Twinsburg Township

The Township’s story began in 1817, a mere blink of the eye after the arrival of Ohio’s first settlers. Ethan Alling, then a young man of sixteen, came to Ohio to survey family-owned land in what was then known as Millsville. Though he held countless positions in and around town over the years and his contributions to the area are indisputable, it was the Wilcox twins, Moses and Aaron, who would eventually bestow upon Twinsburg its current moniker. Arriving six years later, these young entrepreneurs purchased an expansive swath of land and began selling off parcels, contributed to the creation of a school, and eventually donated a small plot of land for the creation of a town square.

Much of the history to come would radiate outward from this point: Twinsburg Institute, Locust Grove Cemetery, family-owned businesses, farms, schoolhouses, and churches sprang up within view of the square. The streets lining the square were always the center of festivities. Richner Hardware, Lawson’s, and Roseberry’s appeared, providing big-city amenities with the comfort of small-town familiarity.

Significant growth didn’t arrive until the twentieth century. Farm and field began to give way to housing developments and commerce. Countless farms, once a familiar sight along the daily commute, began blinking out of existence. The way of life was evolving and many took note. Little could be done, however, and the transitions took place unimpeded.

During the 1920s, a man named Charles Brady saw a need to give African Americans an opportunity to purchase land in the area to form a community of their own. The newly purchased homesteads, known as Brady Homes, formed the foundation of what would become Twinsburg Heights, a tightly knit community in close proximity to the eventual site of the Chrysler stamping plant.

Chrysler would play a significant role in the area’s evolution. The formation of Twinsburg Village in 1955, separate from the Township, was sought as a means of collecting the taxes generated by the new plant, something an unincorporated township would be incapable of pursuing. So it was with that nudge that one became two, and Twinsburg and Twinsburg Township went their separate ways; Reminderville would follow suit almost immediately.

Something strange happened following the creation of these three communities, though: talks were held and attempts were made to recombine them, some as early as the 1960s. Former Twinsburg mayor Katherine Procop outlined some of the discussion: “There were three [major] attempts, one in the ‘80s and two in the ‘90s, to merge the township and the city. The first two attempts were voted for by city residents but voted down by township residents. The third attempt in 1999 was finally voted for by the township residents but voted down by city residents.” Following this last attempt, the Township attempted to forge its own way, negating any future potential for reconciliation. By establishing the Joint Economic Development District with Reminderville, Twinsburg Township increased its economic stability and lessened the likelihood of future annexation talks with Twinsburg.

According to documentation supplied by Twinsburg Township,

The Twinsburg Township-Village of Reminderville Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) is a separate political subdivision, established in 2002 . . . per a contract between the Township and Village. The JEDD levies a 1.5% tax on employee wages and business net profits in the JEDD area, which includes all land in the Township’s industrial district. The JEDD’s primary purpose, as stipulated in the JEDD Contract and as directed by the JEDD Board, is to promote jobs and economic development in the JEDD area. The JEDD Board takes this mission seriously and, in the years since establishment of the JEDD, has overseen significant investments in the JEDD area. JEDD area investments included reconstructing and adding sidewalks and decorative street lighting to all Township roads in the JEDD area, increasing police protection for JEDD area businesses, establishing a park in walkable distance to JEDD area businesses, enhancing public transit accessibility through the addition of METRO RTA bus passenger shelters throughout the JEDD area, and clearing snow from sidewalks and bus passenger shelters throughout the JEDD area during the winter season.

With the JEDD in place and community services secured for its residents, the Township has cleared the way for a bright and independent future. The Township began its Recreation Center Program in 2008, granting its residents access to nearby recreation centers, and its police, fire, and EMS services are outsourced to Twinsburg. Through the decisions and directives firmly in place, Twinsburg Township has managed to merge the best of both city and country.

