History of the  West Park
Neighborhood
Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio


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Kamm's Store.  Tony's Restaurant. Alfonzo's Tuscan Grill (closed).   Sherman House.  West Park Masonic Temple.

 

Early Settlers and their Legacies




Alger, Nathan

Barthelman Family

Colbrunn family
Kamm, Oswald

Peake, George

Sixt, William
Triskett, Joseph

West, Charles P.

West, John M.


NOTE:  Links within the narratives generally will open a picture or another webpage.




NATHAN ALGER

               Nathan Alger was born 5 may 1765 in Kent, Litchfield, Connecticut.  He married Priscilla Peet in 1785.  They had eight children:  Armelia, Henry, Orres, Fanny M., Sally Pee, Herman A., Nathan (Jr.), and Thaddeus Peet.  He was sent to the Western Reserve by the Connecticut Land Company to homestead 640 acres of land.  Nathan and Priscilla arrived in Old Rockport in June 1812 with their sons:  Henry, Herman, Nathan, Jr., and Thaddeus P.


Nathan's son, Henry, later recorded in his journal that he left Litchfield County, Connecticut, with ten dollars he had borrowed.  When he arrived in the area, his few possessions included an old French watch, an ax, a part of a kit of shoemaker's tools, shop furniture, a bed and seven cents.  He immediately built a log cabin and furnished it with a catamount bedstead, a shoemaker's bench and two stools.  He and his wife, Susan Nichols, began housekeeping with a broken iron tea kettle that he had found on the lake shore.


                In the fall of 1812, Henry traveled 36 miles east of Painesville to thresh wheat on a farm.  His pay was every tenth bushel of wheat.  He once worked nine days for fifty-six pounds of salt.  He carried this home on his back, walking the entire distance from Cleveland.  He chopped an acre of timber in Columbia Township for which he received 100 pounds of flour.  He carried the flour on his back to his home, a distance often miles.


                One of the conditions of the homestead was that the settler was to live on the property for a year in order to receive full title to it.  Nathan had been on the homestead less that a year when he died, at age 47, on January 21, 1813.  Nathan was buried on the homestead awarded to his family.  The Alger family's 320 acre homestead became known as Alger Settlement.


                Henry Alger later donated the acre of land that contained his father's grave to Rockport.  This became known as Alger Cemetery as it expanded to become the area burial ground.  Originally, its entrance was at 16711 Lorain Avenue but was later relocated to 16710 Bradgate Avenue.  Nathan Alger's grave is located in the northwest section of the cemetery.  It can be found by entering from Bradgate Avenue and taking the lane on the left.  The section is readily identified by several old gravestones.  His gravestone, hand ground and hewn, is inscribed, "My friend, I'm here, the first to come, and in this place, for you there's room."  His sons, Henry and Nathan, are buried just north of their father's grave.


Alger house                His son, Thaddeus Peet Alger, was 27 years old when he was killed by lightning on July 14, 1828.  His gravestone, also near his father's, bears the inscription, "My sudden death proclaims aloud to you my dying friends; To be prepared to meet your God, when he the summons sends."  Nathan Alger, Jr's., grave is also in that section of the cemetery.


                Many settlers of Old Rockport Township are buried in Alger Cemetery.  Algers, Nichols, Herrington and Triskett graves are in the old section.  Kamm, Colbrunn and Sixt grave sites are in an adjacent section.


                Alger House, built in 1825 by Henry Alger, Nathan's eldest son, was a red frame house on the south side of Lorain Avenue, near Alger Cemetery.  John Alber (his name is also recorded as Albers) bought the house at the turn of the century. (Photograph, right, courtesy of Laverne Landphair Buch.) Alber and his wife operated a restaurant for the workers and spectators at the Rockport Hamlet Driving Park, a harness racing track that was located directly across Lorain Avenue.  The house was destroyed in 1925.  Albers Avenue was named for John Alber.

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  THE BARTHELMAN FAMILY


The Barthelman Family has a long history in West Park. First to arrive was Johann Christoph Barthelman who came to the U.S. in 1840 from Germany. Here he met and married his wife, Johanna, also a native of Germany. The couple lived along Settlement Road, now known as West 130th, and accumulated a great deal of land in that area.

In 1876, Johann bought the property surrounding the southwest corner of Rocky River Drive and Lorain Avenue though the immediate vicinity around Kamm’s Store continued to be owned by Oswald Kamm.

Johann died only a year later in 1877 but made arrangements in his will to eventually distribute his land holdings among his sons. As a result, in 1888 the property near Kamm’s Corners came into the ownership of Frederick Barthelman.

