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US-6 The Longest Highway - Day 11

Eastern Ohio

Don Milne here once again as Roadtrip-'62 ™ heads out on our eleventh day of travel along historic US-6. Yesterday, we traveled 86 miles from Warren, Pennsylvania to Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania, ending at an old-fashioned amusement park. Today we finish the quiet rural areas and hit a big city for a few days. As usual, that means museums, architecture, and we’ll also find a few surprises. But first, we have to get there and that means one more day of small towns. If you see anything you like, get yourself out on the road and enjoy it in person. You might be having fun on this virtual roadtrip, I know I am, but there's nothing like the real thing! At any time, click on an underlined word below to learn more about the places on the trip. Time for me to grab the wheel and go to Cleveland, Ohio!

 
Typical Isaly’s location
Typical Isaly’s location. This was the last open store, owned by Tom and Gail Weisbecker, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo courtesy of Rob Matheny at Flickr.)

But first, what about breakfast? I suppose I could maybe have some ice cream or a brownie sundae at Hank’s Frozen Custard. Hank’s was opened here in 1952, so it’s old enough for us. It’s still family run and it still uses the original custard machines bought used in 1952! The owners note that this type machine is very difficult to run, requiring an operator to be within earshot of them whenever they are running. But ice cream isn’t exactly what I had in mind for breakfast. The Spillway Inn just up the road in Linesville, Pennsylvania has a breakfast buffet, which is something I enjoy. But I can’t determine whether the age of the restaurant matches our time frame. I think I’ll try Rebecca's Family Restaurant, also in Linesville. The current owners have only had it for a few years, but there has been a restaurant in this building for a long time. Back in 1962, or close, it was part of the Isaly’s chain. This was a chain of dairies and restaurants that began in Ohio in 1914, and by the early 1960s, there were Isaly’s stretching from Pennsylvania to Iowa. As traffic moved to suburban areas and supermarkets cut into sales of home-delivered milk, the Isaly facilities beginning closing in the 1960s. The final outlet closed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2012, but the name lives on. In 1984, Delicatessen Distributing purchased the Isaly trademark name and now sell the original luncheon meats, cheeses and sauces in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Here in Linesville, when Isaly’s closed another restaurant took over, and later the current owners stepped in. The building front has about the same door and window arrangement of the photo above. And, they still have a working milkshake machine from the 1950s era that uses stainless steel mixing cups!

After breakfast, if you’re looking for a place to fish either today or in 1962, it would be hard to beat Pymatuning Lake. A study done in 2008 by Pennsylvania Fisheries Management personnel found 17 different species in the lake. Panfish were the most abundant and together with bluegill, black crappie, rock bass, pumpkinseed, and yellow perch, these represented about 65% of the fish sampled. Other species included brown bullhead, northern pike, bowfin, smallmouth and largemouth bass. Only small numbers of carp were found, but maybe that’s because they’re all down at the famous Spillway! The Spillway is located about 2 miles south of US-6 on Harstown Rd., where the dam restricts flow out of the lake. It’s known as “Where the Ducks Walk on the Fish”, because the fish are so thick there that the ducks probably could walk across. Since the 1930s, people have been tossing bread to feed the carp, and the carp put on an amazing show as they scramble over each other for the treat. A biology professor from a local college once studied the Spillway, and calculated that each visitor tosses an average of 2.4 pounds of bread into the lake here. Sometimes the ducks add to the show and come away with their share: let’s watch.

 

Carp feeding on bread at the Spillway, Linesville, Pennsylvania.

For more nature viewing, you might hike the Spillway Trail, which begins near the Spillway. I’m going to hike more later, so I won’t do this one today. It’s a easy 3-mile hike along an old railroad bed. Or, the nearby Pymatuning Wildlife Learning Center features exhibits and guided nature walks. The Center opened in 1938 as "Pymatuning Museum" and was the Pennsylvania Game Commission's first wildlife educational center. I’ll make a stop there, but if you would rather see something a bit UNnatural, the Knickerbocker Hotel might suit you. Rumor is that the place is haunted by guests that checked in but didn't check out. It was built over 130 years ago and has a long and interesting history. It’s been investigated by several paranormal research teams. Some people hear voices; some people see things, and others just feel something, but all the researchers report at least one of these experiences. You can’t book a room though: the hotel is now only open for special events and meetings.

