Historical Places

Northern Ohio Fair

Northern Ohio Fair

As a midwestern county seat, Cleveland participated early in the enthusiasm for agricultural fairs, which were so much a part of 19th-century rural life.

Historical and commemorative celebrations served as occasions for this public expression of the community spirit.

Clevelanders were naturally upset when the State Board of Agriculture refused to select Cleveland at the location for the 1870 Ohio State Fair. A group of Cleveland businessmen, including Amasa Stone and Jeptha Wade, decided that Cleveland would have its fair. Leading citizens, including Warren H. Corning, Howard M. Hanna Jr., and John D. Rockefeller, formed the Northern Ohio Fair Association.

The purpose of the association was to promote agriculture, horticulture, and the mechanical arts, as well as to encourage trotting races. Eighty-seven acres of land were purchased on St. Clair Avenue, and 12,000-seat amphitheater were erected.

The first fair opened on October 4, 1870, charging 25 cents per admission.  With 6,000 items on display, there was something for everyone including pricey horseflesh, cascading hair switches, a cheese weighing half a ton,

Exhibitions ranged from fancy horses to inventions, crafts, and beautiful hair switches. Although the five-day event ran in competition with the state fair at Springfield, eighty-five thousand paid admissions pronounced it a greater success than the state undertaking.

The state fair held at the same time in Springfield and the county fair in Ashtabula did not do very well. Interest in the annual extravaganza gradually faded. The Northern Ohio Fair discontinued, and the fairgrounds abandoned in 1881 due to financial failure. W. J. Gordon bought the fair buildings to house his cattle. He painted them yellow, and the villagers called the colony “Yellowtown.”