Twinsburg Township

The Township’s story began in 1817, a mere blink in of the eye from the arrival of Ohio’s first settlers. Ethan Alling, then a young man of sixteen, came to Ohio to survey family- owned land within what was then known as Millsville. Though he held countless positions in and around town over the years and his contributions to the area are without indisputable, having held countless positions in and around town, it would be the Wilcox twins, Moses and Aaron, who would eventually bestow upon the Twinsburg its current moniker. Arriving six years later, these young entrepreneurs purchased an expansive swath of land and began selling off parcels off, contributed to the creation of a school, and eventually donated a small plot of land for the creation of a town square.

Much of the history to come would radiate outward from the this point: Twinsburg Institute, Locust Grove Cemetery, family-owned businesses, farms, school houses, and churches sprang up within view of the square. The streets lining the square, always the center of festivities. Richner Hardware, Lawson’s, and Roseberry’s appeared, providing locals with some of big-city amenities, with the comforts of small- town familiarity.

Significant growth  didn’t arrive until the twentieth century. Farm and field began to give way to housing developments and commerce. Countless farms, once a familiar sight along the daily commute, began blinking out of existence. The way of life was evolving and many took note. Little could be done, however, and the transitions took place unimpeded.

During the 1920s, a man named Charles Brady saw to give African- Americans an opportunity to purchase land to form a community of their own. The newly purchased homesteads, known as Brady Homes, formed the foundation of what would become Twinsburg Heights, a tightly knit community in close proximity to the eventual site of the Chrysler stamping plant.

Chrysler would play a significant role in the area’s evolution. The formation of Twinsburg Village in 1955, separate from the Township, was sought as a means of collecting the taxes generated by the new plant, something an unincorporated township would be incapable of pursuing. So it was with that nudge that one became two, and Twinsburg and Twinsburg Township went their separate ways; Reminderville would follow suit almost immediately.

Something strange happened following the creation of these three communities, though, talks were held and attempts were made to recombine them, some as early as the 1960s. Former Twinsburg mayor Katherine Procop outlined some of the discussion:, “There were three [major] attempts, one in the ’80s and two in the ’90s, to merge the township and the city. The first two attempts were voted for by city residents but voted down by township residents. The third attempt in 1999 was finally voted for by the township residents but voted down by city residents.” Following this last attempt, the Township attempted to forge its own way, negating any future potential for reconciliation. By establishing the Joint Economic Development District with Reminderville, Twinsburg Township increased its economic stability and lessened the likelihood of future annexation talks with Twinsburg.

According to documentation supplied by Twinsburg Township,

“The Twinsburg Township-Village of Reminderville Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) is a separate political subdivision, established in 2002, per a contract between the Township and Village. The JEDD levies a 1.5% tax on employee wages and business net profits in the JEDD area, which includes all land in the Township’s industrial district. The JEDD’s primary purpose, as stipulated in the JEDD Contract and as directed by the JEDD Board, is to promote jobs and economic development in the JEDD area. The JEDD Board takes this mission seriously and, in the years since establishment of the JEDD, has overseen significant investments in the JEDD area. JEDD area investments included reconstructing and adding sidewalks and decorative street lighting to all Township roads in the JEDD area, increasing police protection for JEDD area businesses, establishing a park in walkable distance to JEDD area businesses, enhancing public transit accessibility through the addition of METRO RTA bus passenger shelters throughout the JEDD area, and clearing snow from sidewalks and bus passenger shelters throughout the JEDD area during the winter season.”

With the JEDD in place and community services secured for its residents, the Township has cleared the way for a bright and independent future. The Township began its Recreation Center Program in 2008,  granting its residents access to nearby recreation centers. With police protection from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, and fire and EMS services through the City of Twinsburg,  Twinsburg Township has managed to merge the best of both city and county.

History of the Heights

There is a another community (besides the Township, city, and village) with a rich if too often unspoken history: Twinsburg Heights. It is often referred to as simply “the hill” by its residents due to it being situated atop a hill. Though officially part of the Township it has always been something of an entity onto its own. It has since its inception been unincorporated. The small development spans all of seven streets, all of which are named after venerable universities—Oxford, Yale, etc. It lies all along and to the west of Hadden Road (previously know as Richner Road) between Darrow and Highland roads. An unusually close-knit and religious community, all the residents were familiar with one another and there was a church nestled on every street.