 
Pymatuning Lake Causeway, Andover, Ohio
Pymatuning Lake Causeway, Andover, Ohio

For some strange reason, US-6 takes a long way around Pymatuning Lake, even though there is a causeway directly across which begins and ends at US-6! We end up in much the same landscape as on the other side of the lake, in rolling hills farm country. Only difference is we’re now in Ohio. Andover is the first town we come, which has a nice town square and the Western Reserve Farm Co-op that has been there since 1934. The name Western Reserve is featured all around this northeastern part of Ohio, even into the Cleveland area. The name comes from an area that was originally part of the colony of Connecticut in 1662. The original royal charter granted the colony a swath of land extending all the way west to the Pacific Ocean. Much of this area was subject to conflicting claims of other colonies including Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York. So when the colonies formed the United States, they ceded the claims to the federal government to settle the matter. However, Connecticut exempted approximately 3,400,000 acres, which became its Western Reserve. Soldiers who served in the Continental Army were granted land in the Western Reserve in payment for their service. But most of the land was sold in 1795 to a group of investors known as the Connecticut Land Company. They surveyed the land to prepare it for resale, with the man in charge of the surveying being Moses Cleaveland. With a little spelling change, he became the namesake of Cleveland, Ohio.

Traveling west through the Rome, Ohio area, you can see old oil wells and smell the distinctive aroma of crude oil. There has been drilling in Ashtabula County for at least 50 years, so we probably would have seen these back in 1962. Today, there is renewed activity here, drilling into the Utica Shale formation. As only 50 percent of the county has already been drilled for oil and gas, the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) techniques in the shale should result in a lot of new wells. There are already 15 active underground injection wells in the county. The boom is expected to continue, too, as people are getting over $2,000 an acre for drilling rights, plus a percentage of profits. And while we tend to think of fracking as a new technology, it has been used since the 1950s in Ohio. We passed another area of oil wells along our US-23 trip, near Kawkawlin, Michigan. That area has not benefited from the current fracking boom; perhaps it’s in the wrong geologic formation.

 
Maple trees with taps and buckets for collecting sap
Maple trees with taps and buckets for collecting sap. (Public domain photo by Dave Pape.)

Chardon, Ohio is next down the road. It has a pleasant town square in the center of town, ringed by a mix of old business buildings and government buildings, including a school. Court Street, in front of the courthouse, has an unusual drive-on-left traffic pattern. If you’ve ever wanted to drive wrong-way, here’s your chance! Most of the storefronts are still occupied, and if you have a hunger for antiques, you can visit Antiques On The Square and see if there’s anything fun from 1962. Chardon is known for as the heart of Ohio's Maple Syrup country and holds the Geauga County Maple Festival in late April every year. As I write this, the 2013 event has just finished, and it featured amusement rides, real maple syrup over pancakes (served in the park), a Syrup & Candy Contest, and a Lumberjack Competition. We could have attended in 1962 because it’s been held annually since 1926. A supplier of syrup here is Richard’s Maple Syrup, which has been in business right on US-6 since 1910. Besides syrup, they also sell maple caramel corn, maple-cinnamon sugar, and maple candies. I’m going to stop in and stock up on maple candy for the trip because I missed a chance to buy it at the festival. Maple candy is one of my favorites since I was a kid!

In addition to maple syrup, the Chardon area is full of orchards. Sage Farm is an old one, begun over 80 years ago. It stayed a small operation until 1957, when the market moved from a table by the roadside into their remodeled stable. Owner Allen Sage planted a grove of Melrose apples in 1962, along with a few McIntosh, Golden and Red Delicious. He kept concentrating on Melrose, but has now expanded to include Transparent, Lodi, Wealthy, and Paula Red. They also grow other fruits and vegetables, including raspberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, nectarines, sweet corn, green beans, zucchini, beets, and tomatoes. I’m going to grab some in-season goodies for a picnic later.

