By Kevin Kelley
Most residents know Bain Cabin is named after a former mayor of Fairview Park. But historic preservationist Wendy Hoge Naylor’s research on Bain Park noted a fact that’s not generally known about the cabin.
In addition to being the mayor of Fairview Park from 1932 to 1943 and the driving force behind the construction of the cabin, David Bain was also the building contractor for the structure. The Depression-era mayor owned a company that specialized in constructing brick residential homes in Fairview Park, Rocky River and Lakewood. Bain’s Scottish father was a stonecutter who helped build the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Cleveland’s Public Square, Naylor noted.
Acknowledging that Bain’s simultaneous role as mayor and contractor probably wouldn’t fly today given conflict-of-interest rules that apply to public officials, Naylor said she uncovered no history of opposition to the mayor’s financial interest in the project.
“It was a different time,” Naylor explained.
Naylor said she sees the former mayor as an inspirational figure.
“He persevered through all those dark years of the Depression and wanted the community to have a meeting place and a place of relaxation and enjoyment,” Naylor told West Life.
Bain actually led the construction of two community cabins. The first one burned beyond repair just four days before a planned dedication gala.
Bain told The Plain Dealer the fire was “of incendiary origin” and called for an investigation. But Depression-era cuts to the state fire marshal’s office prevented any inquiry. One of Bain’s sons told longtime Fairview Park Historical Society member and Bain Park Restoration Committee chairwoman Leah Trainer that the former mayor had suspected arson.
Bain, who organized relief efforts for unemployed workers in both Fairview Park and other parts of the county, galvanized the community following the loss of the first cabin.
“The community really rallied,” Naylor said of the effort to rebuild the structure.
Naylor filed an application on behalf of the city to have all of Bain Park placed on the federal government’s National Register of Historic Places. Her $4,500 contract was paid for from Bain Cabin rental fees, all of which go into the Bain Cabin restoration fund.
On Sunday afternoon, about 50 residents gathered at the Bain Park gazebo to mark the park’s placement on the list. Mayor Eileen Patton and historical society member Dan Shell later unveiled a plaque on Bain Cabin that notes the park’s historic designation.
The first and second cabins and the painted mural inside represent the entire span – 1935 to 1943 – of the Works Progress Administration, a Depression-era program to put unemployed Americans to work, Naylor said. Because it’s highly unusual for a single property to reflect the entire WPA era, Bain Park can claim national historical importance, she said.
In her remarks, Patton said the park’s inclusion on the National Register underscores the city’s commitment to protect and preserve the area.
“It will always stay beautiful Bain Park, surrounded by gorgeous, gorgeous homes,” the mayor said.
Like Naylor, Patton noted that Bain Park’s inclusion on the list will improve the city’s chances of obtaining grants to help pay for the protection and maintenance of the property.
Deb Shell, the curator and archivist of the Fairview Park Historical Society’s museum, which is located inside Bain Park Cabin, said the National Register designation is important for other reasons as well.
“It also has an intangible element, one that helps us preserve our past for future generations and marks the importance of history in our current lives,” she said.
While recounting the history of the park and cabin, Shell spoke of the difficult economic times planners of the park and cabin experienced.
“The history of Bain Park and Bain Park Cabin reflects the best of community and individual efforts during a time of great hardship for individuals in the United States,” she said.
The idea for Bain Cabin indeed came from David Bain himself, Shell said. In the 1930s, the then-mayor recognized that the 1913 Fairview Town Hall was no longer large enough for meetings and that a larger meeting place was needed, she said.
The current cabin was dedicated on Jan. 15, 1940. The stone bridges, shelter house, culvert, outdoor shower basins and more than 1,700 new and transplanted trees were added the following summer, she said. The mural inside the cabin was dedicated in 1943.
Shell also noted that, by coincidence, Sunday’s ceremony came exactly 85 years to the day that Bain Park, originally known as Fairview Community Park, was officially dedicated.
Following the remarks and ceremony, residents went inside Bain Cabin to enjoy ice cream sundaes.