Filed Under Entertainment

The Shore Clubs of Collinwood

Cleveland’s “It” Summer Spot on Lake Erie

Known as a popular entertainment and leisure location that housed numerous shore clubs in the early to mid-1900s, the property at East 185th and Lake Shore Boulevard was sold and a fire subsequently destroyed any trace of the shore clubs’ existence in 1946. Despite there being no physical trace of the shore clubs, the clubs provided fantastic entertainment and meals to Clevelanders who sought out a day of leisure. The grounds had a private mansion that was built around 1900 and each of the various shore clubs redecorated and reshaped the mansion and its grounds over time.

The first shore club at this location was the Moonbeam Shore Club, which first opened to the public in May 1925. This shore club provided live entertainment, such as the musical stylings of Jack Mile’s Moonbeam Shore Club Orchestra and Al Waldon’s Serenaders. The shore club hired young women to sing and dance at the club. The Moonbeam Shore Club had its headquarters at Hotel Griswold (8844 Euclid Avenue); however, the Moonbeam Shore Club was not open for long and went up for sale in August 1926. By December 1926, The Lakeshore Gardens took over the location and offered great food and lively music that made patrons flock to the dance floor. But like the Moonbeam Shore Club, the Lakeshore Gardens were not open for very long.

On May 13, 1927, Marigold Gardens opened on East 185th and Lake Shore Boulevard. Night club owner Phil Seiznick operated Marigold Gardens and his business was described as a roadhouse or a nightclub that had live entertainment and a café. Since Seiznick was also the owner of Club Madrid (2422 Euclid Ave.), two orchestras, Club Madrid Night Owls and the Royal Hawaiians, played at Marigold Gardens in addition to cabaret acts. He also added an outdoor dance pavilion to the club grounds so that there was a dedicated dance space outside. In 1928, while Marigold Gardens was still in operation, another shore club called Shore Acres Gardens (also spelled Shore Acre Gardens) advertised its presence, suggesting that there was a second shore club located at E. 185th and Lake Shore. However, there was likely a connection between Marigold Gardens and Shore Acres Gardens because the latter had Phil Seiznick’s Club Madrid Night Owls play at their club. There are only a few advertisements for the Shore Acres Gardens in the summer of 1928, so it is likely that the Shore Acres Gardens had connections to Marigold Gardens and was not open very long. In contrast, Marigold Gardens continued operations until 1933.

In June 1933, Herman Pirchner purchased Marigold Gardens and renamed it the Alpine Shore Club. The new Alpine Shore Club had a German theme for its beer garden and boasted an Alpine yodeling orchestra and waiters wearing lederhosen. There were umbrella shielded tables on the porch and on the beach around the dance floor so that when visitors were not dancing, they could rest in the comfortable shade. Prior to owning Alpine Shore Club, Pirchner was entangled with the Mafia due to selling illegal beer during Prohibition. Although Pirchner got out of bootlegging alcohol, the Mafia continued to target his business interests, including the speakeasy on the second floor of the mansion on the property. The Mafia set off stink bombs in the speakeasy to draw customers out of the club without paying their bills. Therefore, Pirchner enlisted the help of famed safety director Eliot Ness and the Mafia stopped targeting the Alpine Shore Club. On November 28, 1935, Pirchner and Helen O’Brien opened the Alpine Village in Playhouse Square, which operated until 1961. Despite purchasing a second club location, Pirchner continued the Alpine Shore Club a couple more years with his co-owner Helen O’Brien.

By 1937, Helen O’Brien solely ran the Alpine Shore Club and renamed it Helen O’Brien’s Shore Club in the following year. She wanted to keep the Bavarian band but added Irish dancing to the list of entertainment at the club. Her shore club was a popular location for events, such as wedding anniversaries. O’Brien also had famous performers much like the clubs before hers, including Johnny Hayduk’s Caballeros, Dick O’Heren, Gypsy Martin Willesh, Ludwig Bosch, and Barbara Edwards. Fantastic full course meals were also served to club visitors. After Helen O’Brien’s Shore Club, there was one last entertainment venue at this location.

The last mention of Helen O’Brien’s Shore Club was in September 1938 and the first mention of Lake Shore Picnic Grounds was in August 1940. Therefore, there must have been a transition from Helen O’Brien’s Shore Club to Lake Shore Picnic Grounds during that two-year window. The Lake Shore Picnic Grounds offered racing, baseball, dancing, and swimming. Local residents could easily reach the Lake Shore Picnic Grounds by car or by public buses and enjoy a day of leisure activities. The picnic grounds’ accessibility made it a popular location not only for the general public, but also for local businesses and social clubs to reserve for outings. What set this shore club apart from previous ones was its policy of explicitly welcoming everyone regardless of race. A number of Black organizations used the grounds. For example, in 1942, the grounds hosted the annual picnic of the Tuxedo Club, an African American social club.

