Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Firelands Country Store

A shopper peers into a large door at The Firelands Country Store.

A shopper peers into a large door at The Firelands Country Store.

Motorists have driven by the store, seeing merchandise rest in the same spot, frozen in time, for over 30 years, wondering what had happened and if they might ever get a chance to return to the store.

A scene passing by motorists have wondered about for over 30 years.

A scene passing by motorists have wondered about for over 30 years.

That rare opportunity was made available for local residents when the store was reopened for liquidation of its contents, a few days ago.  Col. Nahorn soon learned of the store’s “reopening,” and he quickly made his way there to get a glimpse of a store he had only driven by – a store that had been closed longer than he has been alive.

Col. Nahorn and store owner Jack Smith, stand at the entrance to the Store just before reopening earlier this week.

Col. Nahorn and store owner Jack Smith, stand at the entrance to the Store just before reopening earlier this week.

The Firelands Country Store opened in 1958 and became well-known to offer a variety of “country” items – everything from furniture, glassware, and ceramics to cheese, wines, and spices.  A familiar story we’ve heard mentions how kids had to be accompanied by an adult or were not allowed to enter.  A recent article noted that Ohio’s largest selection of plastic flowers was offered at this store.

Family disagreements led to the longterm closure of the store in 1981.  Jack Smith, a friend of the Museum, earlier this year gained complete ownership of the property and decided on holding this giant sale.  Jack, a son of Joseph and Maxine Smith who had operated the store, recently bought out his brother Alan in order to reopen earlier this week.

An interior view of the Store.

An interior view of the Store.

Upon entering the expansive single-story building on August 18, 2015, one could easily get lost, making his way along the handmade wooden shelves, covered with merchandise marked with handwritten price tags.  Baskets hang from the ceiling, as do numerous differing light fixtures.  A slightly musty smell fills the air, and light pours into the building through giant glass paneled garage doors that line several sides of the rambling building.  Finally, in the rear of the building, we noticed the remaining, large selection of plastic flowers – most still priced under $1.  If you remove an item from a shelf, a lighter space is often left behind where that item once sat.

After taking in the experience of entering, we found a few items to purchase.  Some of these items are for the Museum, but mostly, we were interested in the act of simply entering the building and “poking around” a store that had been closed since 1981.  Of particular note, we were able to acquire a plaster sign, made in 1968 with the name of the store across the front.  Originally an item he did not want to sell, Mr. Smith decided to part with it so that it may now be a part of a new display at the Museum.

The Firelands Country store plaster sign, made in 1968, now a part of a new display at the Museum.

The Firelands Country store plaster sign, made in 1968, now a part of a new display at the Museum.

Doors finally open again!

Doors finally open again!

(Pub. August 20, 2015)

Black River Kayakathon

Photo courtesy Lorain365

Photo courtesy Lorain365

The 5th Annual Black River Kayakathon was held Saturday, August 8, 2015.  Col. Nahorn participated in the race, representing West River Paddle Sports in Vermilion.  He currently serves as naturalist and a kayak tour guide at West River.

In the race, Col. Nahorn represented West River Paddle Sports in Vermilion.

In the race, Col. Nahorn represented West River Paddle Sports in Vermilion.

In the race category, he participated in the 6-mile race, which proceeded from Grumpy’s Boat Launch up-river, past Bungart Island, turning around, then back to Grumpy’s.  In a little over an hour, Col. Nahorn was able to complete the race, earning second place in his division.

Col. Nahorn and friend Chris Nechols participated in the annual race.

Col. Nahorn and friend Chris Nechols participated in the annual race.

Matt and Chris beginning the race.

Matt and Chris beginning the race.

Col. Nahorn with his parents after the race.  He won 2nd place in his division.

Col. Nahorn with his parents after the race. He won 2nd place in his division.

