Ida Cahoon's Will: Forever

The Cahoon sisters, from left, Martha, Laura, Ida and Lydia. Ida finalized the Cahoon Will in 1917. Photo courtesy Bay Village Historical Society.

Cahoon Park is one of Bay Village’s most valued pieces of land. Scratch that, it’s one of Ohio's most valued pieces of land. Some would even consider it to be the most valuable property between New York and Chicago.

The park serves as both the historical and recreational center of the city. The west end of the park has Rose Hill Museum, Bay Skate and Bike Park, and massive soccer fields, while the east end boasts the $2.9 million aquatic center, as well as various courts and fields that many residents enjoy throughout the year

And enjoy they do – with one set of stipulations.

About a century ago, Ida Marie Cahoon finalized her will. As the last remnant of the Cahoon family, she was in charge of divvying up the estate. The will assigns Lot X to Mr. A, gives Z-hundred dollars to Mr. B, and other common components of a will that size. After a great deal of droning, Item 21 appears, the fateful element in this saga. This item declares that the land originally known as Lot No. 95 "shall be forever used as a park for the citizens and Village of Bay" and the house (called Rose Hill by the family) "shall be forever maintained and used as a Library and Museum."

“Forever is a pretty long time,” said Eric Eakin, a member of the Bay Village Historical Society. In addition to this, the park must be properly policed. Forever.

Okay, seems like a fair deal. Is that it then?

Well, no.

Here’s the big condition:

“No boating, bathing, games or sports shall be permitted on said Park or property on Sunday.”

Seems simple enough. The Cahoons were pretty religious folks, so respecting the Sabbath makes sense for them. In the early 1980s, the League of Women Voters found that most residents agreed with this notion by conducting a survey, asking if they agree or disagree with the park restriction.

Like everything, the main issue comes down to interpretation. The Cahoon will is no exception. For example, it is widely believed that the restriction on boating applies to Bay Boat Club. However, some interpreted the statement as referring to two long-gone ponds that powered the Cahoon mills. As for bathing, is swimming in a pool really “bathing”? Many of us would say no, but what would Miss Cahoon have said? And as for games and sports, what’s the difference between a family flying kites and having soccer matches on the massive, well-kept fields?

Gary Ebert, the city's law director, as well as the city in general, believes that “organized” sports and games are not to take place on Sunday. For this reason, Bay hosts weekend soccer tournaments at Walker Road Park and closes Bay Days on Sundays.

No gambling is permitted on the property, period. Again at Bay Days, the “games of chance” and raffles are set up on Cahoon Road. Since all roads are county property, the will is technically not being violated.

In theory, the city would lose the land to the State Teachers Retirement System, or STRS, if the will was violated. “In theory, but not in practicality”, according to Ebert. “STRS can’t afford to build and maintain retirement homes on the land [another stipulation of the will].” In addition to STRS’ impotence, the city would have to “over-act” or commit an “egregious error” to get the issue brought to court in the first place.

The park has gone to court in a few instances not involving STRS. In 1993 it was for permission to borrow and bond money for the upkeep of the park, which was granted because the original trust only had $15,000 left. Annually it costs about $250,000 for the maintenance and upkeep of the park.

When the new police station was built, it had to use a small part of the property for its back parking lot. Because it helped with the will's requirement that the park is “properly policed,” the land was permitted for use.

Both the city and its citizens are dedicated to keeping the park functional and useful for all. Lawrence Kuh, a resident of Bay and teacher at Bay Middle School, spearheaded the construction of the Skate and Bike Park and Disc Golf Course on the Cahoon Park property in an effort to provide activities for the city’s residents, specifically targeting youth.

While certain additions and improvements are made in the park for coming generations, residents of Bay Village should be prepared to honor the Cahoon will. Forever.

Evan Harms

I'm a 17 year old from Bay Village who has an interest in journalism and multimedia story telling. I plan on studying journalism in college. I am interested in cultural things, as well as music, but I can write about anything if I find it interesting.

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Volume 7, Issue 13, Posted 9:57 AM, 07.07.2015