The President, Creative Director, and Project Coordinator of Herip Design Associates, Walt Herip discusses the economic and historical developmental changes of the Penninsula since 1970. After his graduate studies in Europe ended in 1976, Herip began his company in 1980 and was chosen to design the 25th anniversary logo for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.


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Herip, Walter (interviewee)


Hixson, Lisa (interviewer); Krivack, Mickey (participant); Boone, Bill (participant)


Rivers Roads and Rails 2008



Document Type

Oral History


57 minutes


Transcription sponsored by Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Bill Boone [00:00:00] Here we go!

Lisa Hixson [00:00:01] Okay. I'm Lisa Hixson here with Walt Herip, Mickey Krivak, and Bill Boone. Okay. Today is Monday, June 23, 2008, and we are at Hines Hill. And with Walt Herip, if you could tell us a little bit about yourself to start it off with. Where were you born? How long have you lived here and?

Walt Herip [00:00:25] Alright. I was born in 1947 at the end of the year and originally in Cleveland. And we migrated to Parma when I was about four years old as part of the lovely boom of housing of that period, the postwar era, where my uncle and my father built the house that we lived in there and I was raised in. And I stayed pretty much in Parma, where I graduated from high school, until '65, '66, right in there, because I left home when I was 18. Spent a year screwing around after high school, and then ended up at the Cleveland Institute of Art and then became a resident of Cleveland Heights at that point. So, I flopped from the West Side of Cleveland, which has its own ownership of Cleveland, to the East Side, where they have different ownership of Cleveland, and went to school at the Cleveland Institute of Art studying industrial design with a minor in painting and proceeded to get out during the great wonderful recession of '71 of which was informed that there were no jobs available. I graduated from the institute and a program that normally nobody went to look for jobs. They were hired in the classroom generally by Ford, GM, or Chrysler, which is a typical desire, but in '70, the economy crashed and in '71 it got worse, and we were getting through the fun with the Vietnam War, and there just weren't any jobs. So that led me to do lots of different weird things for a number of years, which is how I ended up in Peninsula. I was teaching, after refusing to teach graphics at the University of Akron, someone encouraged me to interview anyway. And so I was teaching at the University of Akron part-time and living in Cleveland Heights. And I had clients because I was freelancing by that point and working with design firms as kind of a freelancer whose job was to be fired if necessary, and which is a story in itself. And the person who suggested, who I ran into skiing actually down here at Boston Mills—I did some demonstrations with one of my instructors for one of his classes at Akron U.—convinced me to give it a shot. So long story short, in '73 on July 1st, 1973, coming up on that wonderful 20, 35th anniversary here in Peninsula, I relocated down here into Center Street, which at that point the house on Center Street, you know, 5995 Center was an apartment building. The original building was built in 1873. In the late '30s, it was converted from at that point it had been a boarding house previously—having been the Wood House, it was one of the founders of the Peninsula—into an apartment and it was, as I understand, in the '40s, the hot apartment. Well, in the '70s, I'm not so sure it was the hot apartment anymore, but I got a place to stay there, and rent was cheap. And Cleon Wells who had originally done the conversion was now the owners. I believe the original conversion was done by the Benders and the Prestons from the original configuration of the house. So that's what I, when I found this place...

Lisa Hixson [00:04:41] Do you know how Peninsula got to be known as Peninsula?

Walt Herip [00:04:44] Yes.

Lisa Hixson [00:04:45] Can you tell me?

Walt Herip [00:04:47] Sure. One of my bad habits since coming down here... One of the reasons for coming down here was in fact that it was a Victorian village, by and large, which I later found out was its heyday as opposed to its origins and during the canal period when it really kind of did blossom. Alonzo Dee showed up here very early, I believe it was '27, the first settler in Peninsula. But about the time the canal was already being planned and encouraged by our governance in D.C. at that point, part of Jefferson's plan if I remember correctly. And when they were planning out the route for the canal, Peninsula actually, the river wrapped around a spot of land that is now where Terry Lumber is, and you can still see where that was. They diverted the river to allow for the towpath canal and the lock there, and built the dam, and eliminated what was a natural island, if you will, in the river, which is the peninsula and how it originally got its name. And since Peninsula had two factions at that point, the part that was in the United States and the part that was not, because the Cuyahoga River was at that point the western boundary... So the namesake of the village vanished with the canal.

