Discover Vermilion

Vermilion, Ohio is the crowning jewel of the south shore of Lake Erie. From quaint shops to fine dining, the arts, entertainment and unmatched festivities, Vermilion truly has it all. Be reminded of a simpler time when an afternoon at the beach, a hand-dipped ice cream cone and a stroll along Main Street made your day special. Stay for a day, maybe two, and take home a memory that will last forever.  This enchanting little town has always been a sea side community with New England style atmosphere.  This is the kind of town that still has a working soda fountain, a town square and summer concerts on the green.  People here actually sit on their front porches on a summer evening. Visiting boats are not only welcomed, they are an important part of the ambiance of what locals call “Harbour Town.”

Great Place to Drop Anchor

The City of Vermilion is situated along the Southern shore of Lake Erie and embraces the Vermilion River. Vermilion was once known as the “Village of Lake Captains,” and no other place in Ohio has so many beautifully maintained captains’ homes in its historic district.

Our Harbour Town Historic District also features housing styles from the Victorian, Italianate, Arts and Crafts, and Queen Anne eras. Take an evening stroll in our gracious neighborhoods and experience the quality of life of a bygone era. Other neighborhoods retain the charm of Summer Lake cottages nestled along the shore, while contemporary construction blends with yesterday’s heritage.

The Vermilion River, which flows into Lake Erie, endows marina facilities with more than 1,000 boat slips and ramps for easy access to the Lake, earning Vermilion the title of the “Largest Small Boat Harbour on the Great Lakes.” Lake freighters are also a regular sight on Lake Erie making their way through the Great Lakes nine months out of the year.

Public docks are within walking distance of  Bed & Breakfasts, dozens of retail stores and restaurants ranging from family style to fine French cuisine, a beach and several parks, and a variety of art galleries. The wealth of attractions so close to protected dockage makes Vermilion a very popular cruising destination.

Rare is the port of call with as much to offer. The Harbour Town 1837 Historic District is the center of our attractive Vermilion community. Located in the heart of this district is Historic Downtown Vermilion. Our picturesque and quaint Historic Downtown Vermilion is the focal point for offices, the City Administration, the Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Vermilion, restaurants, shops, galleries, marinas, the Vermilion Mainline and tourist activities. Our community is dedicated to making Vermilion your destination for a day, a week, or an entire lifetime. Community wide revitalization efforts have encouraged property owners to retain the unique charm of their businesses and homes while maintaining high standards of care and construction. Nowhere will you find a community with such a diversity of housing, reasonable tax base, educational excellence, and New England style charm.

Cultural Attractions & Events

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Vermilion is recognized for its festivals and community events, including the Great Lakes Pirate Fest and Vermilion Harbour Triathlon/Duathlon.  The Woollybear Festival is a one-day gathering that draws over 150,000 visitors to our city and includes the longest parade in Ohio.  The Festival of the Fish, held each June, is a three-day event drawing visitors to take part in our celebration of the sea. Historic SummerFare – Antiques, Collectibles & Artisans in the Park brings thousands of visitors for the annual car show, street dance and Antiques in the Park. Outdoor movies and concerts are offered all summer long, as well as Second Saturday Citywide Sales. Christmas in July celebrates winter in summer with Santa arriving by riverboat.  Santa returns by way of the Christmas tree ship, Vermilion’s re-enactment of the 1887 Rousse Simmons, in December. Art shows are planned throughout the year. Additional events include Scavenger Hunts, the Annual Chocolate Festival, Taste of Vermilion, the Annual Gardeners Fair, the Annual Duck Dash 500, Crusin’ Car Show, and much, much more.

Vermilion is located on the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail, the Wing Watch & Wine Trail, the Back Roads & Beaches Bike Route, the Lake Erie Circle Tour and the Shipwrecks & Maritime Tales of Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail.
The Inland Seas Maritime Museum, located adjacent to Main Street Beach was moved to Toledo in 2010

Vermilion River Reservation is home to the the picturesque Bacon House Museum at Mill Hollow. Walk through the original settler Benjamin Bacon’s house, built in 1845. The museum features themes of daily living and puts an emphasis on the community life, including the profound effect the railroad had on the economy and on people’s lives.

