A Brief History of 1949 Broadway Avenue

posted 7/8/22 -- Central Plaza is now home to LCCAA Head Start but the site has been a hub of activity in Lorain throughout the community’s history.

In the 1880s, Hayden Brass Works was Lorain’s largest employer. Its buildings occupied 11 acres bounded by what is now Broadway Avenue, Elyria Avenue, 18th and 21st Streets. The company quickly became part of the United Brass Company and in 1886 was reorganized again as the Lorain Manufacturing Company.

In 1886, Lorain was still a “very small, rough and rustic village,” according to Drew Penfield of Lake Shore Rail Maps. The unpaved roads turned to thick sticky mud in rainy seasons and clouds of dust in the summer heat.

“Most businesses were located on only one side of the road, where a plank sidewalk allowed easy foot travel,” Penfield wrote. “Most customers would not cross the muddy or dusty road to reach businesses on the other side. An expanse of such road, without sidewalks and lined by open fields, separated the brass works and Central Lorain neighborhood from the business district downtown.”

According to Penfield, most employees of the brass works walked to work every day. Few residents owned horses and only 19 owned bicycles.

On May 7, 1888, the village council granted the Lorain Street Railway at 25-year franchise to lay track and operate horse-drawn street cars on Broadway and Penfield avenues. At the time, Broadway extended only to 17th Street where it split into Elyria and Penfield avenues. In 1907, the Penfield Avenue name was dropped and the entire road became Broadway Avenue

The Panic of 1893, an economic depression caused by a bubble in railroad speculation and bank failures, bankrupted the already unstable Lorain Manufacturing Company. Employees worked without pay for two months before walking out on June 30, 1893. Without the ability to pay its workers or other debts, the factory closed for good. Various buildings were used by other manufacturers until the buildings were demolished in 1905.

Meanwhile, the Penfield Avenue Savings Bank incorporated on Feb. 13, 1895. It was renamed the Central Bank Company in 1910, approximately the same time a branch was built on what is now 1949 Broadway Ave. (cover photo).

A new building replaced the Penfield Avenue Savings Bank in 1987, the four pillars that had long flanked the entrance to the 19th century institution were maintained in front of the new building. Stained glass was continued as a feature in the new building. The remaining look of the old building was conceptually reproduced in a more modern style.

Chase Bank occupied the building for several years. It had been empty for quite a while when it was purchsed by United Properties Inc. for rehabilitation. The multi-million dollar investment in historic downtown Lorain will soon be home to approximately 100 Head Start staff and students.

Learn more on Drew Penfield's site.