Digging Dover

Moses Cleaveland Trees in Westlake

A recent Observer article by Kay Laughlin about Moses Cleaveland trees in Bay Village stated that the last few original Moses Cleaveland trees were gone – that they had all succumbed to lightning strikes or Lake Erie. This led me to wonder how many were left in Westlake.

The designation of Moses Cleaveland trees began in 1946 as part of the celebration of the sesquicentennial of Cleveland’s founding in 1896, spearheaded by the Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve. The idea was to identify 150 trees that had been growing when Moses Cleaveland first arrived in northeast Ohio to survey the Connecticut Western Reserve.

The Committee on Moses Cleaveland Trees of the Sesquicentennial Commission was chaired by Arthur B. Williams, curator of education at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. It was estimated that there were thousands of such trees deep in the remote parts of the Cleveland Metroparks where they were still pretty much inaccessible to the public in 1946.

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Volume 11, Issue 11, Posted 10:25 AM, 06.04.2019

The Nickel Plate Railroad, Part IV

According to Taylor Hampton’s “The Nickel Plate Road,” the initial passenger cars for the Nickel Plate were constructed by the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago. They were painted a dull red or reddish-brown color with several gilt stripes around them.

The coaches were finished in cherry, the first-class ones having frescoed satinwood ceilings. The seats were upholstered in crimson plush and had backs six inches higher than ordinary ones. The coaches had toilet rooms and a ladies salon with marble washstand with comb, brush, mirror and towel.

The coaches were heated, lit by oil chandeliers, had large windows and provided with a bucket, an ax, and a saw for use in case of accident. The Cleveland Herald stated that: “In fact although not literally nickel-plated, everything was found to be thoroughly gilt-edged.”

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Volume 11, Issue 9, Posted 2:11 PM, 05.06.2019

The Nickel Plate Railroad, Part III

The Rocky River “Dummy” Railroad provided a portion of the original route for the Nickel Plate. At least one source says that a “Dummy” Railroad was so called because the steam engine was concealed in a streetcar-type body so that the engine would induce less fear in horses. In these early years streetcars were still pulled by horses so horses were familiar with them.

Other sources say “Dummy” meant the engines were smaller, produced less steam and smoke, and were extremely quiet relative to other types of locomotives. The Rocky River railroad was a narrow-gauge line with a small engine, so this could be possible.  

A third theory is that “Dummy” referred to the fact that the engines were not smart enough to turn around (because they had no turn table) so they had to back up for a return trip. This last reason may be the most plausible for the Rocky River line because early maps do not show any way for the train to turn around at either end of the single-track route.

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Volume 11, Issue 8, Posted 9:48 AM, 04.16.2019

The Nickel Plate Railroad, Part II

As stated in Part I of this series of articles about the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, it was the editor of the Norwalk Chronicle newspaper who is credited with christening the railroad the “Nickel Plate.” As early as March of 1881 he described it as the “nickel plated railroad.”

Commercial nickel plating had begun in 1870 and was beginning to attract attention by 1880. The editor said he came up with the name on the spur of the moment when printing some notices for a public meeting to be held in Norwalk to discuss what the townspeople were willing to offer to have the railroad come through their town. It was a common practice at that time to offer free right-of-way and cash incentives to lure a railroad to pass through your town, similar to the vying for Amazon facilities with tax incentives today.

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Volume 11, Issue 7, Posted 9:43 AM, 04.02.2019

The Nickel Plate Railroad, Part 1

The first railroad in the United States was operating in 1828. By 1881 Ohio had 70 rail lines and 5,912 miles of track. It was in February of 1881 that a group of investors met in New York City determined to build a railroad connecting Buffalo with Chicago to compete with William H. Vanderbilt’s Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad. A survey of the route may have begun as early as 1879. The first board of directors included Daniel P. Eels of Cleveland’s famed Euclid Avenue Millionaires' Row.

The railroad was organized under the name New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad. It was unusual to build a 520-mile trunk line all at once but that is exactly what they planned to do. Many small towns between Cleveland and Fort Wayne, Indiana, fought for the privilege of having the new railroad go through their town. Norwalk and Bellevue, Ohio, competed intensely and it was the editor of the Norwalk newspaper who is credited for nicknaming this new railroad the “Nickel Plate.”

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Volume 11, Issue 6, Posted 10:13 AM, 03.19.2019

Tracing Milo Kutchin's travels through Wisconsin, Columbus and Dover, Ohio

When individuals have a question about a building in Westlake one place they look for answers is Westlake City Hall. If it is an older building they tend to get referred to the Westlake Planning Department, where I work as assistant planning director.

