Friday, July 24, 2009

Astabula Harbor - Part I

The District that Refused to Die

I've always loved the Harbor; it flips the rest of the dying city 'the bird' and continues on. There were more shops on Bridge Street than I've ever seen before (all but three of the bars are gone.) The Harbor refuses to die – it appears to survive by defying the rest of the city, as stubborn and defiant as any Finn who ever walked the cobbled streets.

Carlisle's Home in the Harbor is the remnant of a very old business. They got their start in the Harbor in the 1800's – and thrived for years in a four-story building on Main Street. The store moved to the Ashtabula Mall in the 1990's – where it faltered, unable to compete with Wal-Mart and Kmart, both only yards away.

Now it is a tiny boutique on Bridge Street.

The fact that Carlisle's store is now in the same building it left so long ago is ironic; a tasty morsel for my twisted sense of humor.

Back in the 1970's there was something to hit town called "Urban Renewal." I recall, perhaps in error, that it was a two-part program. Part one was to put a parking garage on Main Street, turning the center of town into a 'walking mall.' The second part of the plan was to bulldoze the empty, eyesore, skid row, buildings of West 5th Street on the Harbor.

What they planned to do with the resulting open space was never mentioned.

My mother had just purchased two buildings on what was West 5th Street at the time. A widow – in economic times worse even than the present – she was frantic to keep us from starvation while the auto industry factories of Ashtabula closed one by one. There was one industry that would continue make money even if all the factories closed.

She bought a bar.

To Be Continued

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