History of the Village
The first settlers of Chagrin Falls in 1833 were attracted to the clear river, with its large and small waterfalls, and the towering timbers of its virgin forests. These represented sources of power for mills and lumber for buildings. The present serenity of our tree-lined streets, well-kept houses and charming shops do not suggest our beginnings as a bustling mill town. Yet our destiny was to evolve from a manufacturing town to a peaceful and friendly residential community.
The first settlers were God-fearing, hardworking people looking for greater opportunities for their families. They came predominately from New England and England, the last part of their journey by canal boat, wagon, or on foot. First, they built shelter for their families, then they went about the task of establishing mills and small factories. Soon they began meeting together to worship God according to their personal inclinations—in homes, or “over a store”, until congregations could be established and funds raised. Early denominations included the Congregationalists, Disciples of Christ, Methodists, Free Will Baptist and Bible Christian Church.
The waterfalls along the river were soon harnessed to run a variety of enterprises. The mills and foundries produced items such as axes, paper, wool, woodenware, sad irons and a variety of products that were sold throughout the United States and internationally. The 9 dams on the river powered the early industries that lined the river, and when the railway came in 1877, more industry sprung up along the rail lines. In the years after it was incorporated in 1844, the Village exhibited all the hallmarks of a mill town including muddy streets and saloons.
As mill owners prospered, they replaced their early homes with more impressive ones, often moving their first homes to other lots. Today, architectural variety lends charm to the village. Chagrin boasts three separate historic districts on the National Register of historic places, with over 100 contributing structures. Education was highly valued by early residents. At first classes were held in private homes; churches sponsored spelling classes; and a small school was opened on Main Street. The present Chagrin Falls school campus, which the High School, Middle School Performing Arts Center and athletic facilities occupy, was once the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds.