Lakewood Celebrates 125 Years
A BRIEF HISTORY
This is an expanded version of a speech given at the opening of the Lakewood Centennial Ceremonies, August 1993, by the noted Lakewood Village Historian, Helen G. Ebersole.
The area now covered by the village of Lakewood originally was divided into large farms. The owners of those large tracts of land are memorialized in local place names: Gifford, Southland, Bentley, Cowing, Winch, Stoneman, and Lowe.
The land along the lake was periodically occupied by hunters and fishermen, and ice harvesters in the winter. The first settlement of any size took place along the lakeshore, and Lakewood’s history actually began as it developed into a summer resort. In 1870 John Cowing built a hotel, the Cowing House, on that part of his farm which bordered on the lake. The Cowing House became The Lakeview House in 1873 and the small settlement, known as Lakeview, became Lakewood in 1879.
In the mid 1870s Warren Packard from Warren, Ohio, and his brother, John, from Meadville, Pennsylvania came to the Lakewood area and bought the hotel and several acres of the land. On their lakefront property, which they called the Lakeview Tract, the two brothers built a number of Gothic style summer cottages for rental purposes. Warren Packard built himself a $3,000 villa near the hotel. They also built a sawmill on property they owned near the railroad track to provide lumber for their extensive building projects.
Second Kent House, Lakewood, New York
Another large, well-appointed hotel, the Kent House, was built in 1875. It stood to the of east of the beach area, near the present Yacht Club. Its entrance opened directly on New York Avenue where it joined East Terrace. Both of the early hotels were replaced in the late 1880s. The Kent House burned in 1887 and a Second Kent House was built in 1888. The Lakeview House was demolished and rebuilt as the Sterlingworth in 1889. The number of permanent residents increased in response to the needs of the summer visitors at the resort hotels.
The eastern section of the village developed slowly. In the 1870s and 1880s several prominent families from Jamestown built comfortable summer homes in a lakeside section called Shadyside, just east of the Kent House. Inland there was a little settlement east of Lakeview Avenue until near the turn of the century. Clement Park, east of Shadyside, developed in the 1890s with new homes being built along the lake on Parkside Avenue, today known as Front Street. At Beechwood at the far eastern end of Lakewood, there was a trolley stop and station on the extension of The Jamestown Street Railway Company, and later of the Chautauqua Traction Company. In this area an ambitious developer, Ziba Squier built several homes created a canal called Subway, which ran on course between, and paralleling East Summit and East Terrace Avenues. Mr. Squier’s summer cottages built along the lake and along the canal were placed on narrow lots, with 25 foot frontage. Today many of them remain, although the canal has been drained for many years and the early homes stand facing a grassy field.
In 1893 the small settlement was incorporated as the Village of Lakewood. Through most of the year, it was a quiet residential area with a permanent population of 600. The arrival of as many as 1500 summer visitors provided boom times for the local residents. However, the first municipal government which included a President and a Board of Trustees, was faced with year-around problems of public health and public safety. Ordinances were passed to make the streets safe – no sledding or skating allowed; to protect the innocent – no swimming without bathing suits; to protect buyers – peddlers and merchandise solicitors were required to be licensed. In the earliest years of the village the Trustees were called upon personally to keep law and order. Firefighting was a general community activity until the first Lakewood Bucket Brigade was organized in 1898. Education was another municipal responsibility and in 1893 the early government officials authorized the building of a 3-room schoolhouse on Highland Avenue, to be financed by homeowner assessment.
The first church in the village, the Union Congregational Church, was organized the same year as incorporation, 1893. The congregation met first in a small chapel on Ohio Avenue until its own church was built in 1895 on East Summit. From this early community, non-denominational beginning, the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1913.
A view of the Waldmere from Chautauqua Lake
Even as the new government took shape, the village itself was beginning to change. The resort hotel business which made up the backbone of the local economy, began to falter in the 1890s. The short summer seasons did not bring in enough revenue to cover the always increasing costs of maintenance and operation. The Sterlingworth Hotel had attempted to increase its income by remaining open the entire winter of 1892-3. Part of the huge facility was used as a recuperative center for the Humanitas Corporation, a drug and alcohol treatment program. Its ballroom was open to the public and many wintertime festivities took place. This one experience proved disastrous, as the income from the activities did not come close to covering the expense of heating the structure during the long winter season.
