The Colonial and Howard Warner

This sign is located at N41 51.630 W81 57.011.


“Warner” and “Geneva-on-the-Lake” go together like French fries and ketchup.

Reuben and Maria Baldwin Warner arrived in the Geneva Township wilderness in 1828. They came boat, but their belongings arrived on an ox-cart and included the English Mulberry china set that was their wedding present. They had purchased 300 acres of land in the township, the second tract of the Battel Tract in the Connecticut Western Reserve. They sold five acres of that tract in 1830 to Cullen and Lewis Spencer, brothers of Platt R. Spencer. This lakefront land would become the germ of Geneva-on-the-Lake, the resort community, and much of the Warner farm would become “The Strip.”

An 1873 map shows the Warner family's holdings in the area of Sturgeon Point, where the resort got its start just four years earlier.

An 1873 map shows the Warner family’s holdings in the area of Sturgeon Point, where the resort got its start just four years earlier.

The Warners had three children: Truman, Abigail and Nelson. Nelson married Laura Sullivan and they had five children. Like his parents, the couple lived in a log cabin for a number of years. They eventually built a four-room, frame farmhouse and, in 1887, opened Orchard House to the first summer boarders at Geneva-on-the-Lake. Up to that point, the resort had not offered overnight accommodations, except for camping, and at the Warren E. Spencer “Rose Cottage,” later Pennsylvania Lodge.


The Colonial Cottage was the four-room farmhouse that Nelson and Laura Warner built on their Geneva Township land. It later became known as the Hotel Colonial. From the David Tobias postcard collection.

The Colonial Cottage was the four-room farmhouse that Nelson and Laura Warner built on their Geneva Township land. It later became known as the Hotel Colonial. From the David Tobias postcard collection.


The coming of the Nickel Plate railroad to Ashtabula County in 1882 was a significant factor in the resort town’s development. Guests could travel from both east and west points on the railroad, which had a station in Geneva. Nelson Warner owned a horse and surrey, which he would  use to transport guests from the train station to Warner’s boardinghouse. Mrs. Warner greeted the guests from the porch and offered them lemonade. Many of these guests would stay for the entire summer.

One of their sons, Charles, stayed on the old Warner acreage after marrying Myrtle Butler in 1902. The couple looked after Nelson and Laura until their deaths. The lakefront property owned by the Warners was split between the two living sisters and Charles’ brother.

In 1907 Charles and Myrtle Warner built their own large house from lumber cut on the Warner acreage. They carried on the summer boarder business under “Hotel Colonial.”

Charles was a tireless promoter of the resort and was instrumental in bringing electricity, city water and sewer and the golf course to the village. The center of the golf course is land donated from the Warner farm.

He pushed for incorporation of the village and in 1928, Charles Warner became the first Mayor of GOTL. He also served as president of the area school board and helped design and build the Spencer School Building (no longer standing). He also oversaw the first power plant at GOTL and was a director of the Lake Shore Water Co. His hobbies included a magnificent flower garden and apple orchard. He also made maple syrup, and he suffered his fatal heart attack while tapping the trees in his sugar bush.

The Warners’ son, Howard Tye, followed his father as mayor. Howard became a lawyer and began practicing law in October 1930. He was the first judge of the County Court of Ashtabula County; indeed, Warner helped the Ohio Legislature create these courts to eliminate the former justice of the peace system.

Howard and his wife Katherine Horner had two children, Joann and Charla. For many years, the family and grandchildren spent their summers enjoying the lakefront from the land Reuben and Maria had purchased more than a century prior.

The Warners’ holdings at the resort included the Homestead, a boardinghouse that Tomas “Uncle Tom” Kainaroi, purchased from Reuben Warner’s granddaughter. Kainaroi converted the house to a summer home and office for his cottage business.

The Colonial, although no longer under Warner ownership, continues to serve the tourists who come to Geneva-on-the-Lake for relaxation and fun. It is owned by P.J.Macchia, whose late father, Pete, purchased and converted to various uses. Under P.J.’s ownership, the house was returned to the tourist trade and is rented by the week.

Further reading, The Beachcomber, July 28, 1947.


Also see Wendy Koile’s discussion of the Warner diary in “Geneva on the Lake: A History of Ohio’s First Summer Resort.”



Our guests remember:

Pirl Beach

I spent the summer of 1942 in Pirl Beach (at age 16) and worked part time for the manager pulling weeds and such. Also swam every day. My Pittsburgh relatives had reserved a cottage there for many years. My aunt and cousins stayed. My uncle commuted weekly in his Buick. The Pirl Beach manager used a Model T Ford truck for his chores.

Ken Ford

Memories of Ford's

Most of my summer childhood memories are at Ford’s! My parents met there right at the picnic table. We vacationed there every summer along with my grandparents and great aunt and uncle until they passed away. We made amazing friends there that we still vacation with on Putnam Drive!! I could never thank the Payne’s enough for my childhood memories. Playing Indians in the huge back yard, solving make-believe mysteries, playing release and listening to everyone playing penny poker when my sister and I should have been sleeping. I now bring my son to Geneva every summer. He is the 5th generation at Geneva!

Sara Turner Campos

Chestnut Grove

My extended family and I vacationed at Chestnut Grove from 1948-1964. Being from McKeesport, it was a dream come true to go there every summer. I currently live in Michigan but go back occasionally. Not too long ago, I found a post card of some of the cottages where the swings and horseshoe pit were and a local artist is making me a 24×36 painting of it. I can't wait to see it! So many wonderful memories and so few things left as reminders. It is nice to know that others still remember and care.

Michelle Turner ( a Chestnut Grove Kid)


We vacationed every summer at Idle-A-While in the late '50s and early '60s, partially because my aunt was the receptionist there. I often got to ring the bell summoning guests to breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining room, which was staffed by co-eds from various universities. Evenings were spent playing bingo, fascination and other games on the strip or bridge and poker back at Idle-A-While. Great memories.
John Bloom

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