Ritter Public Library, which is the jewel of our community, provides cultural events, plays, speakers, book clubs, and educational programs to all levels of our community. Meeting and housing space is provided for the many non-profit activities and events in town.
The Arts Guild features rotating exhibits of a new Artist of the Month, as well as special art shows and events.  A wealth of art galleries abound in the Harbour Town district. The Vermilion Community Music Association, which features the Community Band, Community Chorus, and the Wind Jammer Dance Band, provides professional music services to numerous events throughout the year. The Vermilion Area Archival Society stores and indexes archival materials for research from the Vermilion area and provides assistance, as well as monthly programs, regarding the history and records of the area.
Vermilion’s Old Town Hall & Opera House is being restored for visual art performances.  The area’s largest vineyard and winery is located on Vermilion’s South Side.

In the Heart of It All


The City of Vermilion, population 10,927, is nestled in both Erie and Lorain Counties and borders Lake Erie and the scenic Vermilion River. Our 16 block Historic Downtown Vermilion serves as the Central Business District (CBD), which consists of City Administration Offices and Municipal Court, many retail businesses, professional offices, waterfront restaurants, marinas, and cultural entertainment and activities. The City of Vermilion is located just 35 miles west of Cleveland with world class cultural activities and within close proximity of Interstate 80-90, State Route 2, US Route 6, State Route 60, State Route 113, and rail, water, and air transportation. Cedar Point, the most popular tourist destination in Ohio, is only minutes away to the west and ferry services provide hi-speed passenger service to Kelleys Island and Put-in-Bay. The city is also adjacent to the Lorain County Metro Park system and the Erie County Metro Park system.  Just outside Vermilion you’ll discover gently rolling hills of picturesque countryside. The area is known for its many orchards, wineries, alpaca farms and roadside fruit and vegetable stands.

Harbour Town 1837


Harbour Town is home to dozens of retail shops, restaurants, professional businesses,  marinas, accommodations and tourist activities.  Visit Harbour Town by car or boat.  Downtown public docks are within walking distance of  dozens of boutiques, art galleries and fine dining.  Harbour Town is also home to a beach and several parks.  Enjoy the sandy beach, recreational boating of every kind, jet skis, canoeing, sailing and more where ship building was once the major industry. On summer nights, residents and visitors congregate on the large deck at Main Street Beach to watch boats sail back and forth in front of the beautiful Lake Erie sunset and enjoy the Mystic Belle, a small paddle wheeler, offering rides on the Vermilion River.

Harbour Town features events and entertainment throughout the year including sidewalk entertainment, artists, grand parades, festivals and bazaars.  Summer months feature outside music and movies and weekly events.  Winter offers an array of holiday activities and fabulous shopping bargains.
It doesn’t get any better for rail buffs than Vermilion’s historic downtown, with at least 5 trains racing through town every hour.  The railroad action in Vermilion is virtually non-stop, and no other railroad town offers a more beautiful location in a picturesque town on the shores of Lake Erie.

Sister City: Paimpol


Paimpol is a small town on the northern coast of Brittany in north-west France.  It is a very popular tourist destination, especially during the summer months when people are attracted by its port and beaches.  This enchanting town is notable for its pink granite cliffs which mark the boundary between land and sea and its oyster beds which provide a substantial portion of the town’s economy.

