Summers spent in Fairview Township were popular in the early part of the last century. Camps formed, families built cabins and others came for a week or two to rent a room and enjoy the beaches. One, calling itself a “club,” was very unusual. Five Erie families, all with an association to the Erie Window Glass Company, bought about 13 acres of lakefront property and built a summer home together in 1910. The main house was impressive, and the families called themselves “the Netherland Club.”
Each family owned 1/5 of the property, which was located on the east side of Avonia Road at the lake. It also included property on the west side where they had cottages for rent and woods for hiking. The main house had two stories, 18 feet deep and 60 feet wide. The first floor had two rooms: an 18’ x 20’ kitchen with five stoves, five ice boxes, one large sink and a long work table with drawers for storage.
The second room was 18’ x 40’ with a log burning fireplace that was the only heat in the building. It was furnished with sofas, chairs, card tables, etc. The first floor also had a porch that wrapped around three sides. The porch had swings, rockers and chairs.
A staircase led up to the second floor from the east and west porches. This was the only way to get to the second floor, which was divided into five front-to-back rooms, 12 feet wide and 18 feet deep. Sleeping space within these five designated areas were separated by curtains, screens, etc.
The main house was built during the summer of 1910 and meant to be a summer getaway. The house had no electricity, no furnace, and no inside plumbing. Two outhouses were nearby, marked “His” and “Hers.” There was a well on the property that provided water. A natural gas well heated the water and fueled the five cooking stoves. It also provided some inside lighting.
In the early years the families came by train to the Fairview depot then hired a horse and wagon to transport them to the house. The season was Memorial Day to Labor Day. Dads usually stayed weekends only, going back to their jobs in Erie on Sunday evening or Monday morning. Mothers would take breaks to go home and do laundry. The children had no need to return to Erie, and at least one mother had to stay to be in charge of the children. One daughter later recalled that it sometimes became a race for the mothers to leave first. The last mother became the babysitter for all the children.
Ice was delivered twice weekly to an icehouse that stood on the east side of the property. There was a tennis court, a small boat house with a man-door that opened onto the lawn, a large pond and a smaller pond. Swimming only took place in the lake. A caretaker had a small house and barn south of the main house and he had a horse that was available for riding. Croquet, badminton (after the tennis court was removed), foot races and more were part of the summer fun. Plus the lake for swimming, boating and watching. Rainy days were usually spent on the porch putting puzzles together, playing cards, reading and talking about the events of the day, locally and abroad.
These were peaceful summers, physically active, mentally stimulating, ideallic.
By 1938 two of the families had opted out and the children of the other three couples had grown up and were beginning to seek other activities during their summers. By then autos took them out and back more easily. Two of the remaining families had maids who helped with the cooking and laundry.
The property was made available for sale about then and the first buyer was H. C. Lords early in World War II. In 1950 the Leo Brugger family bought the property. They winterized it, adding all the utility upgrades. They installed bathrooms and redesigned the second floor to accommodate a bathroom and inside doors between the rooms. They also installed an inside stairway, removed the west porch and converted the log fireplace to natural gas. It became their more convenient summer getaway as it once had been for the five Erie families.
Some of the property was sold separately in 1950 and the tenant house was sold in 1955. The Bruggers were there for more than 40 years. Leo had retired and was spending his entire summers there when on September 23, 1996, he accidently fell into a well head first and drowned.
Fairview Township bought the lakefront property from the Brugger descendants on August 31, 2006, and have developed a charming park-like setting there called Avonia Beach Park. The house and grounds can be rented out for various occasions including the membership picnic of the Fairview Area Historical Society that meets there the third Wednesday of every August.
The views are breath-taking.