For almost a century engineers and construction crews have worked to create trails, roads, fords, bridges and buildings throughout Cleveland Metroparks. This allows guests to travel throughout the park system, hike, bike, or ride amongst nature, and to find restrooms and shelter for picnics. Some of the earliest structures are still maintained and enjoyed by new generations of park guests; other structures have been decommissioned and removed or left to rejoin the natural elements. Alongside the “ghost” remains of park infrastructure are older remains created by earlier land owners or governmental agencies. As you explore today’s Cleveland Metroparks be on the lookout for traces of:
Old road beds
Some of my favorite photos of “no-longer there” structures show the old mill and boating house at Bonnie Park in Mill Stream Run Reservation. It is also one of the best places in today’s park to stand and imagine how it used to look. The river still follows the same path it did years ago and foundations from old structures make it easy to see where those structures sat.
Bonnie Park sits on land that was once part of the community of Albion. Albion’s homes and businesses occupied a strip of what is now Pearl Rd. from the intersection of Albion Rd. at the north end of town to what is now Progress Dr. at the south end. Albion was not a large village, but the grist mill on the east bank of the river and the saw mill on the west bank on old Albion Rd. were utilized by residents from all over Strongsville Township.
Mills were essential to the New England immigrants who moved to the Western Reserve in the early 19th century. Grist mills turned grain into flour for food and sawmills turned raw tree trunks into planks of wood for building. The mill at Albion was built in the 1820s by John Strong, the man who also gave his name to Strongsville Township.
As early as the 1880s mills lost their importance as more people bought flour from grocery stores and trips to the mill became obsolete in many places. By the early 1900s the village of Albion had been in decline for many years. The city of Strongsville, south of Albion grew in importance and Albion's buildings and residents became part of this growing city.
In 1924, a wealthy Cleveland physician, James Clyne, purchased the land around the dam and mill and created a picnic area with boating and swimming facilities. He named it Bonnie Park (sometimes called Bonnie View Park.) One local story claims that he named the land after his daughter or wife, but official records show that his wife was named Jane, and he had no daughter, only a son named Norman. A likely explanation for the name Bonnie is that it comes from the Scottish word for “pretty.” Since Clyne’s father was Scottish he may have chosen the name accordingly.
However the name Bonnie Park came into being, when Norman Clyne sold the land to the park board in 1934 the name was retained. Bonnie Park became part of what is now Mill Stream Run Reservation.
The wooden grist mill structure was still in existence when the land was sold to Cleveland Metroparks. Old Albion Road still traveled across the river along a bridge just above the dam. WPA funds and workers were put to use adding infrastructure to the grounds.
They installed concrete retaining walls and diving boards for the “swimming pool,” which was simply part of the river above the old mill dam. A wading pool for young children to splash in was installed nearby, as was a picnic shelter. While the shelter is still in use today, the old mill, the boat house and the swimming areas are now just memories. But "ghost remains" invite a modern visitor to Bonnie Park to wander along the river and imagine its busy past.