Willowick’s Jennifer Boresz Engelking digs into ‘Hidden History of Lake County, Ohio’ | Arts & Entertainment

Jennifer Boresz Engelking sees herself as a lifelong resident of Lake County.

As a freelance journalist, she wrote briefly for The News-Herald about a decade and a half ago and has written and co-produced historical documentaries for PBS stations in northeast Ohio in recent years.

OK, there were a couple of years in the mid to late 2000s when work as a television news reporter took her to Toledo and Erie, Pennsylvania, but she’s been back in Willowick – which is where she grew up – for more than a decade.

Jennifer Boresz Engelking

Jennifer Boresz Engelking of Willowick is the author of Hidden History of Lake County, Ohio.

That experience actually led to her getting a small but speaking role as a television news reporter in the 2010 drama film “Unstoppable” about a runaway train starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine.

“Director Tony Scott was looking for someone who had actually been a reporter, so it was really good timing because I just got away with being a reporter,” says Engelking, who adds that she wasn’t given any written lines. “They told me he liked adlib and they said just throw out some ideas for the lines, so (I thought), ‘If I wrote about it, I would say that. ‘So it was pretty cool. “

Sure, but Engelking recently fulfilled a long-standing dream by writing the book, The Hidden History of Lake County, Ohio.

“It really comes full circle when I tell my parents,” One day I want to write a book and become a writer, “she says.” It has always been something I wanted to do. “

The book was published earlier this year by The History Press, a reprint from Arcadia Publishing, and is part of the company’s Hidden History book series. It covers a wide range of subjects including the founding of the county on March 6, 1840; the sinking of the SS GP Griffith 10 years later; and the Willoughbeach amusement park, which once brought good times to the general area north of Willowick’s Shoregate Town Center.

Engelking says she is a lover of both storytelling and local history.

“There had to be a lot more to the stories than I knew,” she says. “So I contacted The History Press and Arcadia Publishing.”

After completing a lengthy book proposal, she was signed up and spent a year researching and writing.

The biggest challenge, she says, was reducing everything she eventually got from old books and newspaper articles and interviews to what would fit the publisher’s desired length.

“The more I researched, the more I discovered. There’s just so much history in Lake County. “

Hidden History Bootlegger Heist

Fairport Mayor Amy Kaukonen and Marshal Leander Congos are photographed with confiscated footage from a piracy attack in the early 1920s. Photo courtesy of Lisa Potti for use in Hidden History of Lake County, Ohio.

Although she is not yet signed to it, she expects to begin work on a follow-up on The History Press “Lost” series, “Lost Lake County,” later this year.

While she wants to delve deeper into the sad history of Griffith in this book, she dedicates a few pages to her early on in “Hidden History of Lake County”.

“On warm summer evenings at the Lakefront Lodge, the residents of Willowick enjoy a wide view of Lake Erie as the sun sets below the horizon and brushstrokes in pink, orange and deep purple across the sky,” begins the chapter “Maritime History” and that Section on the disaster. “It’s hard to imagine that such an idyllic setting was once the setting for one of the Great Lakes’ greatest tragedies.”

It further hues the details about the key of the story – among the hundreds of passengers believed to have been on board – when the ship became his on June 17, 1850, the day after it left Buffalo for three years encounters dark fate. Day trip to Toledo. A fire caused the ship to hit a sandbar and eventually an estimated 286 people died, she writes.

She writes about the efforts of prominent residents immediately after the sinking.

“They tried to bandage as many bodies as possible with the family so that they could bury them, as they chose, but many (the victims) – they had to be buried in these mass graves.”

There is disagreement about where exactly these tombs are, she says, and that’s a big reason she wants to delve deeper into the saga.

This section leads to a section on the amusement park mentioned above, a certain highlight of which graces the cover of the book.

“To think that there was a giant roller coaster and not a roller coaster – these people would take their car and run it up the ramp for that roller coaster and then they would just go down a canyon,” she says. “It’s really interesting and I don’t think most people know about it.”

Willoughbybeach coasters

This photo of the roller coaster at Willoughbeach Amusement Park in Hidden History of Lake County Ohio was made available to the author by the Willoughby Historical Society.

Among the many other places in Lake County that she mentions in Hidden History is the Unionville Tavern, also known as The Old Tavern, in the Madison area. She credits a story she wrote for The News-Herald to pique her interest in it. When she was there, she said the owner showed her an entrance to a tunnel in the basement that was part of the subway.

“I’ve wanted to dig into the story behind the tavern ever since, and it was one of my inspirations to write the book,” she says.

She promoted the book through appearances that range from virtual to personal, but she appreciated the former.

“The big thing that I see as positive with all of the things about the pandemic over the past year is the ability to host these virtual events. I’ve had some where 70 or 80 people signed up and I know that in normal times, not many people may be able to get to an event, ”she says. “I think it’s nice to be able to reach so many people.”

She says she really enjoyed this “hidden history” journey.

“It’s exciting for me to get my first book out because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but the fact that my book is about the area I grew up in and love makes it even more special. “

Jennifer Boresz Engelking’s “Hidden History of Lake County, Ohio” is a 208-page paperback book that retails for $ 21.99. Learn more at JenniferBoresz.com. Their next public event is on May 29th, 9-11am at the Willowick Outdoor Flea Market in Manry Park. Further appearances can be found at bit.ly/jbe-events.

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