Lisa Hixson [00:06:30] Interesting. Peninsula is not very big, correct? I mean it's...

Walt Herip [00:06:38] The remaining parts of Peninsula and the township that have not been somewhat consumed by the park, which is an interesting note, because most people don't realize that approximately three-quarters of Peninsula is owned by the park or easements in terms of the property. There's... And getting into the where the zoned district is, you've got the historic district, which is downtown, which is still very much the original configuration of the original village, which is the mixed commercial and residential up and down Main Street and largely Stine Road and then west on 3, 0... East on 303, which is a few residents over there. So and that takes in approximately, I believe it, latest figure is 603 with just under 200 registered voters, predominantly independents, which gives you a real take on kind of the political environment in the village, which is very much independent. So the township of which the village is in, it's one of those odd arrangements. The village is really still part of the township. So and that is another 1,500 people scattered in the pockets that still remain.

Lisa Hixson [00:08:10] What's it, what was it like from, you said Cleveland Heights and then you moved to Peninsula, I mean, what's it like to live in Peninsula compared to?

Walt Herip [00:08:19] Well, it's changed dramatically. When I moved out here, it's during a period that I've always referred to as lost in the woods because Peninsula, for the last or the previous century or the last and the last century has gone through some really interesting changes because starting as a canal town, and Wood, who was the owner of the house I first rented and now own, was opening a general store, eventually got into having a mill, got involved with the quarries as the Congers, got involved with the bricks and the quarry development here. And people who came down here for various reasons were very much entrepreneurs. Heritage Farms originally was for canal building, boats, and that's where the owner built the collection of property that eventually would become the farm. And so there was an awful lot of development at that point, very dynamic, entrepreneurial people who came here as settlers and got involved with basically stripping the land during the period from there to the turn of the century that the Valley was clear-cut—all the original trees were removed, which were the hardwoods, milled and sent out. The quarries became specification-grade quarries after supplying block for building canal locks and the brick building for, you know, for making streets. That was coming out here thanks to the Congers. And that gets you the ethnic mix you have in the community, which is Eastern European and Italian predominantly. And, you know, the Episcopal Church, which is now the Bronson Memorial, the Catholic Church, and also the Methodist Church. Strong community. When I moved out here, what happened, the cycle was, you know, you go through the Canal era and then the train starts coming. In 1913, they blew the dam that finally closed the canal and the trains completely took over. And, you know, we went from a canal town and then it became the center where, after really kind of becoming a point where they were merchandising the resources of the community, the next thing that happened after that, when the train stopped stopping in Peninsula, the trucking industry is born largely in Peninsula. It's the reason, then, the hub of trucking in northeast Ohio is in Richfield. Preston Trucking, which is the Preston's from Peninsula. Bender Loudon, which is the Benders from Peninsula. Roadway, which again was born here. And the other connection most people don't really know often is the fact that the first trucking up there were set up by the diner up in Richfield, which was Stouffer's. So it begins to connect through a lot of what happened during that period. So, the trucking industry kind of takes over and Peninsula falls into what I refer to and at the point when I moved here, I still referred to it as kind of lost in the woods. It was out of the way. It took 271 to get here. And in fact, it was an incomplete exchange before the Coliseum went up years later. So there was really no direct route to... Peninsula had been bypassed by everything. And it was... And actually at one point 271 was supposed to go through Peninsula, but those people who had made their millions on the, like the Roushs fought vehemently to relocate 271 a little bit further west. So that's how that little ditty did happen. They went to Washington and fought it. So they've never been particularly afraid to go anywhere and fight for their own rights. You know, at that point, they were still probably around 600 people or less. So I moved out here before those things came in. It was delightful for me because it was easy to get north and south and wherever else I needed to go at that point so that I ran into a point where the train was running. And you'd wake up on Sunday morning hearing, you know, the beginnings of the railroad, Cuyahoga Valley Railroad now, and very quiet. Not much traffic, unlike today. And the irony is, one of the reasons I moved out so readily was I was living in Cleveland Heights, which was becoming the hottest tourist attraction up in Cleveland Heights at that point. So, here I am 35 years later, confronting the same conditions again.

