Located about a thirty-minute drive south of Cleveland, Breezy-Air Country Club opened in 1947 on Ledge Road off old Route 8 between Northfield and Macedonia and about one mile from Sportsman’s Park. The country club boasted sixty acres of rolling farmland and was an ideal place for summer. The property was home to the former Summit Hunt Club until Cleveland civil rights attorney Harvey Johnson and his wife Helene purchased the property for $50,000 in 1946. Johnson was born in Griffin, Georgia, in 1901 and later moved to Cleveland, where he was a part of the Future Outlook League’s efforts on behalf of Black civil rights.
The Johnsons opened their newly acquired farm as a semi-private club, Breezy-Air Country Club, and as the home to their Breezy-Air Riding Club, which had held its First Annual Horse Show at Sportsman’s Park in July 1945. The Johnsons became known for having the best horse shows and trainers in Ohio. The club’s riders, including Harvey Johnson and his son, personally competed in various local horse shows and were local champions.
For the convenience of riders, the farm’s clubhouse included full electricity, a game room, showers, bathrooms, and a kitchen. The property was also equipped with a modern steam heated barns and stables for about twenty horses. Around December 1946, Johnson built a riding ring and grandstands for the annual Breezy-Air horse show and competition.
Breezy-Air Country Club was a reflection of the popularity of horseback riding as a recreational activity among more affluent African Americans, including at more famous resorts like Idlewild in Michigan. While the property was mainly used for horse shows and riding, the Johnsons also offered various recreational activities inside and outside. They had picnic grounds, baseball diamonds, outdoor grills, tennis and handball courts, croquet grounds, and trails for hiking and bicycling, as well as hayride and wagon rides during the fall and winter.
Membership to the country club for one year was $50, but to promote their farm, the Johnsons announced a limited-time offer of $25 memberships in 1946. A membership in the club afforded access to all the recreational facilities for every member of the family. The club also offered southern-style food from some of the best cooks in the area.
The club did welcome various social clubs such as Iota Phi Lambda, which held their annual summer sports dance there, complete with a full orchestra hired for the occasion. The country club also hosted large events for its members including the very popular Halloween party. The annual Halloween party started in 1947 and was an instant hit with members of the club. There were decorations such as pumpkins, candles, and moonlight rides around the property. A high-end buffet style of dinner was also offered at the parties. Fall festivities generally started at the beginning of October. The other large event the farm hosted was the dinner for members.
By 1949, the Breezy-Air Country Club had officially taken on the name by which it was already colloquially known: Johnson’s Farm. One of the most publicized events that year at Johnson’s Farm was a big steak roast by Eugene “Hot Sauce” Williams that featured farm activities that included golf, horseback riding for adults and pony rides for the kids, riding instructions and lessons, picnic tables, and lots of food and drinks.
In spite of more than a decade of hard work to create one of Northeast Ohio’s preeminent Black recreation centers, in 1957 the Pennsylvania Railroad took much of the farm under eminent domain to build a rail yard, offering only $68,000 rather than the $300,000 that the Johnsons asked. Johnson filed action against the railroad company in order to get a decent settlement from it. The Common Pleas Court awarded the Johnsons $127,804 for 34.8 acres of the farm, leaving them only about 25 acres and bringing an end to the riding club.
- “Article 16 — No Title.” Call & Post. May 1, 1948.
- “Breezy Air Club Holds Saturday Dinner for Members, Club Guests.” Call & Post. September 25, 1948.
- “Breezy-Air Country Club to Become New Mecca for Ohio Pleasure Seekers.” Call & Post. November 23, 1946.
- “Display Ad 30 — No Title.” Call & Post. April 23, 1949.
- “Harvey Johnson Eulogized.” Call & Post. December 11, 1976.
- “Iota Phi Lambda Sports Dance.” Call & Post. July 3, 1948.
- “Johnson’s Farm Features Southern Style Foods.” Call & Post. June 21, 1952.
- “Reporter Finds Breezy Air Riding Club Membership A Desirable Christmas Gift.” Call & Post. December 7, 1946.
- “Sale of Johnson Farm Nets Owner $127,804.” Call & Post. April 6, 1957.
- “Scenes from Breezy Air Horse Show at Sportsman’s Park Last Sunday Afternoon.” Call & Post. July 28, 1945.
- “Social Whirl: Jane Logan Gives Bride.” Call & Post. November 8, 1947.
- Walker, Lewis. Black Eden: The Idlewild Community. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2002.
- $50,000 Riding Academy Purchased by Local Horseman.” Call & Post. November 2, 1946.