Lake Glenn, sometimes spelled Lake Glen, was a Black country club and entertainment venue located at 4572 Akron-Cleveland Road, nestled in the Cuyahoga Valley between Peninsula and Cuyahoga Falls. The club, in operation from 1950 to 1964, was approximately 26 miles away from Cleveland and sat on 13 acres of land. It was owned by Irvin Clark Robinson of Akron, opening in the early 1950s until about 1960 when the property appears to be owned jointly by Luther and his brother Heston White. According to a 1957 Call & Post, Lake Glenn was the only major spot for African Americans to stop between Cleveland and Akron. The club was a “Black and Tan” venue, which attracted both a Black and White audience. This interracial audience reportedly came from Akron, Cleveland, Youngstown, Warren, Mansfield and as far as Erie, Pennsylvania. The club also advertised itself to organized social groups, fraternities, lodges, and sororities in the Call & Post.
For the majority of Lake Glenn’s years, it functioned as a hub for blues, jazz and crooner music. A popular blues act that performed throughout Lake Glenn’s years was Crown Prince Waterford. Waterford was a blues performer from Jonesboro, Arkansas. Waterford’s records still survive and are available on multiple music streaming platforms. Waterford was often joined by female impersonators, exotic dancers and rhythm dancers.
Lake Glen featured female impersonators. One such individual was Billie McAllister. Billie McAllister was from West Palm Beach, Florida, and started as an amateur entertainer in 1933 and worked in various U.S. states, Canada, and the Bahamas as a female impersonator. Female impersonators had a formative influence on the drag shows of the 1960s. McAllister’s musical career included several blues songs under Tennessee Recording Company. McAllister was also featured in a 1972 record titled “Mr? Billie McAllister” presented by Rudy Ray Moore, the historic entertainer most famously known by the stage name Dolemite.
Throughout operation, Lake Glenn attendees experienced unyielding surveillance by Summit County law enforcement. The club was subjected to reoccurring charges for illegal alcohol sales and unsanitary conditions, which often led to criminal charges of club-goers. Club-goers reported racial motivation for police raids. A February 9, 1957 edition of the Call & Post features a quote by a club attendee expressing aggravation, “somebody ought to tell the new sheriff he’s warming over the same old soup.” Shakedowns by local police gave ripe conditions for frustration from club attendees and workers. In March 1957, Lake Glenn manager Booker T. Brooks claimed that Lake Glenn was being targeted by law enforcement. Brooks charged, “Sheriff Bird resorted to the age-old ruse of numerous police organizations of building up their eruptions and records by staging a shakedown among Negro citizens.” Brooks also claimed that officers “insulted our white customers, particularly women; demanding to know why they do not go to white business establishments in the area instead.” The Call & Post suggests that newly elected Ohio Governor William O’Neil incentivized county sheriffs to crack down on commercialized vice. The day after Governor O’Neil’s inauguration he reportedly announced, “If there is an obvious failure on the part of the local officials to suppress commercialized vice and if it begins to move in any area, then I as governor will use the authority vested in me by law to take appropriate action to see that it is driven out.” According to historian John Lowney, Black clubs of the early 20th century were central spaces for discussion of progressive Black ideology and expressions of sexuality and race. It may be considered that a fear of these ideologies and structural racism was a motive in the persecution of these clubs.
In 1960 the club began to be financed through the Teamsters Union who added a motel. A year later in 1961 the White brothers did not pay mortgage to the Teamsters Union, which led to the end of the White brothers’ era in the club. In 1962 the property was sold by the Summit County Courthouse to an “unidentified person” for $103,000. At this time, the club changed names to the “Fountain Blue Restaurant.” The club met its demise in 1964 when it burned to the ground from an undetermined cause. The fire was massive and brought in firefighters from six different communities (Northampton, Munroe Falls, Hudson, Stow, Peninsula, and Bath).
- “About the Stars.” Call & Post. October 17, 1959.
- “Akron Negro Clubs Target Raiders.” Call & Post. Feburary 9, 1957.
- Billie McAllister: MC and Female Impersonator.” Call & Post. August 15, 1959.
- “Billie McAllister.” Queer Music Heritage. https://queermusicheritage.com/drag-mcallister.html
- “Cite Three Taverns on Sanitation.” Akron Beacon Journal. June 2, 1957.
- “Crown Prince Packs Em In at Lake Glenn.” Call & Post. August 15, 1959.
- “Crown Prince Waterford.” Call & Post. September 19, 1959.
- Grantmyre, Laura. “They lived their life and they didn’t bother anybody: African American Female Impersonators and Pittsburgh’s Hill District, 1920-1960.” American Quarterly 63, no. 4 (December 2011): 983-1011.
- “Hassina.” Call & Post. June 28, 1952.
- “Interracial Patronage Causes Harassment.” Call & Post. March 16, 1957.
- “Know the Angles: Arson Prober Fits Puzzles Together.” Akron Beacon Journal. March 28, 1964.
- “Lake Glen Country Club.” Call & Post. March 30, 1957.
- “Lake Glen to Be Site of Motel-Restaurant.” Akron Beacon Journal. February 16, 1960.
- “Lake Glenn Club Refused Beer and Wine Licenses.” Call & Post. January 25, 1958.
- “Lake Glen Club Sold for $102,00.” Akron Beacon Journal. October 20, 1962.
- “Lake Glenn: Steaks, Chops, Chicken, Shrimp.” Call & Post. October 12, 1957.
- Loewen, James W. Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. New York: The New Press, 2006.
- Lowney, John. Jazz Internationalism: Literary Afro-Modernism and the Cultural Politics of Black Music. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2017.
- “Ohio’s Newest and Most Beautiful Country Club.” Call & Post. September 27, 1952.
- “Protest Wild Parties, Driving in Akron Area.” Akron Beacon Journal. September 29, 1952.
- “Says Jay’s Band Was Incubator for Stars.” Call & Post. August 10, 1957.
- “State Sues Lake Glenn Country Club.” Akron Beacon Journal. April 8, 1954.
- “Teamsters Foreclose on Club.” Akron Beacon Journal. October 10, 1961.
- “Town Crier.” Akron Beacon Journal. April 8, 1954.
- “Union Funds Aid $200,000 Hotel.” Akron Beacon Journal. February 17, 1960.
- “$60,000 Blaze Guts Rt 8 Fountain Blue Restaurant.” Akron Beacon Journal. January 3, 1964.