 
Chardon Motel sign, Chardon, Ohio
Chardon Motel sign, Chardon, Ohio

Just a few miles north of town is Big Creek Park, part of the Geauga Park District system. We could have seen it as an Ohio State Park in 1962. This area is close enough to Cleveland and its moneyed class, that in 1926, Samuel Livingston Mather purchased almost 1,000 acres intending to create a high-class resort. However, the Great Depression intervened and the plan went bust. Mr. Mather decided to donate about half the land to the State of Ohio in 1955. This is a good opportunity for a forest hike: the park has a 6.4-mile network of trail loops leading from the picnic and parking areas. Because Big Creek cuts a ravine, the trails on the east and west sides of the park do not connect. But this provides some great scenery due to small streams cutting their way through glacial deposits and bedrock on their way down.

After a hike and a picnic at the park (yummy maple candy for dessert), we head back through Chardon and westward. I’m rather glad we’re not staying the night here, as the one old motel I saw had a hole bashed in side of building. They've probably fixed that by now, as a Chardon native informed me this 1950s motel is open and rented by the week. That's an unfortunate circumstance that happens to many older motels. It’s in area of new commercial development, so the land is undoubtedly worth more than the building and it may not last many more years. But, we’re not staying anyway, we’re off to Kirtland, Ohio. The ravines we just saw and many more from here to Cleveland are the result of the melting, around 10,000 years ago, of a huge glacier slowly retreating northward from the Ohio River. As the glacier melted, the water left behind eventually changed flow direction and headed toward Lake Erie, cutting through soils and stones left behind. The streams eventually cut down through bedrock as the lake level dropped.

 
Black-eyed Susans at the Holden Arboretum, Kirtland, Ohio
Black-eyed Susans at the Holden Arboretum, Kirtland, Ohio (Public domain photo by Hiren.)

We’re going to take a short loop off US-6 to reach our next two destinations, one of which was open in 1962. First up is the Herb Society of America, but we’re not stopping here. Though it was founded in 1933, it has only been in this part of Ohio since 1988. The society was created for the purpose of furthering knowledge and use of herbs, and had been in the Boston, Massachusetts area. The building they are now in here is the oldest stone house in Lake County, Ohio, with the original part of the house built in 1841 of local stone. Over the years it had been owned by Benjamin Hubbell, Sr., designer of the Cleveland Museum of Art and other important buildings in that city. By 1962, the house was the residence for the director of the nearby Red Oak Camp for boys. It later became owned by the Holden Arboretum, our next real stop, which sold it to the Herb Society.

The Holden Arboretum is located just east of Kirtland, Ohio, on 3,600 acres. That places it among the largest arboreta in the United States. While the Holden’s horticultural focus is on a recognized collection of trees and shrubs, they don’t neglect flowering plants, and have more than 120,000 documented plants of all varieties. The Holden Arboretum was begun in 1931 with a bequest from Albert Fairchild Holden. Following that, Roberta Holden Bole and her husband, Benjamin P. Bole, donated the first 100 acres to Cuyahoga County. The county then began the tree planting and program establishment. By 1962, we would have seen a somewhat mature collection like today, but of course the trees are now much larger at 50 years older. The arboretum now focuses on sustainable plant choices recommended for their region, meaning plants that are adapted to local soils and climatic extremes. You may wander the gardens and natural areas on your own or they have expert guides to show you the way. I like discovering gardens on my own. My wife and I have visited gardens and arboretums all across the country, and when we planned our first garden many decades ago, we incorporated ideas from the best. So come, learn, and enjoy. And, if you can’t get here any time soon, check out their great photo gallery.

 
Kirtland Temple, Kirtland, Ohio
Kirtland Temple, Kirtland, Ohio

At Kirtland, we’re also going to visit something we haven’t seen before, but that we should see more of when US-6 gets to Utah: a temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as a Mormon temple). The Church was organized in 1830, introduced into Ohio late that year, and within a month gained 135 new members, with about 35 in Kirtland Township. The Kirtland Temple was the first temple built by Church founder Joseph Smith, Jr. and his followers. It was dedicated in 1836 and is now a National Historic Landmark. The temple served two thousand Latter Day Saints by 1838, but all except one hundred picked up and headed west within a year after that. For this brief period, Kirtland served as the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Temple was used primarily for education for many years and a small group of the Church community preserved it through the years. Today, let’s stop in for the tour, which covers the Kirtland Temple and gardens, and begins at the Visitor Center. If you’re interested in other nearby historic sites, the Church also maintains the Isaac Morley Farm, John Johnson Home, Newel K. Whitney Store, Kirtland Sawmill, Kirtland Temple Stone Quarry, and more.

