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Before discovering Lorain's former Orange gem, we searched for Elyria, but did not locate it. Loraine was situated far off of the Ohio Turnpike, and I wondered as we passed relics of the rustbelt if we would come upon the old HJ! My fears relieved, Chris' Restaurant soon came into view. Except that its Dairy Bar was removed, the Restaurant retains the feel of a HoJo's. Tables, booths, a decorative screen, and other details date from when the Restaurant was still in the Orange Roofed empire. Adjacent to the Erieview Motel, Lorain's Howard Johnson's Restaurant was open by 1955.

Former HoJo's: Loraine, OH

Former HoJo's: Cleveland-Lake, OH

After we soaked up some HoJo's atmosphere in Loraine, our first sighting in the Cleveland area was Lake Ave. Still in the hands of the family that operated it as a HoJo, the Restaurant has become an upscale eatery. Its exterior is little altered since its HJ days. Porcelain enamel roof tiles still grace the facade, but have been painted brown. Not a standard location, it was converted into a Howard Johnson's in the 1940s and remained a HoJo's into the early 1970s.
Even as the neighborhood around it has deteriorated, the former Howard Johnson's on Lake Avenue is a viable Restaurant. With its fresh and modern interior, it serves a well heeled crowd with its upscale prices. Leaving Lake Ave., we passed through downtown Cleveland searching for the former location at 1307 Euclid which could have been a storefront. Neither Dan nor I discovered its remains. Also known as Mt. Union, Richard Jenkins wrote me that it could have been the Playhouse Square Stouffer's that he remembers being in the area in the 1960s. Mildly disappointed at not seeing anything, we attempted to follow Cleveland's poorly marked streets to get out of the city and head over to the Lake Front site.

Former HoJo's: Cleveland-Lake Front, OH
Wow! What an incredible ruin. Built and opened with great fanfare, it was one of the more highly billed Howard Johnson's. Featured in a Newsweek article, it was Cleveland's only lake shore hotel. Along with its traditional Orange Roofed Nims-type Restaurant, it also housed a penthouse Red Coach Grill. With its windows covered over with plywood painted black, the once swank Motor Lodge crumbles and awaits near certain demolition. 

Howard Johnson: Geneva, OH

Former HoJo's: Cleveland-N. Randall, OH

Although it was not not convenient, Geneva was our next stop. Almost to Pennsylvania, Geneva's Restaurant was the last Howard Johnson's Restaurant to operate in Ohio. Having survived with its famous brand name intact after Marriott acquired all of the Howard Johnson corporate property, Geneva's ownership was transferred to FAI on July 26, 1991 along with 16 other Marriott HoJo's. At the time of the transfer there were 91 Howard Johnson's Restaurants. However by 1995 FAI had liquidated the location. In the course of its existence FAI has bled the Howard Johnson's Restaurant name dry. Once the most recognized Restaurant chain on the globe, and a symbol of American entrepreneurial spirit, FAI took fifteen years to obliterate its good name.

Geneva's Motor Lodge is one of the last original Howard Johnson's in Ohio. Even though Dan and I had decided to stay at the former Independence Motor Lodge, we were tempted briefly to spend the night at Geneva. The desk clerk was very friendly and offered a reasonable rate, but after a quick tour we decided to keep our reservation at Independence. Geneva has been renovated at least several times to keep Cendant happy, and has lost enough of its HJ feel to warrant passing it by. Additionally, surveillance cameras recorded our every move while we were in the Motor Lodge which was a little unnerving.



Former HoJo's: Cleveland-Independence, OH

Former HoJo's: Willoughby Hills, OH

Headed back to the Cleveland area, Dan stretched around in the car to try to spot Willoughby Hills. He saw it too late! Unable to catch its exit in time we headed to see North Randall before reaching Independence. North Randall has been branded a Knights Inn, and has seen its share of renovation since its HoJo's days. It is not completely clear where the Restaurant had been sited, but it was perhaps where a small strip shopping center now rests or perhaps where a nearby Bob Evens was operating. While the Gate Lodge has been remodeled, its interior is worth a look! Interestingly the location was built with a single story guest building facing the highway, and the two story buildings were built behind the Gate Lodge and a small stream or drainage ditch. A quick trip to find Bedford came up empty. Broadway has been readdressed, but apparently the old HoJo Restaurant site is now occupied by an automobile dealership.

Ready by now to stop for the night, we arrived at Independence. It is sited in an odd location, for it is difficult to access even as it has reasonable visibility from both I-77 and I-480. The high-rise Motor Lodge straddles the Cuyahoga River Valley and the Ohio Canal. Only a few miles form the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and adjacent to the Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway, the Motor Lodge offers a broad view of the valley. As a Days Inn, the former HJ offers freshly remodeled rooms and only a few reminders of its past as a Howard Johnson's. As a Chinese eatery, the former Restaurant did not appeal to us, so we headed up the hill to eat at Harry's Steak House which gave us $5 off the meal ticket by showing our Days Inn keycard.
Official Site: Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Official Site: CanalWay Ohio National Scenic Byway


Former HoJo's: Cleveland-University Circle, OH

After a good night's rest at Independence, we backtracked to see Willoughby Hills. Most recently it had been a restaurant called Fazio's, but it closed and the property was surrounded by a chain link fence to keep curious HoJomaniacs at a distance.  Trying to stay ahead of the pending rain, we sought out South Euclid, Cleveland Heights, and Kinsman. All of the sites came up empty. Hoping to see University Circle next, I drove us over to the busy area where it had been. Because of the heavy traffic and pedestrians who ignored the rules of decorum, I missed University Circle's remains on the first pass, but turned around and stopped to see what was left. Once a multi-story high rise Motor Lodge complemented the earlier colonial-type Restaurant that had been built at University Circle. By 2004 nothing remained of the Motor Lodge, but the Restaurant became the Children's Museum of Cleveland. Hidden by a tent-like structure, parts of its Orange Rood bleed through. The interior reeked of little children, and an unfriendly employee could not understand English so it was not a pleasant place where I would want to take children!

On the way to see the former Airport HJ, we headed over to try to locate North Olmstead, but found nothing. Cleveland's airport Howard Johnson's location was a bit of a mystery that we hoped to solve. Located in Brookpark, Airport was at first just a stand-alone Restaurant adjacent to a non-HJ motel. Directories that later listed a Motor Lodge as Airport, indicated a completely different address making it seem like there were perhaps two Restaurants or at least that perhaps the earlier one had been moved to the Motor Lodge when it had opened. But our presuppositions were wrong! The original restaurant, Brooks Family Restaurant by 2004, remained the HoJo's that was listed in directories with the Motor Lodge. Even though their respective addresses appear to separate them, the two structures are only about half a block apart--still it was a slightly unusual arrangement, but at least we were able to figure it out by seeing the site in person.

Before calling it a day, we had one more HJ to see--Strongsville. On maps, its location looked awkward, for there was no easy access to it from the Ohio Turnpike which ran right along its side. Thus, the location did not completely make sense. Both its Restaurant building and Motor Lodge structures remain. The Gate Lodge still featured its original and intended shape! It wasn't until I pulled up the Ohio Turnpike's website that I discovered that the location once had its own exit off of the Turnpike. A vintage aerial photograph clearly shows how well the Howard Johnson's had been situated alongside Ohio's Superhighway!


Former HoJo's: Cleveland-Airport, OH

Former HoJo's: Cleveland-Strongsville, OH

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