In about 1890 Frederick built a spacious farmhouse (right) on the south side of Lorain Avenue at 17401 Lorain Avenue, west of Kamm’s Store, where he lived with his wife Katherine and growing family. This house stood for many years, later serving as a home to other members of Frederick’s family, but ultimately gave way to the commercialization of Lorain Avenue and was finally demolished sometime after 1934.

Meanwhile, in about 1920, Frederick built a second house near the first which became his new permanent residence. This house was eventually moved to a location further away from busy Lorain Avenue and now stands at 3906 Rocky River Drive at the corner of Fernshaw Avenue.

After a lifetime in the West Park area Frederick Barthelman passed away in 1932 at eighty-years of age.

wagonBy that time Frederick’s son Henry had been active in Barthelman Family enterprises for many years. In November, 1902, Henry established the Barthelman Dairy,  its horse-drawn wagons delivering milk throughout Rockport Township. The dairy was a great commercial success, allowing Henry to sell the business to Earl Blain in 1914 and begin semi-retirement at age 32!

In about 1914 Henry Barthelman became Treasurer of the Cleveland Motor Car Sales Company, a business which sold Nash Automobiles to a public falling in love with the open road. Henry, who showed a particular talent for the world of finance, also served as a director for the West Park Bank and the Thrift Federal Savings and Loan Company.

Not long after leaving the dairy business, Henry also built and began operating a greenhouse. He once again met with success. So much so that, in about 1922, he led members of the Barthelman Family in creating United Greenhouses Incorporated, adding three more greenhouses to the existing one. These greenhouses were located not only in West Park but also in southwest Cuyahoga County.

The greenhouse business became a big operation with over twenty acres under glass. Tomatoes were the principal product and were not only sold locally but shipped to other parts of the country.

Henry also had a new road built, running west from Rocky River Drive, just south of Lorain Avenue. Originally named Clarence Road, in honor of Henry’s first child, the name was later changed to Fernshaw Avenue.

In 1924, Henry built his family a new home on this new street. This impressive house still stands at 17219 Fernshaw Avenue. Until this time Henry had resided in the original Barthelman house slightly north on Lorain. Yes, all the Barthelman homes in that area can get a bit confusing!

Henry Barthelman died in 1966 at age 84, leaving a big influence on one of West Park’s busiest and best known corners.

Robert Barthelman, son of Henry and grandson of Frederick, was born in 1912 on the dining room table of the house built by his grandfather at 17401 Lorain. Robert not only served as president of the United Greenhouse Company for many years, but, in close cooperation with his wife, Lucille, built Olympic Recreation at West 176th and Lorain, one of the first family-oriented bowling alleys in the nation.

Olympic Recreation was run by the Barthelman’s from 1939 to 1972 when they sold the business to a new owner. The building was later torn down and the site is now a parking lot for nearby Fairview Park Hospital.

Older West Parkers will recall Robert also operated The Polar Bar, an ice cream stand on the south side of Lorain across from Olympic Recreation, from about 1942 to 1950.

Robert and Lucille Barthelman, now of Westlake, celebrated their 70th (!) wedding anniversary in August, 2005.

 

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COLBRUNN FAMILY


                Frederick A. "Fred" Colbrunn was born in 1836 in Lippe, Germany.  He was a successful linen mill operator in Germany who, reportedly, catered to royalty.  He came to the United States where he bought land and settled in Old Rockport Township in 1830.  It was a rural area with many large farms and a few homes.  He eventually became the largest landowner in the township.  He owned all four corners of Lorain Avenue and Rocky River Drive.  When settlers began arriving, the Colbrunn Family sold many of them parcels of their land. Frederick was first married to Elizabeth McKechnie.  Following her death he married a woman named Anna.  His third wife was Jennie W. DruckerOswald Kamm bought four acres on the southwest corner of Rocky River Drive and Lorain Avenue where he was to build a home and his grocery store.  Oswald had married Lena, one of Colbrunn's granddaughters.  He and Lena are buried in the Alger Cemetery just east of the original section.


                The Colbrunn family was involved in several successful business ventures.  A daughter, Jenny, lived in a large home at 3706 Rocky River Drive.  Her son Fred, namesake of his grandfather, married Oswald Kamm's daughter.


                Emma married John Alber who purchased the Alger House, called the Old Red House, built in 1825 by Henry Alger, Nathan's eldest son.  This red frame house sat on the south side of Lorain Avenue, near Alger Cemetery.


