Lifelong Medina resident Bob Hyde was looking for something to occupy his time after his retirement in 1995. The project he chose has kept him busy for 22 years.
Hyde, 84, has documented the proprietors and occupants of all the stores in and around Medina’s Public Square and historic district. His report is called “Beyond the Storefronts.”
It includes information on nearly 150 stores and as many as 1,500 proprietors dating to 1830. And there will be information on the 1870 fire that turned many of the buildings on Public Square into rubble.
He admits his website — medinasquare.org — is a work in progress.
Hyde’s undertaking is part of a bigger picture.
“I’m doing it for the bicentennial committee,” Hyde said, referring to the city group that is making plans for the 2018 celebration.
The plan is to have a Quick Response Code on every store front in the historic district. That will allow patrons to walk up and down the street and click on the store’s sign/placard in the front window with their smartphones to learn the store’s history and dates when proprietors occupied the buildings.
Hyde is working on timelines, proprietors and a couple of short anecdotes on each business.
Roger Smalley, chairman of the city’s bicentennial committee, said he’s excited about Hyde’s project.
“He’s gathered all this information. He’s gotten to the point where he is ready to share it and make it available to the community,” Smalley said.
Smalley brought a group of people together from the community — Susan McKiernan, president of the Weymouth Preservation Society; Tom Hilberg, curator of the Medina County Historical Society; and Miles Reed, operations director at MedinaTV — to look over what Hyde has uncovered.
Smalley said the group was impressed with Hyde’s information that will be available through the website and QR codes.
“It’s an aspect of the history of the community that we did not have in the past,” Smalley said.
Originally, Hyde looked for something to occupy his winters after leaving A.G. Edwards & Sons, where he was a senior investment banker.
Lately, he’s been working up to six hours a day. Much of his information is achieved by scanning microfilm from The Gazette and the former Medina Sentinel over the years at the Medina Library. He has hundreds of advertisements from the papers back to the early 1800s from Medina stores.
He admits he’s seen more than his share of corset ads.
He hopes to have the bulk of the work done by November. That includes placing the QR codes along the Square to fuel what he calls the “self-guided-tour.”
“I’ve always been a nut for history and genealogy,” he said. “A lot of people have tremendous interest in history.”
Trove of photos
He said he’s found almost 300 pictures dating to the early 1800s. He said he’d welcome more pictures and stories of the businesses. They can be uploaded to the Facebook page, “You’re from Medina, if” or “Roadside History of Medina, Ohio.” He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
One of Hyde’s favorite stories is about a husband-and-wife team that operated a still in the 1920s in the building where Cool Beans Caf￩ is today. He said they would pack their suitcase full of booze and ride the train to Cleveland to sell their wares, at least until they were arrested.
Hyde also is an expert on three fires in Medina — in 1848, 1870 and 1877.
“ ‘Beyond the Storefronts’ is the result of those fires,” Hyde said. “Without the destruction they caused, Medina would not be the beautiful village we have today.”
The most destructive fire was April 14, 1870. There was no fire department at the time. Resident A.W. Horton rode his horse to Seville at 3 a.m. to borrow the neighboring town’s hand engine and to seek volunteers, according to “Everything Medina, Ohio” (everythingmedinaohio.com).
It took the outbreak of a third fire — a small one in 1877 — to convince the townspeople to create a fire department. Buildings continued to sprout up around the Square featuring Victorian architecture.
Hyde’s family came to Medina in 1842. His grandfather owned Hyde’s Shoe Store, 201 S. Court St., currently occupied by Lemonberry Frozen Yogurt. He said he also worked at the nearby drug store and sold Sunday newspapers.
“I used to know everybody in town,” he said.
“In my 22 years of research, I’m indebted and appreciative of the assistance and shared research of many friends who love the history of Medina and want the story to be told.”
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.