One of the things I miss most about Ohio is the fall with its brilliant colors and unmistakable smells of leaves burning and simmering apple cider, or perhaps a spiced pumpkin latte these days. On a recent trip back to Ohio I decided to visit the scenic village of Chagrin Falls, which exudes traditional small town Americana. Its beautiful natural waterfall in the center of town is one of the key attractions as well as browsing the Mom and Pop shops, some of which have been here for generations. Rich in artistic appeal, Chagrin Falls also attracts visitors with its numerous art, film and cultural opportunities.
Considered by some to be a suburb of Cleveland, Chagrin Falls is located to the east and just on the outskirts of Cleveland with a population of slightly more than 4000. Originally settled in 1833, the first residents arrived from Massachusetts, and these craftsmen, carpenters and mechanics helped build the new village of Chagrin Falls. In 1842 power derived from the Chagrin River was enough to support an industry of mills here including woolen mills, flour mills, a paper mill, sawmills and various small factories. Finally in 1844 Chagrin Falls became a village.
Situated in the center of town under the Main Street Bridge is the 20 foot high picturesque waterfall, for which the town was named. I didn’t have to ask directions for the waterfall since I could hear it roaring as I walked up Main Street. Conveniently there are wooden staircases on both sides to view the falls from different vantage points. On the other side of Main Street is a smaller waterfall where ducks peacefully swim and enjoy their habitat.
Downtown Chagrin Falls is a pleasant place for walking around and the shop owners could not be friendlier. They are happy to help give directions and recommendations, or answer questions about their historic village. Two of the more popular shops are the popcorn factory and the ice cream shop.
The Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop Factory is one of the most well known establishments and is located just next to the falls on Main Street. Popping fresh batches of popcorn since the 1940’s, the shop offers popcorn, kettle corn, cheese popcorn and caramel popcorn. It has become a tradition to buy a box of popcorn and walk down to the falls.
Another very popular place just up the street is Jeni’s Ice Creams which features unusual concoctions of freshly made ice cream that tastes much better than it sounds. All fresh ingredients are used and they focus on what is in season. I had a cone with two half-scoops, one was sweet corn and black raspberries, and the other was brambleberry crisp. Mmmmmm. Next time I may try the Parmesan and zucchini bread!
Films Made Here
This is the kind of town that would make a good movie location, and in fact several films were made here, including the 1977 TV film, “The Gathering” with Ed Asner and Maureen Stapleton. More recently (1996) “House Arrest” staring Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Pollak featured some scenes which were filmed here.
Culture and Arts
2011 is the second year for the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival held in October. Twenty-seven different countries submitted films this year and the festival runs for five days, with films being shown throughout the day. Various venues in the town are used including the Township Hall, the Performing Arts Center, Philomethian St. Auditorium and various churches.
Chagrin Valley Little Theatre
The Chagrin Valley Little Theatre began more than 80 years ago in a church gymnasium. Today the community theatre at 40 River Street produces high quality productions featuring area local talent. Some of the productions featured this season include “The 39 Steps,” “Enchanted April,” “Hairspray” and “Scrooge.” Last summer actor Tim Conway who grew up in Chagrin Falls did a benefit performance at the theatre to celebrate its 80th anniversary.
Chagrin Falls is one of those small towns that brings a smile to my face just being there.