Silver Lake Amusement Park
On Jan 10, 1874, Ralph H. Lodge bought Silver Lake (all the land covered by water but no land around
it) for $1,300. The following June, Lodge bought 35 acres of land at the South West
corner of the lake. Prior to Lodge's investment, a tribe of Seneca Indians summered at the South
end of Silver Lake until the War of 1812. On April 9, 1876, he moved his wife and four small children to Wetmore's Pond.
When Ohio became a state in the early 1800's, the first American settlers began putting down their roots in this area. Judge William Wetmore arrived in 1804. In 1808, the judge built a log cabin overlooking the lake (point) at the advice of his friend, Chief Wagmong, head of the local Indian tribe. Judge Wetmore was conscientious in his dealings with the purported Seneca. The history books state that 500 huts lined Route 59 and extending from the lake to the Cuyahoga River. Judge Wetmore never allowed any bartering with the Indians, so there would never be any hard feelings.
The Wetmore family noticed their Native American Friends were holding a war council. As daybreak approached, the Native American camp appeared deserted and the Wetmores ventured down to the huts and found them empty.
It is believed that the British forces convinced the Native Americans to kill the Americans, but the Englishman's plea was ignored. Reports are that some braves returned to Silver Lake as war heroes, decorated by the American General William Henry Harrison. Since there were no other tribes living in the area and their families did not accompany them, they left to settle on a reservation in Wisconsin.
With the French and Indian War which fought over the control of trade and the land in the New
World and in the War of 1812 between the Americans and British over some of the same issues, and the
ever moving of the Indians from New York and pushing west, it is likely by the time they reached the
shores of Silver Lake, the group may have been a mixture of displaced tribes.
In 1876, Lodge built a small bath house and pavilion and provided boats for rental to fishermen and started the resort area called Silver Lake Park. The railroad brought excursions from places as far away as Columbus and Pittsburgh. As many as 10,000 people a day traveled by train to enjoy the many and varied interests to be found in the park. People spent the Summer camping in tents, others living in rented cottages, and some stayed at the hotel.
The park had excellent facilities for all kinds of sports. There was a race track, a baseball diamond, bowling alley, roller skating, swimming and boating.
When Lodge's father visited the family a few years after their move to Stow, he asked his son about the soundness of the lakeside venture, Lodge replied, "that the fishing, boating, bathing and picnicking business will become more popular, and that I will live to see the day when I can take in $100 a day here."
Before his death in 1907, Ralph Lodge in fact saw days when his park took in $2,000, and occasionally $5,000. Besides having the help of his nine children, Lodge hired 100 to 150 people to care for the grounds and serve the needs of thousands of visitors. At one point the park's operating expenses averaged $800 a day.
The animal exhibit contained many different species. Monkeys to panthers, elk, buffalo, deer, birds, and a large aquarium. The first Black Bears, born in captivity were at Silver Lake Park. The bear pits are still located in the Village.
Steam and electric launches cruised on the lake and a miniature train ran along the lake shore. (see photo page) The Park also had a roller coaster, merry-go-round, and a midway. A pavilion contained a dining area for 500 people and a 15,000 square foot polished hard maple dance floor. Silver Lake Park retained its popularity for 40 years.
The first Airport built in Summit County was Silver Lake Airport in the Silver Lake Amusement Park .
When Silver Lake Amusement Park closed after World War I, in 1920, the aquarium which was housed in a round building was dismantled. The brick building was perfectly round except for the gabled portico supported by four columns at the entrance. Mr. and Mrs. Lodge gave the aquarium to a group in Stow, Ohio who rebuilt it. It became the Community Church on Elm Road that seated 200 people. It is now called the New Apostolic Church.
In 1918 the heirs of Ralph H. Lodge, who passed away on May 27, 1907, sold all the property for residential development.
Information obtained from the manuscript entitled "An Historical Anthology of Silver Lake by William R. Lodge.