- Amish Country
If you're looking for an ideal place to vacation on the shores of Lake Erie, Geneva-on-the-Lake was created with you in mind. Nicknamed as "Ohio's first summer resort," Geneva-on-the-Lake has something for everyone: good lodging, fine restaurants, nightclubs and wineries to lots of local amusements and shopping opportunities. Geneva-on-the-Lake is also a favorite destination for motorcyclists making the Lake Erie Loop.
If you've ever been to Niagara Falls and visited their strip, Geneva-on-the-Lake has the same flavor. Little shops, eateries and arcades line the main drag. There is a slow paced hustle that also reminds anyone growing up in the early 50s of what small town cruising was like.
Besides the "strip" there is also a quality state park with natural beaches, lodge, cabin rentals, and camping.
This small town (year-round population less than 2,000) began as a farming village during the early 1800s and represents a true slice of Americana. Unlike other small towns, the Village of Geneva-on-the-Lake is unique in that it became the state's first summer resort. Families were attracted to its temperate climate, warmed by Lake Erie in the fall and cooled by the lake in the summer.
As a city, the Village of Geneva-on-the Lake grew slowly. City water came in 1920, replacing cisterns that collected rainwater, since wells did not work in the shallow-embedded land. The village was incorporated in 1927, so that a sewer could be built. A constable was also appointed to oversee the village's 114 residents. The old Indian trail that ambled at the hilltop of Cowles Creek north to Lake Erie developed into state Route 534. Another east-west trail became Route 531.
In 1869, an enterprising businessman, Cullen Spencer, decided to capitalize on his lake front holdings by clearing trees from his land to create a park and access to the lake. He opened his picnic grounds, called Sturgeon Point, to the public for a fee on July 4, 1869. Shortly thereafter, Cullen added a steam-driven carousel and a boarding house to his lake front property, and the town's first resort was born.
Over the next fifty years, more boarding houses, summer cottages and a hotel opened. A new taxi service brought summer visitors from the train station in Geneva Village, five miles south of Geneva-on-the-Lake. These visitors were a mix of ethnic and income groups, who stayed at lodging facilities that catered to different groups. In the pre-air condition era, blue collar visitors, who came to escape the oppressive steel mill heat of Pittsburgh, Warren, and Youngstown, comprised the majority of visitors until about 1950. The first dance hall, the Casino Ballroom opened in 1912. When the 1928 Pier Ballroom was expanded before World War II, it was the largest ballroom between Buffalo, New York, and Sandusky, Ohio.
During the Depression "marathon dance" contests took place at the Pergola Garden dance hall. Meanwhile, "park plan" dancing-named for amusement parks that adopted the system of ten cents per dance-kept the Pier and Casino alive. During the 1950s as the resort matured into a nationally known destination with little municipal oversight, bingo parlors, game arcades, and nightclubs opened on the main street.
Eventually pollution and erosion began to attack the town's biggest asset-Lake Erie, called the "dead lake" by the late 1960s. At the same time, Pennsylvania teens, attracted to Ohio's lower drinking age, crowded the town, which caused families to stay away. In 1970, the town's drinking age was raised to 21. Slowly, the Geneva-on-the-Lake's image began to turn around. Tourists were attracted because of its quaint nature. Many returning visitors were new parents who had vacationed there as children. The tastes of the traveling public have come full circle, and family-oriented activities are back in demand.
During the summer season, the famous entertainment strip is alive with arcades, amusement rides, restaurants, nightclubs, live music and more. Lake Erie offers fishing, boating, and swimming.
Famous for it's foot long hot dogs and fresh lemonade, Eddie's Grill has a 50's atmosphere that will take you back in time to when things were simpler. Eddie's is a fast paced, always packed atmosphere, but that's part of the fun.
Five miles south of Geneva-on-the-Lake is Geneva. A small town with small town charm. The name Geneva was given to the community by one of its first settlers, Levi Gaylord, who suggested it be named after a small town in central New York also called Geneva.
One of the most notable residents of Geneva was Platt R. Spencer, a school teacher and local historian in Geneva. It was Spencer who developed and taught the ornate penmanship we know today as Spencerian Script. Although his formal style of writing has been replaced in the public schools with a less formal script, we still see examples of his penmanship style everyday: the Coca-Cola trademark uses a Spencerian Script. Platt Spencer is buried in Geneva.
Geneva is also the birthplace of Ransom Eli Olds, the founder of the Oldsmobile Motor Company. Ransom's father opened a successful steam engine shop here in the 1860s. Five years after Ransom was born, his father, Pliny Olds, sold the business and home and moved his family to Lansing, Michigan were young Ransom joined his father in building steam engines. Ransom would later go on to incorporate his steam engines with horseless carriages. He would also develop the modern day assembly line in the production of his line of automobiles. Henry Ford would take that idea and expand upon it in his plants. Ransom Eli Olds would later create the REO Motor Company which originated the REO Speedwagon, the forerunner of heavy duty trucks used throughout the world.