Lisa Hixson [00:13:55] With all the rivers, the roads, and the rails! [laughs].

Walt Herip [00:13:56] Oh, well. Yeah. Peninsula was a very welcoming town. The late Bob Bishop—who I served a lot of time with on the Planning Commission, and I got to know and served on boards at the library and everything else with—one day reported that there was a time in Peninsula where if someone drove by, you waved because it was either a friend, or a relative, or someone who needed a friend because they were lost. So it was a very welcoming community back then and very, very much rural, very country. There were rules that you abided by and you were instructed on them if you stepped outside the line about how to conduct yourselves. There, there weren't, there wasn't a lot of fighting among the community. It was very embracing. I think it was 27 when I got nominated to the board of the Peninsula Library and learned that whole history that gets associated with how a village of this size ends up with one of three independent libraries that are also historical societies in the state of Ohio in a town of 604 and how they basically put it together and got it financed, and chartered, and started, and run. And those people, those gals who made it happened, it was the Girl Scouts who actually... It was Ruth Roush, who was the Girl Scoutmaster at that point, and Honore Cooke, who passed away about a year ago in an accident in the national park. Fell into one of the quarries while hiking at 96. I believe she was.

Lisa Hixson [00:15:50] Oh, my goodness!

Walt Herip [00:15:51] But she hiked every day, which is why she was in such good shape and slipped and fell. Which... She probably passed away doing exactly what she wanted to do, which was being out in nature. And it was Honore who said, well, let's start a library. So they did. And they started it by... One Halloween, all the Girl Scouts collected books from the residents of Peninsula while they were out trick or treating, and that gave birth to what was a wandering library until they got enough wherewithal to build the building at its current site.

Lisa Hixson [00:16:26] Tell me. Is it in her name? I'm sorry. Is it in her name? The library? Just, she started it.

Walt Herip [00:16:33] She was one of the instrumental players in the beginning of it. There's a Roush Room which they donated as one of the expansions for the library. And the GAR Foundation has been a real good benefactor to the library over the years. When we started the foundation during the period in which the state was beginning to pull back on its resources for libraries, we decided that we were going to find ourselves in a situation where we were dependent on the state for the survival of the library. So, I think the foundations, about 10 or 12 years old right now and has holdings that are putting them close to the point where eventually they can see to be self-sufficient, even if state funding dries up. So it's one of the things you'll see typical at least, I think over the years, Peninsula has always reacted. Unfortunately, they sometimes, they have been too reactive instead of proactive in how they handle themselves and within the governance of this part of the area.

Lisa Hixson [00:17:39] Interesting. I want to go ahead and shift gears here a little bit to your company and what your company does and how it's involved with this the Cuyahoga National Park.

Walt Herip [00:17:51] Okay. All right. The company is gearing up for I think we're almost 28 now. I originally came down here and the company became an offshoot when I moved down here. And after a little while, I went back to graduate school. Decided that industrial design was wonderful but I really fell in love with graphic design. So needless to say, it was time to sign up for graduate school. And I simultaneously landed a full-time position. The day before I was leaving for Switzerland for my first nine credits of graduate school, I got the announcement that I'd landed the job at the University of Akron as a full-time professor. So that started that little engagement. I'd already been freelancing. I'd been working. I went off to Switzerland and that's all part of the weird story. And I went because I got accepted and it was Europe and more so because it was Europe and I got accepted. I didn't read any of the literature except to find out what I had to take and how long we were going to be gone. I made a lot of fine connections there.

Lisa Hixson [00:19:14] What year was this? I don't remember.

Walt Herip [00:19:16] 1976.

Lisa Hixson [00:19:17] Okay.