Winckles Homestead Salvage Efforts

The Winckles-Barber-Gower Homestead

The Winckles-Barber-Gower Homestead

Thomas Turland Winckles was noted as “one of the grand old men among [Lorain County’s] native citizens” by George F. Wright in his “A Standard History of Lorain County Ohio (1916).”  He was a son of Thomas T. and Ann (Buck) Winckles, both from Northamptonshire, England.  The family immigrated to the United States in 1836, settling briefly in New York City.  They soon moved to Avon Township, Lorain County settling here the year that T. T. Winckles, Jr. was born.  The father was a farmer.  In 1845 they moved to North Ridgeville, where a “fine estate” was constructed.  The farm eventually encompassed about 187 acres of land along the Center Ridge, an ancient beach ridge and important geologic formation – particularly good for farming.

Giant hand-carved sandstone blocks comprised the basement, which was relatively dry due to the natural drainage situation created by the sandy soil in this area.

Giant hand-carved sandstone blocks comprised the basement, which was relatively dry due to the natural drainage situation created by the sandy soil in this area.  All lumber (beams, joists, &c) looked to be sawn on a circular mill.

In North Ridgeville, T. T. Winckles Sr. was active in the community where he served in public office as a township trustee (several years) and justice of the peace.  His family consisted of three sons and four daughters.  Of note, there was T. T. Winckles Jr. and Cary H.  Cary was a graduate of Oberlin College, who enlisted in the army during the Civil War.  He began as a private and was promoted to orderly sergeant.  Later he became a first lieutenant, but this was just a few days before his death in 1863, serving with the 103rd O.V.I.

T. T. Winckles, Jr. was educated largely in Elyria.  He was enrolled at Oberlin College from 1858-59.  His schooling and work on the family farm led to his eventual farming of the family homestead.  At 20 years old, his father passed away.  Until 1881 he worked on the family property, when he bought the Homestead.  The “fine farm” was noted as “easily one of the best in Lorain County” by Wright (1916).  At the time Wright wrote this, the farm had been acquired by T. T. Jr.’s son, Cary T. Winckles.  It is noted that T. T. Jr. operated the farm until about 1900 when he moved to Elyria and was “almost retired.”  In Elyria, his home was located at Cleveland and Winckles St.  In Elyria, as in Ridgeville, he was active in public life, serving on council for six years.  Wright mentions that, “In politics he is a Republican” and was active in the Congregational Church in Ridgeville, serving as a trustee in one capacity but was active with the church since he was twenty – more than fifty years of service to the church.

Mr. Winckles married Lucy Hurst in 1861.  One of their children, Cary T., who was president of The Elyria Construction Company and owned and operated the dairy farm on the Winckles’ family homestead.  (Most information above is via G. F. Wright’s “A Standard History of Lorain County Ohio” (1916)).  The farmstead contained a very large bank barn (the earthen bank, outlined in stone, is still evident today – the barn burned twice and was not rebuilt the third time) used for hay and a long barn used in the dairy operations on the farm.    

Remnant of stone-lined earthen ramp that led to the bank barn.

Remnant of stone-lined earthen ramp that led to the bank barn.

"The Winckles barn was the largest "plank & beam" barn in northern Ohio at the time. It was built by the Amish community. The barn burned down twice, but it was not rebuilt for a third time. The second fire was in the late 1930s. My dad, Tom Richards and my uncle Bill Richards, along with their father Paul Richards are pictured. Paul died in 1936." Photo and information via Tim Richards.

“The Winckles barn was the largest “plank & beam” barn in northern Ohio at the time. It was built by the Amish community. The barn burned down twice, but it was not rebuilt for a third time. The second fire was in the late 1930s. My dad, Tom Richards and my uncle Bill Richards, along with their father Paul Richards are pictured. Paul died in 1936.” Photo and information via Tim Richards.