Resort life in the two large hotels ended during the first decade of the 1900s. The Sterlingworth Hotel was renamed the Waldmere in the mid 1890s and saw only limited occupancy as an Annex to the neighboring Kent House. It burned to the ground in 1902. The Kent House remained standing but several attempts to revive its business failed. It was permanently closed in 1909 and all of its furnishings sold at auction.
During the 1890s, as the hotel business dwindled, many large homes were built along the lakeshore. To the west of the beach the Howard Park Association, under the sponsorship of the Congregational Church Society, laid out streets, uniquely named “Ways.” Half of the income from the sale or rent of the substantial homes built by the Society went to the Congregational Church. Farther west, the 65-acre Waldmere Park Development, financed by a number of prosperous Jamestown businessmen, laid out quarter acre lots for home building in a Tuxedo Park setting. In 1896 Lakewood had 248 large summer homes. Many of the homes which were built at that time remain, located on the streets all along the lakefront area, both east and west.
The Sorg Cottage, Lakewood, New York
While some cottages were available for rent at $300 to $450 a season, a greater number were privately owned by wealthy families from outside the area. As regular summer inhabitants, they became as familiar as the permanent residents. In 1904 Paul Sorg from Ohio built the large half-timbered home now known as “The Green Farm.” Another Ohio family, the Gunckels, built houses in the Waldmere Park development. Lewis B. Gunckel, a former Governor of Ohio, and his brother Charles, built summer homes side by side at 7 Winchester Road, and 62 West Terrace. The Clapp family from New York had a spacious family dwelling erected on the Lakewood beach, between the two large hotels.
The Lakewood Country Club was organized in 1900 by some of the summer time regulars. During the years 1905 and 1906, the members had a clubhouse built on the site of the Sterlingworth /Waldmere Hotel and created a golf course in the southern part of the village beyond the railroad tracks. It was evidence of the increasing sophistication of the small village and its inhabitants and frequent visitors. Within a short time the Chadakoin Rowing Club moved its headquarters from Greenhurst to Lakewood. The country club’s dock and boathouse became the center for many races and regattas, and another aspect of leisure time recreation and conviviality was added to the Lakewood social scene.
The clubhouse for Lakewood Golf Club was located on the west side of Chautauqua Avenue, Lakewood, New York (Note railroad station in the background.) This building, which was moved to the Chautauqua Avenue location, originally served as an early schoolhouse at the SE corner of Winch Road and Route 394 (Fairmount Avenue).
With the increasing population, there was a demand for additional village services and utilities. The Home Telephone Company installed the first telephones in the village in 1901. The concern for an adequate water supply for fire fighting and citizen use led to the sale of bonds for the development of a water system – drilling wells and laying pipes – in 1905. The vital fire-fighting duties were first carried out by the general citizenry forming bucket brigades when fire broke out. In 1898 the Lakewood Bucket Brigade was organized – a volunteer group.
Public transportation which had been provided by the lake steamers, or by horse-drawn carriages over tortuous muddy paths, improved in the 1890s when the Jamestown Street Railway Company extended its trolley line from Celoron to Lakewood. In 1903 the Chautauqua Traction Company built lines through Lakewood, providing both a direct run from Jamestown and also trolley access all the way to Mayville. That same year, 1903, the village contracted to buy electricity for street lighting from the Traction Company.
Warren and John Packard, among the earliest developers of the lakeshore section of the village, saw their efforts for village improvement continued into the second generation. Warren Packard’s two sons, William and James Ward, entered into an ambitious cottage building program along the lakeshore in the 1890s. By the end of the first decade of the Twentieth Century, J. Ward (James) married Elizabeth Gillmer, and made plans to build a fine mansion on the large family holding just west of the present beach area, on both sides of West Terrace.
A remarkable relocation of cottages took place in the years 1905 to 1910 in preparation for construction of the large home and extensive outbuildings and gardens which were to be included in the entire estate. The cottage moving process was painstakingly slow, but exceedingly careful. It is said that nothing in the cottages was packed or removed, and at the end of the journey, not a dish was broken, or artifact damaged.
