Sunday, October 06, 2013

The best shutdown post you will ever read: a national park and the midnight marauders

Portion of Riverview Road in the CVNP where the Doubler Bros. farm once stood.

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) is Ohio's only national park. And while the GOV shutdown has the CVNP closed for business, this place has been on my mind plenty this summer and so I thought I'd blog about it, if for no other reason than to wield whatever power I may have in this nationwide debacle.

Back in the 1970's when the Park Commission came through to organize the CVNP, it was unpopular to say the least among the farmers and families that populated the more than 30,000 acres that would become the park. Their land was purchased under an eminent domain mandate.

Plenty of angered families returned to their property after the deals were signed and the keys were handed over to strip whatever they could from the soon-to-be-demolished structures.

And you can count my family among them.

Great Gramp Doubler had passed on by then and Gram was in a home, but the rest of the clan was plenty ambulatory and then some. I have only vague memories of that night when we all descended on the Doubler farm house and busted in through the cellar, but the event is crystal clear to my mom.

"We took everything we could lay our hands on," she recalls. "We were like a bunch of silly kids." Dad stripped walnut paneling from the dining room. Another faction dug up bushes and flowers. They pulled light fixtures from the walls. I remember roaming around furtively; after all, I was part of an outlaw gang. I wanted so badly to find some remnant--a tiny ceramic figure or mysterious jar, but there was nothing. Who cared about cabinet door pulls? The adults were acting crazy.

"It was one of the funniest things I ever remember doing," says Mom. "We took everything we could find." They filled the back of my cousin's truck and then we situated ourselves atop the loot and sped away gloriously into the night.

So goes history.

Nefarious activity notwithstanding, much of the 275-acre Doubler farm would become a nice chunk of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which is a profoundly emotional place for me. And while very few members of my family remain, I am damn glad that hallowed acreage is a park and not a parking lot.

Yeah, yeah. Now for some pix to verify that dirt's history.

That's my great Gramp Doubler, bottom left. His brother Dan is bottom right. Their mom is seated on the left next to some aunts. That's my great great great Gramp Vaughn upper left and my great great Gramp Doubler top right. This photo was taken circa 1895. The house in the background was built around 1850.

That original farm house survived the bulldozers and is still standing. I took this pic in 2007. My great Aunt Elaine (Dan Doubler's wife) lived here when I was a kid. She was in a wheel chair. I used to sit in the kitchen with her while she scooted around telling me stories and pouring glasses of lemonade. Toward the end, Aunt Elaine got a bit goofy and she would fire away at "woodchucks," which were perhaps both real and imagined. The walls were riddled with bullet holes.

That's my great Gram and Gramp Doubler in front of their barn. Great Gram Doubler was born in 1889, so I'd guess this was taken around 1920, give or take a few years. They were married in 1911. Before that, Gramp Doubler played semi-pro baseball.

The barn's long gone, but the stone ramp to the main barn door (you can see it in the pic above) remained until a couple of years ago. The Goat took this pic of me in 2007. At that time, I also took a rubbing of the "signature" on the left.


Great Gramp Doubler ran the farm with his brother Dan.

The Doubler Bros. calling card, front and back, which Mom preserved on a decoupaged plaque. To describe the map on the back as "not to scale" is (ahem) generous to say the least.

This was the house great Gram and Gramp Doubler lived in, and the one my kin ransacked back before the Park Commission demolished it. This house was right across the street (Riverview Road) from the barn and original farmhouse pictured above.

Great gram Doubler circa 1972 or '73. She was something: cooked most of her life on a woodfire stove, drank Southern Comfort and loved a good boxing match. I still have her 15" cast iron skillet ...

... and her blood in my veins.

Great Gram Doubler and yours truly, circa 1975 in the kitchen of the big farm house.

*  *  *


Anonymous said...

How fortunate to have access to all that history.


Cat Russell said...

I'm glad you have your photos and history, but I'm sorry the land was taken from your family.

Erin O'Brien said...

Thanks for dropping in GAN. The land hasn't been taken from my family; it's just been shared with everyone. And it is pristine and beautiful and free from asphalt and WalMarts. I can visit it anytime, and do so often.

I take my daughter there. I walk. I finger the arrowhead my dad found on that land as a kid. I breathe.

Michael Lawless said...

Doubler pleasure.... Coulda been 1970's Bonnie & Goat.

Kirk said...

How exactly is that park "closed"? It's not like there's a giant fence around it with a gate you have to drive through to get in. What's stopping someone from going there and taking a walk? Will you get arrested if they catch you on the trail?

Kirk said...

OK, I just read your link, so I guess there ARE gates, but I get to the CVNP by way of the Metroparks--the Brecksville Road entrance--and have never seen any gates, but maybe I've just never paid attention. It's been a while, so my memory's foggy

Erin O'Brien said...

Kirk, they certainly can't shutter Canal Road or other roads in the park. My guess is that perhaps certain trails and functions are closed. So dumb ...

Anonymous said...

Hiya Kirk, Ms E,

In the Metroparks there have always been signs noting the park areas, ie, not the parkways but picnic areas etc all close at dusk. If you were in there after dark doing anything but driving through, or if you were out of your car, it was luck of the draw as far as which Ranger you ran into, if it was one of the guys you knew, and what kind of day he was having. Once in a blue moon somebody would get a summons.

As far as the nationwide situation is concerned, there has been a lot of tut-tutting among the usual suspects in the media that there are no reasons the parks and monuments should be closed-no reason one can't go in, Rangers or not, right? The administration's being arbitrary, punishing the school kids!

In point of fact, absent proper staffing, traffic through the parks presents problems of safety, liability and mischief or vandalism. So there's that.


chuck said...

I'm from SW PA and have photos and memories from my family as well. (Although I don't remember invading my Grandma's house.) I have my great grandma's rolling pin and her blood in my veins. Your article brought back a lot of memories and I thank you.

Kathi from Garfield Heithgs said...

Found your blog when I was looking for information about how the park took so much property by eminent domain - actually looking up Everett. I always wondered about the house that is still has been empty for so many years but I didn't realize the Park Service Owned it. My dad worked with a guy who lived right on the edge of Riverview where it starts to go down the hill - I think that house burned down if I remember correctly. As of August 2016, the old white brick house is still there. And the big farm behind it with the big house and cows is there too...was that a part of your family farm and why did it not get gobbled up? Thanks for the information!

NicWis said...

I called the park system and offered to keep the home and property maintained as they haven't aand they pretty much blew me off and said they don't know what they are going to do with it. I need to get my act together and be a bit more insistent.

Anonymous said...

I drive past the old house many times during the week, the home is overgrown, boarded up, and has been vandalized. Despite the park being negligent toward it for decades, it has still stood the test of time and can still be saved if a group of people can get together and start a movement to save it. I don’t want to see it have the same fate as some of the other historic park owned homes like the William Knapp house which is too far gone to save due to the park letting it rot for decades. A friend of mine really loves this home and is interested in finding a way to lease it & fix it up.