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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Setting the Record Straight: Part 1

(Image from the East Liverpool High School Yearbook “Keramos”; Courtesy of Sayre W. Graham, Jr.)
“A history in which every particular incident may be true may on the whole be false.” ~Thomas Babington Macaulay
As a historian it is important to get the facts straight. Pretty obvious, right? But it’s not always as easy as it sounds.

While working on the book about Rock Springs Park, I did my best to research as many sources as possible to back up the oral histories I recorded from folks back home who remember it. I soon discovered, however, that while many written accounts confirmed those oral "legends", many tales conflicted with newspaper coverage. For instance, one source from Chester recalled that the Cyclone Roller Coaster was purchased by a local high school teacher for the potential revenue available from selling its metal brackets as scrap. The Youngstown Vindicator, on the other hand, contradicted this claim and reported in 1974 that the long-neglected thrill ride was sold to a businessman in Calcutta, Ohio, for the sole purpose of resurrecting the wood for use in an auto wrecking building. Which one is true? It would seem the newspaper account would have more legitimacy, but in reality no one seems to know for sure.

Recently, in a very unusual instance, a friend from back home actually corrected a newspaper account with his own research on a story about the park.

On Saturday, March 26, 2011, I reported that a “Fred Schoen” drowned while swimming in the Rock Springs Park pool in June of 1913. The account below, from The Baltimore Sun, was my only source and mostly correct, except for the fact that the paper spelled Fred’s surname incorrectly – a simple typo that could be easily explained by studying the early communication system of the day.
But the real problem with this news brief and my blog on Fred’s death is that by simply listing the cold hard facts of the accident, the reader loses the human side of the story. Who was Fred Shone?

It is easily forgotten by the reader that while young Fred Shone lived a century ago, he was someone’s son and brother and that his death left family members shocked and grief-stricken. That is, until alert reader, Sayre W. Graham, Jr., wrote to me this summer.

“A few weeks ago, I had only just stumbled across your blog. I was reading back through it a little bit each day. I really enjoyed the accounts of your visits with my Dad (See March 2011 entries about Sayre W. Graham, Sr.). You really nailed it, right down to the turkey buzzards. When I got to the article about the deaths at RSP, I saw the mention of the drowning of Fred Schoen in 1913. I had previously noted to myself when I saw in your book, and now again in the blog, that Schoen was a misspelling; his name was actually Fred Shone (Alfred J) whom, had he lived, would have been my Mother's uncle.”

In an amazing coincidence, just days after reading about his Great Uncle Fred in this blog, Sayre W.Graham, Jr. discovered a box of old letters in his father’s den and inside found a journal entry dated June 18, 1913 about none other than Fred Shone’s drowning.

(Courtesy of Sayre W. Graham, Jr.)

“Whoa!” Graham reflected, “I started thinking that Great Uncle Fred wants me to set the record straight.”

In the next installment, Graham recounts how he and his wife, Debbie, spent a month this past summer on a quest to find Great Uncle Fred. See http://rockspringspark.blogspot.com/2012/03/setting-record-straight-part-ii.html.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Almost Heaven

The proposed cover of a new book on the Lincoln Highway features the "Almost Heaven" sign displayed in the front lawn of Rock Springs Park’s Rustic Log Cabin after it was moved 100 yards to avoid “the path of progress” in 1974. Don Chaney, who purchased the log house at auction for 100 dollars, had the sign constructed to greet visitors crossing the new Jennings Randolph Bridge from Ohio into West Virginia. The image (above) on the cover of Eric and Kass Mencher's photographic tribute book shows the sign, placed as it is today, against the cement wall of the park’s arched Shoot-the-Chutes Bridge.

For more information on the book and to find out how you can support its completion read Brian Butko’s Lincoln Highway News at http://brianbutko.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/new-lincoln-highway-photo-book-underway/.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Number One Rule of Showbiz

Joe Comm and Vicki Robinson Jordan at the Orchards at Foxcrest’s Harvest Festival 2011 (Courtesy of Vicki Robinson Jordan.)

On Saturday, September 24th, I appeared at an Oktoberfest event at the Orchards at Foxcrest in Chester, West Virginia. This year’s theme was “Rock Springs Park” and the folks at Fox’s did not disappoint. There were rides for the kiddies, food and craft vendors, a petting zoo, games, and even a live animal act featuring a scorpion, the biggest toad I’ve ever seen, an opossum, a capybara (world’s largest rodent), a monkey, and a cheetah, among others. The cheetah remained crated for the day, but all the other creatures were shown by a petite young girl who nearly had her shirt removed by a feisty macaque. (You know, the monkeys you’ve seen pictured in National Geographic in a hot spring bath in winter with ice covering their pink faces and rockstar fur hairdos.) How could I possibly compete with that?

I couldn’t.

The event planners put me in the awkward position of having to break the number one rule of show businesses – “NEVER FOLLOW AN ANIMAL ACT.” After righting my twice-fallen portable movie screen due to a sudden increase in wind gusts and adjusting my impossible to see slide show images due to the sun deciding to come out just at the moment I was to begin, I realized I was standing in a pile of crushed Frosted Mini-Wheats thanks to my opening act - the show-stealing monkey. (Think Curious George on crack.)

I had planned for every eventuality, not knowing if I would have a microphone or a podium, would appear inside or outside, under a tent or on a grassy hillside. I had a printed speech on paper and made a timed slide show to go with it, and was ready just in case with my old standby - images of the park narrated wuth impromptu verbal descriptions. I even brought along my trusty container of bungee cords to deal with falling movie screens and blowing banners and miles of extension cords, but I did not plan for a monkey. Who would?

It was perhaps my worst performance, ever. I felt bad for those few attendees scattered about in a dozen or so folding chairs, including some old friends and a couple new ones I’ve met while posting about the park on Facebook. They saw a pathetic author giving a running commentary about barely visible slides while shuffling about in Frosted Mini-Wheat dust and giant toad puddles. Yeah, did I mention the girl kissed the toad and he wet himself all over her shoes? C’mon Man!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Old Stone House: Part 4

For decades train excursionists would disembark on Ninth Street and walk past the Old Stone House (green arrow) on their way to a day of fun at Rock Springs Park.

Eighth-grader John Chaney wrote a story about his favorite house in Chester, West Virginia, the Old Stone House in the city’s “upper end.” His story became a two-year research project in high school and a book in 1966.

Chaney wrote that he often wondered about the family that built the Old Stone House. One story he discovered claimed that George Washington owned the land as it was given to him by the state of Virginia for services rendered during the French and Indian War. The grant was for 1,000 acres and included "a one-half mile frontage on the Ohio River, extending from the mouth of Mark's Run and extending back from the river, through the center of what is now Rock Springs Park to a point south of Lawrenceville."

The land and the house, once the property of the Mark’s Family came under the ownership of C.A. Smith in 1900. Both were part of a deal struck with Rock Springs Park owner J.E. McDonald. Smith built his own home slightly to the west and just above the Old Stone House on Pyramus Avenue, a vantage point that gave him an unobstructed view of his pottery and his newly acquired amusement park. Smith’s home was built with all the latest modern conveniences on a terraced hillside with beautiful landscaping, but the Old Stone House below was a mere shell of its former self, having been raided and lived in by wandering vagrants.

Chaney wrote, "Mr. McDonald let the Old Stone House stand open for a period of time. During this time it became a stopping place for hoboes. People came to the house and took away anything that wasn't nailed down - windows, glass, window frames, fixtures of all kinds, doors, and any woodwork. The house was truly a big mess."

It did not take long before Mrs. C.A. Smith decided to fix up the house for her son "Dunc" Smith. The inner walls were completely removed and the house was reinforced with steel rods and a stucco addition which added a larger kitchen downstairs and an additional bathroom upstairs. These changes and others saved the Old Stone House from total destruction and have kept the dwelling habitable for over 100 years.

The Old Stone House as it looks today. Present owners are “Rusty” and Janice Smith (Courtesy of Vicki Robinson Jordan).

Sunday, September 4, 2011

RSP Mural Artist Offers Painting Class

(Mural of Rock Springs Park by Craig Wetzel.)

If you still live in the Chester/East Liverpool area, Craig Wetzel, who has been highlighted here for his murals of Rock Springs Park, is offering a basic painting course at Pick's Photo & Studio in E. Liverpool, beginning in October. Details can be found here.

Class Description:

There have been some changes to the Fundamentals of Painting Class, the most important being that, through Ashland University’s Professional Development Services, graduate credit will be given upon completion of the course, which will be worth 1 credit hour. Furthermore, in order to meet the accreditation requirements, the class will be extended by one additional session and the times will now be from 6 – 8:30 pm. There is no change in cost for the additional 4.5 hours. Material requirements will be mailed to course participants next week and a detailed outline of each class session will be posted on the instruction page soon.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Old Stone House: Part 3

In his book, a young John Chaney in 1965 traces the history of the Old Stone House in Chester, West Virginia. The home still stands today on Carolina Avenue near the spot once occupied by Rock Springs Park. Both the park and the house have histories which include Native American and early pioneer visitors including, it is widely believed, George Washington on one of two trips in the area. But Chaney also mentions another legend that may have passed through on his way to Ohio – a legend whose name is carved into a wooden border in the kitchen of the nearly 200-year old home.


"I saw the Old Stone House and faces I love,
I saw Chester's valleys and hills,
The apple trees that swayed and seemed to say,
Johnny Appleseed came thru this way!
I listened with joy to the echo of the old village bell.
The log was burning brightly,
'Twas a night that should banish all sin,
The bells were ringing the Old Year out and the New Year in."

This marker located in Franklin, PA, 84 miles north of Pittsburgh, describes French Creek as the area where Mr. Appleseed lived between 1797 and 1804!

Many know Johnny Appleseed as a folk hero, but unlike Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill, Johnny was a real man. “(Chester) area lore has it,” wrote Chaney, “that one John Chapman stopped and spent a night at the Old Stone House when he was distributing his apple seeds in the area. John is better known by the name given to him by folklore as 'Johnny Appleseed."

According to Richard Price, John Chapman's only biographer, Chapman was born in Leominster, Massachusetts on September 26th, 1774. He left home at fifteen to travel west, starting in Warren, Pennsylvania, where he began to plant apple trees. A devotee of the philospher, Emanuel Swedenborg, claimed John saw planting apples as part of a spiritual journey in a time when many in the United States were interested in philosophies that emphasized the importance of 'nature'. Apples were also smart to plant financially. They could be eaten fresh, used in pies, dried and made into cider, hard and not hard. In many ways Johnny Appleseed was indeed an early ecologist, realizing that planting trees was not only good for pioneers but for the environment.

About 1800, John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) and his brother collected a large quantity of apple seeds near Pittsburgh and floated down the Ohio River in canoes to what is now Wellsburg, W. Va., where they planted several apple nurseries. So it is not only possible, but very likely that Chapman like Samuel Marks only a few years later came to Chester by flatboat.

Coming Soon: Rock Springs Park owner, C.A. Smith, acquires the Stone House as part of a huge land deal, but it is his wife who rescues it from destruction.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Old Stone House: Part 2

The Stone House as it looks today. This is actually the back of the house which faces Carolina Avenue and the Ohio River. Find out why in today's installment of "The Old Stone House."

In the early 1830s, Samuel Marks and family arrived by flatboat from Pittsburgh and landed at the south side of East Liverpool, Ohio, then the northern-most point of Virginia. He purchased 1,000 acres of the "Cochrin land" for $1,000 or $1.00 an acre. It was this same land that J.E. McDonald would purchase fifty years later in order to construct his "Showcase of the East": Rock Springs Park.

John Chaney in his book "The Old Stone House" wrote of this period and the Marks' beloved home. "At one time this area was inhabited by Indians. Naturally there were many Indian trails. A trail that they (the Indians) used was still quite visible when the Marks came. The house was built facing the trail, very peculiar since most homes were built facing the river."

At the time Chaney was writing in 1966, the exterior of the Stone House was blackened due to its proximity to the industrial centers of the area: several potteries and a tin mill along the Ohio River. However he points out that originally the stone was a "creamy tan...sparkling with those glittery things that are in sandstone," beautiful and still visible in the basement untouched by the elements and factory smoke.

Because of the tools which were used to cut the stone blocks, none of the windows in the house are the same size. The house is supported by huge tree trunks split in half that run overhead for the entire length of the basement and still show the axe marks where the trees were shaped nearly two hundred years ago. The basement also includes a fireplace, as did every room in the house, until the ones in the upstairs were "blocked up and had false walls put in front of them," during a renovation in the 1950s according to Chaney.

Coming Soon: Johnny Appleseed and the Old Stone House

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Old Stone House: Part 1

(From the collection of Sayre W. Graham, Sr.)

In 1966, John Chaney, who was just a high school sophomore, wrote about his one true love for a research paper. Unusual as it may sound for a teenager to share such a personal story with his high school English class; it is nothing when compared to the fact that he had it published and distributed throughout his hometown and the surrounding area.

"I am in love," Chaney began. "The one I love is not mortal; she has observed the world for one hundred and thirty-one years. She has more grace and charm than some ladies I know...the one I love is a house." John was referring to The Old Stone House in Chester which sits below one-time Rock Springs Park owner C.A. Smith's House in the “upper end” of Chester. When Smith purchased the land and the park, he got the Old Stone House in the bargain. In fact, were it not for the improvements to the house made by Smith's wife for their son "Dunc", the old home probably would not be around today.

The Stone House and property was originally part of the Mark’s Estate. The Marks were one of only two two farming families in what was once the “South Side” of East Liverpool in the early 1800s. The Marks Farm was in the east and the Gardner' s Farm west. The two connected only by a rutted dirt road.

Before the Chester Bridge was constructed, people traveled by ferry from Ohio to then Virginia via the Broadway Wharf in Liverpool (pictured above in 2009) and across the Ohio River to where the marina is today, at the foot of the aptly named “Ferry Road” on the Gardner Farm. They would then have travelled by foot, horse and buggy or cart to the Mark’s Farm and its Rock Springs Grove for picnics and church outings.

The shaded wood grove was fed by Rock Springs and a small creek, later called Marks Run. Within fewer than fifty years, and the construction of a new bridge and trolley line, Rock Springs Grove was transformed into Rock Springs Amusement Park.

Marks Run(Courtesy of Richard Bowker)

John Chaney’s first love, the Old Stone House, would have been witness to all these events listed above for it was the Mark’s Family who built the stone house from rocks quarried in the hills above Rock Springs Park known today as Lawrenceville. The Marks purchased their property in 1816 from heirs of George Washington and a team of oxen hauled the hand-cut stone over the hillside to a flat area above the river bank.

George Washington had traveled through these western lands on more than one occasion and chose the site as part of a plan meant to compensate him for his years of service to the colonial war effort and the new nation. "Legend also holds," wrote Chaney 150 years later, "that George Washington had a log cabin erected, by what was later called Marks Run, for the use of the caretaker. It was into this cabin that the Marks Family moved when they came down the river from Pittsburgh.

Next, in Part 2, Samuel Marks builds the beloved Stone House on a plateau overlooking the Ohio River.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Slovak Day

PÁS Junior Group at Kennywood's Slovak Day.

Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh, PA, still holds annual community picnic and cultural heritage days including Serbian Day, Greek Day, Italian Day, Slovak Day, and others. The Slovak celebration is typically held on the third Thursday in July and includes a mass celebrated on the park grounds, food and music. This tradition is carried over from Rock Springs Park who hosted the event as late as July 18, 1965, according to a news brief in the Beaver County Times.

Beaver County Times - July 16, 1965

30th Slovak Day Slated Sunday

The 30th Ohio Valley Slovak Day, which includes the entire tri-state area, will be held Sunday at Rock Springs Park, Chester, W.Va. Rock Springs Park is located on Route 30, about 36 miles west of Pittsburgh.

The program will open with a Slovak dialogue mass in honor of SS. Cyril and Methodius, the national apostles of the Slovaks, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Toronto, Ohio. This will be the first Slovak mass to be celebrated in this area. Msrgr. Andrew R. Beros will celebrate the mass.

Following the church services, a picnic basket dinner will be held at Rock Springs Park dining pavilion from noon till 4 p.m. Coffee and soft drinks will be available at the park.

The Slovak Republic (short form: Slovakia) is a landlocked state in Central Europe bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cattle Barn Remains

(Courtesy of Sayre W. Graham, Jr.; from the collection of Sayre W. Graham, Sr.)

In my previous blog entry, I posted this image of Rock Springs Park owner – C.A. Smith’s cattle barn. The image is from the collection of Sayre W. Graham, Sr. and was shared by his son, Sayre, Jr.

Curious about the location of the barn in what had been the Hill Crest Farms property along Smith Road in New Cumberland, WV, I made an attempt to locate the only remains of the barn, its silo, using Google Maps’ satellite feature. Unfortunately, I was not able to zoom in enough to make out the silo from Google, but Sayre, Jr., who still lives in the area, went to the site and took this terrific shot of the silo this week.

He wrote, “I took a ride over Smith Road on the way home today. I've seen this silo many times but I never knew about the Smith barn.”

(Courtesy of Sayre W. Graham, Jr.)

I mistakenly referred to the original image above as a postcard, but Sayre, Jr. pointed out that it is one of many promotional photographs taken of structures built by the Finley Brothers Construction Company of Chester, WV, of which Sayre W. Graham, Sr. was a trusted employee for many years. Finley Bros. constructed many buildings in the area, including several structures in Rock Springs Park, the City Hall, and Chester High School. After Bob Finley retired, Sayre Graham, Sr. started Graham Construction and built the IGA and the VFW in town. Bob then came out of retirement and worked for Graham.

It is interesting to note that the roof of the barn did not have any supports, but was “a clear span from end to the other,” according to one-time Chester resident Barry Smith on Facebook’s “You grew up in Chester or Lawrenceville if you remember...” page.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

C.A. Smith the Tri-State Area’s Howard Hughes

When the image above was posted on Facebook’s “You grew up in Chester or Lawrenceville if you remember...” page, I commented, “It's like the ‘Spruce Goose’ of cattle barns.” A neighbor of mine from Chester responded, “C.A. Smith - the Howard Hughes of the Tri-State Area!”

The "Spruce Goose" was Hughes's monumental failure, a heavy transport aircraft made almost entirely of birch rather than spruce as the name implies. Smith's cattle farm was anything but.

The image is from the collection of Sayre W. Graham, Sr. and was uploaded to FB by his son Sayre, Jr., who gave me permission to share it on my blog. I thought it a great way to remind readers of C.A. Smith’s second or perhaps third or fourth career after oil, rail, and Rock Springs Park, his beloved Hillcrest Farms and his prized bulls.

Like Howard Hughes of Texas, Smith did more in his lifetime to bring fame to our area than all the other developers combined. Smith’s Hillcrest Farms were known the world over and brought thousands of people to the area. He served as president of the Hereford Association of America.

The huge Cattle Barn was located along present day “Smith Road” near Route 8 in New Cumberland, WV. One Facebook contributor from Chester noted, “This was right above my house years ago. Only thing still standing is the silo. It was a beautiful place in its day. The State bought the property several years ago and it is now state game lands.”

Roy C. Cashdollar noted in his History of Chester:

Picturesque Hillcrest Farms, which was Smith's principal interest the last ten years of his life, took form in 1917. He went into the Hereford cattle business in 1918 and began producing the championship stock. The herd at one time numbered seven hundred head.

From Hillcrest came a grand champion bull of the Chicago International Livestock Exposition in 1947, 1949, and 1951 and the grand champion finale at Chicago in 1950 and 1951. Grand champions also paraded before judges at the Baltimore and Kansas City shows and others. Smith had the "best ten head" at Chicago in 1948, 1949, 1950 and 1951.

In 1950, Smith sold one of his prize bulls to Henry Sears of Chestertown, Maryland for $70,500, a record price at that time. In January of 1951, a world’s record was set when a half interest in his main breeding bull - HC Larry Domino 12th, was sold for $105,000, to E. C. McCormick, Jr. of Akron. Mr. Smith also had one thousand acres set aside for apple growing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Trinkets or Tradition?

Rock Springs Park Carousel

Ever wonder why carousels in the United States turn counterclockwise. I didn’t either, until I read that European carousels spin the other direction. I knew about the opposite toilet swirl in Australia and driving on the left side of the road in England, but opposing carousel twirls was something new to me. What’s up with that?

Carousel on London's South Bank during a summer festival.

On one of those “ask questions” sites someone speculated that a counterclockwise rotation reduces dizziness, but that is not the case. It seems that European merry-go-round horses face left to allow a rider to approach the horse or chicken or dragon directly from the loading platform and mount by lifting one's right leg over the animal's back. The horse's left side is called its "near" side, which is the side on which European riders traditionally mount. American carousels turn counterclockwise for a much less sophisticated reason. It is simply so that the rider on the outer ring can use his right hand to catch a brass ring. In other words, for them it's tradition and for us it's for trinkets.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

East Liverpool City Transit History

The East Liverpool City Transit System began in conjunction with a new bridge constructed by J.E. McDonald as part of an overall plan started in 1890 that was meant to connect East Liverpool, Ohio, to the “South Side” (Chester, WV) across the Ohio River and ending at Rock Springs Park.

