Perhaps the most unique historical fact about Willoughby, Ohio is that it is the only City in America to have been at one time or another situated in six different counties (Washington, Jefferson, Trumbull, Geauga, Cuyahoga, and, currently, Lake). But, even without being aware of that bit of historical trivia, many residents recognize the unique qualities of this small village-like community.
Considered a suburb of Cleveland — it is located about 20 miles east-northeast of Cleveland along Route 20, Euclid Avenue — Willoughby in fact appears to be its own traditional small Midwestern town. That impression is reinforced by Willoughby’s well-preserved city center of a main avenue, lined by historic low brick buildings, and terminating in a city park, replete with gazebo, florals, stately trees, Civil War memorial, cannon and military plaques.
Located about the city center park are the Colonial-styled City Hall, the local Chamber of Commerce, Lake Academy, and Willoughby United Methodist Church. On axis with the park is Erie Street, Willoughby’s main commercial street, with its assortment of streetside cafés, restaurants, galleries, shops and businesses. Reinvestment in the city core has resulted in brick paving, decorative streetlamps, plentiful on-street parking, and a pedestrian-friendly ambience. One of the more popular civic events is the Annual Willoughby Art and Craft Show, which, for a weekend each summer, stretches along Erie Street to Wes Point Park.
The region’s first significant non-Native American resident was Yale alum David Abbott, who arrived in the late 1700s from New York and acquired 200 acres. He was one of a group of settlers that invested in a sawmill and a gristmill. The city was to pass through the monikers of Charlton, Chagrin, Abbott’s Mills and Chagrin Mills, before being named Willoughby, after local Willoughby University (which was itself named for Dr. Westel Willoughby, once a professor at Fairfield Medical College in New York).
Today, Willoughby boasts a population of more than 22,000, many of whom display the same characteristics of integrity and industriousness as the city’s founders. Local educational institutions include the Willoughby Fine Arts Association, Andrews Osborne Academy and Lakeland Community College. Area attractions also include the United States Aviation Museum, Lost Nation Sports Park, and Willoughby Brewing Company.