Neighbors on the North Coast: Cleveland's Connection to the Mentor Shoreline

More About Mentor

Sail boats at Mentor Yacht Club
Sailboats, Mentor Harbor Yacht Club, 1958.

Lying less than an hour to the east of the city, the Mentor shoreline has long beckoned Clevelanders to it with promises of nature, recreation, and expanding industrial opportunities. Through photographs, maps, blueprints, video clips and documents this site highlights the development of the Lake Erie shoreline along Mentor for both public and private uses. The material on this site resides in CSU Special Collections, The Lake County Historical Society and the Mentor Harbor Yachting Club archives.

With the completion of railroad connections between Cleveland and Painesville in the mid-19th century, residents of Cleveland and Lake County began to enjoy a ready accessibility to one another. While Cleveland served as a market for the produce of Lake County, Lake County's relatively undeveloped shoreline came to offer Clevelanders, both the wealthy and those of more modest means, recreational opportunities and a temporary escape from the pressures of the city. However, some saw in the region, particularly in the Mentor Marsh area, the opportunity to expand Cleveland's industry eastward. Still others came to recognize and eventually sought to preserve the natural resources to be found in the region's rich marsh and dune ecosystems.

Lifeguard at Mentor Headlands
Lifeguard at Mentor Headlands, 1964.

By the late-19th century, wealthy Clevelanders had begun purchasing farmland in Lake County, building great country estates and enjoying the benefits of country living within an easy distance of the city. However, some Cleveland business interests had industrial ambitions for the area, hoping to turn the western end of the Mentor Marsh into an important harbor with ore and coal transportation facilities and related industries. Read Samuel Tamburro’s "Hitchcock's Holdup: The Story of a Steel Mill for the Mentor Marsh" to learn more about these unrealized plans.

Twenty years after plans for the industrialization of the Mentor Marsh were abandoned, wealthy men from Cleveland again began to look to the creation of a harbor at the western end of Mentor Marsh; this time for their own recreational and domestic purposes. Modeling their activities on successful real estate developments in Florida, the Mentor Harbor Company was created with plans to dredge a harbor in the Mentor Marsh, build a private yacht club and sell housing lots for the creation of an exclusive residential community. Examine early plans for this community, including maps and blueprints, proposed street layouts, a house plan and the original site for the yacht club.

Picnickers, Mentor Headlands, 1956
Picnickers, Mentor Headlands, 1956.

Although the Depression brought these ambitious development plans to an unsuccessful end, both Mentor Harbor and the Mentor Harbor Yachting Club were created at the time and continue to serve important recreational functions for Mentor today. For more about the history of the club and the harbor, read the 1955 Mentor Harbor Yachting Club booklet.

Follow the Video and Photographs links to catch a glimpse of the many recreational activities which members of the Mentor Harbor Yachting Club have participated in for the last 70 years, including "fitting out" boats in the springtime, racing and sailing to Put-in-Bay Island.

Catching fish in Mentor Lagoons
Catching fish in Mentor Lagoons, 1953.

While wealthier Clevelanders planned to create an exclusive residential development around the Mentor Lagoons, other people built unpretentious summer cottages and year-round residences in nearby lakeshore communities. Inexpensive entertainment in the form of dance halls, bowling alleys and fast food stands were often found in communities such as Mentor-on-the-Lake. Still thousands of others have come (and continue to come) to area beaches such as Salida Beach and Mentor Headlands in order to enjoy a short vacation from the city.

Today many of the region’s natural landscapes, such as the Mentor Marsh, which people were once intent on transforming, are understood to be valuable natural resources to be preserved and enjoyed for all. Visit these off-site links to read more about the Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve and the Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve as well as other sites related to the historic development of the Mentor shoreline.