Let's take a look at Aurora’s five Ohio Historic Markers

By John Kudley Jr.

The Aurora Historical Society and the City of Aurora’s Landmark Commission have collaborated over the years to bring to the community five historical markers recognizing the significance of historic buildings, landmarks and individuals. All have been established as part of the Ohio Historical Marker program which is administered by the Local History Services Department of the Ohio History Connection. Since 1957, the program has placed approximately 1,800 markers that share our state's history. Partnering with community sponsors the program tells the unique stories of the people, places, things, or events that helped shape individual communities as well as Ohio and the nation. Approximately 20 new markers are accepted into the program each year.

Here are the five markers in Aurora, along with the text on each and their locations.

The Chillicothe Turnpike

Aurora’s first historic marker is located on the corner of Routes 82 and 306 in front of the Aurora Inn.

The Chillicothe Turnpike stimulated the growth of Aurora Center, Aurora's first commercial area. Established in 1802 by Benjamin Tappan, the road also precipitated the development of Kirtland, Chester, Russell and Bainbridge, provided access to land-locked properties, and linked distant towns from Lake Erie to Ohio's first capital in Chillicothe. In Aurora, the Chillicothe Turnpike turned southwest toward Hudson and continued southward over the boundary of the Western Reserve.

Address: 130 S. Chillicothe Road, Aurora

Silver Creek Cheese Factory

The Silver Creek Cheese Factory was located in the heart of the tri-county area known during the 19th century as "Cheesedome." This part of the Western Reserve was best known for the cheese it shipped internationally. The factory contributed to the Aurora processing network, which by 1904 was shipping 4,000,000 pounds of cheese per year. The factory was destroyed by a flood in 1913 as were many other industries which flourished in the Chagrin Valley.

Address: 441 East Garfield (Route 82), Aurora

Ebenezer Sheldon

The marker honoring Ebenezer Sheldon is located at the entrance to Pioneer Park across the street from the Memorial Library.

Side 1: Ebenezer Sheldon (1754-1825) was born in Suffield, Connecticut. On April 19, 1775, he answered the “Lexington Alarm,” fought in the Revolution, and, in 1789, was appointed a captain in Connecticut’s militia. Following the Revolution, Sheldon, like many others, suffered financial hardships and sought a new beginning in the Western Reserve. In 1799, he established a homestead in Aurora and returned to Connecticut the following year to bring his wife Lovee and their six children to the area. A family legend relates that when Lovee saw the family’s home she “shed a few tears over the cheerless prospects” of her new life in the wilderness.

Side 2: Ebenezer Sheldon was an agent for the Big Beaver & Cuyahoga Land Company. In the 1799 lottery for lands in the Western Reserve, the company drew Township #5 in Range #8 (Mantua), Township #5 in Range #9 (Aurora). Sheldon was responsible for the deeding of the land in Aurora. Sheldon’s original homestead was located on the Aurora-Mantua border. Sheldon was the township’s first Justice of the Peace, one of the first township trustees, and a founding member of the Congregational church. Sheldon’s circa 1805 “deed house” was relocated to city owned Pioneer Park in 2016.

The Church in Aurora

The 1872 Church was built upon the foundation of the original “Old Brick” Church dedicated in 1824.

Side 1: Aurora's first church was established on December 31, 1809 under the guidance of the Connecticut Missionary Society. The congregation called the Rev. John Seward of Granby, Massachusetts to be the first minister in 1812. Built on land donated by Samuel Forward and dedicated in 1824, the original brick church was replaced by a wood-frame building in 1872. The First Congregational Church and the Aurora Disciples of Christ formed an association called the Federated Church in Aurora in 1913. These three entities merged to form The Church in Aurora in 1933, serving the community as more than a landmark.

Side 2: The church building is an example of the "Victorian Gothic Revival" architectural style, popular from the 1840s to the 1880s. Features of style include steeply pitched roofs, doors with pointed Gothic arches, and multi-paned windows capped with Gothic arches and hood moldings with urns. This style originated in stone buildings too expensive to replicate. Carpenters imitated the stone detailing in wood, as demonstrated in the church's exterior corner buttresses. The church added a fellowship hall and classrooms in 1952 and 1958. An educational wing was built in 1986 on the site of Aurora's original town hall.

Address: 146 S. Chillicothe Road, Aurora

Geauga Lake

Side 1: Geauga Lake, a scenic destination for visitors to northeast Ohio, was initially named “Giles Pond” after settler Sullivan Giles (1809-1880). In 1856, the predecessor of the Erie Railroad stopped at “Pond Station,” spurring the area’s growth. In the 1880s, locals established picnic grounds, a dance hall, and other facilities for those seeking a country getaway. Picnic Lake Park, later Geauga Lake Park, opened in 1887 and thereafter offered rides, a roller rink, photo gallery, billiard hall and bowling alley, among other attractions. In 1888, the Kent House hotel opened on the southeast side of the lake. In the century that followed, more attractions were added, including SeaWorld of Ohio, and the park expanded. In 2007, the melodic sounds of the carousel and the echoing screams from the “Big Dipper” roller coaster ceased when the park closed.

Side 2: Geauga Lake began as a cluster of summer cottages occupied by vacationers to Giles Pond. Residential growth began in earnest with the formation of two allotment companies: the Geauga Lake Orchard Company (1915) and the Western Reserve Land Company (1920). In 1921, the Geauga Lake Improvement Association (GLIA) was chartered to protect the residents’ access to the lake. During Prohibition, this rural setting was the site of speakeasies and dancehalls such as the Magnolia Club. Because of gas rationing during World War II, the GLIA’s lakeside clubhouse doubled as a church, with services offered by Reverend J.R. Hutcherson (1905-1996). The postwar era housing shortage and improvements in transportation brought a transition to the community with year-round housing. As of 2017, the GLIA continues to be the guardian of the adjacent area.

Sixth Aurora historical marker coming soon

The Aurora Historical Society and the Landmark Commission have worked with the Norfolk Southern Railroad to bring to Aurora a sixth historical marker. As part of the abandonment of the railroad line through Aurora Norfolk Southern agreed to place a marker in the historic Train Station District. Text for the marker was a joint effort of both the society and the railroad. Funding for the marker has been paid for by Norfolk Southern. The marker will be placed near the Aurora Station where the railroad tracks in front of the station have been preserved.

Visiting the site of each marker will provide you with an enjoyable look back into Aurora’s history. Please obey all parking and driving regulations. Pay particular attention to walking along the roadside.

Printed with the permission of the Aurora Historical Society which retains rights to all content and photos.