By Kevin Kelley
When people think of Bain Park, they often think only of Bain Park Cabin, the nearby gazebo and the area immediately adjacent to the cabin’s parking lot.
But the park extends farther to the southwest, all the way to Seabury Avenue.
So the city and the Bain Park Cabin Restoration Society are seeking to have the entire park placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the federal government’s list of areas and structure worthy of preservation. More than 80,000 properties are currently on the list, which is administered by the National Park Service.
The city has hired Wendy Naylor, a historic preservation consultant, to lead the application process. Her $4,500 contract is being paid for from Bain Cabin rental fees, all of which go into the Bain Cabin restoration fund, said Matthew Hrubey, development administrator with the city.
“There are dual purposes for the entire effort,” Hrubey explained. The first is to recognize, preserve and care for an important community asset, he said. Through admission to the National Register, the city will eligible for grant money for upkeep of the park and cabin, Hrubey added.
In addition to the cabin, the park contains a stone staircase on North Park Road, a shelter house off Eaton Road and four stone bridges.
What makes Bain Park such a historically important place?
Naylor said its status as a Depression-era project of the Works Progress Administration makes it significant. An effort of the Franklin Roosevelt administration to put the high number of unemployed Americans to work, the WPA undertook a number of parks and recreation projects, Naylor said.
Many of these projects, such as the Bain Park Cabin, incorporated a rustic architecture style that became popular in the day, said Naylor, who is based in Chagrin Falls.
Naylor began researching the park and cabin last month. She met with Deb Shell, the Fairview Park Historical Society’s curator and archivist, for three hours last week. Deb and her husband, Dan, a former president of the historical society, originated the idea of placing the cabin on the National Register.
Naylor said she was impressed by the documentation preserved by the city and historical society.
“They’re lucky that they still have a copy of the original architectural plan,” Naylor said of the blueprints of the cabin.
Two things stand out to Naylor based on her initial research. First is the leadership of Mayor David Bain, who served from 1932 to 1943, in getting the park and cabin built, especially after the original cabin was destroyed by fire shortly after its completion in 1937. The current cabin was completed just two years later.
The second notable aspect of the cabin is the 8-by-12-foot mural, also a WPA project, designed by Fairview Park resident Earl Neff. Most such murals were installed in prominent locations in central cities, Naylor noted.
“This was a village. This was under 5,000 people,” Naylor said of Fairview Park’s status and population at the time.
Naylor said the first draft of her report will be submitted in December, with a review by the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board scheduled for June 2013. If approved, the application is then forwarded to the National Park Service for final review.