Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A perfect day in Painesville, Ohio

Time seems to melt away when you visit Painesville.  I always like to spend a day there, and recently my friend Marc and I took a little road trip. Painesville still has an old-fashioned small town feel, with its domed courthouse and city hall facing a central green, blocks of Victorian stores, and Greek Revival houses. It was the home of famed Western Reserve architect Jonathan Goldsmith (1784-1847), responsible for many of the most attractive buildings in Painesville, Mentor, Willoughby, and early Cleveland.



About 30 miles east of Cleveland, Painesville was settled in the early 1800’s  and is the seat of Lake County. Fans of Clarence Day Jr.’s memoir Life with Father will be interested to know that Vinnie Day came from Painesville, and that Clarence Sr. often joked about rescuing her from a small, provincial town.



The city was named not after Thomas Paine, but rather after General Edward Paine (1746-1841), and we encountered this statue of him as we entered the city:

General Edward Paine, founder of Painesville

The plaque from the base of the statue, with more information about Paine. (Click to enlarge any photos.)
 
We first stopped for a pleasant lunch at the Rider Inn, which dates back to 1812. The Inn was enlarged several times over the years, most importantly in 1832, when Jonathan Goldsmith gave it substantially its present form.


 
After lunch, we did some browsing at the antique shop next door, then headed for the campus of Lake Erie College. My main goal there was to visit the 1829 Dr. John Mathews house, also by Goldsmith. This house has always been one of my top favorites, and I will cover it more closely in a future post.

The John Mathews House, 1829
 
We then walked over to the main part of the campus. College Hall is the main landmark building, dating from 1857. A pleasant surprise is the back of this building, facing a less-formal grassy area. The wide, shady porch is supplied with a row of rocking chairs, which proved so comfortable we had to force ourselves to get up and continue our tour.

Lake Erie College

Lake Erie's reception rooms retain many of their original features

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An unusual Gothic radiator.

The back porch wasn't curved, but this was cut from a panoramic shot.

The area near the college is enjoyable to walk around, with tree-lined streets and many fine old houses.


This Queen Anne has some unusual architectural features.


A very large and magnificent tree.


The Second Empire Steele house was sadly gutted by fire a while back, but it is nice to see that they are working on restoring it:

 
The Grand River flows right through Painesville, and is a place I love to explore and hike around, although that day we could only give it a couple of hours. Because of the drought, the water level was amazingly low, only a few inches at its deepest point. This used to be the site of a very  old mill, and the stone foundation wall is still visible, giving an agreeable touch of antiquity.

The Grand River at a very low ebb. We used to fish here.

All that's left of the old mill.


The old sluiceway can still be clearly discerned in the ruins.


A fitting end to this day was a short trip north to Lake Erie and the small town of Grand River (population 345) for a dinner of fresh Lake Erie yellow perch at Brennan’s Fish House.



If you get to northern Ohio, be sure to make some time for Painesville; with so much left of its early history it is fun to revisit the 19th century and the early days of the Western Reserve.

27 comments:

  1. It looks like a fun, unhurried day. I'm intrigued by your great angled shot of the Rider Inn, which definitely looks like two different buildings pieced together.

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    1. Hi Mark, I believe that each addition was built-on, but your suggestion bears investigation. Buildings surprisingly moved around quite a bit in the past, and small buildings (or parts of buildings, like the wings of the Mathews house) could easily have been incorporated.

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  2. Hi, Parnassus -
    The Gothic style radiator is very interesting (and rare?). We have our share of historic and period homes in the Washington, DC area, and I've not seen that radiator model. When we renovated our former Edwardian home, I searched every architectural salvage store for unique radiators. Thanks for sharing your outing!
    Loi

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    1. Hello Loi, Some of the D.C. houses were recorded by the remarkable photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston--are you a fan of her work?

      I also admired that radiator. I wanted to seek out more details to photograph, be we arrived there quite late, as they were getting ready to close.

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    2. I am not familiar with her work.....will check out! Thx!

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  3. Hello Jim:
    It has been such a pleasure to read this post and to be introduced to such an attractive and obviously interesting place about which, previously, we knew nothing. The architecture is most appealing and clearly great care is taken to preserve it in a condition as close to its original state as possible. Like your commentator above, we are most taken with the highly unusual 'Gothic' radiator.

    The low water levels are somewhat alarming.

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    1. Unfortunately, Painesville is not as wealthy a community as Chagrin Falls, and many of its old buildings are neglected.

      That was the lowest I have ever seen the Grand River. Although I enjoy it when it is low enough to wade across, in the early spring the torrent is such that no one who entered the waters would be likely to survive

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  4. Hello Parnassus - really enjoyed this little foray into Painesville.
    I am always attracted to white clapboard houses, they seem so indicative of the architecture in many parts of the States. Do you call it 'old colonial' or what is it's correct architectural term?
    I too, must mention that gothic radiator having never seen one quite like it before.
    Your panoramic photo of the back porch is well captured.

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    1. Hello Rosemary, The Mathews House, while old for Ohio, isn't really old enough to be Colonial. Most of its details--gable end facing front, pilasters, and various ornaments derive from Greek Temples, so most would call this Greek Revival.