Land developer Charles H. Brady of Ravenna Building Co. created the master plan for the community. He bought the land and had it surveyed into forty-foot lots. In the 1920s families started moving into the new development. All the lots were sold to African-Americans, the reason for this is not known. The houses that were built were small, often with no basement and in outhouse out back. Driveways were dirt or gravel. It resembled African-American neighborhoods and communities in the deep south. Much like the deep south it was very rural and a number of residents raised pigs or chickens. Carlton Powers, current and long-time Deacon of Mt. Olive Baptist Church said, “I never was in Mississippi, but they tell me it was like they took a part of Mississippi and brought it up in Ohio and planted it there.”

There has always been a sense of family among the residents. Tania Johnson, Fiscal Officer for the Township and life-long resident of the Heights recalled, “even if you weren’t related…you felt like you were related.” Block parties, numerous church and social clubs, and the beloved community center were factors adding to the closeness felt by the residents.

Brady promised a church site to the first pastor to move to the Heights. This was eventually awarded to Reverend John W. Ribbins, who moved from to Cleveland to the Heights. The site for the new church was 2089 Oxford Street at the corners of Oxford and Yale.

The first church meetings in the Heights “ were held in a room rented from Emman Mckinney, and a little later the home of Lewis McDonald served as a meeting place,” according to a History of Twinsburg. May 25, 1932 is the date the church was officially organized with Rev. J. B. Wilder serving as Chairman and Christine Golden acting as secretary. They moved from parishioners homes to  Church of God in Christ, located on Eaton St. in 1933. In late 1934 the congregation moved again, this time to the new church built on Oxford Street, with Rev. Ribbins serving as the first pastor. At this time the church was named Mt. Olive Baptist Church, still active today and the longest running church in the Heights. It was the first of many churches in the community. Some of the other houses of worship that were founded in the Heights included the African Episcopal Methodist Church,  the Sanctuary of Praise, Seventh Day Adventist, Apostolic Church of Christ, and other non-denominational churches.

From the 1940’s, a Mt. Olive Sunday school class.

Though the Heights has been considered a great place to reside by nearly all current and former residents, it has seen its share of injustice. Residents of the Heights have often been the beneficiaries of racism and discrimination. The Heights was never able to establish equality with or independence from the Township or the City.  If the Heights had been incorporated into a village  in the 1960s as was attempted, greatly needed improvements and renovations the community greatly need would have occurred much sooner. Incorporation was always blocked by Township Trustees.

In the mid-80s The Plain Dealer ran an article citing numerous instances of African-American residents of the Heights being the victims of the discrimination. Incidents ranged from school bus drivers refusing to pick up or drop off students in the Heights to police profiling. There was also a rash of fires set to houses and other properties in the Heights.

One of the greatest injustices dealt to the residents of the Heights was the lack of running water and even electricity in many homes. Running water, a given for most Americans by the middle of the Twentieth Century, yet wasn’t commonplace in the Heights until the 1980s. Gas and water lines “came down Hadden, went up Cambridge all the way to Chrysler…but we were not allowed to tap in,” according to Carol Tate. Besides the water line originating in Akron that pumped water to the Chrysler Plant there was also a water line from Cleveland to the village of Twinsburg. Though both lines passed through the Heights, residents of the impoverished community were not allowed to tap into either.

Well into the latter decades of the twentieth century, paved roads were an unknown commodity. “Sometimes the roads were so bad that the bus couldn’t go any further than Hadden Road, so we had to walk from our home to Hadden Road, at least a 10-12 minute walk when conditions are favorable. Sometimes the mud would be over our shoes,” said Ms. Tate. Street lights were uncommon as well. Starting in 1980s a revitalization program happened in the Heights. Finally running water, electricity, sidewalks and paved roads became the norm. Modern homes have been built. It was a long process and immensely overdue.

The Heights has been on the upswing for years, but the difficult times should not be forgotten. Filmmaker Carla Carter, along with a group of high school students, brought the story of Twinsburg Heights to the masses with the documentary, Voices on the Hill. The film has played at a number of film festivals across the country.

