Woods Social Inn earned its spot in the Green Book because it was one of Lorain’s oldest African American owned businesses. Before Porter Woods opened Woods Social Inn, he was a steelworker with a dream of becoming an entrepreneur. He desired to open a nightlife spot so that people in Lorain would have an entertainment space without having to go all the way to Elyria. Through hard work, Porter Woods opened his first business at 1846 Broadway Road and later moved it to 1759 Broadway Road.
In 1916, he opened his pool room and barber shop at 1846 Broadway. His business was at that location until 1919 when he purchased a rooming house at 1759 Broadway. This new building had two main businesses: Our Beer Parlor and Woods Barbershop. Our Beer Parlor was a night spot that served food and drinks. It is likely that he served soft drinks or non-intoxicating near beer since Prohibition began in 1920. In addition, Porter Woods was the main barber at Woods Social Inn and was known as a superb barber.
After purchasing the former rooming house, Woods did some remodeling work to make more space for his poolroom and barbershop. In 1927, he added 20 feet to the downstairs making the square footage of the downstairs roughly 1,020 square feet. In addition, he added two rooms and a bathroom upstairs. He further pursued the expansion of his business after Prohibition, and in 1936 Porter Woods was granted a beer and wine license, making him the first African American in Lorain to dispense alcoholic beverages. After he obtained the liquor license, he closed Our Beer Parlor in April 1937 for renovations.
When Our Beer Parlor reopened, it did so under a new name. Woods Social Inn opened its doors to the public in August 1937. The inn was redecorated in green and yellow following the renovation. Porter Woods also started to provide a nice selection of alcohol and live entertainment for his patrons. Scotty Ford and Chocker Campbell were two acts that provided entertainment at the inn. He also held events at Woods Social Inn, such as New Year’s Eve parties and a Daughter Elks barbecue. Moreover, Woods rented out an upstairs room for private parties. Patrons could stop by the inn and request the room on a moment’s notice. The barbershop also continued to operate out of this location. Woods Social Inn was a thriving business after the renovations, but Porter Woods could not run this business on his own forever.
In 1941, Woods became ill and was forced into an early retirement. His son James possessed not only a barber license but also the drive to take over the family business. Porter Woods passed away in 1945, leaving the business entirely in his son James’s care. Under James Woods’s ownership, this dine and night spot continued to flourish. In 1947, there was another remodel to the building to make the inn even larger and accommodate more patrons.
Woods Social Inn was so popular under James Woods’s ownership that in a 1955 Call & Post article the inn was deemed “one of the most popular night spots west of Cleveland.” Despite its popularity in the 1950s, all good things must come to an end and Woods Social Inn closed in the mid-1960s. Woods Social Inn was a recreation house that brought nightlife to Lorain from the late 1910s to the mid-1960s.
Green Book Details
Wood’s Social Inn appears in the Green Book from 1952 to 1955 at 1759 Broadway in Lorain. In 1952-53 it appears under the category Restaurants and in 1954-55 it appears under the category Inns.
See also Mrs. Porter Wood.
- Calloway, Sara. “Lorain News: 2167 Elyria Ave.” Call & Post. Aug 4, 1938.
- Calloway, Sarah. “Lorain.” Call & Post. January 7, 1937.
- Calloway, Sarah. “Lorain.” Call & Post. August 26, 1937.
- Calloway, Sarah. “Lorain.” Call & Post. August 5, 1937.
- “The Five Stars.” Call & Post. January 1, 1955.
- “Lorain Leader Dies.” Call & Post. November 10, 1945.
- “Lorain News.” Call & Post. May 11, 1939.
- Sinclair, Daisy. “Lorain Steel City News.” Call & Post. Sept 24, 1949.
- “Woods Was Steel Worker.” The Lorain Journal. June 21, 1955.