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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.

A Unique Offer

In order to take control of the Upper Ohio Valley's baseball business, Rock Springs Park owner, C.A. Smith, and his partner, park manager J.H. Maxwell, came up with a "unique offer” to buy out their only competition - The East Liverpool Exhibition Company in 1908. The monies would be raised by offering fans $4.00 a share in the Ohio and Pennsylvania (O&P) League payable in ten admission tickets to the games at Rock Springs Park. In other words, if one were to purchase ten admission tickets to a game with a face value of 40 cents each, one could use those tickets to buy a single share of stock in the company, making the league one of the first partially community-owned franchises in American professional sports.

Sporting Life Magazine – May 9, 1908

Monday, August 8, 2011

South Side Land Company

To the right of Citizen's Drug Store in downtown Chester, WV, is a red brick building operating with two businesses in both sides. The first side had been Pettabon Ice Cream Parlor and then the original Citizen's Drug Store founded by Max Tuttle, followed by the State Liquor Store. The other side of the building was for many years used by Rock Springs Park owner, Mr. C.A. Smith, as his South Side Land Office and South Side Water Works Office. The building was purchased from Smith by E.G. Jackson who operated his insurance agency there for many years. It most recently housed the Pizza Roma Express Restaurant.

“South Side” refers to the name of the flat headlands of Chester by residents of East Liverpool, Ohio, to the north, before Chester had its name. One theory suggests Smith named Chester after his Uncle Chester Mahon.

"The South Side Land Company under Mr. C. A. Smith (Pictured below) absorbed the city’s water and sewerage systems. Mr. Smith controlled this company as the South Side Water Works until October 3, 1946, when Mayor DeMar Miller and City Clerk, James Paisley, signed for the City of Chester, when they purchased the company for $253,000. Mr. Thomas L. Young, Superintendent of the South Side Water Works for nearly forty years was retained as superintendent for the City." ~Roy C. Cashdollar's History of Chester: The Gateway to the West.

DeMar Miller before becoming Mayor of Chester was an orchestra leader at the world famous Virginia Gardens in Rock Springs Park circa 1928. (Image below courtesy of Jerry Linger. For more information on the band and Linger’s photograph see blog entitled “Facebook Find: Interior Photo of Virginia Gardens” dated Sunday, August 15, 2010.)
The Marks land, a one hundred seventy acre tract that had been bought by J.E. McDonald in 1890, from the Alfred Marks estate for $17,000, was purchased by Smith in 1900 with about eleven acres slated for use as Rock Springs Park which Smith also took over at this time. The land was then promoted by Smith and his South Side Land Company.
In the spring of 1905, Mr. Smith moved into his beautiful new home on Pyramus Avenue, overlooking Rock Springs Park.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

“Daredevil” Holden Appeared at Rock Springs Park in 1910

“Free Acts” were often daily features at Rock Springs Park during the C.A. Smith Era of 1900-1925. Acrobats and daredevils like Arthur C. Holden performed high wire and high diving stunts to hundreds of gaping on-lookers. Holden appeared at Rock Springs Park on Labor Day 1910, but he was world renowned according to features in New York and New Jersey newspapers of the day.
The South Amboy Citizen of October 5, 1912, advertised Holden's appearance at the Trenton Fair, "Arthur C. Holden, well named "Daredevil" Holden, in a backward dive into a small tank. Words cannot describe it - it must be seen.

Regardless of the Citizen’s claim, The New York Tribune did describe Arthur C. Holden's high diving exploits in its February 28, 1909 edition. "The afternoon exhibition came about 5 o'clock, and, following the announcement, the crowd sought vantage points and waited while the daring youth was hoisted to the roof in a boatswain's chair. Then a hush settled over the big amphitheater, so that one might have heard a pin drop as Holden stood poised for a minute on his small platform. Then the crowd burst into a cheer as, turning somersaults, the diver struck the water with a splash and swam out to bow his thanks." Holden's daredevil act was seen in New York as part of a Sportsman's Show inside Madison Square Garden.

Get a feel for the thrill of the high dive from the platform looking down in this video of an arm-stand high dive in Belgium.

Auto Racer in Rock Springs Park

One of my favorite rides in Kennywood Park, Pittsburgh, PA is the Auto Race. It is a fun and rather tame flat ride which allows your child to be the driver of an electric vehicle and puts you, the parent, in the backseat. Unlike Kiddie Turnpike Cars, Auto Race Cars are not limited by a groove or under auto rail. There is some steering control limited only by a trough-like wooden track. Kennywood’s Auto Race also known as the Auto Ride was built in 1930 by the Harry Traver Engineering Company and is the last of its kind. According to Wikipedia, “When it opened in 1930, it had several small hills placed in the track, but these were soon removed due to rear-end collisions caused when cars couldn't get up and over them on rainy days.”

Three years prior to Kennywood’s Auto Race, Rock Springs Park owner C.C. Macdonald drained the splash lagoon of the dismantled Victorian Shoot-the-Chutes Ride (above) and built a raised and twisting Auto Race wooden track within its walls.The photograph above shows the Auto Race track under construction in the splash lagoon pool.This image appeared on a brochure signed by then president of Rock Springs Park, C.C. Macdonald. The image has been enlarged to show riders in cars on the track. Notice the crowd viewing a high wire “free act” next to the Carousel.

A story was told to me at a book talk event which suggested previous owner C.A. Smith, when taking a test run on the Auto Racer in Rock Springs Park, crashed through the guardrail and was seriously injured. I have not been able to verify that story, but do know, if true, he must have fully recovered as he went on to raise prized cattle for several decades after.

See another image of the Auto Ride in Rock Springs Park in my Image book on page 59.