Many trolley companies throughout the nation built amusement parks at the end of their lines to increase ridership on the weekends. In 1939, the streetcars were discontinued, replaced by buses of C.A. Smith’s Valley Motor Transit Company.

I mention this history in the book, but since I have spent several recent blog posts on the subject, I felt it would benefit readers to see a time line of the transit history:

1892-1897 - East Liverpool & Wellsville Street Railway
1897-1905 - East Liverpool Railway
1905-1917 - East Liverpool Traction & Light Co.
1917-1939 - Steubenville East Liverpool & Beaver Valley Traction Co.
1939 - Streetcars discontinued
1940-1954 - Valley Motor Transit Co.
1954-1971 - Steubenville Bus Co.

Community Action Rural Transit System

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mirrored Ball Still Turns

I had heard it rumored that the mirrored ball from Virginia Gardens Dance Hall in Rock Springs Park still turned during dances and wedding receptions held at the American Legion Post 121 in Chester. So, in November 2009, I stopped in and found Jack Sprout and some others hanging Christmas decorations. He gave me permission to take a few photographs for the last Chapter of my book, “The Magic Lives On”, and explained that the Legion purchased the ball at auction in 1974. (See Images of America: Rock Springs Park, p. 124.)

Entering the Legion was like stepping back in time for me because, 40 years earlier in 1969, it was where I attended kindergarten.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

First Chester Graduation Held at Rock Springs

As if to illustrate the long connection between Rock Springs Park and the local school system, this image shows the parking lot of the old Chester High School transformed into an amusement fair next to the former site of the area’s “Premier Panhandle Playground” – Rock Springs Park.

A recent blog post about the changes to Chester High School over the years made me wonder about the time line of these changes and what was used for secondary education prior to the red brick building constructed by the Finley Brothers in 1928. So, I went to straight to my favorite source, Roy C. Cashdollar's History of Chester: The Gateway to the West for answers. Roy did not disappoint.

In 1906, the first full four-year high school building in Chester was erected at Third Street and Indiana Avenue. Prior to this structure, named Central School (pictured above), children met in homes or in one room buildings. These early schools were not graded, but in 1903, in anticipation of the new brick Central School, the first Chester freshman and sophomore classes were formed in a makeshift school building in town along the north side of Indiana Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets. Called the Mechanics Lodge, it also housed a general store and the post office.

Cashdollar notes, "the first high school graduation ceremony was held in Rock Springs Park on the stage of the old Summer Theater." The graduation class size that year was one, Olive Hamilton, who was the first and only Chester high school graduate in 1906. It was also the only time the theater was used for this purpose. The Summer Theater constructed in 1903 by C.A. Smith burned down in 1917 and was not replaced.

"When a special act of the legislature was made, Chester was organized as an independent school system in 1904. Thomas L. Young, who was the water works superintendent for C.A. Smith was one of the original board members." Roy C. Cashdollar.The Chester High School was constructed "on rather swampy lands" at the corner of Sixth and Indiana Avenue in 1925. It was officially dedicated on January 4, 1926. The original structure consisted of twelve rooms and two additions were added over the years with the largest one being done by through a W.P.A. project during the Depression.

With the construction of the Chester Primary Building (pictured with Rock Springs Park in the background in 1969) and Oak Glen High school in the early 1960s, the Central Building was abandoned in 1963 and razed in 1967, replaced with a playground which still displays the original school bell.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jethro Trestle Image Update

In two previous blog posts, I mention a tragic accident which occurred in East Liverpool, OH, in 1906, involving a traction car of the East Liverpool Traction & Light Co., which derailed at the approach to the Jethro trestle and plunged over a 25-foot embankment. I have since found two additional images of the trestle.

The trestle spanned a ravine more than 100 feet deep and extended for a distance of about 400 feet.
It appears, in the images above (Click images to enlarge), that Jethro Trestle connected the western edge of East Liverpool near the Ohio portal of today’s Newell Bridge and the City Hospital to “Sunny Side”, once considered the coal field of East Liverpool and now the home of East Liverpool Middle School and Patterson Field. The traction line continued beyond to Wellsville and Steubenville, OH.
The East Liverpool Middle School and Patterson Field in the old Sunny Side basin are still prone to flooding from the Ohio River.

