Willoughby’s first permanent settler was David Abbott who, in 1798, built the first gristmill in the Western Reserve here on the Chagrin River. Soon the settlement became known as Chagrin, named for the river that runs through it, although some referred to the village as Chagrin Mills and/or Abbott’s Mills.
The naming of the Chagrin River has been a matter of dispute for about 200 years, but now it is accepted that the name is the Anglicization of Francois Saguin, an historic French fur trader who did business with the Iroquois, native Americans who lived here in the early 1700’s.
Despite Willoughby’s location on Lake Erie, the native American tribe of the Erie or people of the Cat Nation, never lived in this part of Ohio, but were instead located in what are now parts of Pennsylvania and New York where they were completely annihilated by their Iroquois cousins in 1655.
In 1834 the village of Chagrin was officially renamed Willoughby in honor of Dr. Westel Willoughby, Jr. of Herkimer County, New York, the President and Professor of the Fairfield Medical College where two of his students had graduated and then came here to Chagrin in 1813 and 1819. Drs. John M. Henderson and George W. Card later led the quest for and succeeded in establishing the Willoughby University of Lake Erie, Medical College of Ohio, dutifully named for their esteemed mentor, Dr. Willoughby who never saw the medical school or the town named for him.
This Willoughby Medical College, as it was more popularly known, was the first medical school in northern Ohio and the first medical college in the U.S. to be named for a person, instead of a geographic location. The school was among the best at the time and provided a commendable medical education in that era.
Then in 1843 part of the faculty left for Cleveland where they started the Cleveland Medical College, obtaining a charter through Western Reserve College in Hudson. This has now become the medical school of Case-Western Reserve University. In 1847 the remaining Willoughby faculty then moved to Columbus with their charter and started what is now the medical school of Ohio State University.
In World War I, the U.S.Army chose Willoughby as the site for a chemical weapons plant producing lewisite, an oily arsenic compound that produced an irritant gas used in chemical warfare.
Over time, Willoughby sent citizens into every major U.S. military conflict. Several memorials and historical relics are displayed in Wes Point Park, the center of downtown Willoughby, to honor those that have served.
Willoughby is the only town in America that has belonged, at one time or other, to six counties (Washington, Jefferson, Trumbull, Geauga, Cuyahoga, and Lake).
Two public high schools are located in Willoughby: Willoughby South High School and Willoughby-Eastlake Technical Center, both of which are a part of the Willoughby-Eastlake School District. Students in the ninth through twelfth grades are enrolled at Willoughby South High School, which opened its doors at its present location in 1959.
Previously, Willoughby South High School and current rival Eastlake North High were housed in the same building called Union High, but following the division, the then-abandoned Union High became the location of Willoughby Junior High School until 1972. It then housed the Willoughby-Eastlake Technical Center, located in downtown Willoughby.
The Andrews Osborne Academy is also located in Willoughby.
Willoughby is located at 41°39′1″N 81°24′31″W (41.650197, -81.408515).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.2 square miles (26 km2), of which, 10.2 square miles (26 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of it (0.59%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 22,621 people, 10,265 households, and 5,892 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,225.3 people per square mile (858.8/km²). There were 10,700 housing units at an average density of 1,052.6 per square mile (406.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 96.47% White, 1.14% African American, 0.17% Native American, 1.15% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.11% from other races, and 0.90% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.71% of the population. 19.0% were of German, 15.8% Italian, 13.3% Irish, 8.2% English, 5.6% Polish, 5.6%American and 5.4% Slovene ancestry according to Census 2000.
There were 10,265 households out of which 25.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.8% were married couples living together, 11.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.6% were non-families. 36.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.17 and the average family size was 2.87.
In the city the population was spread out with 21.1% under the age of 18, 7.3% from 18 to 24, 31.5% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 17.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 85.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $43,387, and the median income for a family was $53,677. Males had a median income of $38,711 versus $30,553 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,653. About 4.3% of families and 5.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.4% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over.
According to the City’s 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
|#||Employer||# of employees|
|2||Willoughby-Eastlake City School District||458|
|3||Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services||450|
|4||Momentive Performance Materials||377|
|5||Marous Brothers Construction||263|
|6||City of Willoughby||237|
Notable natives and residents
Tim Conway actor and comedian was born there on December 15, 1933.
Michael Hutter,a WWE Wrestler, was born in Willoughby.
News and Media
The News-Herald, a Lake County newspaper, has been headquartered in Willoughby since its inception.
Willoughby Today is an online news website founded in August 2010 for Willoughby.
Lake County Gazette (Gazette Newspapers Inc.) also features Willoughby news in print and online.
WELW 1330AM is licensed to Willoughby and serves the surrounding area.