“The view is breathtaking!” John Huntington may have thought as he pushed open the hatch and stepped onto the platform of his water tower overlooking Lake Erie. Often mistaken for a lighthouse, the tower held water pumped from the lake for Huntington’s farm. In 1889, Huntington used the perch to watch for his lake vessels returning to the Cuyahoga River. He could see his apple trees blooming along Porter Creek’s banks. Huntington loved trees, importing many from his native England (including the copper beech still standing near the pedestrian tunnel). When he immigrated to Cleveland in 1854 with his first wife, Jane, he and his brother, Hugh, worked for a roofing company, laying the foundation for his work with Clark Payne & Co in 1863 designing oil refining methods. After John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil bought the company, Huntington’s skills impressed
Rockefeller, who made him a partner.
View standing on top of Huntington Beach water tower - Huntington Reservation
View looking out over Lake Erie from water tower - Huntington Reservation
Huntington Beach water tower - 2012
Atop the tower, Huntington saw his country home on the bluff overlooking the lake. His days in the country provided the solitude of nature amongst the orchards, fields, forests, creek and beautiful waters of Lake Erie. He appreciated serenity after living in Cleveland. His city house, a gothic mansion on Euclid Avenue along Millionaire’s Row, was his homestead while serving on Cleveland’s City Council from 1862-1874. As a councilman, Huntington supported improvements to city services such as a railroad swing bridge and the Superior Street Viaduct. Working hard in the city drew him to Dover Township where he purchased 101 ¾ acres in 1880 and settled with his second wife, Mariette, an artist. This love of art led Huntington to bestow funds to establish an art museum in Cleveland. He also created the John Huntington Polytechnic Institute, providing free vocational training for adults. When the school closed in 1953, the John Huntington Fund for Education was created to help deserving students acquire scientific and technical training.
Copper Beech - remnant of John Huntington Estate - Huntingon Reservation
A view up the water tower from the inside
After his death in 1893, changes transformed Huntington’s Dover Township estate. The Lake Shore Electric Railway, built in 1901, travelled across his estate connecting Cleveland and Detroit. The second longest trestle (432 feet) stretched across Porter Creek. Its supports still stand today. In 1927 Cleveland Metroparks bought Huntington’s land to increase the “Emerald Necklace” of parkways. Huntington’s carriage house and barn became Huntington Playhouse where community theatre is presented today. The caretaker’s home nestled beside Huntington Playhouse is part of BAYarts, providing art opportunities to the community. Huntington Reservation is also home to Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, founded by Dr. Elberta Fleming in 1954, among the first children’s nature and science museums in the country.
Ariel view of Huntington Beach - Cleveland Metroparks
Huntington Reservation Trestle - 1938
If John Huntington could see it now, he would be proud of the legacy of his land, providing amazing beaches, community theatre, nature education, creative art opportunities and, of course, the solitude of nature in meadow, field, forest, creek and lake habitats. Rediscover Huntington Reservation and take a closer look at the top of the water tower – John Huntington’s favorite spot!
Huntington Beach stone pier
Huntington Beach - 1945
Rocky River Nature Center