                Fred Colbrunn, son of the original Fred Colbrunn, was a respected gentleman farmer in his day.  One of his business interests was the Rockport Hamlet Driving Park built in 1890.  It was a harness racing track complete with a half-mile track and grandstand.  It faced West 159th Street, running north from Lorain Avenue to Lucille Avenue.  The stables stood at the south end along Lorain Street while a saloon and a concession stand were on the west side along West 165th Street.  The entire facility was surrounded by a tall wooden fence.  Children of the area spent many afternoons sitting on the fence or peeking through it.  Races were organized for a two to three week period, several times a year attracting horse racers from all of Ohio and even Kentucky.


                The area as annexed by Cleveland in 1923 and the Cleveland School Board purchased the race track for $15,000.00.  George Washington Elementary School was constructed on the south end of the property the same year.  Newton D. Baker Junior High School was built on the north end.


                Several Colbrunn family members are buried in the Alger Cemetery.  Grave of Fred Colbrunn (1836-1911).  Grave of Fred Colbrunn (1871-1959).

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OSWALD KAMM


     Oswald Kamm was born in Elm, Switzerland in 1845.  He started his career as a clerk in a combination saloon and grocery store at West 49th Street and Lorain Avenue where the Laub Baking Company flourished for many years.  When the business later went bankrupt he moved to Old Rockport Township.  He married Lena (sometimes recorded as “Leona”) A. Klaue, reportedly a granddaughter of Fred Colbrunn, about 1869.


      In 1875, Oswald bought four acres of land from his wife's grandfather.  The property was on the southwest corner of Rocky River Drive and Lorain Street.  Here he erected a building that faced Rocky River Drive because it was more heavily traveled than Lorain Street.  The ground floor housed a grocery store while the second floor was the family's living Kamm's store c1910quarters.  As settlement of the-area increased, more stores and establishments were built.  Oswald's business grew in the process.  As business increased, he expanded the store to offer dry goods, grains and some cuts of meat.  The store had become a general store that could provide all of a family's basic needs.  Farmers drove for miles to the miniature "shopping center" for food, hardware and other necessities of the day.


      By middle of the twentieth century the role of the general store had faded.  The building came to house Tony's Restaurant.  Tony first operated a restaurant at the Lorain and dark Avenues triangle area in the early 1930's.  He also opened a diner on the northwest corner of West 117th Street and Lorain Avenue.  In 1997, the diner building was still located at its original location although diner building was removed and a Rite Aid drugstore was constructed.


      In the middle of the century, Tony moved his popular restaurant into the building that had been Oswald Kamm's store.  The building was eventually expanded to the south and west.  Although the exterior of the old grocery store has been altered over the years, features of the old building can still be identified.  A fire gutted the building in early 1997.  The building was renovated and another restaurant, Alfonzo’s Tuscan Grill (now closed), occupied the venerable building.


     Oswald Kamm became an influential person of the area.  He had successfully established his store and greenhouse business.  Eventually, he was approached by township officials to operate a Post Office from his grocery store.  Oswald had to collect the mail at the Nickel Plate Railroad station in what later became Rocky River west of the Rocky River.  Each day he walked into the valley, crossed the river and continued up the other side to reach the station.  He then retraced his route back to the store.  The mail was postmarked "Kamm's, Ohio," so the area around the four corners of Rocky River Drive and Lorain Street became known as "Kamm's" and, eventually, "Kamm's corners."


     As the West Park Community developed, Kamm's Corners remained a focus of the area.  During the early years of the twentieth century, the use of Interurban Trains altered the way of life.  The tracks ran down the middle of Lorain Avenue, from Public Square in downtown Cleveland to the southwest end of Cuyahoga County.


     Kamm's Corners was enlarged in 1938 with the opening of many new stores.  Several landmarks, located at the northwest corner of Rocky River Drive and Lorain Avenue, were leveled between 1960 and 1963 when Kamm's Plaza, a shopping area, was constructed.  The first gasoline station in the Kamm's corner area was a Gulf Station built in 1930, on the northwest corner of Rocky River Drive and Lorain Avenue.  A Shell station occupied that corner in 2008.

     Oswald built a large family-style farmhouse at 17325 Lorain Avenue in 1875, just west of his store.  It was a three story-building with a wide front verandah.  In 1937, the house was moved to 17134 Fernshaw Avenue.  The original location is roughly where a Big Boy restaurant, later Elias Brothers' Restaurant and, in 1997, the Gourme' Restaurant stood.  That building was razed early in the early 2000’s and a new building housing a Steak-n-Shake drive in restaurant replaced it.  


     In 1909, Oswald Kamm had an apartment building constructed at 3890 Rocky River Drive and named it Kamm's Terrace.  The name Kamm was inscribed on the building.  It remained in the Kamm Family until 1950 when it was sold and converted into a medical building that was renamed West Park Professional Building.  In 1970, the building was sold again.  In 1980, the building had been painted inside and out.  Two porches were rebuilt and a new roof installed.  The building housed offices for eight doctors and dentists.

