on a trip of your own.

When driving along U.S. Route 20 in Mentor, it is difficult to imagine the area without its usual bustle – the store fronts, the eateries, the people milling about; a veritable concrete jungle. But continuing along this road brings a reminder of a different time: Close to the street behind a white picket fence sits a tidy gray house with a burgundy roof and inviting front porch. This is Lawnfield, named such in 1880 by reporters who came to hear the Republican presidential candidate James A. Garfield campaign from his front porch.

Garfield’s successful front porch campaign was the first of its kind, and he was sworn into office March 4, 1881. His term was tragically cut short – after being shot by an assassin on July 2, Garfield died on Sept. 19, 1881, just 200 days after his inauguration.

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Volume 9, Issue 22, Posted 10:00 AM, 11.21.2017