If you’re in Kirtland in mid-June, don’t forget to enjoy the Kirtland Kiwanis Strawberry Festival. This festival is now in its 53rd year, so we could have attended back in 1962. The festival features a flea market, adult and kiddie rides, a Strawberry Shortcake Eating Contest, parade, and of course the Kiwanis Food Tent with lots of strawberry shortcakes and strawberry sundaes! On the way back to US-6 from Kirtland, we can take another nature hike at the Chapin Forest Reservation. Chapin Forest Reservation is known for its distinctive rock formations and one of the best scenic overlooks in Lake County. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Lake Erie or the Cleveland skyline! Just so you know that your Roadtrip-’62 ™ guide doesn’t find everything along the way, I actually missed this last time I came through this area. I ended up at the Nelson Kennedy Ledges State Park nearly 20 miles away, which would fit better into a journey down US-422. But both parks feature the same type of ancient sandstone ledges. The property was donated by Frederic H. Chapin in 1949 to the State of Ohio. The local metroparks system now operates it under a lease agreement with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry. While there are plenty of forest trails, and some excellent views of the sandstone, the ledges area itself is restricted to guided walks to help protect the fragile vegetation and for safety reasons. You can check with the park to see when these are offered.

 
Sandstone rock formations, northeastern Ohio
Sandstone rock formations, northeastern Ohio

As we approach Euclid, Ohio we are arriving at the east edge of the Cleveland metropolitan area. It creeps up on you kind of slowly, with a few strip shopping centers and apartments mixed with a semi-rural, large residential lot atmosphere. Even when you hit I-271, you’re still a bit insulated because there is no direct interchange with US-6. But when you hit Bishop Road, OH-84, the shopping just explodes at you and you’re suddenly on a 5-lane highway. The area still retains some rural character after this first hint of urban area, but there’s no doubt we have arrived. We’re going to look for a motel and dinner here. Tomorrow we’ll deal with Cleveland, which is so big that I think we’ll need two days! At Euclid, we meet up with a highway will see several more times as we continue west, US-20. In fact, on the west side of Cleveland, we travel together with it to Rocky River, Ohio. US-20 is now the longest US-numbered route, spanning 3,365 miles from Boston, Massachusetts to Newport, Oregon. It took over the title of longest when California shortened our own US-6 back in 1964.

Carmella's Pizza Bazaar was named after Frank Mastro's mother and opened in 1957. While not offering the larger menus common with many pizza chains, Carmella's claims to focus instead on consistently serving the best pizza possible and using quality, fresh ingredients. It’s housed in a two-story building that still looks like the family lives upstairs. And, it’s just a short ways north from the junction of US-6 and US-20, so let’s stop for dinner and see if the second generation has kept it up.

 

Pizza nearly always satisfies; now to look for an old motel that has also been kept up. Those are always much harder to find. I thought we might have a chance here, because we are close to a major medical center, the Cleveland Clinic. Large hospitals have always attracted motels, as families stay to visit patients. Unfortunately for us, this looks like someplace where the older motels look bad, and even some of the neighborhood looks bad now. I did find one a couple of miles north of US-6 that may do. The Plaza Motel appears to be remodeled at least once, and includes some suite rooms, probably intending to attract families. I may try that, but some sources recommend staying even farther north in Willoughby, at newer, chain motels. Wish me luck, and I’ll see you tomorrow as Roadtrip-’62 ™ does Cleveland.

 
Downtown Cleveland, Ohio
Downtown Cleveland, Ohio – just a teaser for tomorrow!
 

All photos by the author and Copyright © 2013 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.

All other content Copyright © 2013 - Milne Enterprises, Inc.

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