The Packard’s handsome neo-Georgian mansion was first occupied in July of 1912. Surrounding the main home were attractively designed formal gardens reminiscent of those found at English country houses. A well-furnished boathouse stood at the dock on the lakeshore. Mr. Packard’s power boat was his special pride and still exists to this day. Across Terrace Avenue, south of the main buildings, there were cutting gardens and a greenhouse. Garages for the Packard’s several vehicles, and houses for the chauffeur and the household servants were located in this area also. Today, some of the large garden area has been converted into a townhouse development. The automobile garage remains, having been extensively and interestingly renovated into a residence. A portion of the extensive garden can still be observed, stretching south from Terrace Avenue.
After he became a well-established citizen of Lakewood with the development of his estate along the lake, Mr. J. Ward Packard promoted the well-being of his adopted area by gifts of long-term benefit. In 1915 he deeded to the village the plot of land on the northwest corner of Owana Way and West Summit on which to build a Village Hall and Fire Station. In the same year he provided the fire company with its first motorized vehicle, a Model T Ford Chemical Fire Truck. This vehicle is carefully preserved along with other memorable pieces of equipment in a museum-annex to the fire station.
Lakewood Chemical Company 500 gallon pumper. Purchased in 1927 for $6200 from Buffalo Fire Appliance Company.
Mr. Packard died in 1928 and Mrs. Packard remained a local resident until her death in 1960. She continued the family’s philanthropies and was an interested participant in many village activities. Since her death, the mansion has been converted into spacious condominiums.
The decade of World War I saw widespread automobile usage. As a result of this more convenient mode of travel, Lakewood’s permanent population increased. By the end of the war Lakewood was recognized as an attractive, bustling suburb instead of a summer resort. The end of the resort era was finalized by the demolition of the Kent House in 1915. The large hotel had stood abandoned and deteriorating along the lakeshore for over five years.
The business of the Village Board of Trustees reflected the changing village life.The Police Force was established in 1914. Auto traffic rules were laid down. The speed limit was 15 miles per hour, strictly enforced. Parking was not permitted along certain of the village streets. Citizen committees demanded that the village fathers enforce cleanup and beautification of property.
A view of Chautauqua Avenue
Prosperous years following the end of the war saw an expansion of the residential areas. The original Waldmere Tract west of the village center, on both sides of Summit Avenue was subdivided for housing. Adjoining the Waldmere development to the west, the large Stoneman farm property was similarly laid out in streets and lots. The housing boom resulted in a dramatic increase in the village population. In 1920 the population was reported at 700. The 1930 census showed a total of 1800 residents – over two times greater.
In 1924 local citizens approved plans for a new school at a cost of $6000. It was built on Lakeview and East Summit Avenues and first occupied in September 1924 as the Lakewood High School. An increasing population forced the building of two additions during the next decade.
With the paving of the streets in 1927 and the establishment of a wide variety of stores offering supplies and services, the face of the village came to resemble its present appearance. Along the lakeshore the rambling building which had housed the Lakewood Country Club became a public restaurant in 1919 and was known as the Lakewood Inn. Throughout much of the 1920s decade, it was a popular social center which attracted widespread patronage to Lakewood.
Lake-associated recreational activities were increased and diversified during the 1930s. When the Lakewood Country Club’s boathouse burned in 1918, the Chadakoin Boat Club built a new boathouse farther to the east, on the site of the old Kent House dock. In the later 1930s the rowing club officially became the Chautauqua Lake Yacht Club. It became a center for sailing activities in the lower lake. Throughout the summer months a fleet consisting of several standard classes of boats participated in an active racing schedule. As part of regional and national sailing associations, the club frequently sponsored colorful and prestigious regattas. National sailing championships were brought to the home club by skillful local sailors. The Yacht Club’s Youth summer programs offering swimming and sailing instruction to all age levels provided a young and vigorous aspect to the face of the village.
Access to the lake for the general public was made possible when the village of Lakewood purchased the former Lakewood Country Club property in 1933. A Municipal Beach was established with facilities for swimming, boating and picnicking.
By Lakewood’s half-century mark in 1943, the small settlement that was built entirely upon its relationship to Chautauqua Lake had become an attractive suburb, one of the most elegant addresses around the lake.
The physical appearance of the village changed little during its second 50 years. The center of the village had a well-developed commercial section. There were several grocery stores, a drug store, a liquor store and hardware and building supply centers. Many services were available in the village: beauty shops, barber shop, a news stand and Western Union headquarters, numerous gas stations, an auto repair garage and a general Fixit Shop which specialized in radio repair. These were located in buildings on Chautauqua Avenue, and the short streets nearby as well as along Fairmount Avenue, which in the 1940s was still largely residential.
