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Roots Revealed Blog



Karen Lakus

Karen LakusKaren Lakus is a Historical Interpreter based at CanalWay Center. She has been with Cleveland Metroparks since 2010. Karen has a B.A. in History from the University of Akron and has worked for a variety of Northeast Ohio museums and parks. Having also worked as a naturalist, she enjoys making the connections between natural and cultural history. Her special areas of interest are prehistoric Native Americans, early settlement in Ohio and backyard wildlife habitat.


Topics

Burning River No More
Posted: 4/20/2016
At the turn of the 20th Century, a dirty river was seen as a sign of prosperity and in Cleveland, the Cuyahoga River was horribly polluted. Business was booming along its banks, but the people and industries using the river were also killing it. Oil refineries, steel and paint manufacturers among others discharged their byproducts directly into the river. As the population grew, local sewer plants were overwhelmed and released raw sewage into the water as well. While many rivers in the country were expe...

 

Nature Speaks Eloquently
Posted: 2/17/2016
Newspaper archives are a wonderful resource when researching the past. While browsing our local Cleveland Plain Dealer articles, I often come across columns written by the late George E. Condon who worked for the newspaper from 1943 until his retirement in 1985 and wrote a daily column for over 20 years. He had amazing knowledge of Cleveland and he shared his wisdom and humor on many other topics as well. The title of Condon’s column on February 17, 1967, “Nature Speaks Eloquently,” caught my eye. ...

 

Cemetery Connections
Posted: 12/23/2015
Cleveland Metroparks Connections at Harvard Grove   I enjoy exploring cemeteries, especially really old ones with gigantic trees and weathered stones. Over the past year, I have developed and led tours of a few of the City of Cleveland cemeteries including Harvard Grove which is on Lansing Avenue in Slavic Village. There are a number of people residing at Harvard Grove who have Cleveland Metroparks connections. William Wheeler Williams (1760-1831) is located in a family plot in Section 3. He w...

 

We've Come a Long Way
Posted: 9/16/2015
Bicycling has been a popular activity in Cleveland since the late-1800’s. Long ago there was little need for bike trails since automobiles weren’t even on the roads yet. In Cleveland Metroparks, a single, unpaved 3 mile bike trail was dedicated in Rocky River Reservation in 1939. Today, cyclists are looking for designated places to ride and Cleveland Metroparks provides many opportunities for them throughout the park district. When researching cycling in the parks, I came across an article from The Clev...

 

Creating a Ring of Green
Posted: 7/15/2015
Rather than picking a topic for this blog, I decided to choose a date and look into what was happening in the Cleveland Metropolitan Park District at that time.  I chose July, 1955 and looked through newspaper records to see what I could find. I was delighted to read an article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer published on July 7, 1955 titled “Cyrus Eaton Gives Public 58 More Acres of Park.” Cyrus Eaton (1883-1979), a wealthy industrialist, had an estate in Sagamore Hills called Acadia Farms where h...

 

The Many Lives of the Gordon Park Bathhouse
Posted: 5/22/2015
Public bath houses were once a necessity at area beaches.  Edgewater, Euclid Beach and Gordon parks all had large bath houses with hundreds of rooms for swimmers who had ridden in streetcars or walked to the beach, to change their clothes. With the emergence of car culture in the 1930’s, bath houses became less important as beach patrons now rode to the beach already dressed for swimming and stored their belongings in their cars.  Nevertheless, a new bathhouse was built at Gordon Park in the 1...

 

Remember the Ladies
Posted: 3/25/2015
“Women have made up half the human race, but you could never tell that by the books that historians write.”  - Arthur Schlessinger, Jr.   Each year during the month of March I present a program called “Famous and Infamous Cleveland Women” at numerous meetings and events.  It is a presentation I developed several years ago in recognition of National Women’s History Month.  Using photographs, facts and stories, I introduce the audience to some notable Cleveland women from the last 200 ...

 

Dansa Sculpture at Edgewater Park
Posted: 1/22/2015
Ever wonder what that large, metal structure is in the lawn at Upper Edgewater Park?  It is actually a sculpture by a world renowned New York artist named Charles Ginnever.  The sculpture, called Dansa , was part of a 14 piece exhibit, “Sculpture in the Park,” that was on display from July 18 to October 25, 1981.  The exhibit was sponsored by the New Organization for the Visual Arts, or NOVA, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  The State of Ohio had recently begun managing...

 

Celebrating our First People
Posted: 11/19/2014
American Indians occupied Northeast Ohio for thousands of years before the arrival of the first Europeans. These prehistoric groups did not leave any known written records or descendants, so artifacts and features they left behind in the soil help scientists piece together the story of our first people. In many cases, archaeologists are fortunate to know where to look for these clues because of the work of Charles Whittlesey.    Whittlesey was a geographer and lawyer living in Cleveland. ...

 

Along the Mill Creek Trail
Posted: 9/17/2014
When walking along the Mill Creek Trail in Garfield Park Reservation it’s pretty hard to miss the natural beauty of the area. Right now, late summer wildflowers are blooming below trees full of acorns, buckeyes and black walnuts.  The first fallen leaves of autumn are beginning to the litter the trail. Fox squirrels, white-tailed deer, red-tailed hawks are frequently sighted in this urban oasis for wildlife. If you look closely however, this beautiful stretch of trail also provides clues to who was...

