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Shoreline Park once active port

Ron Davidson • Jun 17, 2013 at 3:00 PM

One of the more popular parks in Sandusky is Shoreline Park, on Sandusky Bay at the foot of Warren and Franklin Streets. It is relatively new among Sandusky city parks, officially dedicated to the public in 1990. The land on which this park sits has a long and interesting history, however. You probably will notice that much of the land in this park juts into the bay in the shape of piers; that is because, for more than 100 years, this area of Sandusky was a major commercial shipping point, with piers, a grain elevator, and a railroad yard.

According to the Sandusky city website, the first pier at this site was created around 1846, when landfill was added to the waterfront. (See my article on Water Street for details on the modification of the shoreline.) Railroad lines soon connected to the pier, primarily from the south via Warren Street. The Baltimore and Ohio (B & O) Railroad took over operation of this line from the Sandusky, Mansfield, and Newark Railroad around 1869. For the next several decades, the piers and the surrounding area became a significant operations site for the B & O. In 1888, the book Sandusky of To-Day reported that the railroad shipped iron ore, grain, lumber, flour, and general merchandise through its docks, and employed about 200 workers. A grain elevator, capable of storing 165,000 bushels, dominated the east pier. The site also contained a round house and car shops, where cars and engines were repaired and maintained.

The peak of activity at the B & O docks arrived early in the 20th century, and decline quickly followed. By 1910, ore shipments stopped arriving at the pier, and the ore rigs were dismantled in 1915; in 1923, the B & O stopped shipping coal (the Pennsylvania coal docks having long dominated coal shipping in Sandusky). The grain elevator was removed in 1924, replaced in 1928 by a dock for loading quarried stone, which operated until the World War II era. The operations at the B & O docks certainly were not helped by the tornado of 1924; the facility was in the direct path of the storm and suffered severe damage. Although the repair shop continued for several more years, and a freight office operated at the site until around 1981, business at the docks at the time of its final shutdown in 1973 was just a small fraction of what it was during the busy times in the late nineteenth century.

And so, for several years, the old B & O piers were essentially abandoned, except as a fishing place by local residents. Fortunately, the people of Sandusky and their city government saw fit to make this abandoned land a public park, with improvements begun in the 1980s. The park was officially dedicated to the people in 1990, and has served as an attractive site for many activities, including picnicking, walking, relaxing, and, of course, fishing.

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