Walt Herip [00:19:17] I left the United States on the morning of the bicentennial. I'd been on... A friend of mine, who is now lives in Switzerland, at that point was doing drywall and was in the modern. Had a loft in the village and I'd gone down there to spend the night there prior to flying out. So we watched a lot of the early activities from the rooftop in the loft where they were getting ready to... They were having one hell of a party when I left, so I had to get to the airport. So I left just the beginnings of the bicentennial celebration and then I'm spending the day watching the activities in New York from the loft and headed out to Switzerland. So that was the beginning of a crazy period of time. I landed there. Studied, as I now know, studied under a lot of really great people for the summer, came back with a lot of wonderful connections and, you know, had people that I probably wouldn't have had reached to otherwise over at the university in the earlier days. And after I completed—it took just under five years to finish the degree because I was going to school nights and summers and teaching during the day—when that period was over, I'd already been working for a number of Fortune 500 firms doing various things from illustration to design. And, well, I had nothing to do with the extra time I had. So I started the company upon graduation, so that was in 1980, and kind of never looked back. I did a lot of things using the university effectively to make good connections in industry, so we've been blessed with a lot of good clients. So we've been involved with what is now referred to as branding and corporate identity since 1980. Fell in love with that by working with Westinghouse International. And we have had the blessing to be invited to... Originally it was... For the 25th anniversary of the National Park, they were going to do a program and Mary Pat Dorley gave me a call and said, we want to run a contest. I said, no, you don't. That's a real dumb idea. And here's the list of reasons why. So we were invited and it took us, you know, eight token stipends to develop the 25th-anniversary program with the national park. And during that session, I turned to John and said, you know, at that point it was the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation. I said, do you want to design this in such a way that there might be some ongoing connection? Because once you get the recognition, you have the inaugural event, the 25th anniversary, to develop some public recognition of this. Do we want to think of what happens after the 25th? And we talked about possible name changes and other things. So, the 25th program rolled out and then we got involved with a ludicrous assignment, as it turned out to be, to again and make the transition adapt the mark for use by the new Cuyahoga Valley National Park and also the crazy idea that we would develop a family of marks for the park's partners, including in that the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association, which I was encouraging John, I said, you know, that's a very important arm of the National Park. It should be developed more and brought in some really good talent that has done that, so we set out with what turned out to be a rather onerous task of getting consensus from a group of strong-headed people that John had managed to convince should be part of the organization, and they were at loggerheads the whole time. So that's how I ended up with two versions of each one, which is referred to as the official business logo and the other ones, which are the marketing logos that are used, are much more friendly.

Lisa Hixson [00:23:51] And that's the brochures, correct? That you...

Walt Herip [00:23:53] Well, the marks themselves... There's the ones that look like mini posters. And then there's the real rigid ones that are used on all official papers.

Lisa Hixson [00:24:05] So I can only see it's developed by your company, basically.

Walt Herip [00:24:07] Well, the beginnings of it, yeah. We end up... We always laugh about it because we had a long-term relationship with the Cleveland Indians. And we had when they made the transition from the old stadium to what is now been renamed but used to be Jacobs Field, we were working with them to develop the new materials and identity for both Jacobs Field and the Cleveland Indians. Originally it was just Jacobs Field and then they asked us also to do the team. And so, you know, that was another 18-month project from start to finish that had all its twists and turns. And, and in that kind of scenario, there's a great deal of submarks. And at that point, we were already beginning as a company to think about families of marks and why did, you know, rather than arbitrary decisions about how you identify things and looking at systematic approaches to that which is now we see again in the National Park and in the Cleveland Indians, you had the Jacobs Field, specifically a myriad of subunits that would work as part of that Jacobs Field logo from, you know, the restaurants and other parts of the park, a park, ballpark at that point. So and then we'd been working on the same theory with other companies, because we do a lot of work with development firms who were doing either mixed-use or retail or residential kinds of development. So we're working all over with those people. So we got to bring that expertise to the National Park. And I learned about developing consensus during that project because, well, it's different because, in normal business deals with these kind of projects, you answer to one person who is working with his team. Here, we were working with the team who had to answer to one person who was not going to alienate any of them and work with them to develop the best possible project with open and honest input from all directions. It's kind of the reverse you have in the private sector.

Lisa Hixson [00:26:31] Now, you continue to work with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park still to this day?

Walt Herip [00:26:35] We have continued as requested, and most of the things we've done with them are grossly different budgets than we're used to working with. I would think that some of the projects we've done have individual budgets larger than the annual budgets that the park might have for things that we do.