Twinsburg, City of

The City of Twinsburg, though relatively young, is a wellspring of history that also offers comfort and familiarity—an area that has blossomed and evolved to include new housing developments, beautiful parks, and hubs of commerce while maintaining picturesque views worthy of a postcard. These views did not spring up overnight via the whims of mayors and city planners, but evolved with the natural passage of time to shape the cityscape we know today. Though it shares nearly 140 years of history with the Township, the city’s own unique history dates back just over sixty years. Unlike other, older villages and towns that were carved from the woods and fields of an untamed wilderness, the City of Twinsburg was created in the twentieth century by an act of political secession. The need to collect taxes from the recently announced Chrysler plant sped things along, prompting the separation of township and city and bringing jobs, other businesses, and a torrent of taxpayers to the area.

Much of the history to come would radiate outward from the square: Twinsburg Institute, Locust Grove Cemetery, family owned businesses, farms, school houses, and church after church sprang up within view. The streets lining the square, always the center of festivities. Richner Hardware, Lawson’s, and Roseberry’s took root one-by-one, providing locals with some of the amenities larger cities had to offer, with the comforts of small town familiarity.

No parking spaces to spare on a busy afternoon at the Town Square.

No parking spaces to spare on a busy afternoon at the Town Square.

When new housing was needed, Glenwood Acres was created to provide it. Lowcost homes, numbering more than four hundred, began springing up in 1956 following the announcement of the new Chrysler plant. Homes would be needed to accommodate the countless new employees looking to minimize their commute to work and keep their families close. Production at the plant would begin in earnest the following year.

With each development and each alteration another farm, wooded area, and orchard would fall beneath the wheels of progress. The growing village reached the critical five thousand head count by the end of 1969, allowing it to acquire cityhood. City managers begat mayors, volunteer firemen begat paid firefighters, and mainstays of business gave way to corporations.

The 1970s would see two unique milestones come to pass: 1976 would mark the nation’s bicentennial as well as the start of Twins Days, a celebration paying homage to the Wilcox brothers, who laid the foundation for what Twinsburg would come to be. Though it began as a community-centered festival with a parade, food, contests, and a parachuting clown named Thunder Chicken, interest in the event would spread.

 

Area children lend a helping hand, planting flowers under the sign to Liberty Park.

Area children lend a helping hand, planting flowers under the sign to Liberty Park.

The new Twinsburg High School opened in January 1999, providing students with a new learning environment when they returned from their winter break. (The “Old School” still stands, though it’s been closed for years.) The park system also received some attention, with Mayor James Karabec securing a letter of intent for the property that would eventually become the three-thousand-acre Liberty Park. The dawning of a new century brought with it many changes: some wanted, some unavoidable. Longtime mainstays like Richner Hardware shuttered their stores in response to big-box stores like Home Depot and Walmart eating away at their customer base. Chrysler, the financial backbone of Twinsburg and employer of many, closed during the summer of 2010. Economic ripples from its closure were inevitable, though the blow to the city’s tax revenues was mitigated in no small part by the foresight of former mayor Karabec, who had set in motion a plan to diversify the city’s income stream, knowing it relied too heavily on Chrysler. Mayor Katherine Procop would continue the work begun by Karabec, helping to secure new tenants and diversify city revenues. Among the new tenants operating out of the Cornerstone Business Park (site of the old Chrysler plant) are an Amazon fulfillment center and FedEx.

The Great Goose Roundup

To say Aurora Shores had a love-hate relationship with its Canadian geese population would be something of an understatement. From its inception, the community was touted as a nature lover’s paradise where the amenities of the city and the beauty of the countryside met. A series of advertisements from the 1980s even enlisted the lowly goose as a means of drawing potential homeowners. By the 1990s, however, things had taken a turn and the residents retaliated against the honking harbingers of aggravation.

Semiannual goose roundups were inaugurated to curb the population of geese that naturally flock to the area, and the tradition continues today. In the spring, volunteers fueled with a hatred for flying fowl chase off nesting adults and violently shake the eggs, causing their contents to scramble. In the summer, “the young birds are too young to fly . . . and the adults are molting, which renders them incapable of flight,” said John Vieland, president of Aurora Shores when he was interviewed by the Plain Dealer. Vieland went on to explain, “The goal . . . is to get rid of as many of these dang geese and their dang geese dung as possible. And it is some job . . . These things, they defecate every three to four minutes. It’s everywhere.” (Plain Dealer)

While Canadian geese are protected under state wildlife laws as well as the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, this does not prevent the use of “non-lethal scare and hazing tactics,” according to the Ohio Division of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.

Aurora Shores

An outdoor oasis free from the hustle and bustle of city life, Aurora Shores was developed by builder Philip H. English. The press was abuzz with plans for the Shores, marketed as a playground for the middle class, with the Aurora Planning and Zoning Commission approving the construction of a boating marina, boathouse, and multistory observation tower that would provide an elevated view of the lake. Home construction in Aurora Shores began near the end of 1971; the lake’s 580 acres would be open to sunbathers, boaters, and bass fishing. After a day in the sun and sand, residents could retire to their abodes, which fell into four unique styles: the Bahamian, the Captain’s House, the Sunship, and the Commodore. Pricing in 1971 ranged from $22,500 to $52,000—which, in 2016, would be nearly $134,000 to $309,000.

Interest in Aurora Shores continued, and four years after construction began, a new subdivision was ready to welcome potential home buyers. The expansion, known as Pebble Beach Cove, included sixty-three additional units and two miles of pedestrian walkways, with plans for a second community beach. A great deal of effort and energy was expended to maintain the appearance of being a quaint community. Historically, commerce has been absent from Aurora Shores, with residents traveling a few miles to purchase even the most trivial of items.

The little community on the lake experienced some legal trouble in 1997, when confusion over ownership of the Aurora Lake came into question. In 1982, the Broadview Savings Bank of Independence, Ohio, agreed to transfer ownership of the lake to the Aurora Shores Homeowners Association at the end of December 2000. During the intervening years, the bank fell into bankruptcy, and its assets were sold off. It would take some legal wrangling to clear up the tangled web left behind.

Today, the lakeside locale straddles the borders of Aurora and Reminderville and has blossomed to include 887 homes, as well as pools, tennis courts, and a lake that, on more than one occasion, has yielded trophy-winning fishing.

Glenwood Acres

Few things can spur growth and development in a small town like the construction of a company in need of thousands of local employees. Taxes are generated, jobs created, and area infrastructure receives much needed improvements. The construction of the Glenwood Acres subdivision is an example of one such development. Preparations began shortly after the announcement that Chrysler was pulling its automotive plant out of nearby Macedonia and shifting its gaze to Twinsburg. When construction was complete, the development would boast more than four hundred low-cost houses. With the influx of new residents moving to the area in search of good jobs, few could overlook the housing opportunity afforded by Glenwood Acres. Residents began moving in the week of November 11, 1956, according to the Twinsburg Bulletin.

The Acres was not without its shortcomings. During a city council meeting just four months after occupancy began, vocal residents of the newly created subdivision brought their frustration to light, demanding something be done to improve upon the poor quality of the roads. However, their grievances went unaddressed. Records for 1958 indicate that voter turnout in Ward 1, which consisted of Glenwood Acres, was higher than that in the other four wards combined. The prolonged back-and-forth between City Council and the residents continued into the 1970s with issues of adequate sewage and sidewalks in need of attention. Sixty years have passed since the first residents arrived in Glenwood Acres, and in the intervening time these issues have been addressed one by one.

Rudd Farm Fire

The fire consumed everything, leaving William A. Rudd and James Miller with only a story to tell. In its wake, nearly four dozen horses and cows succumb to the flames, nearby farming equipment was destroyed, and the barn housing it all was reduced to a smoldering pile of ash. The barn belonged to Rudd while the contents were the property of Miller. Suspicion fell on the so-called “tramps” who road the railways and took shelter wherever a safe rest was likely to be had. In 1901, the financial loss was estimated to surpass $5000, a significant amount to watch disappear in a puff of smoke.