 

Looking Outside the Lines
Posted: 7/16/2014
Do you remember the song from Sesame Street that went something like this? “Some of these things are not like the others, Some of these things just don't belong, Can you tell which things are not like the others, By the time I finish my song?” Ok, so I changed a few words around to create my version, but the idea is the same. While all of the properties in Cleveland Metroparks are unique, there are a few that share the special distinction of not being located in Cuyahoga County. Why you ask? Well, at th...

 

Remembering the Maine at Washington Park
Posted: 5/21/2014
Mounted on a sparkling granite boulder and surrounded by vibrant flowers, a relic from the U.S.S. Maine is on display in the triangle on Washington Park Boulevard between Harvard and Fleet Avenues. The relic consists of a section of the conning tower and porthole cover from the ship and serves as a memorial honoring those who died aboard the USS  Maine   in 1898.  A mysterious explosion destroyed the ship and killed two-thirds of its crew while at anchor in Havana Harbor. The tragedy is a...

 

Baseball & Brookside
Posted: 3/19/2014
Spring Training is in full swing and baseball fans are gearing up for Opening Day, so let’s take a look at a time when Brookside Park, now part of Cleveland Metroparks Brookside Reservation, was a premier location for baseball games in Cleveland. In 1910, the Cleveland Amateur Baseball Association was formed to help organize amateur baseball in the area.  While professional baseball was available in Cleveland, amateur games regularly attracted thousands of fans to city parks.  Games were playe...

 

A Bit About Acacia Reservation
Posted: 2/19/2014
Readers of my previous posts may surmise that I am interested in finding out how places in the parks got their names.  They are correct.  So when Cleveland Metroparks acquired the former Acacia Country Club property, now Acacia Reservation, in December 2012, I began to wonder about its name. As it turns out, the reason for the name is quite simple even if the meaning behind it is a bit more complicated.  First of all, what is an Acacia? It is a type of tree or shrub in the pea family. The...

 

The Many Lives of Gordon Park
Posted: 1/15/2014
At the end of the 19 th century, Cleveland was a fast-growing city.  Local leaders and wealthy industrialists began to see a need to preserve natural areas and give residents places to escape from the dirt and noise of downtown.  Gordon Park opened to the public in 1893 and quickly became a popular east side recreational destination for Clevelanders.     When William J. Gordon died in 1892, he willed Gordon Park to the City of Cleveland under the condition that it would for...

 

Conrad Mizer “Father of Park Concerts”
Posted: 12/18/2013
“He gave those with the slimmest of purses a fair chance to hear the best music"    On the west side of Edgewater Park stands a memorial fountain erected in memory of Conrad Mizer, who is often referred to as the “Father of Park Concerts,” in Cleveland.  Mizer spearheaded the establishment of large scale, free band concerts in city parks such as Edgewater, Gordon and Brookside Parks at the turn of the 20 th century.  “With Mizer, music was religion.  His first conception with th...

 

First People in the Parks
Posted: 11/20/2013
Humans have inhabited Northeast Ohio for thousands of years.  In the last 200 years, much of the evidence of earlier people has been disturbed or destroyed by farming, industry, roads, railroads and other progress.  In Cleveland Metroparks, there are places that we know prehistoric people once spent time because evidence of their activity has been found.  Although these places look quite different today, their locations and the resources they provide were of great value to the first peopl...

 

Tinker's Creek
Posted: 10/17/2013
  Cleveland Metroparks Bedford Reservation is a wonderful place to enjoy nature any time of the year, but especially in autumn.  The Tinker’s Creek Gorge Scenic Overlook provides a spectacular vista for viewing the fall color that emerges along this largest tributary of the Cuyahoga River.  Tinker’s Creek has been flowing from Portage County into the Cuyahoga River for thousands of years and has had it's name since the founding of Cleveland.  On July 4, 1796, a surveying pa...

 

The Flood of 1913
Posted: 9/18/2013
“They took us out of the house and put us all into a boat. I remember when we went out of the house we had to duck our heads to get under the telephone wire” recalled William Bramley of Independence. Bramley was 11 years old and lived near the current intersection of Riverview and Pleasant Valley Roads in 1913. He did not know it at the time, but he was experiencing the most widespread natural disaster in Ohio’s history. One hundred years ago, the Flood of 1913 caused tremendous property damage and loss...

 

The Tradition Continues
Posted: 8/21/2013
Cleveland Metroparks recent management agreement with the City of Cleveland for six lakefront parks is not the first of its kind. Over the years, Cleveland Metroparks has assumed management of a number of properties that were established by the Cleveland Board of Park Commissioners more than a century ago.  In the late 1800s, Cleveland was one of the largest cities in the United States.  Early planners had not set aside space for parks within the city and it was determined that parks shoul...

 

Balto at Brookside
Posted: 6/19/2013
Many visitors may know Brookside Reservation as the park next to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, but do not realize that it once WAS the zoo!  The first zoo was moved from Wade Park (to make way for the Cleveland Museum of Art) to Brookside Park in 1907 and was called the Brookside Zoo.  It expanded through the years and later known as the Cleveland Zoological Park and Cleveland Zoological Gardens.  In the 1970’s, Cleveland Metroparks acquired ownership and administration of the zoo.  Broo...

 

First People at Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation
Posted: 5/15/2013
Native Americans occupied the Cuyahoga Valley for thousands of years before the arrival of the first Europeans. Sites dating from the Woodland (1000 B.C. – 1000 A.D.) and Late-prehistoric (1000-1650 A.D.) time periods dot the landscape along the Cuyahoga River. These prehistoric groups did not have any known written records or descendants, so artifacts and features they left behind in the soil help scientists piece together the story of our first people.  High on the bluffs near CanalWay Cente...