Descendants of Milo Kutchin showed up one day with a number of family pictures. I believe they knew that Milo had lived on First Street and that he had run a drug store on Dover Center Road near the railroad tracks in the early 20th century. Most tantalizing was a photograph of a trim brick building complete with a pharmacy trade sign consisting of an over-sized mortar and pestle mounted on a pole in the sidewalk. The question they posed: Could this building have been located in Dover?

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Volume 11, Issue 4, Posted 10:02 AM, 02.19.2019

Dover/Westlake Then and Now

Eighty-three-year-old Bob Collins has resided in Westlake for close to 70 years. He says that it was his high school history teacher here that got him interested in history. One way this has manifested itself is his collection of postal cards.

Early postal cards could be printed with a photograph on one side in the same way that a Christmas card can be printed today with a family photograph at Costco. A number of the cards that Bob owns have been printed and re-printed in local history books but the level of detail that can be captured and printed digitally today was not possible even a few short years ago.

Bob shared the collection with me last summer and my plan is to share them with Observer readers along with a recent photograph of the same location. I have tried to duplicate the location and angle of the new photograph as closely as possible with the old photograph.

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Volume 11, Issue 2, Posted 10:04 AM, 01.22.2019

With Landmark closing, Westlake loses another link to farming roots

With the recent closing of the Landmark Lawn & Garden Supply at 677 Dover Center Road, another link to Westlake’s agricultural past is gone. Landmark was a lawn, garden and pet supply business that had served the area for over 75 years. This family-owned operation also delivered bulk landscape supplies for do-it-yourself projects. Landmark Lawn & Garden Supply was located on Dover Center Road, right next to the railroad tracks.

Before it was known as Cuyahoga Landmark Inc., it was the Dover location of the Cuyahoga Farm Bureau Co-Op Association Inc. According to Case Western Reserve University’s Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, the Cuyahoga County Farm Bureau was organized in 1915 to provide farmers in the county with a vehicle for collective action in representing, promoting and protecting farm interests.

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Volume 10, Issue 21, Posted 9:54 AM, 11.06.2018

Wild Goose Jack, Part 2

Part two in a series on Westlake native Jack Miner.

Jack Miner was an eminent naturalist, conservationist and humanitarian who in 1904 established a bird sanctuary on the north shore of Lake Erie at Kingsville, Ontario, Canada. In his autobiography, “Wild Goose Jack,” Miner writes that it was Dover Ditch and Cahoon Creek which were where he played and began educating himself in the things that would later make him world famous. He loved Dover as his hometown until he died in 1944.

According to “You’ve Come a Long Way, Westlake…” by William Robishaw, when Jack Miner died, he was the fifth-best known man on the North American continent, determined by a poll of United States newspapers. The poll ranked only Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Charles Lindbergh and Eddie Rickenbacker as more well known.

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Volume 10, Issue 19, Posted 9:50 AM, 10.02.2018

Wild Goose Jack, Part 1

Part one in a series on Westlake native Jack Miner.

One of the advantages of volunteering for the Westlake Historical Society is being able to see newly donated items. On a recent Sunday during my hosting the open house of the Clague Museum I was looking through a box of books donated by the family of dear Roger and Lollie Cooley, longtime Westlake Historical Society members who have both died recently.

A book that caught my eye was an autobiography of one of Westlake’s most famous native sons, Jack Miner. It was inscribed to Roger and Lollie by Jack’s descendant Kirk Miner. The Cooley and the Miner families have an association that goes back to around the time that Jack was born in Dover Township in 1865.

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Volume 10, Issue 15, Posted 9:43 AM, 08.07.2018

The Mitchell/Shie House, 24102 Center Ridge Road

This circa 1882 house sits on approximately 3.5 acres on Center Ridge Road. The property is divided into three parcels. The house is on an approximately 100-foot-wide, one-acre parcel, flanked on the west by an approximately 50-foot-wide, 0.2-acre parcel and on the east by an approximately 80-foot-wide, 2.3-acre parcel that widens out behind the house, extending nearly 600 feet back from Center Ridge and includes a barn. The house and property are for sale for $349,900.

The house could be restored on its parcel and a second home could be constructed on the parcel with the barn. The barn may have been the location of Hickory Hill Stables, offering riding lessons and pony rides in years past. The parcels combined could accommodate up to three horses and other farm animals such as chickens as long as the owner meets other requirements in the city code such as distance of structures housing them from abutting residences.

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Volume 10, Issue 13, Posted 9:21 AM, 07.03.2018

The Dover Bay Estates

In 1911 Dover Village was incorporated and in 1922 Dover Village created its first Planning Commission. One of the first subdivisions of land approved by the Planning Commission was the 87-lot Dover Bay Estates.

