Two hundred years.
In the scope of world history, this span of time is but a mere speck. But in terms of the United States, this is a large portion of our existence. And in today’s world of instantaneous change, it is quite a long time indeed.
This year, Chardon joins the ranks of other Geauga county towns that have turned two hundred years old. Along the way, this town-turned-city has had its triumphs and disasters, yet through it all has maintained its small-town spirit and resilience that defines our region.
Chardon’s roots date back to 1808, when a then-wooded hilltop was chosen by representatives of the Ohio General Assembly as a new county seat. The land was deeded over to the town by wealthy New England land speculator Peter Chardon Brooks, for the very purpose. And so it took Mr. Brooks’ middle name in memoriam, and the village of Chardon was born.
The town continued to grow and prosper, eventually replacing its log cabin courthouse with a large-columned courthouse, a Methodist Church was built in 1835, and soon after, the first library was established in the courthouse building. Chardon was on the rise.
Then, in 1868, a fire started in Parlin Parker’s grocery store. By the time the fire was done, the square was destroyed, including the courthouse and several businesses. The town was devastated, but rose to the challenge of reconstruction. Two days later, the county commissioners and Chardon citizens met and vowed to “work unitedly and make every personal sacrifice that a renewal of our general prosperity may require”. A new courthouse, the one that still stands today, was completed in 1869, and the business district was also rebuilt.
This past spring, residents experienced another kind of disaster, when a student opened fire inside Chardon High school. In a show of the city’s historical resilience, love, support and unity poured in from all over the area. Donations rushed into a trust fund to assist those affected, and within days, the students returned, arm in arm, to their school. Chardon, in this observer’s eyes, sets the bar for how cities react to such adversities, and made this area resident proud to be part of the greater Chardon community.
While the city is known for its traditional New England fortitude there are many more attributes that make Chardon well-known.
Just ask someone outside the area about the city, and more than likely you will hear one word—SNOW. Chardon has been dubbed the snowiest city in Ohio, and for good reason—its location on a high ridge in close proximity to Lake Erie makes it a prime target for a phenomenon known as lake effect precipitation, often leading to snowfalls being measured in feet instead of inches. November Ninth through Thirteenth of 1912 saw thirty-two inches of snow piled up in one night, and more the next day, crippling the town. Eighty-three years to the day later, November Ninth through the Thirteenth of 1996, seventy inches of the white stuff piled up, prompting the governor of Ohio to declare a state of emergency.
Each year, when the snow thaws and spring appears, area residents look forward to Chardon’s Maple Festival. This celebration of the county’s sweet maple sugaring tradition began back in 1926, to promote the local industry and to create opportunities to sell syrup for better profit. Today, the tradition still stands, and locals come for the food, friends, rides, of course, the maple sugar.
One of the first lengthy conversations my wife and I had when we first started dating revolved around all the changes Chardon has gone through in our lifetimes. I remember my parents and grandparents having those same conversations. The city through time has seen much growth and change relative to the surrounding areas, and continues to be the hub of business for the county. I am sure that, no doubt, those discussions of days past will continue on for generations into the future.
To learn more about Chardon’s bicentennial festivities, please visit their site. I hope to see you there!