Thursday, January 31, 2013

Summer Cottages in Conneaut, OH

Once again I'm back in Ashtabula County, where my wife grew up.  One of the most interesting things about this area are the lakefront cottages constructed between 1910 and 1930.  Often you'll find these tiny houses grouped around informal streets or dirt lanes.  I'm guessing none of them have more than a couple rooms.  Many  look like they were ordered as a kit, or were prefabricated and lowered on to a foundation.  Basically these are summer campsites with buildings replacing the tents.  
Concrete block summer cottages in Conneaut, OH
As American leisure time began to increase in the 20th century new recreational options were developed. 
The wealthy could visit oceanside resorts or travel (or maybe buy horses?), but middle and working class families had fewer established vacation choices, especially in rural areas.  But what could be more attractive in northern Ohio than the cool shores of Lake Erie?   As demand increased more of these permanent camps were constructed.  Some attracted commercial development, resulting in roadside strips of restautants, stores, and miniature golf.  But how did these begin, and how did they develop over time?  How did these families spend their time, and how long did they stay? And how did these areas relate to the nearby traditional communities? If books or articles have been written about this I haven't yet found them.

Some are still used as seasonal rentals and some have been converted into affordable year-round residences.  Many appear abandoned.  These buildings are my new Ashtabula project, so if anyone has any leads to follow-up on our next Ohio trip please drop me a line.