They flocked to Madison Park from Quail, Lark, Robin and beyond, seeking to discover their neighborhood’s storied past and celebrate a flawless Lakewood afternoon.
Those Lakewoodites and visitors in attendance Sunday, June 12, at the inaugural Historic Birdtown Walk & Picnic received a real treat. Not only did the weather cooperate fully with comfortable temperatures and cloud-free skies, but the collective pride of a unique working-class neighborhood was on full display through everything from spirited cornhole games to a genuine interest in their eastern Lakewood predecessors.
Presented by LakewoodAlive and the Lakewood Historical Society, the event first drew more than 100 attendees to the Madison Park Pavilion for a community picnic complete with complimentary refreshments, games, music and neighborly camaraderie. The Gorilla Lakewood fired up the grill, offering hot dogs to everyone in the vicinity of the pavilion.
Following the picnic, attendees were invited to the intersection of Madison and Halstead Avenues to embark on a volunteer-led guided walking tour of Birdtown. Steeped in history, the neighborhood dates to the late 19th century, when the National Carbon Company (now GrafTech) acquired 115 acres and divided them into 424 lots to be occupied primarily by its employees. The present-day name is derived from the five streets within the neighborhood named after indigenous bird species.
The mile-long tour delved into the neighborhood’s rich history, as participants encountered ornate churches, charming century homes and numerous examples of residences that once served other purposes, such as former cafes, meat markets and social halls. Approximately 125 attendees partook in the tour.
Birdtown pride remained readily apparent. Residents who witnessed the tour shared historical tidbits about their homes to passing tour groups, and several elderly tour participants pointed out their childhood homes. One tour group even sang happy birthday to a child they encountered at a home along the route.
The tour concluded with participants receiving an opportunity to walk through the former Templar Motors Factory within the Lake Erie Building at the south-end of Madison Park, where several 1920s-era vehicles were on the display. It was yet another nod to a century ago on this picture-perfect summer day in Birdtown.
“The Historic Birdtown Neighborhood represents an integral part of Lakewood’s urban fabric,” said Allison Urbanek, Housing Outreach Director for LakewoodAlive. It’s a privilege for us to be able to showcase its proud history and celebrate the essence of this unique neighborhood.”
Sponsored by Citizens Bank, the City of Lakewood, Dollar Bank, First Federal Lakewood and The Gorilla Lakewood, the Historic Birdtown Walk & Picnic was orchestrated by LakewoodAlive’s Housing Outreach Community Engagement Program. Through developing community outreach and engagement initiatives for homeowners and residents in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods, this program seeks to cultivate a heightened sense of pride and ownership, while ensuring all residents live in healthy, safe homes.
To view more images from the inaugural Historic Birdtown Walk & Picnic, please visit our Facebook photo album regarding this event.