In the early 1960s, the farm was then purchased by the Barber family.  William J. Barber operated the Barber Motors automobile dealership, an upscale auto retail shop located at the corner of Center Ridge Road and Route 113.  A large parcel of the original Winckles’ farm was sold/gifted to Lake Ridge Academy in 1965 for the campus of this newly formed independent school (founded in 1963).  The Barbers were an early Lake Ridge family and helped support the school in those early days by offering a permanent home for this new type of experiment in education.  In the late 1970s, the Gower family purchased the Winckles’ Homestead, and they were the final family to live on the Homestead.  Mr. Gower was a salesman at Barber Motors.

Museum contributor and local historian and genealogist, Jeff Sigsworth put us in contact with direct relations to the Winckles family.  After speaking with several of the family members, we were able to get a better idea of the history of the old Homestead from a unique family perspective.  Of particular note, we learned that in the late 1920s, a large portion of the western end of the original Winckles’ house was separated from the remainder of the structure and moved across the road (we believe this may have been the original section of the house).  It was subsequently used as a house for farmhands and the farm foreman.  This house was later demolished.  It is believed that certain major renovations occurred at the house in the 1880s (when the house was purchased by T. T. Winckles, Jr.) and during the 1920s when the western edge was removed and updates were made, such as adding modern plumbing and electricity.

Western side of the house, showing the area from where a section of the original house was removed and moved across the road.

Western-facing side of the house, showing the area from where a section of the original house was removed and moved across the road.

Lake Ridge Academy purchased the property and will add the remaining portion of the original Winckles’ Homestead to their campus, thus re-connecting the old farmstead that was separated from the Homestead back in 1965.  The old Winckles-Barber-Gower Homestead was demolished August 11, 2015.  We visited the property in mid-July, when we photographed the Homestead for our records.  We later gained permission to salvage unique and important items from the Homestead.  These items include the original (and quite large) sandstone carriage step (donated by Mr. Michael Shaulis); the sandstone well cover; several old-style late 1920s toilets and related items; and a few miscellaneous items such as the old coal door from the house’s basement.

Original Winkcles' sandstone carriage step after we cleared away brush that had covered the stone for many years. Note the house in the background.

Original Winkcles’ sandstone carriage step, in-situ, after we cleared away brush that had covered the stone for many years. Note the house in the background.  Just before relocating the stone to the New Indian Ridge Museum.

The original well cover and accompanying cistern cover in-situ at the homestead, just before relocation to the New Indian Ridge Museum.

The original well cover and accompanying cistern cover in-situ at the homestead, just before relocation to the New Indian Ridge Museum.

Upstairs maser bathroom with late 1920s bathroom fixtures - note the large separation from the tank and bowl of the toilet and also pedestal sink (both items were salvaged).

Upstairs maser bathroom with late 1920s bathroom fixtures – note the large separation from the tank and bowl of the Hygienic Si-Wel-Clo toilet, the flush chain, and also an American Standard pedestal sink (both items were salvaged).

Of note, we connected with Tom Winkles-Richards, now of N. Carolina.  He made the eight hour trip here before the house was demolished to salvage the old fireplace mantlepiece, as he has a photograph of himself in front of it with other family members, when he was just twelve weeks old.  He was successful in removing this sentimental piece and will incorporate it into a future project.  We are so fortunate to have been able to work with both Mr. Richards and Lake Ridge to acquire and save this item for the Winckles-Richards’ family history!  Thanks to the Richards family as well for their contributions to this article.

We are very thankful for the opportunity to document and salvage items from the Winckles Homestead.  A special thank you to Michael Shaulis for his donation from this project as well.

Sheffields Celebrate 200

The three Sheffields of Lorain County (Sheffield Village, Sheffield Lake, and Sheffield Township) are celebrating their bicentennial this year.  Founded as one in 1815, being Sheffield Township, the original Township was eventually split into the three entities already mentioned.  The original proprietors and settlers of Sheffield were Capt. Jabez Burrell and Capt. James Day.  Other early settlers included members from the Root and Smith families.

A detail view of the 1857 Lorain County Townships map showing the original area that comprised Sheffield.

A detail view of the 1857 Lorain County Townships map showing the original area that comprised Sheffield.

Of unique importance is that today, Sheffield can claim having the oldest brick house in Lorain County still standing on its original foundation, within its bounds.  Capt. Burrell (1767-1833) constructed his brick homestead about 1820, and it was continuously inhabited by the Burrell family until 2001.  Bricks for the house were handmade and fired on-site.  Today it is maintained by the Lorain County MetroParks.  Restoration and continued maintenance are required ongoing projects, but it certainly is a positive that this important structure is still here today for all to visit.  For more information on Sheffield’s history, we point you to “Bicentennial History of Sheffield, Ohio 1815-2015” (Herdendorf, 2015) and “Guide to the North Ridge Scenic Byway” (Herdendorf, 2010).

A close view showing the clay floor of one of the unearthed remains of a 4,000 year old Archaic Native American Indian dwelling.

A close view showing the clay floor of one of the unearthed remains (upper right) of a 4,000 year old Archaic Native American Indian dwelling.

On Saturday, August 1, an old-fashioned picnic and open house events were held at the Burrell Homestead.  About 500 guests visited, touring the Homestead, playing antique games, enjoying other festivities, and touring the ancient Native American Indian prehistoric excavation site located in the old Burrell Orchard.  An almost continuous stream of visitors made their way through the Burrell House, which was one of the main attractions of the day.  Of significance at the prehistoric site was the discovery of clay foundations of approximately 4,000 year old house structures that were unearthed here by an archaeological team from the Cleveland Museum of Natural Historic and Firelands Archaeological Research Center.  This is a very rare find as it has been previously thought that these ancient peoples did not have any form of long-term settled sites or homes.  Work continues at this site.  To finish off the day, a panoramic photo was taken of all attendees in front of the Burrell House, just as was done in previous old time picnics that were held at the Burrell Homestead.

Visitors await tours of the 1820 Burrell House, led by Lorain County Historian Tom Hoerrle.

Visitors await tours of the 1820 Burrell House, led by Lorain County Historian Tom Hoerrle.  The Burrell House is an exceptional historic structure with well-preserved features both in and outside.  It blends features of early Greek Revival and late Federal Style elements.

On Sunday, August 2, the long-anticipated unveiling and dedication of the Bicentennial Park and Founders’ Monument took place at the Sheffield Village Hall.  Many local historians were in attendance, along with local dignitaries and government officials.  Dr. Herdendorf, President of the Sheffield Village Historical Society and a member of the Bicentennial Commission, presided over the ceremony.  This event was the perfect near-culmination of the bicentennial celebration.

Dr. and Mrs. Herdendorf’s dedication to preservation and the presentation of Sheffield’s important history must be noted here.  Without their drive and enthusiasm, Sheffield’s history would not be preserved and presented as it has been done so thoroughly through the Sheffield Village Historical Society.  They have done a great service for their community.

Detail view of the monument showing inscription and Bicentennial seal.

Detail view of the monument showing inscription and Bicentennial seal.

News on Shupe Homestead Restoration

The restoration efforts at the 1811 Historic Shupe Homestead in Amherst continue.  July 2015 

Using wood we cut and milled from a dead ash tree here on the Homestead back in 2013, we created beautiful new stair risers and treads for the Shupe House.  They look great, and being milled from a tree that had grown on the property here, this was in a way reminiscent of what Jacob Shupe would have done and did do to construct his house.

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At the end of July we worked on electrifying a late 19th century style gas lamp ceiling fixture.  We purchased this particular fixture from an auction several years ago, and we are now pleased to be able to have this period style feature hanging in the Shupe House.  It is a great addition for the restoration of the house.

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Projects continue at the Homestead, and excavation in the front part of the property in order to document an historic trash pit site where we found pottery sherds and related 19th century artifacts, will continue this late Summer and into the Fall, as time allows.  Please follow this site for future developments and finds.