The majority of the lots were 50 feet wide and they fronted on Cahoon and Dover Center roads and the newly platted streets of Ellington, Langale and Richmar. The plat also created Valley Ford Road which gave the subdivision an entrance on Cahoon Road by literally fording Cahoon Creek. The right-of-way for Valley Ford Road was vacated in 1965 and now forms part of the shared driveway for 990 and 1006 Richmar Drive. The westerly end of the street climbed out of the valley of Cahoon Creek where the large brick home at 931 Cahoon Road was constructed in 2005.

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Volume 10, Issue 12, Posted 9:27 AM, 06.19.2018

The Sylvanus and Mary Crocker House, 29242 Detroit Road, part II

The current owner, Bill Nordgren, purchased the property in 1973. During his 45 years of ownership he did research on the house which he made available to me. Some of the highlights of his research, along with my own, will be recounted here.

In 1865 Sylvanus and Mary Crocker sold a 97.46 acre portion of Original Lot 63 to Ernst F. Walker and another buyer. An 1874 plat map shows E.F. Walker owning 77.46 acres of O.L. 63 including the subject property. This acreage includes all the property north under I-90 all the way to today’s Bassett and Clemens roads and includes a rectangle with corners consisting of the Red Roof Inn on Clemens to the Hampton Inn on Detroit back to the subject house. Ernst and his wife Maria owned all of this property until shortly before his death. They sold the property to their son J.F. Christian Walker in 1909.

Bill Nordgren’s uncovered quite a bit of information about Ernst F. Walker. Ernst was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1837. He moved to Ohio with his parents in 1854. He married Maria Boehning in 1860 and moved to Dover Township upon purchasing this land in 1865. Ernst was a trustee of Dover Township for one year in 1866. They had eight children, all but one were born while they owned this house.

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Volume 10, Issue 9, Posted 10:10 AM, 05.01.2018

The Sylvanus and Mary Crocker House, 29242 Detroit Road, circa 1853

The Westlake Crockers were descendants of families who first settled Massachusetts in the 1600s. Jedediah Crocker was a Revolutionary War veteran who purchased large tracts of land in Euclid and Dover townships. His holdings included Original Lot (O.L.) 52 – the land where Crocker Park, The Promenade and the Atrium Office Building are now located – and O.L. 63, which includes the land northwest of Bassett and Detroit roads where the subject home is located.

“Pioneers of Westlake, Ohio: Settlers in 1820 and Their Families” by Jeanne Workman has a wealth of information about the Crocker family, as does research prepared by the current owners of the subject house. Jedediah and his wife, Sarah, were founding members of what later became Dover Congregational Church. Their oldest son, Noah, with wife, Betsey, and three children were among the very first pioneers in Westlake, immigrating to Dover in 1811.

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Volume 10, Issue 5, Posted 9:36 AM, 03.06.2018

Cooley house is one of Westlake's oldest structures

The 2.3-acre property at 2871 Dover Center Road, which was the subject of this column in the last issue, will change families for only the third time since it was settled. The lot, currently for sale for $295,000, has been owned by just two families in the last 200 years – the Cooleys and the Powers.

According to the book “You’ve Come a Long Way, Westlake” by William Robishaw, Asher Cooley was a farmer in Massachusetts, and in 1815 visited Dover Township, where he selected 44 acres, which he obtained as a Connecticut Land Grant.

Three years later, the then 31-year-old Asher Cooley loaded his wife and five children, and what possessions they could carry, into an oxcart. They traveled through the wilderness to settle on their property in Dover Township, arriving on Oct. 19, 1818, after a journey of 5-and-a-half weeks. Asher’s was only the fifth family to take up residence in the township.

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Volume 10, Issue 3, Posted 9:58 AM, 02.06.2018

Historic Cooley barn wood, contents to be salvaged

A familiar sight to Westlake and Bay Village residents was the vegetable farmstand inside the old red Cooley barn on the east side of Dover Road across from the Porter Library drive. Robert Power Sr. was the proprietor who grew produce on the fertile land behind the barn. The vegetable stand is now closed due to the declining health of Mr. Power. His son, Rob Power, who owns the property, has had the circa 1828 Asher Cooley house, the barn and 2.3 acres of property for sale for several years.

Preparations to remove the barn started several weeks ago. The property can be divided into at least two lots once the barn is removed. The barn siding wood will be upcycled into large, stylized American flags by an artisan. The artisan is exchanging his labor to remove the barn for the wood siding and timbers he is salvaging. Some of the contents of the barn are to be donated to the Westlake Historical Society for future display at the Lilly Weston museum of early Dover history.