New developments came in terms of expanded and improved municipal services and in the establishment of distinctively local associations and organizations.
In the 1950s both Baptist and Lutheran congregations were organized in the village. The Catholic Church had existed since 1913, worshiping in a large church on Ohio Avenue. The Methodists formed their congregation from the non-denominational group which had been the earliest religious body in the village. Every one of the four denominations built new churches within the village in the decade of the 1960s.
Lodges, veterans organizations, service clubs, and a variety of other organizations provided community gathering places that came to characterize the personality of the village. Among these were the private clubs – The Rod and Gun Club; cultural-educational clubs – The Lakewood Women’s Club; recreational-social clubs – The Chautauqua Lake Yacht Club; and service clubs such as the Kiwanis. The last hotel remaining from the early days, the Victoria, continued to serve as a popular local gathering and drinking spot patronized by a steady clientele. It was abandoned a few years before the villages centennial celebration. The Green Farm Tea room, serving an entirely different type of village and area patron, was located in the fine home built by Paul Arthur Sorg in 1905. The tea room operation was closed out after the Second World War, and the Green Farm became a high quality, elegant gift shop.
Fire protection was increased as the village expanded. Two separate fire-fighting bodies of early days, the Hose Company and the Chemical Company united to form the Lakewood Volunteer Fire Department, one of the strongest volunteer departments in the entire area. The relatively small Lakewood Police Force combined with the Busti Town Police in the 1980s to provide more complete and efficient citizen protection.
The postwar population boom created a need for larger school facilities and a state mandate forced the combining of small districts in the late 1940s. The Southwestern Central School District was a consolidation of schools in Lakewood, Celoron and the Town and hamlet of Busti. A large high school located on Hunt Road was opened in 1954 and the Lakewood High School building housed elementary students through grade six. In 1967 the Middle School was completed on the same site as the High School. During a reorganization process in the mid-1980s all of the youngest students, through grade two were placed in the Celoron Elementary School while those in Grades three, four, and five, attended the Lakewood School.
Further educational and cultural opportunities for all ages were incorporated in the establishment of the Lakewood Library Association. The attractive building housing the library was built in 1970. Along with its basic function as a well-stocked reference and lending library, the building is a user-friendly center for art exhibitions, and community events and announcements.
The recreational needs of the entire population were addressed during the same postwar decades. In cooperation with the Town of Busti, the village established the Joint Recreation Program. This led to the development of an activities center on Summit Street, in the heart of the village, the creation of parks at Beechwood at the east end, and Lowe Park at the west. LaGrega Field and Packard Field (another gift from the Packard family) hosted both school and summer baseball programs. Tennis Courts at the village beach, off Linwood Avenue near LaGrega Field, and at the Lakewood Legion on Chautauqua Avenue, spoke to the increased interest in that sport during the 1970s and 1980s. An indoor sports facility with tennis and handball courts and exercise prorams was built on Fairmount Avenue in the mid-1970s. After operating for several years in uncertain financial conditions, the center became a branch of the Jamestown Y.M.C.A. in the early 1990s. Lakewood youth benefited by the wintertime programs available to them, and wider usage provided a more stable financial base for the entire operation.
The population of Lakewood has been interestingly diversified over the past decades. Families whose roots stretch back to early settlers of the village have been joined by many newcomers to the area. Among those are young families who have been attracted by the educational facilities, the recreational activities and the spacious older houses. Many of the fine old residences have been attractively renovated and are occupied with pride by a new generation. Retirees and summer visitors have added to the population in recent years also. An increased involvement in civic and educational matters and, a concern for municipal efficiency indicates the high degree of pride felt by all of the village citizens, old and new.
As Lakewood heads into its second century, it is again facing changes. It has become part of a large commercial area as many of the stores and services have moved to take advantage of the heavier traffic on Fairmount Avenue. The day of the self-sufficient and compact village center which characterized Lakewood at its 50th birthday has passed. Although the technologies of travel and communication will dictate many factors, the natural benefits and beauties of Lakewood remain the same as the day of its founding. The energies and innovative thinking of citizens and officials are already taking the lead in pointing to a strong and appealing village as it begins its second century.
A summer concert at the Hartley Park