The North Coast Legacy Created by a German Immigrant and Entrepreneur
Turning 20e Century Cleveland provided many opportunities for thousands of immigrants. Many have used these opportunities to create remarkable new lives for themselves and their families.
A perfect example is the life and legacy of Otto Poschke.
Born in Germany in 1884, he was brought to Cleveland when he was three years old. As a young adult, he worked as a streetcar driver.
Edgewater Park Bathhouse, 1927In his spare time, he joined his wife, Elma, whom he married in 1911, to run a refreshment stand near the new building. Edgewater Park Public Bath. The timing was ideal. The bathhouse drew large crowds who found themselves thirsty and hungry – and a short walk from Poschke’s modest business. The menu was simple, offering popcorn, soft drinks, taffy, sandwiches and a selection of grilled meats.
The original structure was a square just 10 feet by 10 feet, but when Poschke expanded to open five locations, the collective benefits were enormous.
Tired of being shunned as the owner of “that little popcorn stand”, the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties led Poschke to believe that a major expansion of the refreshment stand was warranted. And he expanded it.
He hired architect Henry Hradilek to design a new establishment on the same site of his original refreshment stand. Hradilek was born in Moravia, in what is now the Czech Republic. He was primarily known as a designer of single-family homes in Cleveland Heights.
The contrast between his new design for Poschke and the old establishment could not have been greater.
The new structure provided a restaurant and bar on the first floor, with private rooms for parties on the second. The entire third floor was home to Poschke’s large family, which grew to include five children. This living space measured 3,500 square feet and was accessible by a private elevator. He also provided a rooftop garden with a memorable view of the lake.
Poschke’s success spanned nearly two decades, finally ending in 1941 when a series of business and personal setbacks saw him lose the property.
A year later, the establishment reopened as the Howard Johnson Restaurant, a function it served for the next 30 years.
In 1972, change came again when the building was purchased by famed Cleveland restaurateur Don Strang, a 1960 graduate of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. He went to work for his father strange society—managing properties in four different cities before becoming CEO in 1971.
In 1972 Strang purchased Poschke’s former property and opened Don Lighthouse Inn (now known as Don’s Lighthouse Grille) on Poschke’s former property.
Don’s Lighthouse quickly gained an excellent reputation, confirmed by the fact that in an industry notorious for its short lifespan, the restaurant’s latest incarnation thrived for half a century, with a continuing reputation for excellent steaks, seafood and cocktails.
The business has grown exponentially, with one of its best-known local businesses being Don’s Pomeroy Houseserving steaks and seafood. Strang bought the 19e mid-19e Century Strongville mansion in 1975, restored it and opened the restaurant in 1980.
One hundred years after Don’s lighthouse was built at a cost of $250,000, the restaurant remains in the same location on Lake Avenue in the Edgewater neighborhood, serving the same function – a far cry from Poschke’s refreshment stand that once hosted swimmers from Edgewater Park.
Don’s Lighthouse is an island of stability in a world that has turned around many times since Otto and Elma Poschke first gazed out over the lake from their roof garden and marveled at how far it had come.