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Volume 10, Issue 2, Posted 9:17 AM, 01.23.2018

A look back at Captain Penny's time in Westlake, Bay Village

Like many younger baby boomers I have fond memories of children’s syndicated television personalities Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans, Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop and others. Closer to home, broadcasting from the WEWS-TV studio were pretty Miss Barbara and her Magic Mirror and handsome, likable Captain Penny and Bobo the Clown. Miss Barbara had a typical bouffant hair style of the day and Captain Penny was dressed in railroad engineer attire. Miss Barbara, Norwalk native Barbara R. (Bowen) Plummer, died in 2010 at 80 years old, still a Cleveland area resident.

Captain Penny, Elyria native Ronald A. Penfound, unfortunately died at the young age of 47. While on screen he presented a wholesome, clean-cut image, off screen, like many young men of his era, he had been a cigarette smoker and succumbed to lung cancer in 1974. I was intrigued by a recent article about Captain Penny, which stated that he resided in Westlake during his TV days. The Captain Penny show ran from 1955 to 1971 so I was curious as to where he lived.

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Volume 9, Issue 24, Posted 10:01 AM, 12.19.2017

Meet the Clagues, Part I

As mentioned in a previous article, the Clagues of Westlake may have been inspired by the Cahoons of Bay Village to donate their land and home for use as a public park and library. It seems to me that Ida Cahoon and her sisters may be better known to the residents of Bay than the Clagues are to Westlake residents. Hopefully this continuing series of articles will rectify that.

The Clagues were from the Isle of Man. Readers may be familiar with the Manx cat, a tailless breed which harkens from the same island. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, The Isle of Man is one of the British Isles, located in the Irish Sea, situated off the northwest coast of England. The island is only approximately 300 square miles in size (Cuyahoga County is larger, at approximately 450 square miles).

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Volume 9, Issue 23, Posted 10:33 AM, 12.05.2017

Clague Memorial Park, Part II: WPA funding turns farmland into park

Second in a series of articles on Clague Memorial Park.

Two weeks ago, Issue 53, a 25-year extension of an existing one-eighth of 1 percent income tax to fund recreational facilities, passed by a 2-to-1 margin. The extension will pay for $34.5 million in new and renovated recreational amenities throughout the existing city of Westlake park system. Included in these amenities is a new $7.4 million family aquatic center to replace Peterson Pool in Clague Memorial Park. All but the existing water slide tower will be demolished at the pool site. Ballfields and parking lots will be improved in the parts of Clague Park on both the east and west sides of Clague Road.

Westlake adopted a new Parks and Recreation Master Plan in 2015 which will guide these and other changes to Clague Park. Myself and James Bedell, Westlake’s planning director, served on the advisory committee gathered by the consultant to help in preparing the new plan. When Clague Park was discussed, possible plans to tear down Clague Cabin were mentioned. Jim and I convinced the consultant and committee that Clague Cabin is a Westlake landmark that deserves to be saved.

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Volume 9, Issue 22, Posted 9:54 AM, 11.21.2017

Clague Memorial Park: Westlake’s first public park

First in a series of articles on Clague Memorial Park.

If you are a Westlake voter, you are familiar with Issue 53, the proposed continuation of the existing one-eighth percent income tax to pay for capital improvements for the recreation center, a new community services center and parks and other recreational facilities. This is the way a mature, forward looking, suburban community deals with addressing the recreational and social needs of its citizens.

One hundred years ago things were very different. There were no municipal income taxes and parks and recreation for citizens in Westlake (Dover) were dependent on the goodwill and largess of the Clagues, much as the Cahoon Will had created the foundation for the park system in Bay Village a few years earlier. It was 1917 when 65-year-old spinster Ida Marie Cahoon bequeathed land to establish Cahoon Memorial Park in Bay Village.

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Volume 9, Issue 21, Posted 10:00 AM, 11.07.2017

New columnist aims to bring local history to life

My name is William R. (Will) Krause. I am the assistant planning director for the city of Westlake. I have worked for Westlake for 28 years, lived in Bay Village for 17 and now Westlake for five years. I served on the Bay Village Planning Commission for five years. I was the chair of the Bay Village Historical Society’s Preservation Committee and a member of the Reuben Osborn Learning Center Steering Committee. I am currently a board member and historian for the Westlake Historical Society and chair of the Membership Committee and Lilly Weston Committee. I am a trustee of the Western Reserve Architectural Historians.

As you can tell from the above, I am passionate about local history and historic preservation. My basement and garage are full of parts of great old houses that have sadly come down in Bay Village and Westlake over the years. I am an advocate for those that remain.

I have been writing for the Westlake | Bay Village Observer nearly since its inception, penning 40-plus stories over the years. The editors have given me the opportunity to have a regular column.

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Volume 9, Issue 20, Posted 10:02 AM, 10.17.2017