Paimpol features regular events such as the Tuesday morning street market, night-markets, and “Mardi du port” – where tourists can enjoy diverse world music beside the port. Paimpol is also home to the bi-annual Sea Shanty Festival which attracts thousands of visitors, a reflection of the local residents’ pride in their maritime heritage. Lovers of the sea and musicians and dancers from all over the world come to Paimpol for this three-day festival.
The fishing fleets of old are long gone. The Marina is now a place for pleasure craft. An interesting trip can be taken on board an old tunny boat, “Le Vieux Copain” (the Old Pal.)
Paimpol also commemorates its sailors who were drowned in Icelandic waters in a special festival in which the townsfolk parade through the streets each summer. Other festivals include a three yearly celebration of the Coquilles Saint Jacques (almost as beloved here as the oyster.)
The town center leads from the port down to the coast, through charming cobbled streets filled with lively restaurants, cafés and bars. An especially beautiful part of the town center is the Quartier latin. It was at La place du Martray that Pierre Loti chose to put the house of Gaud, the heroine of his famous novel Pêcheur d’Islande.  Most facilities are present, with the town being well equipped with necessities such as schools, doctors and banks.  The sea museum and the costume’s Breton museum offers the history of Brittany.
The coastal paths which run around the town’s edges are wonderful for walking and appreciating the glorious seascapes. The cliff paths offer some amazing views, particularly over the enchanting island of Bréhat.  Abbaye de Beauport, dating back to 1202, is beautifully restored with 98 acres of glorious park. Other popular tourist sights include the and the chapels of Lanvignec, Ste Barbe and Kergrist.
Many sports are available in or near to Paimpol, with a golf course and an excellent equestrian center for pony trekking. Sea sports are popular too, of course, and there are sailing schools and opportunities for windsurfing and swimming.
Inhabitants of Paimpol are called Paimpolais.  As of the census of 1999, the town has a population of 7,932.
L’île de Bréhat is a rocky archipelago 10 minutes by ferry from the coast next to Paimpol. It is made up of two large islands connected by a bridge, and numerous smaller ones.  Other places of interest include the Moulin de Craca and Circuit de falaises in Plouézec, as well as Pors-Even and the Tour de Kerroc’h in Ploubazlanec.
The name of the commune comes from the Breton PEN (end) and poul (pond,) “the head of the pond”. Formerly, there were many ponds and Paimpol was a peninsula. At the time of spring tide, the districts of the station and Fairground were flooded.
About Sister Cities
Town twinning is a concept whereby towns or cities in geographically and politically distinct areas are paired, with the goal of fostering human contact and cultural links. In Europe, such pairs of towns are known as twin towns, friendship towns or partner towns; in North America, India and Australasia, the term sister cities is used for the same concept; and brother cities is the term in the former Soviet bloc. Sister cities often have similar demographic and other characteristics.  The concept can be likened to a scaled up version of a “pen pal” program, in which the “pals” are whole towns or cities. In practice, the twinning arrangements often lead to student exchange programs, as well as economic and cultural collaborations.  The first city in North America to establish a sister city relationship was Toledo, Ohio, United States, with Toledo, Spain in 1931.
The American “Sister Cities” program was begun in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower. It was originally administered as part of the National League of Cities, but since 1967 it has been a separate organization, Sister Cities International (SCI), which is a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network creating and strengthening partnerships between U.S. and international communities in an effort to increase global cooperation at the municipal level, to promote cultural understanding and to stimulate private business and economic development.

The Haunting History of Gore Orphanage & Swift’s Hollow


It’s a nightmarish scene in the countryside of Vermilion on Gore Road over one hundred years ago.  A gigantic fire engulfs an old orphanage burning dozens of young children alive.  Desperate to escape the inferno, the children on the second floor found the stairs blocked by flames.  Dreadful screams of the children trapped inside the blazing building pierce the ears of horrified onlookers unable to stop the carnage.  The deadly destruction continues until the screams finally fall silent and the only sound that lingers is the crackling and roar of the hellish flames. The smoke ascends into the night sky, carrying with it the souls of over 100 poor orphan children. The building is soon reduced to a pile of  glowing embers with only a remnant of the foundation and stone pillars forever preserved for future generations to happen upon.

Were the spirits of the helpless children extinguished with the flames, or do they still cry out in the middle of the night  from beyond the grave?  Do the lost souls wander the area, forever tortured by a reality too difficult to accept?  Was the  fire sparked by an orphan boy dropping a lamp? Or perhaps it was intentionally set by Old Man Gore, the abusive man who ran the institution, for insurance or just plain sadistic torture?
So is the legend of Gore Orphanage.

The Real Story of Gore Orphanage & Swift’s Hollow


For over a century visitors to Gore Orphanage Road have reported strange experiences of glowing lights, apparitions and  chilling cries of unseen children.  The area is said to be one of the most haunted locations in Ohio.

Despite the inaccuracies of the Gore Orphanage legend, the true tale of the institution and the Swift’s Hollow mansion are more haunting than fiction.  Over the course of time, three tales of terror have been woven into one horrific legend of torture, fire and the paranormal.
Light of Hope, the actual name of the orphanage, was established in 1902 by a religious zealot named Reverend Johann Sprunger.  The orphanage was located on Gore Road.  The road was originally laid out along the boundary line dividing Lorain County from its western neighbor, Huron County. When a surveying error was discovered, a thin strip of land resembling the gore of  a dress had to be annexed to Lorain.  Due to the popular association of the institution with the road, the name of the street came to be known as Gore Orphanage Road – a fitting name for the location of a now infamous orphanage with a hellish history.
Johann Sprunger and his wife Katharina moved to the Vermilion area after their former orphanage in Berne, Indiana was destroyed by fire.  Katharina was the daughter of Christian P. Sprunger.  Though no explanation has ever been given regarding Katharina’s surname being the same as her husband, a diary of a worker at the former Light of Hope Orphanage in Berne states that the orphanage was run by “Brother and Sister Sprunger.”  Three orphan girls were reported to have perished in the original Light of Hope fire.  Two of Sprunger’s former Indiana businesses had also ended by fire.  Prior to moving to Ohio the couple also lost their seven year old daughter, Hillegonda, and a son, Edmund, died at birth. The deaths appeared to spark a passionate obsession for religious pursuits in the couple.