  

     Leona died in 1917 and Oswald, in 1922.  They are buried in Alger Cemetery just east of the original section of the cemetery.  Oswald's stone carried the inscription "1845-1922" while Lena's reads "1853-1917."

 

 

History Comes to Life:  Mr. Kamm Returns to West Park
29 September 2012
by Gary Swilik

        As most West Parkers know, Panini's Restaurant is located in the historic building that was once home to Kamms Store and post office. Oswald Kamm was born in Switzerland in 1845 and came to Cleveland in 1867. He moved to present West Park in 1875 and built a grocery store at the southwest corner of Rocky River Drive and Lorain Avenue. His first store faced Rocky River Drive because it was then more heavily traveled than Lorain. Mr. Kamm was appointed local postmaster by President Grover Cleveland and operated a post office in his store for many years.

     In 1900, Mr. Kamm constructed the current building now Panini's Restaurant - on the site of his earlier store. This second store was larger and faced Lorain Avenue, now a much busier street. By this time the business had become a "general store" offering dry goods, groceries, meats, hardware, and farm supplies, while still serving as a post office. Oswald Kamm died in 1922 and is buried in Alger Cemetery.

     On September 29th of last year, several of us had lunch at Panini's with Oswald Kamm's great-grandson, Carl Jacob Kamm II. We found ourselves discussing local history with Oswald Kamm's direct descendant in the very space that had once been Kamm's store and post office. And Carl even looks like his great-grandfather, right down to the stylish beard.

     The five-member lunch group consisted of Carl Kamm, Gary Swilik of westparkhistory.com; KCDC Executive Director Steve Lorenz; and West Park Historical Society trustees Ralph Pfingsten and Dar McGeady. Carl, amiable and soft-spoken, shared his stories and memories. Carl operates Kamm Farms in Huron, Ohio, growing fresh produce for individual and commercial customers.

     After lunch we all took a short walk to Kamm's Terraces on Rocky River Drive, built by Oswald Kamm in 1909. We also stopped by Oswald Kamm's old house, on nearby Fernshaw Avenue, where Carl knocked at the door, hoping the current residents might not mind letting him take a look around. The residents weren't at home but it's fun to think about what their reaction might have been to find someone on their front porch who appears to be Oswald Kamm!


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GEORGE PEAKE

 

                One of the first settlers to come to the Old Rockport Township arrived in 1809.  George Peake was a mulatto from Pennsylvania.  He and his family were the first settlers to use the new road through the territory.  He was also the first African American settler on the west side of the Cuyahoga River.  George had served in the British Army under General James Wolf at the Battle of Abraham Plains at Quebec during the French and Indian War of 1859.  After he left the military service he moved to Maryland and married a wealthy Black woman.  The couple moved to Pennsylvania where they raised a large family.


                George was 87 year old when he arrived in Ohio with his two grown sons, George and Joseph.  Two other sons, James and Henry, followed later.  He purchased just over 100 acres of land north of what later became Munn Road.  His acreage was bound by Fisher Road, McKinley Road, Lakewood Heights Boulevard and Northland Avenue.  He farmed and also worked for other settlers arriving in Old Rockport Township.  A highly respected and capable citizen, he invented a hand operated grist mill for grinding grain.  It was hailed as a vast improvement over the “stump mortar and spring pestle” type.  He died in 1827 at the age 105 years.

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WILLIAM SIXT


                William Sixt was born in Berlin, Germany, about 1823.  He had five sons, three daughters, ten grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.  His descendants have left their mark on Old Rockport Township and West Park Village.


                The original Sixt property on the north side of Triskett Road extended west from Rockport Avenue, north including Lydian Avenue and west on the north side of Lorain Avenue to 15614 Lorain Avenue, including West Park Avenue.  At one time there were three gas wells on the property.


Sherman House.  West Park Masonic Temple in 2004.

                The Sherman House, at 15500 Triskett Road, was built in the Civil War period (one source reports 1849) by William Sixt who named the house in honor of General William Tecumseh Sherman.  A Greek Revival Italianate House, it is a two story building with a hip roof. It has elongated windows on the first floor, with remnants of stonehead moldings.


                Sixt Tavern was in the west end of the building.  The family's living quarters occupied the rest of the first floor.  There was a ballroom and bedrooms on the second floor.  The kitchen was a frame structure [later a residence at 3591 West Park Avenue] attached to the northwest corner of the building.