Lisa Hixson [00:27:02] What accomplishments are you particularly proud of?

Walt Herip [00:27:06] Well, let's see. There is my youngest daughter. My...

Bill Boone [00:27:08] Good answer.

Walt Herip [00:27:15] Celebrating my 17th wedding anniversary this July 4th. Yeah. My wife said, well, you won't be at work. You won't forget the date and there'll always be a party. So let's get married on July 4th. So, yeah, it works. [laughs] Oh, I think I'm on my third full restoration in Peninsula. The house I now own on Main Street is pretty well wrapped up. We've kind of blown it out and put in what some people refer to as trophy garages in Peninsula—1400 square foot, two-story, clear span, three-car garage [laughs] with a studio above it—and then so we wouldn't have to be in the house with the mess, but we usually are and that's the original Morris house. And we did the McNeil house where the studio was located when we moved from Hudson to Peninsula, which I bought from Helen Conger and her husband Bob, and we completely rehabbed that and then sold it back to residential use. And now we've been in what was originally the Wood house where I first rented. I ultimately got an opportunity to buy that, and we've been working on that for 15 years and we just moved the studio out into a rental space and we are putting walls back where they belong, and doorways where they once were and trying to be sensitive about taking the 4400 square feet and putting it back to residential use.

Lisa Hixson [00:29:01] Are any of your family members involved with you and your work, actually? Do they work with you? Or...

Walt Herip [00:29:05] My wife will occasionally... In fact, she's in there today helping because she's home for the summer. So my family actually now lives in Florida, and we're kind of flopping back and forth and commuting. It's their turn to be up here and my daughter's up in the Girl Scout camp now, her first term as a lifeguard. New accomplishment for her. I'm real pleased that, you know, that... It may seem silly, but I think Peninsula was a good decision because I've raised a family here and my wife had two children from a previous marriage who have benefited from being in a community like this. And yeah, I think my family's my big accomplishment. Everybody has to work.

Lisa Hixson [00:29:53] Yes, we do. [laughs]

Walt Herip [00:29:53] So if you're happy with your work, then, you know, have some reason to be happy at home. And I think, you know, we've managed to stay close. And, you know, now that I'm waiting for Frances to get into schools so I can be home more here and I can spend more time with them in Florida during the colder years, our retirement home is in Florida is what it comes down to. We have relatives down there that my brother-in-law and sister were there when we discovered Winter Haven and which ironically was the spring training camp for the Indians until this year. And Ann's sisters just purchased a place down there. So we're all in the same little area within walking distance in blocks. The family's beginning to congregate in warmer climates and everybody's doing the snowbird thing or planning to. Ann's sister's older than she is. So it was 19 years between her oldest brother and her. He was in college when she was born and her mother swears she was planned. And we're still trying to figure that one out. Interesting plan. So no it's kind of nice to, you know... Her sister lives in Chicago. So we'll see more of her now that she's going to be down with Ann during the winter and helping her with Fran. That's 16 going on 17. Lord knows she could use the help.

Lisa Hixson [00:31:37] Bill? Mickey? Did you have anything else that you'd like to add?

Bill Boone [00:31:40] I have one thing you said you're on your third full restoration effort.

Walt Herip [00:31:47] Yep.

Bill Boone [00:31:47] In the future, do you see any more homes that you'd like to restore or will this be it?

Walt Herip [00:31:53] It probably will be it for at least here. I designed the home in Florida so that was fun and I've learned a lot about new homes by doing that. So there might be another new home on the horizon. [laughs] But no, the restorations. The first one, we were, was the house that we literally are now finishing, which is where we live and that's 28 years of work and the McNeil house went a lot faster because for a year it was under destruction and reassembling, you know, fixing foundation problems and solving all sorts of little idiosyncratic problems that come up with a house that's over a hundred years. And it's a constant battle. It really is. And we're guessing that the initial, we've been working on, on the Wood house for 15 years already, a lot of infrastructure has been done. We're now to the point where we're really putting it back and saying, okay, now let's take it the next step and put the walls back where they belong ,and make sure all the wiring is up to snuff, and all of the water supply is up to snuff, and everything else, and start the landscaping. So we figure that the first initial phase that'll get us to the point of living in it will be one year to get it stabilized to a point where we can occupy the first floor. Two years to where we think we can occupy two floors, we still have the third floor after that and the landscaping. So yeah, this, this will be a very I would think it'll be take us five years.