The new orphanage site, just outside of Vermilion, consisted of four sets of farm buildings and covered 543 acres.  An abandoned mansion was also located on the property.  The once magnificent Greek revival house was built in the mid-nineteenth century by Joseph Swift, a successful farmer. Its many rooms were appointed with elaborate furnishings, ornate woodwork, marble columns, and other lavish decorations.  But to the Swift mansion soon came bad luck.  In 1831, Swift’s 5 year-old daughter Tryphenia died.  In 1841, Swift’s 24 year-old son, Heman, also died.  Soon after Swift’s fortunes dried up due to poor investments in the railroad business.  He sold the home to Nicholas Wilber, a renowned Spiritualist. Mysterious rituals and seances were said to be held regularly in the secluded mansion home conjuring up the spirits of deceased children.  The ghosts of children were said to appear frequently at the seances held in a special room of the home.  Wilber’s children were rumored to be psychic and could communicate with the ghosts of dead children.  While records and gravestones claim that four Wilber grandchildren died from a diphtheria epidemic after the Wilbers moved from the home, residents insisted that they died at the Swift mansion and were buried there.  The home was abandoned in 1901, and teenagers almost immediately began taking trips to the site, daring each other to enter the infamous haunted home.

Reverend Sprunger did not utilize the abandoned home for the new orphanage. Instead, he attempted to build a new, self-sustaining religious community on the property. He and his co-workers were devout Bible-believing Christian people.  A chapel room was located in the boy’s schoolhouse for frequent religious ceremonies.  Up to one hundred and twenty children were inmates of  the orphanage at one time. Boys lived at a farm called the Hughes farm and girls at the Howard farm.  The orphanage also housed a small printing press used to print their own school books, as well as a paper entitled “Light of Hope.”
But rumors of darkness and despair soon plagued the Light of Hope orphanage.  Orphan children ran away from the home, often wading through the Vermilion River to escape to Vermilion.  The children told horrific stories of abuse, neglect and slave labor.  The children were said to eat a diet of calves lungs, hog heads and sick cattle – if they were fed at all.  Corn was boiled in the same pot used to boil soiled underwear.  Although there were cows on the farm, children were said to often only be given butter once a week and occasionally pepper or sugar.
The children’s rooms were infested with rats and vermin. On occasions, rats crawled onto the beds and bit children while they lay asleep.  There was said to be only one bath tub for the boys, which they were allowed to use once every two weeks and had to use the same water.
Children told stories of Sprunger and the farm overseers beating them with a strap until great raw welts appeared on their bodies. Sprunger would also rent out the inmates of the home to neighboring farmers.
Illnesses and disease were alleged to be treated only by prayers.  Witnesses stated the children received a lack of regular schooling.
In 1909 an investigation was conducted, but because the State of Ohio had no laws or regulations pertaining to the operation of such institutions, nothing formally could be done about conditions at the orphanage.  The Sprunger’s admitted to much of the allegations against them.

Shortly before the investigation, in 1908, a disaster took place in the town of Collinwood, some forty miles east of Vermilion. 176 elementary school students were burned or  trampled to death when they became trapped in a stampede situation and couldn’t escape a fire that was consuming their school.  The children began descending down the stairs to the exit after the fire alarm was sounded, but the front stairwell was blocked by flames. According to witnesses, the children at the front broke from the lines and tried “to fight their way back to the floor above, while those who were coming down shoved them mercilessly back into the flames below.” Those who made it to the rear exit found it locked. Outside rescuers unlocked it but found it opened inward, so it was impossible to move against the press of dozens of  desperate bodies.  The fire swept through the hall, springing from one child to another, catching their hair and the dresses of the girls. The cries of the children were dreadful and haunting.  The school’s janitor, a German-American named Herter, was accused of setting the blaze (though he  lost four children in the fire and was badly burned trying to rescue one), and for a time he was detained in protective custody to keep residents from lynching him.

