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Cleveland's Whiskey Island

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Cleveland's Whiskey Island
(© Stu Spivack/Flickr.com)
Once home to commercial shipping docks as well as the unique Lake Erie Huletts, Whiskey Island has evolved into a delightful recreational area. Located in the shadow of the Flats, Whiskey Island offers green space, boat docks and a popular grill and bar. Whiskey Island is also home to a variety of special events, including the annual Burning River Fest. The island, which opened to the public in 2005, is one mile long and about 1/3 mile wide.

History:

Whiskey Island, one of the only areas at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River that wasn't a swamp when the area was first surveyed by Moses Cleaveland and his crew, was the site of Lorenzo Carter's (one of the Cleveland area's first European settlers) family farm. The area grew as Irish immigrants settled there, near jobs at the docks and salt mines. The Pennsylvania Railroad built a huge bulk storage facility on Whiskey Island in the early 20th century and used the Huletts to unload rail cars and transfer raw materials to the warehouse.

In 1940, the US Coast Guard established its Cleveland station on the island. The site was used until 1976, when the Coast Guard transferred its operations to North Coast Harbor. The former Coast Guard Station, purchased by the City of Cleveland in 2003, stands empty.

Facilities at Whiskey Island Today:

The port facilities and the bulk storage facilities are still located on the west side of Whiskey Island. The eastern portion has been transformed into a recreational area, with a 22-acre public park (Wendy Park), sand volleyball courts, a public marina and a bar/restaurant.

Food and Drink:

The Sunset Grille is Whiskey Island's sole restaurant. Located in a restored, 1900-circa sawmill, the Sunset Grille is open year-round in the evenings during the week and from noon until closing on the weekends. The menu features Lake Erie perch, bbq'd ribs, burgers and grilled chicken--all in a laid-back atmosphere.

Whiskey Island Events:

Whiskey Island hosts a full schedule of events, including the Burning River Fest, held each July, and regular summer concerts. The site is also a good place to view Cleveland's July 4th fireworks.

Les Roberts' Whiskey Island:

You know that a spot is a local hotspot when northeast Ohio's own crime writer, Les Roberts puts it into one of his novels. His 2012 release, "Whiskey Island" does just that. The fast-paced "who-done-it" jumps all over town, but includes a couple of scenes at the Sunset Grille.

Getting to Whiskey Island:

Finding Whiskey Island the first time can be tricky. Although you can see the park from the Flats, no road connects the two spaces. The best way to get there is from Edgewater Park. Whiskey Island Road originates at the east end of Edgewater Park, just north of the Shoreway. The road will take you past the industrial areas of the island before dead-ending into Wendy Park. Of course, you can also arrive by boat.

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