Americana Town (n.) pertaining to the patriotic spirit of quaint villages and Main Street communities.
Ok, I totally made that definition up in my head, but the idea is there. We’ve all been to the quintessential American town. It has a historic Main Street, shopping, a coffee shop, and so many locals ordering their usual that you may feel as if you’ve stepped into their home kitchen. That, my friends, is historic Downtown Willoughby.
The village of Chagrin, founded in 1798, changed its name in 1834 to honor Dr. Westel Willoughby, a pioneer medical educator. That same year, the Willoughby University of Lake Erie was chartered, and the Willoughby Medical College opened its doors, signaling the beginning of medical education in northern Ohio. The Medical College trained 160 doctors, educated in contemporary methods of medicine, anatomy, chemistry, and surgery. Financial struggles and public outcry against grave-robbing — which supplied cadavers for anatomy classes — hampered the college’s development. The Willoughby University of Lake Erie also pioneered higher education for women in Ohio. The Willoughby Female Seminary, patterned after Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts, offered a three-year course in mathematics, music, art, ancient and modern languages, and philosophy. The Female Seminary opened in 1847 at the vacated medical building and proved far more popular than its predecessor, enrolling 100 students its first year.
Willoughby is the only American town to have belonged to six different counties at some point in its history. In the early 1900s, Willoughby welcomed in the InterUrban (similar to San Francisco trolleys) and became a bustling town now connected to Cleveland. The families of Millionaires’ Row used Willoughby (and Lake County) as the location for their summer estates and so the architecture of the area is remarkable.
Historic Downtown Willoughby (DTW) is the place I go when I want to relax, window shop, and grab a bite to eat while sitting outside or walking down the street. Many of know about the great bar and wine scene of evening/late night DTW, but did you also know that you can grab a gourmet taco, sweet and savory crepes, and even some of the best sushi in northeast Ohio? It’s true.
My personal favorite is Crepes in the City. So far, I’ve sampled their Hawaiian, Farmer, Greek, Mexican, Banella, and Cannoli crepes (in separate trips, of course). Next on my list to try are the Tuscan, Chicken Philly, BLT, Caramel Apple, and S’Mores crepes…and maybe the Tropical Paradise. The best way to eat at Crepes in the City? With a friend or date. Order one savory and one sweet crepe between the two of you, and share the spoils. I also highly recommend their chocolate iced coffee. It’s perfect for sipping on their back patio.
After your snack, I recommend checking out Eastside Relics where you can literally find anything from an ancient pop machine to ‘man décor’ perfect for any basement bar or living room pool hall. They also have vintage furniture, jewelry, hardware, motorcycle parts, and anything that strikes their fancy in that particular moment. It’s a great treasure hunt!
Two jewelry stores, a guitar shop, Elite Repeats Clothing Boutique, a yoga studio, and Homestead House historic bed and breakfast are also downtown. A martini bar, burger joints, a wine market, upscale stationary and printing, Arabica, an art gallery, and antique stores can keep you occupied for an entire day. Valet parking is available or there are a couple public lots as well.
For a great night on the town, a casual Saturday afternoon stroll, or a family geocaching adventure, Historic Downtown Willoughby is the place to be.
Coming up soon in DTW: Classic Car Cruise