WEST SIDE STORY FALL TOUR A HIT

Over a year’s worth of planning came into fruition as the AACA Northern Ohio Chapter’s “West Side Story” fall tour, October 19-21, engaged into full throttle. A total of 140 members of the Ohio Region’s seven chapters and guests experienced a historical trek past some of Cleveland’s beautiful scenic views and early automotive movers and shakers factories and homes.

The host hotel was the Holiday Inn in Strongsville,Ohio where the tour began Friday afternoon. The first scheduled activity was a visit to the Strongsville Historical Society. There were seven historic homes that were relocated from various parts of Strongsville. Some homes were open and displays inside the homes included doll, glass, furniture and memorabilia collections. There was even a reconstructed general store that had the entire inventory needed to participate in life’s necessities.

Saturday morning started out cloudy with intermittent rain, but that did not dampen the spirits of the tour participants. The drive began through the Cleveland Metro Parks as it serpentined through the Rocky River Valley following the Cuyahoga River. The first stop within the Metro Parks was a historical village called Frostville. It was made up of various 19th century homes from neighboring communities that were spared from demolition. It also serviced the tour participants as a great coffee and donut stop. Thanks again to the volunteers that provided 10 dozen donuts and the coffee. Continuing on,  the entourage drove past automotive pioneers homes such as Benjamin Hopkins of Grant Motor Company fame, Alexander Winton of the Winton Motor Car Company and Walter Baker of Baker Electric.

Upon reaching the mouth of theCuyahoga River the next stop was the Clifton Beach and Lagoon. Here was located the boat house of automotive industrialist Alexander Winton. The boat house was originally used to dock his yacht, Labelle. Winton also developed many gas and diesel prototype engines for marine usage in the lagoon providing quick access to the lake. It later was sold to George Codrington who worked for Winton and later became VP of General Motors. The boat house also belonged to Vernon Stouffer of Stouffer Frozen Foods who in turn rented it to famous gangster hunter Elliot Ness.

Moving along a colorful stretch of Lake Rd in Lakewood, Ohio, an old west side upscale suburb of Cleveland, the scenic vistas along the shore line of Lake Erie allowed the participants to pass by Roseneath, Alexander Winton’s original mansion site circa 1902 and the M.F. Bramley estate. Bramley was the President of the Templar Motor Company.

Leaving the lake shore area took us pass the Leon Rubay Co. The Rubay Co. made custom bodies for such cars as White,Chandler, Duesenburg, Stearns and Templar. In passing The Baker Electric Plant circa 1906, it was noted that by 1915 Baker had merged with Rauch & Lang becoming Baker-Raulang and developed the Owen-Magnetic a gas powered car with a magnetic ignition.

Just a few blocks from the Rubay and Baker buildings other factories once thrived such as the Ohio Blower and Body Co. Here bodies were made for the Model T Ford as well as such makes as Jordan, Moon and Stearns. Another two blocks down Detroit Ave we passed the original American Chickle Company circa 1888. This five story brick building was the world’s first chewing gum factory. A quick turn then onto Berea Rd we came across the sprawling twelve acre Winton Motor Car factory. During the earlier years 1902-1904 this factory housed the largest producer of gasoline automobiles in the country. Winton later ceased production of automobiles in 1924 and focused on his diesel engine business a block away.

Upon arriving at the Templar Motor Car factory circa 1917-1924 we were greeted by Northern Chapter member Dave Buehler. Dave gave a talk on the history of the Templar Motor Co. while the touring group had a chance to refuel themselves with lunch. Dave’s collection of Templar automobiles and memorabilia is the world’s largest.

From the Templar site we were on our way to the Parker Ranch and were greeted by owner and long time resident George Wasmer. His residence was at one time an old horse farm so many western themes were present. George also had a nice collection of farm machinery, horse saddles and old cars to view.

Along the final leg of the tour, we stopped at The Grand Pacific Junction. This spot portrayed a 19th century shopping area and railroad theme. The many quaint vintage shops and restaurant kept many shoppers busy and was a good place for ice cream.

`The last stop of the day prior to our return to the host hotel, was at Northern Chapter member Dave Heinrich’s. Dave and his wife Dawn welcomed all with a hot pot of chicken noodle soup and pastries. His Vintage Car Restoration Shop was open for tour and he fielded questions regarding automobile restoration.

The tour was noted as a prelude of a much larger tour the Northern Chapter is preparing. The city of Cleveland at one time housed over 80 automobile manufactures. The club is expanding the breadth and scope of the tour to incorporate the vast array of Cleveland’s automotive heritage. The tour will be open to the general public and the focus will be upon automotive history in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. After all Cleveland was the original Motor City before Detroit took over and believe me there’s a lot to see.