Bill Boone [00:33:46] So, you've got your hands full.

Walt Herip [00:33:47] Yes, so.

Bill Boone [00:33:48] You're not going to take on any new projects.

Walt Herip [00:33:49] Well, when you think that in this particular case, unless you want to, you know, just throw money at the project relentlessly and bring in crews at a time, you've got to do it sensitively. And now we'll put 20 years into this house by the time we're done. So, yeah, making sure everything's there so it will last another 125 years would be nice to think. So you just don't... And even when you're done at that point, there's always something else to do. It's a century home.

Lisa Hixson [00:34:24] I give you a lot of credit. [laughs]

Walt Herip [00:34:25] Thank you.

Mickey Krivak [00:34:26] So the Wood house that you're doing right now, is that for... Is that your studio?

Walt Herip [00:34:33] We moved. We moved out. We used the studio for the first 15 years really to do a lot of the major infrastructure work by occupying it. And we're able to take company funds and work on improvements and keep it maintained now that we've moved out. We're looking at it as the transition back to residential. We're trying to take it back to its original configuration, which it hasn't seen since the 1930s. So, you know, sleuthing out where walls used to be as you're taking areas that would cobble together. It wasn't a really wonderful conversion. It was an adequate conversion. So when we took soffits out, we went, oh, there's a diagonal wall belongs here. So there's a lot of discovery that goes into it. And you know that I've been working on that discovery process for 15 years, sleuthing out what I can to see where things were. And the minute we started to tear, take it apart in order to put it back together, we found more than I had imagined. They built a closet in the second floor landing, which one of the first things we did was take it out, you know, so that there were two windows on the second-floor landing. And the next thing we noticed was things didn't seem to fit quite correctly. And that led to finding out that the hall was angled and before it turned. And there were lots of these diagonals throughout the second floor. And which leads us to wonder what was on the first floor that we missed, because at one point, the original staircase to the, for the servants was on the first floor, had been moved and stuck out the back of the house as a second-story emergency exit. We took it out and the person who was working on it was so proud they got to put the square nails right back where they were originally when we restored that stairway to its original position. So little things like that just take time.

Mickey Krivak [00:36:42] I have a house to restore in Columbia Station. [laughs] My husband and I bought the house next door to us that was built, I think, right before the Civil War, and it is it needs a lot of work. So, you know, yeah. If you want another project, I have one.

Walt Herip [00:37:01] I'm always willing to give advice.

Mickey Krivak [00:37:03] I mean, yeah.

Walt Herip [00:37:04] Free.

Mickey Krivak [00:37:04] That would be great actually. Free advice?

Walt Herip [00:37:05] Sure.

Mickey Krivak [00:37:07] Oh, okay then I'll call you.

Walt Herip [00:37:07] Alright. It's always fun to see you because well, you know, one of the things I did early on was really get into what the periods were and what the structure was in industrial design backgrounds. Like how was it built?

Mickey Krivak [00:37:20] Yeah.

Walt Herip [00:37:20] You know, and when did they change and why? And all that other stuff. So you go through, you know, if it's before the Civil War then it's, you know, probably late Colonial and it's still beam construction.

Mickey Krivak [00:37:31] Yes.

Walt Herip [00:37:31] Which means it's solid as a rock and they've tried to hide most of it through modernization.

Mickey Krivak [00:37:37] And it was. I know they added on to it. So you can see where the addition and I don't know when they did the additions, but I mean, you see the original, like, plank floors like this, you know? It's got a lot of, you know, potential to it, but a lot of work because the gentleman that lived there, he just let it go, you know what I mean? It's just.

Walt Herip [00:37:59] It's a magic...It's the [floors] are hardwood. It's wonderful to see what...

Mickey Krivak [00:38:04] Yeah.

Walt Herip [00:38:04] A floor sander can do to rejuvenate it. [laughs]

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