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In just about any city in Ohio, the landscape has changed drastically over the years as residential, industrial and commercial development has exploded.
Aurora is no exception. Once a rural community with ample farmland, the city has turned into an upscale Greater Cleveland suburb with more than 15,000 residents.
The addition of many homes has meant there are very few large, open tracts of land, except for those owned and preserved by the city.
I've been around Aurora for more than 30 years, and have seen a few farms, old houses and barns succumb to development. Many others were gone before my time here.
An "Images of America" book focusing on Aurora, written by Marcelle R. Wilson and Dick Fetzer for the Aurora Historical Society, is a great source for current residents to see photos of some of the now gone and still standing houses and barns.
GONE DURING MY TIME
In the years I've been here, I remember the demise of several farms.
About 1987-88 during my first few months here, buildings on a farm on the west side of Route 43 across from Lena Drive and the southern industrial park were removed.
I have no knowledge of the parcel's history, and no development has taken place there.
What was known as the Kennedy farm on the site of the Bertram Inn was demolished in 1998-99. A small outbuilding was salvaged by Auroran Jeff Clark for use as a playhouse for his daughters. Land near the buildings once was used as a turkey shoot range by VFW Post 2629.
Probably the most prominent parcel converted from farmland to residential / commercial purposes since I've been here is Breezy Point Farm.
The 315-acre parcel and an adjacent 300 acres to its north now are Barrington Estates, Barrington Town Square and Barrington Golf Club.
Breezy Point featured a large barn, and horses were grazing on the land when I arrived in Aurora. For several summers, a stand selling produce operated in front of the barn along Route 82 about where the Howard Hanna building is.
I recall the police department's tactical unit doing training exercises around the abandoned barn and house before they were demolished in the early 1990s. The 600-plus acres were bought by the Wolstein Group.
Fashion Two-Twenty Stables, which raised and showed Tennessee walking horses, stood where Yorkshire Estates is. Its house and barn were razed in the late 1990s.
The farm was owned by Vernon G. Gochneaur, who founded Fashion Two-Twenty Cosmetics in the early 1960s. The industrial building stands on the southeast corner of Route 43 and Lena Drive, and has housed several occupants since.
The large white barn on what in recent years became the Miller farm on the northeast corner of East Mennonite and Page roads was razed a few years ago. The property is now owned by the city. It originally was the Harvey Baldwin farm, with the house and barn dating to the mid-1800s.
GONE BEFORE MY TIME
A large barn once existed on the property where Dick Fetzer now lives on Hudson-Hudson Road between Old Mill Road and Kimberly Drive. It was the Zeno Kent II farm in the 1920s, and the house dates to the 1810s.
One of the Jackson farms used to be on the east side of Route 306, just south of Crackel Road, but the barn and outbuildings are gone. However, a well-kept barn on another Jackson farm across Route 306 still stands on land near the private Jackson Cemetery.
The Amos Hall Treat farm was situated on the east side of Route 43 near where North Bissell Road intersects, across from the El Camino restaurant.
The Treat house, built in 1825, was destroyed by fire in the 1950s. Its front door and surrounding arch are preserved in Aurora Memorial Library's basement.
A farm once existed on the north side of Aurora-Hudson Road, just east of Kimberly Drive. The house's foundation stones still are visible, but I can't recall any of the buildings being there since I came to town.
Councilman Jim Vaca showed me where a barn once stood on the north side of Aurora Lake Road heading toward Aurora Shores. A dirt ramp leading to the barn floor is still visible.
Some of the other barns gone before my time in Aurora and pictured in the "Images of America" book were the Julius Riley/Lewis Cochran and Gurdon Riley properties on Cochran Road, John Seward/Otis Parsons Case farm on Route 306 south of Treat Road (built in 1825) and the Charles Harmon barns on East Pioneer Trail near the current library.
BARNS STILL STANDING
A handful of barns still dot the local landscape, but most are not used for farming.
What was once the Carlson Payne farm lies on the south side of East Mennonite Road across from Gordon Ober's former property, and is still used for farming.
At one end, the barn once had double silos enclosed by a rectangular wooden structure, but it since has been altered.
Ebenezer Harmon and his offspring owned a vast amount of land along Page and Bartlett roads, and two of the properties are now owned by the city.
The city's community gardens are on the Margaret Harmon tract, which includes a house, carriage barn and main barn. The city plans to demolish the main barn soon. Ray Harmon's old place around the corner on Barlett still boasts a house, barn and outbuildings.
Another Harmon parcel was on the west side of Page Road straddling Lena Drive and is now part of the industrial park. A red barn is all that remains of that farm.
A barn and house once owned by cheese baron Frank Hurd still stands where the east end of Countryside Trail intersects with North Bissell Road.
However, its large tile silo, which I remember, was razed during development of the Lakes of Aurora. Hurd owned large tracts in Aurora, on which he built housing for his workers.
A prominent preserved barn is the Barn at Walden, which houses offices and a restaurant. It's at South Bissell Road and South Walden Drive, and originally was part of the Solomon Little farm.
Also near the Walden community on Aurora-Hudson Road, just west of Old Mill, an old barn is now part of the Walden Country Inn and Stables complex.
Not far from the latter -- across Aurora-Hudson Road in the Old Farm Allotment -- stands the Eldridge cheese barn, which was converted into a house in the 1970s.
The Spring Hill Farm barn on East Pioneer Trail near the Mantua Township border is still intact and is owned by the city. Plans are to keep it, although the house may be leveled.
The Sheldon Deed House, believed to be the oldest existing structure in the city, was moved from the site in 2015 to the triangle across East Pioneer Trail from the library.
Other fair-sized remaining barns in the city that I'm aware of are the Moores' on South Bissell Road, Beljohns' on East Pioneer Trail between Eldridge and Page roads, Ray Hartman's on Townline Road, former Gordon Ober's on East Mennonite Road, Studers' on Route 82 east of Eggleston Road, and one on Eggleston Road between Duneden Drive and Palomino Trail.
OTHER OLD STRUCTURES
There are a number of old structures other than houses and barns still standing in Aurora, but others have been demolished.
In 1986, the year before I came to town, the city's old firehouse was demolished. It stood along West Pioneer Trail, where the Church in Aurora's Christian education center now stands.
In the early 2000s, the Geauga Lake railroad depot on Geauga Lake Road was razed. It dated to the early 1900s, and many visitors to Geauga Lake Park passed through it.
The small building in front of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, which was torn down in recent years, was the original church. Its adjacent rectory also disappeared in the last three years.
In 1994, the clubhouse at the former Aurora Country Club was torn down. Built in 1927, part of it was a former cheese warehouse owned by Hopson Hurd.
He also built the still existing structure which houses Sutton Insurance. It previously was the Country Development Building and the James Converse Store.
When Hurd died in 1869, he was Aurora's largest landowner and one of Portage County's wealthiest men.
The building occupied in recent years by the Chet Edwards Store was built about 1840 as C.R. Harmon's general store, while Harmon also built the long, narrow building just north of it (now occupied by the Secret Garden).
The latter served as a cheese warehouse, apartments and retail businesses, including the Calico Corners fabric store at the time of my arrival in town.
Other notable remaining old buildings are the Erie Railroad depot on New Hudson Road, Bowen Block across the tracks from the old depot (former Frank Treat store) and Mario's International Spa (former Gray's Hotel) on Route 82.
Also there are Re/Max Traditions at Route 43 and East Pioneer Trail (former Pioneer Tavern), former high school (built in 1914 and now the school district's central offices) on Route 82 and former Suburban Window & Door building (now the Mason Jar) on East Garfield Road.
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4189