The First WPA Fairview Community Cabin, 1937

In August 1935, construction of a community cabin for the Village of Fairview was one of the of the first projects to get underway in Cuyahoga County under the Works Progress Administration (WPA).Village of Fairview Mayor David Bain’s community “mountain cabin” was constructed using WPA labor and traditional log cabin construction methods, in the romantic rustic picturesque style. In September 1937, it was announced that Cleveland-area WPA project monies for rehabilitation of parks had been almost cut in half by Washington WPA officials. Included in the cutbacks was completion of the Fairview Community Park project. Despite all odds, the Fairview Community Cabin and park amenities were completed by the WPA in December 1937 at a cost $65,000, of which $14,000 was contributed by villagers (Plain Dealer, 30 November 1939). The moment was described in the Dedication program,

“We have all dreamed of a sheltered place with a cabin, surrounded by shade, on the side of a hill sloping down to a stream, with a lake, seen through the trees in the distance…the Fairview Community Cabin stands, surpassing all words of description, the accomplished result of much dreaming, planning, and patience and effort.” (Fairview Community Cabin Dedication Program 1937, unnumbered). 

The Fire
Photo, Fairview Park Historical Archives, 1937

Photo, Fairview Park Historical Archives, 1937

In the early morning of December 14, 1937, the brand new Fairview Community Cabin, “the pride of Fairview,” caught fire and burned quickly beyond repair. The fire took place just four days before the gala opening celebration and cabin dedication party at which William Stinchcomb, director of the Metropolitan Park Board, and WPA officials were to speak. With no insurance yet in place, the loss was even harder. The community and Mayor Bain were heartbroken.

Mayor Bain called for an investigation and gave the opinion that “the fire was of incendiary origin” (Plain Dealer, 15 December 1937). The State of Ohio Fire Marshal responded shortly thereafter that “[d]ue to lack of funds for the maintenance of this department, it was necessary for us to close our branch offices and lay off all our field men on September 30 [1937]. Hence we do not have anyone available for investigation work at this time… We regret exceedingly that we are unable to give this matter our immediate attention” (Letter from State of Ohio Fire Marshall, 17 December 1937).

The Second WPA Fairview Community Cabin, 1939

The gala dedication celebration planned for Saturday, December 18, 1937, was renamed the “Cabin Rebuilding Dinner” and held as scheduled. The event was moved to the Garnett School at West 208 Street and Lorain Road.

With nearly 300 residents in attendance, Mayor Bain stated that “[t]he the fire probably will weld the residents into one of the finest of community spirits. Villagers are solidly behind a rebuilding program…”  (Plain Dealer, 15 December 1937).  William Stinchcomb, who was among those present, assured residents of his continued interest. W.H. Cameron, the director of local WPA projects, told residents they could be certain of his cooperation (Plain Dealer, 19 December 1937). Letters of support were received from around the country. Organizational donations, anonymous gifts, proceeds from dinners, the ice carnival, dances, card parties, the Girls Scouts Christmas Caroling, a high school boy’s dance, and children’s donation all contributed to the rebuilding effort. United States Senator Robert J. Buckley and Ohio General Assembly member Adam Frick were both influential in procuring funds for a new community cabin and wrote letters of support.

Architectural plans for a new community cabin were drawn by local Village of Fairview resident and architect J. Ellsworth Potter of Potter & Bremmer in Cleveland.  The plans were largely based on the design of the first cabin, but this time specified less flammable materials, including walls of brick and sandstone and a slate roof. The new Fairview Community Cabin and park improvement projects totaled $166,000 and were submitted in June 1938 for review by the WPA. Mayor Bain, in a letter dated June 30, 1938, to WPA District 4 Director W.H. Cameron, stated that,

“The hopes and dreams of this entire community are centered on the time we can open our community building as a recreational and cultural center. At present these activities are held in our town hall which has become entirely inadequate for this purpose. This completed park and building project is a very necessary step in the development of our community and cannot be accomplished without the aid of WPA. The former cabin project, which was destroyed by fire before dedication, was one of the pleasure spots and show places of this end of the County and was considered by local WPA officials and other authorities as being one of the most outstanding WPA accomplishments of this district.”

In August 1938, Mayor Bain announced that a WPA grant of $145,612 had been approved for the project, including a $60,000 cabin built on the $15,000 salvaged foundation and materials from the earlier cabin. A cornerstone with records of 16 civic, church, and community organizations sealed in a box was laid March 19, 1938, and construction commenced on the new community cabin in October 1938 (Plain Dealer, 4 October 1938; Plain Dealer, 20 March 1939).

Photo, Fairview Park Historical Society Archives, ca. 1941

Photo, Fairview Park Historical Society Archives, ca. 1941

The second Fairview Community Cabin was completed in December 1939, two years after the fire (Plain Dealer, 1 December 1939).  The cabin was described as,

“Built to last forever, of big stone blocks and red brick, with a slate roof, the new cabin will be used as a recreation center and for civic and cultural programs. The interior is finished in knotty pine. The main room…has a balcony at each end and large sandstone fireplace. There is a well-lighted library, also with a fireplace, and a modern kitchen.” (Plain Dealer, 1 December 1939).

The finished cabin was opened for inspection by the community on November 30, 1939, with 500 residents attending.  Mayor Bain pronounced, “I think it’s a very good country in which to live when a community the size of ours can own a building like this. We hope, with the spirit of cooperation which exists here, to add a new shelter house and two tennis courts to the parks next summer” (Plain Dealer, 1 December 1939). The cabin was formally dedicated on January 15, 1940, to “recreational, social, cultural, and civic uses for the enjoyment of all citizens of Fairview” (Goebelt, 1978, 230).

The Legacy of Mayor Bain

Mayor David R. Bain passed away in 1952, leaving a legacy of vision, leadership, strength, and perseverance which had carried the Village of Fairview through the Great Depression. On October 8, 1957, the City Council of Fairview Park approved Ordinance 57-44, which renamed Fairview Community Park as “Bain Park.” The ordinance read:WHEREAS, David R. Bain was Mayor of the City from 1932 to 1943, and 

WHEREAS, as a result of his great vision, leadership and ability our community developed into the fine City that it is today, and

WHEREAS, it is proper that this Council pay tribute to the memory and work of the late Mayor R. Bain, and

WHEREAS, this Council therefore deems it appropriate to name the present Fairview Community Park- Bain Park.

About the Author
The above narrative was graciously provided by Wendy Hoge Naylor, a historic preservation consultant and principal with Naylor Wellman, LLC. Naylor Wellman is a Cleveland-area firm that specializes in historic building preservation, architectural history, and historic preservation planning. Naylor was also author of the successful nomination that placed Bain Park on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.