Magical History Tour

Lake View Cemetery

This month's Magical History Tour takes place at Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland's "Outdoor Museum," located about a half-hour drive east, bordering Cleveland's University Circle and Little Italy. Entrances are at Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, and at Mayfield and Kenilworth Roads in Cleveland Heights. Admittance is free, and complimentary on-site parking is available. See lakeviewcemetery.com for visitation guidelines.      

From the hard lines and polished surfaces of Cleveland's East Side rises a rural oasis of gentle hills and swaying greenery, a place of peace and repose, a sanctum from the roar of the city streets below. While the inadvertent visitor might be taken by surprise, Lake View Cemetery has been this way since its founding in 1869, being designed after the grand garden cemeteries of France and Victorian England.

Originally developed five miles from the city in bucolic arboreal surroundings, today the cemetery's 285 acres encompasses tracts of Cleveland, East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights. The expansive grounds host two small lakes, wildlife and a variety of exceptional horticulture: over 750 labeled trees, four of which are Moses Cleaveland trees – trees that were growing when Cleaveland first surveyed the area in 1796. 

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Volume 10, Issue 10, Posted 9:33 AM, 05.15.2018

Dittrick Medical History Center

This month's Magical History Tour is the Dittrick Medical History Center, located in the Allen Memorial Library in Cleveland's University Circle, and is about a 30-minute drive using I-90 East. The information in this article was sourced from the web pages of both the Library and the Dittrick. Admission is free, and public parking is available in the University Hospitals visitors garage a short drive east of the Library. Hours vary by day and season, so it is advisable to check the website, artsci.case.edu/dittrick, when planning your visit.

The junction of Euclid Avenue and Adelbert Road teems with a steady stream of cars criss-crossing the intersection, only pausing at the change of the traffic lights when clumps of students from Case Western Reserve University shuffle across the street at the sharp chirp of the traffic officer's whistle. Nurses and doctors, patients and visitors are seen hurrying up and down the sidewalk, all coming to and from the University Hospitals campus, the sharp outlines of its impressive glass-and-steel treatment center piercing the skyline behind a small yet striking three-story sandstone building crouching on the corner. 

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Volume 10, Issue 7, Posted 9:33 AM, 04.03.2018

Fashion on display at Kent State University Museum

This month's Magic History Tour is the Kent State University Museum, located on the Kent State campus about an hour's drive via I-480 East. The information used in the article was sourced from "A Fine Endeavor: 25 Years of Fashionable Collecting," and the "Fringe Elements" exhibit brochure. Both are available at the Kent State Museum. The Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday to the public, and free parking is available to museum visitors. 

On the Kent State University campus, at the bottom of a steep hill, sits Rockwell Hall. Built in the late 1920s as the first university library, Rockwell Hall was later converted into administrative use for the executive offices. Today the quintessential collegiate building hosts a "jewel in the crown" of the university: the Kent State University Museum. 

The Kent State University Museum began life as a collection of 4,000 dresses, over 1,000 antique furnishings, and 5,000 books belonging to two men – business partners Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman, whose line of women's ready-to-wear was highly popular throughout the 1960s and '70s. Both men were very fond of antiques and avidly collected for their homes. The resulting assortment of first-rate objects was eventually gifted to Kent State, as Jerry thought it should be accessible to students, and Dr. Brage Golding, president of the university, proposed creating a museum and adding a curriculum in fashion design and merchandising should they choose to locate the collection there. They did, and the Kent State University Museum officially opened in 1985.

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Volume 10, Issue 5, Posted 9:25 AM, 03.06.2018

Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage

This month’s Magical History Tour is the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, an easy 30-minute drive on I-480 East to Beachwood. The information in this article was sourced from the museum's guidebook, available for purchase in the giftshop, and the exhibits themselves. 

Nestled at the base of a small hill sloping down from Richmond Road is the Maltz Museum of Jewish History, the single-story structure of glistening glass and golden Jerusalem limestone complementing the graceful domes of Temple-Tifereth Israel rising up from behind. Once inside, the understated lobby offers access to three brilliant exhibits: The Jewish Experience in Northeast Ohio – An American Story; The Temple-Tifereth Israel Gallery; and Jews and Medicine in America.  

Opened in October 2005, the museum tells the story of the Jewish immigrants who settled in Cleveland. What began as a tiny, marginalized community grew into a large, thriving one, whose impact was felt across the United States and around the world. Interestingly, while telling this story the museum discovered the stories of every group of immigrants, and so alongside that of the Jewish community, "the Museum relates another story as well – one of diversity, of understanding and of mutual respect for all the peoples and cultures that comprise the myriad threads of the American tapestry." As part of this understanding, the museum proudly sponsors an annual "Stop the Hate" campaign, empowering students to speak out and make a difference in the world. 

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Volume 10, Issue 3, Posted 9:54 AM, 02.06.2018

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