Read all the dramatic details of the accident in my blog post of Thursday, August 4, 2011, entitled “Accident at Jethro Trestle.”

Memory Lane

While researching potential images and stories to share in the last chapter of Images of America: Rock Springs Park entitled, “The Magic Lives On,” I was told of a group of volunteers who were putting together a Memory Room in a classroom of the old Chester High School Building, now the City’s Municipal Building. The room, I discovered upon visiting in 2009, was originally set aside as the Mayor’s Office, but the mayor gave up his new “digs” and moved upstairs, opening up the classroom on the main floor to the Memory Lane Committee.

In my youth, the old high school was an intermediate/junior high, including grades four through nine. "Memory Lane" was my fifth grade language arts room. Specifically, I recall drawing a winter mural scene on the blackboard with a variety of colored chalk sticks. The teacher was enthusiastic about my artwork until it was discovered one of my dark green pieces of chalk was actually a fat crayon. I was worried upon entering the same room, thirty-four years later, that the blackboard would still be there, complete with my impossible-to-remove wax evergreens. Fortunately, though, the they have all been removed and, other than the view out the window, the classroom looks nothing like the one I remember. The intsitution green walls are now white.

View of the old high school beyond the Cyclone taken from the top of the Aeroplane Ride in Rock Springs Park circa 1947. The school is shown prior to an addition being added, which would house additional clasrooms and one day The Memory Lane Room. (Courtesy of Sherry Emery.)

When I took the photographs below inside the old high school in December 2009, I was using a low-grade disposable camera as I had forgotten my digital camera at home, thus most of the dark and grainy images were not used in the book. (I had hoped to take a photograph of the Memory Lane Volunteers, but we were not able to coordinate it. The women are listed in the book on page 127.) The Memory Room project was just getting started when these photographs were taken and would not officially open until June 21, 2010, coinciding with a slide show talk I gave in the cafeteria, sponsored by the Chester Kiwanis Club to kick off the publication of the book.

In the hallway outside my old Fifth Grade Language Arts class is the Chester Hall of Fame and Local History Displays. Inductee Plaques are hung above the display cases which were originally embedded with student lockers.

Inside the Memory Lane Room of the Chester City Building, two Hans Hacker paintings are on display. These were donated by Robert M. Hand, oldest son of owner Robert L. Hand. Bob willed the paintings to the city as per his mother Virginia’s wishes. The Log House (left) was once the family home of the Hands in Rock Springs Park. The second Hacker Painting is of the Carousel. Hacker, a celebrated decal and ceramic designer who fled Nazi Germany in 1939, painted hundreds of scenes of his new home, East Liverpool, OH, and the surrounding area.

Bob Hand, oldest son of Rock Springs Park owner Robert L. Hand is pictured in the hallway of the Chester’s City Building along with my mother, Margaret Cline, in the Chester High School Class Portraits of 1956.

My Grandfather, Clifford Otto Comm, a charter member of Chester's Kiwanis Club, was posthumously inducted into the Chester Hall of Fame on July 1, 2011. I was able to attend the ceremony, but have yet to see his plaque displayed along with the other inductees. I look forward to seeing it and Memory Lane again, soon!

Rock Springs Still Flows

I have written in past blog posts of The Chester Planning Commission. Founded in 1969, the civic group completed dozens of worthwhile projects in town including the installation of the “Rock Springs Park” historical marker and the development of the Virginia Gardens Memorial Park in 1982. Readers may not realize, however, that the planning commission, headed by Chester historian, Roy C. Cashdollar, also worked with state officials to save the spring at Rock Springs Park by having it piped to a new location along Route 30.
The Spring in 1974 just before it was covered with a cement slab and redirected.

Today, the lone spring pipe, bent by mowers, drains unceremoniously into a ditch near The World's Largest Teapot. For several decades after the park was razed in 1974, people would fill plastic bottles from the spring which once spilled 1,000 gallons a day from deep within the mountain into a basin in Rock Springs Park.
Rock Spring in 2009.

Cashdollar noted in his History of Chester: Part II, "Mayor Frank DeCapio and I went to the State men and the Contractors and convinced them to get the spring water piped to an area from which it can still be used. The old spring site is directly under the south bound lane of the highway today but it was covered with a cement slab and the water piped over to the open area near Marks Run."

1908 Postcard image of Rock Springs in Chester.