The eight-by-thirty-six foot mural displaying the history of the Conneaut Lake area was created by Nancy (Moyers) Helmreich in the spring of 2005. After the Conneaut Lake Historical Society leased the former community hall, members thought it’s exterior required decoration and indication that it was the society museum. A mural was the choice, Mrs. Heimreich, a former resident, agreed to create it as a voluntary contribution to the society and community. She was assisted by Earl Gross.
On the left stands a Seneca Indian in the sunset of the Native American era. During the centuries prior to the landing of the Pilgrims, the Allegewe nation populated the region. It was in time dispersed by the Lenne Lenape and Mengwe arriving from the West. The Lenne Lenape moved on to the Delaware River, and the Mengwe evolved into the Seneca nation that became part of the Iroquois Confederation in the late 1500s. The Seneca noted that snow stayed on the frozen lake long after it melted on the hillsides and referred to the lake as “Conneaut” (snowy water).
At the beginning of the twentieth century, several icehouses lined the lake. Built by the Conneaut Lake Ice Company, formed in 1880, the largest stood east of the present Silver Shores restaurant. Ice cutting was a major activity, employing 200 men in the winter and 100 in the summer. Over 100,000 tons of ice were stored for summer shipment to Pittsburgh and throughout the region.
During the canal-building boom of the mid-nineteenth century, a dam at the lake’s south end raised the water level by eleven feet. The lake was connected to Meadville by the French Creek Feeder Canal entering at the southern end of the lake bringing water from French Creek. The lake in turn fed the Beaver-Lake Erie Canal by a connector that ran west form a point about two-thirds up the west side of the lake.
The first log meeting house stood close to the lake near the present Memorial Park. The building also served as the first schoolhouse. It was constructed before 1815 by what were then termed “Seceders” but who soon became the United Presbyterian Congregation.
The Temple of Music was the grandest of the structures erected at Conneaut Lake Park at the northwest corner of the lake. The stage could hold 800 musicians, and the auditorium seated 5,000 persons attending concerts, lectures, and religious rallies. Erected in 1925, it was destroyed by fire in 1946.
The borough of Conneaut Lake stands on the site of Evansburg, named for Abner Evans, who built a mill on Conneaut Outlet around 1796. When Evansburg was incorporated as a borough in 1858, it acquired much of the village of Aldena on the West side of the lake, north of Line Street. The official name change to Conneaut Lake took place in 1892, but the nickname of “the burg” lingered for decades. At the turn of the century the Harvey Thomas Department Store and the Keen Drug Store were landmarks along the main street.
Memorial Park in the center of the borough was created on a portion of the site of the former Presbyterian Church and burying ground. It commemorates the sacrifices of the Civil War.
The Hotel Conneaut, constructed in 1903, could accommodate 1,000 guests. After a 1943 fire half was torn down, but a substantial remainder continues in operation. The view here shown is of the hotel before the fire.
The Pennsylvania, launched in 1918, was the largest steamer to operate on the Lake. It and other worn ships were deliberately burned in 1940 and scuttled in Ice House Bay.
The Huidekoper family cottage on Huidekoper Bay on the west side represented the best of the cottage boom of the nineteenth century. It has since been moved up the hill to Aldina Drive.
The Blue Streak, opened at Conneaut Lake Park in 1938, is one of the finest and oldest examples of wooden roller coasters in existence.
The well-carved wooden horses of the 1910 park carousel were sold in 1990 and replaced, but the carousel still houses the original calliope and continues to offer rides to the young and old.
The borough railroad station stood about fifty yards south of the highway across from the present Silver Shores restaurant. Not used after 1955, it was razed ten years later. Many trains also delivered thousands of guests into the Park via Bessemer junction.
The Midway Hotel, halfway up the lake on the east side, was erected by Amos Quigley and his son Harry in 1895 and accommodated one hundred guest’s. It was torn down in 1967 due to installation costs associated with the laying of sewers around the lake.
The Barbara J. sternwheeler plied the lake from the 1970s to the last years of the twentieth century.
Dancers whirled away evenings at Dreamland Ballroom and on the steamboats to the music of large swing bands that performed at Conneaut Lake Park.
Dreamland Ballroom, built in 1909, provided 17,000 square feet of hard maple flooring. It offered the largest dance floor uninterrupted by columns between New York City and Chicago. It was here that a young park barber, Perry Como, began singing with visiting bands about 1934.
In 1960, Fairyland Forest welcomed young visitors with a petting zoo and storybook houses and characters. It was replaced in 1985 by Camperland.
In the early 1900s harness racing was popular at a track located about where the largest Conneaut Lake Park parking lot now lies on the west side of route 618, near Reed Avenue.
Liberty II, powered by a World War I aircraft engine, sank in the lake in 1922. The speedboat was recovered in 1985 and volunteers arranged for its restoration. It holds one of only three such engines remaining in the United States.
After fire destroyed the Oakland Hotel in 1916, it was succeeded by the Oakland Beach Hotel. In 1937 an addition in the shape of a ship held a bar. The ship was dismantled in the 1950s and the building was razed in 1967 due to proposed sewer installation costs.
A young girl of the twentieth century reflects on Conneaut Lake’s past. In the background stands the former Park boathouse and pavilion. Catboats, the favorite recreational sailboat at the turn of the century can also be seen.
Nancy Coleman, Bill Cooper,
Sam Copeland, Lee Dennis,
Jonathan Helmreich, Hale Jenkins,
Alan Moss, Jack Moyers, John Shrock, Joshua Shrock
Copyright 2020 © Conneaut Lake Historical Society. All rights reserved.
Site Last Updated 5/3/2020.