                 The Sherman House has been used as a stagecoach stop and inn.  Herman Sixt operated it as a hotel with food and lodging for overnight guests and lived there until his death.  It was later converted into a four suite apartment building.  The facade was altered in 1910 by the addition of four Corinthian columns that supported a two story porch. The latest role of the house is as the West Park Masonic Temple.


                One of William Sixt's sons ran a hardware store 15300 Lorain Avenue where the YMCA was located in 1997.  Another was purchasing agent for a Cleveland Department store, Wm. Taylor & Son Company.  One operated the first Cleveland & Southwestern Railway electric car into Cleveland.  He later became bookkeeper for that company.  His home was at 15610 Lorain Avenue.  The house was later moved to 14513 Triskett Road.  Another son had a farm on Rocky River Drive just north of where the airport was later to be located.  One lived at 15480 Triskett Road in a resident that later housed Mandley-Vetrovsky Funeral Home.  He raised prize white Leghorn and white Wyandotte chickens that were shown at county fairs and even at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  A daughter and her family resided in an eight room house at 15614 Lorain Avenue that has been moved to 3499 Granton Avenue.  His daughter Matilda married John W. West, a son of John M. West.


                William Sixt held an interest in the plank road with a toll gate at the railroad crossing at West 143rd Street and Lorain Avenue.

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JOSEPH TRISKETT


                Joseph Triskett, his father and brothers settled in Old Rockport Township in 1826.  He purchased 50 acres on the corner of West 117th Street and Triskett Road.  He developed a very productive farm and became an active part of the business community.  Triskett Road was named for him.  Joseph is buried in the original section of Alger Cemetery as are several of his family members.

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JOHN M. WEST


                John M. West was born in May 1811 in county Leitrim, Ireland, the son of John West and Fannie Harmon.  His father was well educated having received a degree of Doctor of Medicine in Dublin, Ireland.  When he came to America in May of 1826 and settled in Euclid Township John's father had expected to practice medicine.  However, his health failed and he went into farming and dealing in stock.  John and Fannie had two other sons, George H. and William C.The West house in the early 1960's

                It was about 1842 when John M. West  moved to Rockport Hamlet in Rockport Township.  He purchased a farm of 600 acres that abutted the Leonard Case farm south of  Lorain Road and east of West 140th Street.  He built a large thirteen room brick house set back several hundred feet from Lorain Road.  According to present County Auditor’s records, the house of over 3257 square feet of living space was built in 1842.  (In 2004, it was a two family home. Photo to the right is from the early 1960's.)  A lake, equipped with rowboats, and picnic grounds were created on the twenty-five acres front lawn between the house and the street.  It became a show place of the township.  This area was opened to the public who were soon calling it "West's Park."  This evolved into "West Park" that was eventually applied to the entire community.  Later, the name West Park generally referred to the area west of the site of its origin.

                John M. West purchased adjacent parcels of land to increase his holdings considerably.  He was a public-spirited citizen and was instrumental in having the Ohio City and Olmsted plank road constructed.

                In the early 1840’s he had married Frances N. O’Brien in Buffalo, New York.  They had eight children of which six reached adulthood.  Charles P. West was born 29 November 1854.  John W. West married Matilda Sixt, daughter of William SixtFannie married Christopher C. Southern who was prominent in real estate development in Lakewood.  Alice H. married J. W. Kinney and died in the late 1890’s.  The other son to reach maturity was George W.  Others died young.  Nicholson died at age fifteen and Arthur at age two.

Upon his death on 15 February 1890, John M. West was buried in the East Cleveland Cemetery at East 118th Street.  Fannie died in 1902 and was also buried in the East Cleveland Cemetery.  Evidently John M. West’s parents lived in Euclid until their deaths.  His father who died in 1842 is also buried in the East Cleveland Cemetery.

(NOTE:  Some reports hold that “Benjamin West” the person who was the early settler who purchased the property later known as “West’s Park.”  Records do not support this.  John M. West was apparently the person who initially purchased this property.)

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CHARLES P. WEST


Charles P. West, son of John M. West, was born 29 November 1854.  He attended Humiston Cleveland Institute for three years then spent one year at Oberlin College.  His primary business was farming until June 1893 when he formed a partnership with H. G. Dryer.  He sold the family house in 1914 and began dividing the remaining land into lots.  The lake was drained and filled.  A neighborhood of homes evolved, closely enveloping the house.  In 1970, the old brick home, painted bright red, was sold to a couple who planned to restore it to its original 1830 condition.  The house is the 18th from Lorain at 3684 West 138th Street.  The east end of the house faces the street since its originally faced Lorain Avenue. 

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Updated 30 December 2015