REMEMBERING THE AREA CALLED “HARRISBURG”
The name was “Harrisburg” and it once was one of four hamlets in Franklin that developed along major transportation routes, similar to St. Martins, Painesville and Oakwood. Harrisburg was located at the intersection of St. Martins Rd. and S. North Cape Rd. near the western edge of Franklin.
A mile west of St. Martins, Harrisburg consisted of several businesses that included taverns, a stage stop, a blacksmith shop, a post office and a brewery. Because these businesses were on a major travel route from Muskego and beyond, travelers would often stop at the taverns and inn for a rest before continuing their journey.
As years passed, the tavern and stage stop was converted to a private home and eventually the Ed Schlueter family purchased the property. That corner became the site of a Christmas tree lot for over 40 years and many customers remember buying their holiday trees on the lot next to the old red farmhouse. The old house has been for sale for the last few years but the land next to it was divided into lots and homes built on those lots.
Across the street on the northeast corner stands a tavern that is now called “Romey’s Place”. A former owner, Ollie Peterson, was the man unofficially known as the “Mayor of downtown Harrisburg”. His Harrisburg Inn, as it was called then, sponsored a Little League team called “Ollie’s Kids” and they played baseball at the St. Martin’s field near the former Herda Hardware store on St. Martins Rd.
To the north of Romey’s Place stands Country Dale School, a school that was built in the early 1950’s to replace the aging St. Martins School that stood on Church St. That one-room school had been built in 1907 and remodeled in 1935 to allow for one more room, but by the 1950’s a newer modern building was needed.
When Country Dale was first built it was a two-room school, but before students even were enrolled at the school it was determined that more rooms were needed. Because of the merger of St. Martins School and Willow Edge School, which was located on S. 112th St. in Franklin, this created a new school district with more students.
The first two teachers at Country Dale School were Helen Marsh and Vivian Guzniczak. One of the decisions that they made about the new school was that the windows in the school needed drapes.
So the parents of the students at Country Dale took it under advisement and went shopping for fabric. The sewing machines started humming and when the parents finished, the school had drapes on all of the windows at a very minimal cost.
Helen Marsh eventually became Principal of Country Dale School and Vivian Guzniczak was put in charge of organizing the school’s first parent meetings. They wanted to have the children’s parents meet at the school and socialize over cake and coffee.
Grandma Schmid and Grandma Hanson, as they were known in the St. Martins area, made the coffee on a small electric plate in the hallway of the classroom. Both had grandchildren that attended Country Dale School at the time and were eager to help out at the parent meeting.
School life was more informal in those days, enrollments were small and many of the families knew each other. Kids that were at home sick and recovering from chicken pox would be called to school so that they could be included in the class picture. When it was a Presidential Inauguration Day, students would walk over to a nearby house and watch the inauguration on a small 10” TV.
The area of Harrisburg was also the location of a large family home built in 1891 by the Gross family, owners of a local brewery. The two-story house was built on the southeast corner of St. Martins Rd. and S. North Cape Rd. and it had 2 staircases to the upper floor, one for the family and one for the hired help.
To the east of the house stood the brewery and below the ground were a series of caves that the brewery owners used for storing their products. The Gross family also built a summer house that stood over those caves, but that house was later moved farther east along St. Martins Rd.
Before the brewery closed in 1896 it was known as Gross Miller Brewery and some kegs were actually labeled “Gross Miller”. One of the daughters in the Gross family had married Frederick Miller, a member of the Miller Brewing Company family. By 1910 the Gross Brewery was torn down, but the family home remains and has gone through several owners since it was built.
What remains of Harrisburg today are a few businesses, a few homes and an enlarged Country Dale School. Even though the brewery and some of the other businesses are gone, it does remain an important part of Franklin history.