Geauga Lake Park

Geauga Lake Park was a picnic ground, recreational area, and amusement park located 18 miles southeast of Cleveland on Geauga Lake (previously known as Picnic Lake and Giles Pond) along the border of Bainbridge Township in Geauga County and Aurora in Portage County, where it operated from 1887 to 2007.

The earliest mention of African Americans visiting Geauga Lake was in August 1885, when four train cars of St. John’s A.M.E. Church members visited and enjoyed “boating on the lovely lake, roller coasting, roller skating, bathing, flying Dutchman, base ball and other amusements.” The specific location along Geauga Lake was known in the 1890s as Kent’s Grounds. Various leisure excursions took advantage of Erie Railroad passenger train service from downtown Cleveland, including one Odd Fellows’ picnic that advertised a 60-cent roundtrip fare in 1892. On at least one occasion, in 1899, Geauga Lake was a meeting place for Black Pythians from Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Accounts of Black visits to Geauga Lake all but disappear in the 1910s-40s for reasons that are not clear, although it seems likely that a hardening of racial lines following the Great Migration discouraged ongoing Black use of the lake as the area became more known for its amusement park.

Additional information coming soon.

Advertisement for an Odd Fellows Ohio Lodge No. 1188 picnic at Geauga Lake | Cleveland Gazette, June 18, 1892

Resources

  • Cleveland Gazette. August 22, 1885.
  • Cleveland Gazette. June 29, 1889.
  • Cleveland Gazette. August 16, 1890.
  • Cleveland Gazette. June 18, 1892.
  • Cleveland Gazette. May 27, 1899.

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