Port receives Victory Park historic records
The Lorain Port Authority has agreed to lead preservation efforts for the city of Lorain Victory Park, with its winged statue of Victory.
Now the Port has an archive of documents that offer an inside look at how World War I veterans and city leaders created the tribute to Lorain’s native sons who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom in the Great War.
Local historians delivered the papers Jan. 8 during the Port Authority board meeting.
The group included Loraine Ritchey and Diane Wargo-Medina of the Charleston Village Society Inc., Carolyn and Frank Sipkovsky of Lorain and Matt Nahorn and his father, Bill Nahorn, of Amherst.
“We’re very glad that the Port has taken control of Victory Park,” Ritchey said. “Or Peace Park, depending upon which page of this you read.”
The group received a round of applause from the Port board.
“Thank you for doing that,” Port board Chairman Brad Mullins said. “It’s people like yourselves that preserve the history of Lorain.”
“It’s a tough job,” Ritchey said.
“I know it is, but I’ll tell you what: It’s much appreciated,” Mullins said.
“Lorain moves its history around like dated decor — just put it over here somewhere,” Ritchey said.
Honoring the dead
Victory Park is a triangle-shaped plot at the intersection of West Fifth Street and West Erie Avenue.
The local historians were upset about recent statements that the park was just put there, Ritchey said.
In 2011, the city was going to dispose of the original documentation about the park, she said.
“This was a big deal,” Ritchey said. “This was the Great War. It was the war that was going to end all wars. There was no World War II, Korea, none of that.
“And people in this town decided they were going to honor that.”
Wargo-Medina became known locally for her efforts to restore the historic Charleston Cemetery, the city’s oldest burial ground.
She saved the papers when the city threw them away and presented the papers to the Charleston Village Society.
“We thought, as an executive board, that whoever ended up with the park, should end up with the original documentation so it’s not lost again, so that you all know the history of that park,” Ritchey said.
“It is fascinating reading,” she said.
In the archives
In the recent public debate about the park, news outlets cited a number of newspaper reports from the time to explain the massive public turnout when the park was dedicated April 6, 1922.
The Port records go beyond that.
The statue of Victory would cost $65,000 in today’s dollars.
City leaders spent months corresponding with foundries to create the monument, Ritchey said.
The papers include original letters about plans, companies bidding to build the monument and the unveiling.
The records are compiled in a black binder; a CDROM has scanned copies.
Port staff want to find a way to display the records so the papers are protected, but also that people are aware of them, Brown said.
“Just the fact that this was going to go in the Dumpster and they saved it, is pretty remarkable,” said Lorain Port Authority Executive Director Tom Brown.
Reading just the news article about the dedication of the park is fascinating, Brown said.
“The speeches those gentlemen made that day, nobody makes speeches like that anymore, I’ll just say that point blank,” he said.
Once the Port receives the title to the land, there will be improvements and ongoing maintenance, possibly in time for Memorial Day, Brown said.
The transfer of documents came after about two months of renewed public attention about Victory Park.
On Nov. 5, 2018, Lorain City Council voted to sell the two parcels of land that make up Victory Park.
The city legislation stated the city would “advertise for bids for the sale and sell of real property no longer needed for municipal purposes.”
City leaders and the Louis Paul Proy Chapter No. 20 of Disabled American Veterans later clarified the intention for the city to transfer part of the land to the neighboring DAV post.
But the Council action sparked days of debate on the park and monuments.
On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, the city and Port announced the joint plan for the Port to take over maintenance of the park.
That day also was the 100year anniversary of the armistice that ended fighting of World War I.