Despite the Lake Shore Picnic Grounds’ welcoming atmosphere, the Cleveland Catholic Diocese purchased the property in 1945 with the intent of turning the mansion and pavilion on the property that used to be a nightclub operated by Marigold Gardens and Alpine Shore Club into an extension of a nearby orphanage. However, the structures were beyond repair and a new orphanage location was procured. In June 1946, there was a large fire at East 185th and Lake Shore Boulevard that could be seen as far as 18 miles away. The fire ravaged the mansion and pavilion leaving only three brick chimneys in place and causing $30,000 in damage. The origin of the fire was never determined. With the fire, came an end to E. 185th and Lake Shore Boulevard’s history as an entertainment venue. Today, St. Joseph’s High School and HWR Christian Center Park occupies E. 185th and Lake Shore Boulevard where the shore clubs once offered recreation and entertainment near the shores of Lake Erie.

Images

Helen O'Brien's Shore Club Postcard<br />
Helen O'Brien's Shore Club Postcard
Helen O’Brien’s Shore Club occupied a large white mansion with extensive landscaped grounds. Source: Digital Commonwealth: Massachusetts Collections Online Creator: Braun Art Publishing Co., Cleveland, Ohio Date: ca. 1938
Moonbeam Shore Club Advertisement
Moonbeam Shore Club Advertisement The Moonbeam Shore Club desired to be a location where people could listen to live music, dance, and get a great meal. Creator: Plain Dealer Date: May 24, 1925
Lakeshore Gardens Advertisement
Lakeshore Gardens Advertisement The Lakeshore Gardens took over the Moonbeam Shore Club in 1927. Creator: Plain Dealer Date: January 12, 1927
Shore Acre Gardens Advertisement
Shore Acre Gardens Advertisement The Shore Acre Gardens was likely connected to Marigold Gardens because the Club Madrid Night Owls were playing at this club. Creator: Plain Dealer Date: July 29, 1928
Marigold Gardens Advertisement
Marigold Gardens Advertisement Marigold Gardens continued live entertainment and activities after the Lakeshore Gardens. Creator: Plain Dealer Date: July 9, 1929
Beer Gardens
Beer Gardens Beer Gardens were popular in the early to mid-1900s. It was not uncommon to have picnic parties at beer gardens. Creator: Plain Dealer Date: August 20, 1933
Herman Pirchner and Helen O'Brien's Alpine Shore Club Advertisement
Herman Pirchner and Helen O'Brien's Alpine Shore Club Advertisement The Alpine Shore Club was co-owned by Herman Pirchner and Helen O’Brien. Creator: Plain Dealer Date: July 12, 1936
Helen O'Brien's Alpine Shore Club Advertisement
Helen O'Brien's Alpine Shore Club Advertisement Pictured at the top of this ad is the mansion that was located at East 185th and Lake Shore Boulevard. Creator: Plain Dealer Date: August 22, 1937
Helen O'Brien's Shore Club Advertisement
Helen O'Brien's Shore Club Advertisement Helen O’Brien took over the Alpine Shore Club and renamed it Helen O’Brien’s Shore Club. Creator: Plain Dealer Date: June 5, 1938
Tuxedo Club at Lake Shore Picnic Grounds Advertisement
Tuxedo Club at Lake Shore Picnic Grounds Advertisement The Lake Shore Picnic Grounds held annual picnics, such as the Tuxedo Club’s Annual Picnic. Creator: Call & Post Date: August 30, 1941
Fire at East 185th and Lake Shore Blvd.
Fire at East 185th and Lake Shore Blvd. A wood structure at E. 185th and Lake Shore Blvd. was devoured by flames. The structure was used by the Marigold Gardens and the Alpine Shore Club. This is likely the pavilion that the Marigold Gardens added to the grounds. Creator: Plain Dealer Date: June 3, 1946
Aerial View of East 185th and Lakeshore Blvd.
Aerial View of East 185th and Lakeshore Blvd. The shore clubs were located at E. 185th and Lakeshore where St. Joseph’s High School is in this photo. Source: Cleveland Memory Project Creator: Herman Seid Date: June 30, 1950

Location

East 185th and Lakeshore Boulevard

Metadata

Sarah White, “The Shore Clubs of Collinwood,” Cleveland Historical, accessed May 23, 2024, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/965.