The horrific tale of  this event is thought to have been relocated when families of the Collinwood area (now East Cleveland) moved further west of Cleveland.  Some historians believe the horrid memories of such an event were too disturbing for Collinwood residents to bare and were thus “relocated” outside the area.  What better place for the terrifying memories to descend than the already legendary site of Swift’s Hollow and Gore Orphanage.   In fact, the tragedy brought about the end of the town of Collinwood.  As a result of the incident, unable to sufficiently guarantee fire safety resources for its residents, voters approved an annexation of Collinwood into Cleveland within two years of the fire.
Mr. Sprunger died two years after the investigation, and the doors of the orphanage permanently closed in July of 1916 after years of financial troubles. Pelham Hooker Blossom of Cleveland bought the Orphanage property, leased it to farmers for a period, then finally sold the land.  The Hughes House is all that remains of the Sprunger property. Part of the orphanage buildings burned and the rest were torn down.
The children of the Light of Hope orphanage were dispersed throughout the community or returned to their relatives or guardians and the nightmare was over for the children of the Gore Orphanage.  Many were too afraid to recount the conditions they endured at the institution. The few that had nowhere else to go were taken back to Berne, Indiana by Mrs. Sprunger.  It was exactly 13 years after it had first opened.
Swift’s Hollow is the location most often visited by those seeking a taste of the supernatural. A graffiti covered sandstone column marks the entrance of the area, which contains the foundations of this once magnificent mansion.  Today all that remains of the Swift Mansion are sandstone blocks from its foundation. Located deep in the woods, these remnants are now scrawled with graffiti left behind by late night visitors. They stand in the forest like guide stones for all those daring enough to seek an experience of the legend of the Gore Orphanage.
The Swift’s Hallow mansion was never used as part of the orphanage. Instead it became a Mecca for late night vandals, and it is presumed that one of them was responsible for burning the house down in late 1923.  Early legend held that Mr. Wilbur helped the Sprunger’s build the Light of Hope orphanage after loosing his own grandchildren.  Mrs. Wilbur was said to have gone insane over the tragedy.
Stories were told that she’d set the table three times a day and passed food to the children as if they were sitting there.  At night she would light a lamp and say, “Time for bed, children come on,” and then she’d put the kids to bed.  Some said the children were psychic and could bring children back after they died.
In the early 1900’s teenagers began to visit the home. In time they began to take their first automobiles to Gore Road to attempt to get them up the steep ravine without stalling and to negotiate the sharp curves without crashing. The true test of  bravery though was to enter the Swift Mansion at night and prove you weren’t afraid of the haunted house.
The location of the orphanage is on Gore Orphanage Road approximately 1/4 mile north of Rosedale just across the small Vermilion River Bridge. It is just past the spot where Gore Orphanage and Sperry Roads meet in the hollow. The remnants of the orphanage cannot be seen from the road, but substantial remains abut Sperry Road hill.
Though there is no proof that any deaths actually occurred at the “Gore Orphanage” or Swift’s Hollow, the chilling memories of torture, abuse and occult activity are haunting in their own rite.  Perhaps the lost souls of the children of Collinwood did descend upon the infamous area where many of the living are known to go in search of the spirits of forgotten children.  Perhaps they seek the ghosts of the Wilber children to be brought back to the land of the living.
Paranormal investigators say the ghosts of Gore Orphanage Road may actually be esoteric “imprints” – a kind of snapshot in time. Frequently, violent or traumatic events seem to release an energy that imprints the action on a place or object. In this kind of haunting, incidents repeats themselves like a videotape rewound and played over and over again. These hauntings can be seen, heard, felt or even smelled. Tragic imprints can even “relocate” themselves to other areas of high paranormal energy.
Reverend Sprunger’s body was buried in a cemetery in Indiana, but some say his soul still wanders the grounds of the Light of Hope religious compound he founded on Gore Orphanage.  Katharina Sprunger moved back to Indiana in 1916 and never returned to the area, at least not prior to her death in 1953.
Ghostly apparitions, balls of lights, haunting screams of children and visions of fire have been reported by many a visitor to Gore Orphanage Road.  Many claim to have found the dusty fingerprints of children when returning to their cars.  Whatever the true story of Gore Orphanage, there’s little doubt that it has well earned its reputation as the most haunted area in Ohio.