Bain Park Historic District Listed on National Register

Bain Park Cabin shines in the summer sun.

On September 8, 2013, a National Register of Historic Places plaque was unveiled for the Bain Park Historic District, located in Fairview Park.  The history of Bain Park and Bain Park Cabin reflects the best of community and individual efforts during a time of great hardship for individuals in the United States. 

Fairview Community Park, as Bain Park was originally known, was formed from donations of property owned by developers of the surrounding residential area and by individuals.  The dedication day of the park was designated as  “Fairview Day.” Mayor Joseph M. Daugherty accepted the park in the name of Fairview residents. Festivities included a parade, barbecue, dancing, and a 30-piece drum corp.

David R. Bain was elected mayor of Fairview Village in November 1931, as the Great Depression settled into the lives of Fairview residents. Local village relief efforts spearheaded by Bain included hiring of unemployed residents to plant trees in Fairview Community Park.  Unemployed Fairview residents also created a 20-acre community garden in the park in the summer of 1932, with the harvested food given to needy residents the following winter by the village relief committee. 

The Works Progress Administration, a federal relief program, used local residents who were unemployed.  The WPA designed and oversaw public projects submitted for approval by local communities.  Bain recognized that the community had outgrown the 1913 Fairview Town Hall. His project to build a community cabin and other structures in Fairview Community Park was approved, becoming one of the first WPA projects in Cuyahoga County.  Designed by WPA architect John Justin Carr, the first cabin was constructed of materials that included telephone and utility poles, and stone from the rebuilding of the Lorain Road bridge in 1935, collected by Bain himself.  The village raised the building funds through local fundraising efforts.

WPA landscape architects also designed features that would be put into place throughout the park, including the stone staircase and retaining walls coming down from North Park Drive.  From the top of the staircase today, you can still read the carved inscription, “Built by Works Progress Administration 1937.” 

Fire Destroys Cabin

The first Community Cabin was destroyed on December 14, 1937, by a fire of unknown origin, just four days before its dedication. Within days, the dedication dinner was turned into the first of the rebuilding efforts, with more than 300 residents at the dinner.  Other fundraising efforts included the collection of pennies by schoolchildren, dances, card parties, and dinners. 

Architect J. Ellsworth Potter, a Fairview Village resident, designed the second cabin, built on the same footprint as the first, but this time made out of nonflammable materials of brick, stone, and slate.  Further park improvements included a shelter house, four stone bridges, and shower basins.  A grant to build the new cabin and additional park structures was approved and a cornerstone, containing a time capsule of materials from Fairview Village organizations and churches, was dedicated on March 19, 1938.  The cornerstone is located on the west front of the cabin.

Construction by WPA workers began in October 1938 and finished in December 1939.  The cabin, looking much as it does today, was dedicated on January 15, 1940.  The stone bridges, shelterhouse, culvert, shower basins, and over 1,700 new and transplanted trees were finished the following summer.  A resident of Fairview Village, Walter Harbath, designed and oversaw the planting of special trees around the cabin, and the Fairview Garden Club and Fairview Community Park Women’s Club helped to pay for this project. Some of these trees are still here today.

The final piece of the WPA project also came about through the efforts of a local Fairview Village resident.  Earl Neff was an employee of the Cleveland office of the Federal Arts Project, a section of the WPA.  Neff designed the 8 x 12 ft. oil-on-canvas mural depicting the history of the area and of Fairview Village that remains inside the cabin today.  The mural, painted by FAP artist Michael Rozdilsky, was dedicated on January 23, 1943. 

David R. Bain died in 1952, but his legacy lives on.  In 1957, the City of Fairview Park renamed Fairview Community Park, Bain Park, in honor of the man whose vision and perseverance saw the Fairview community through the dark days of the Depression. He leaves to those of us who now call Fairview Park home a wonderful park and community cabin to enjoy.

National Register Status

According to its website, The National Register of Historic Places “is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.”

National Register status brings enhanced opportunities for grants and other funding to help preserve the cabin and park.  It also has an intangible element, one that helps us preserve our past for future generations and marks the importance of history in our current lives.  An article in the May/June 2011 issue of Preservation Magazine refers to our historic community structures and sites and perhaps sums up the best: “Having them around, living with them, and learning from them helps us remember who we are, where we came from, how we got to now. They're 'worthy of preservation' because they tell the story of us as a people and a nation.”


Deb Root Shell

Deb Root Shell is the Curator and Archivist of the Fairview Park Historical Society Museum and Archives.

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Volume 1, Issue 7, Posted 4:09 PM, 01.08.2014