      That radiator is quite special, and worthy of some research. The next time I am in the area, I will look to see if there are any manufacturer's or other marks on it.

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  5. Like your "Chagrin Falls", I am amused by the name Painesville, as in "the experience was painsville". But as you've explained the origins of both names, these are just trivial observations on my part, but assuage my interest in names and wordplay!

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    1. Hello Columnist, That is an amusing coincidence about the names. I guess I lived in Ohio so long that I don't think about their alternate meanings. The Chagrin River Valley is so nice that the word 'Chagrin' now connotes high class and distinction, at least around Cleveland. Painesville, on the other hand, I believe is underappreciated.

      P.S. One day I'll get around to another great place name, Ashtabula, the next city over from Painesville.

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  6. It reminds me of the little town we honeymooned in, Arrow Rock, Missouri, only looks to be on a slightly larger scale. Why Arrow Rock, a long story!

    Great to find you. I am your newest UK follower.
    Di

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    1. Hello Di, I just read about Arrow Rock after reading your comment. I never knew what a fascinating and historic town it was. I hope one day that you'll tell us the story of how you happened to honeymoon there.

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  7. I often forget about your blog, Parnassus, which is why I likely don't constitute enough of your traffic... And I always enjoy reading it, when I remember it.

    I'm going to add you to my follow list so you show up in my dashboard. You'll be joining a very small club of perhaps ten blogs or so.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoy the blog, and appreciate your adding me to your list. I am back in Taipei now, and I hope to have some Taiwan-oriented posts coming up soon--that is if the weather ever decides to cooperate.

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    2. It rained most of the time I was there. Kyushu's not much better.

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    3. Hi Kionon, Taiwan does have its rainy spells, and this year seems to be the record-holder; months can go by without a completely sunny day.

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  8. What a beautiful tour. I am so interested in Ohio's historical architecture of late, oddly enough. I've really never explored Ohio but became obsessed with a book about Euclid Avenue. So interesting to see what else the state has to offer! Love that radiator, I've never seen one quite like it.

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    1. Hello Ann, I am also fascinated by Euclid Avenue--which book do you have? Some emphasize the 19th-century residential period, while others the 20th-century commercial development.

      Looking at that radiator again, I notice that the design is practical as well as interesting, because those barbs and fins would also serve to radiate heat.

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  9. thanks so much! Although I haven't been back there for ages, Painesville is my hometown (grew up there in the 60's). It's good to see the Steele Mansion coming back to life, but like everything else in Painesville, it didn't happen without controversy (despite overwhelming popularity for this project by pretty much everyone else in town!)--some disgruntled neighbors fearing the expected commercial use as an inn would generate too much traffic (it's on Mentor Avenue across from Lake Erie College!. I also love the Grand River, having had many a family picnic in Recreation Park along the beautifully rocky shoreline. Looking forward to more P'ville pics!

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    1. Thank you for your memories of Painesville. I came to know the city because I worked there and had family there, and it became one of my favorite places to explore.

      Unfortunately this trip back to Ohio I only returned to Painesville one day, and of course are so many interesting places there that will have to wait until next time. I still have the Mathews house pictures, and hope to post them soon. I also have some older memorabilia of Pville scattered about.

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    2. Yeah, I hope to get back there sometime soon myself and take some pics. A few months ago I discovered a treasure trove of old Painesville photos posted on the Downtown Painesville Organization Facebook page by longtime P'ville photographer Robert Barbian. I remember he took my 4th grade class picture--45 years ago!--and apparently he's still working! Here's the link:
      http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.310431972350145.71284.192648177461859&type=1&bef=310563819003627

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    3. I very much appreciate your sending me this link, of which I had been unaware. I just took a quick look at some of these photos, and will go back when I have the time to examine them leisurely. I write about a number of places, but Painesville is very special to me. Thanks.

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  10. It is amazing that one architect, in this case Jonathan Goldsmith, could be responsible for many of the loveliest buildings in Painesville and surrounding cities. He was a] very talented and b] in tune with his times.

    Of course I am most interested in Rider Inn, which dates right back to my era - 1812
    So many thanks for the link
    Hels
    http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/coaching-inns-1700-1850-short-but.html

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    1. Hello Hels, If you ever do get to Ohio, you will have fun visiting all these old inns. Many of them are still open as restaurants; in the Cleveland area alone I recall pleasant meals at the Rider Tavern, the Welshfield Inn, and the Unionville Inn, while the Dunham Tavern in Cleveland itself is now a charming museum.

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  11. Thank you for the lesson about Painesville. I have studied the Western Reserve towns around us since moving to Northeast Ohio eleven years ago but was not familiar with the history of Painesville. Been to its outskirts for soccer matches and admired the Grand River from the road only. Great information, thanks!

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    1. Hello Cindy, The Western Reserve is a very historical area; your base in Chagrin Falls is one of the best, but take some time to explore Lake County--in a row are Painesville, Mentor, and Willoughby, all full of interesting places and buildings.

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