Beaches and Docks

Elberta Beach

Elberta Beach was a summer resort in the northwest corner of Lorain County, one mile east of Vermilion and eight miles west of Lorain, that was open to African Americans for at least a short time in the late 1930s and early 1940s. It hosted a number of Black swing bands and dancing. Black visitors had used nearby Crystal Beach just to its west as a picnic spot as far back as 1908, and some reportedly picnicked there before going dancing at Elberta Beach in the late 1930s.

Elberta Beach took its name from the Elberta peaches that grew in an orchard on the land where the resort stood. Elberta is a variety of peach first developed southwest of Macon, Georgia, in 1870. It became a popular commercial crop over the next thirty years, spreading far and wide. William Miller of Port Clinton is credited with bringing the Elberta peach to Ohio, where it was grown commercially along Lake Erie in the 1890s-1920s. In 1912, George W. Hess opened the Elberta Inn on a peach orchard just east of Crystal Beach. Then, in 1920, the A. B. Smythe Co. of Cleveland redeveloped the property as a lakefront resort and residential allotment, advertising the added advantage of being able to sell Elberta peaches from the ten to twenty trees that it claimed dotted virtually every lot. Indeed, its ads proclaimed, “Every Lot an Orchard in Itself.” Its promoters presumably viewed Elberta Beach as a future railroad suburb because early ads commented that it lay at Stop 127 on the Lake Shore Electric interurban railway. They also promoted the allotment’s sand beach, bathhouses, picnic grounds, and “sand piles and clover fields for the children to play in.”

The popularity of Elberta Beach as a concert and dancing venue did not emerge until the early 1930s. Duke Ellington performed there in 1935 and may have been the first African American performer at the beach, but his concert was not advertised in the Call & Post, suggesting that the audience may not have been integrated. Only between 1937 and 1941 did newspaper articles refer to Black patrons. African Americans from Cleveland, Ashland, Elyria, New London, Oberlin, and Sandusky are documented as having used the resort as a venue for musical performances, dancing, and picnics. The fact that the performers noted in ads in the Call & Post did not get advertised in the Sandusky Register despite the latter’s regular coverage of Elberta Beach entertainment suggests that Elberta Beach’s operators probably permitted Black events on a segregated basis and only for a short time in the later years of the Great Depression.


  • Advertisement. Sandusky Register. May 19, 1935.
  • Borer, Alan. “William Miller, Elberta Peaches, and the Ohio Connection.” March 12, 2010.
  • Calloway, Sara. “Lorain News.” Call and Post. July 7, 1938.
  • Display Ad 17. Call and Post. July 1, 1937.
  • Horn, Charleen. “Ashland News.” Call and Post. August 4, 1938.
  • Tarrant, Rich. “The Elberta.” Vermilion Views. March 5, 2011.
  • Thomson, Anthony. “Vermilion in Seven-Year Stretch.” Cleveland Plain Dealer. September 1, 1963.
  • Wilson, Robert E. “Elberta Beach Scene of Progressive Choral Picnic.” Call and Post. August 5, 1937.
  • “Wylie’s Orchestra is at Elberta Beach.” Cleveland Plain Dealer. July 15, 1928.
East of Vermilion, Ohio (Location is approximate)

Tell us about Elberta Beach

Many of the locations documented on Green Book Cleveland are not well-documented in the historical record. If you have additional information about Elberta Beach, please let us know by sharing a memory, correction, or suggestion using the comment form below.

Or send an email to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *