Do you remember the summer afternoons when Routes 306 and 82 saw a log jam of traffic? Route 43 was backed up all the way to the Ohio Turnpike, as visitors to Geauga Lake Park and Sea World made their slow journey to the parks. Added to the congestion were those who were working their way to Aurora Farms Outlets. I often thought that I could really have a side job and make a small fortune standing at the Turnpike exit onto Route 14 and sell maps showing a short cut to the parks by using Aurora Hudson Road. Incidentally, the Aurora Police would frequently stop chartered buses using the back road. Aurorans coped with the traffic by avoiding the main roads. One defiant Aurora mayor actually had city workers dump a truck load of dirt on the intersection of Aurora Hudson Road and South Bissell to prevent buses from travelling across Bissell Road to get to Route 43.
The parks are gone and other than the backups in the center of town when the schools are letting out, buses are on the road and people are anxiously trying to get home from work, traffic is nowhere as bad as on those summer days. The only major event that jams Aurora’s highways for an evening is Aurora Premium Outlets' “Black Friday” sale.
The aerial photograph of the “Aurora Farms” shows the site prior to its current configuration. In the foreground of the photo are the homes in the Highlands along Mill Pond and Willard Roads. In the upper portion of the photo are two farm fields. The field closest to the Auction is now Yorkshire Estates and the second field is Wellington. At the very top of the photo is Chatham Estates. The photo shows numerous buildings on the grounds in which merchants rented space to showcase their goods. Around the buildings and scattered amid the grounds was the flea market sellers.
Before the existence of the Premium Outlets, the site was occupied by the “Aurora Farm Auction” which included a farmers’ market and flea market. Long-time residents can remember what the site looked like prior to becoming a collection of discount stores. However, the history of the auction actually began in a different location. In the early 1930s Chris Stutzman began to hold auctions on his farm. The auction was held every Wednesday from 1 to 5:30 pm and was initially limited to the sale of livestock. The auction took place in Stutzman’s barn located on the northeast corner of Route 43 and Mennonite Road. The pictures of the barn with “Aurora Auction” on its side was taken at that site. Initially, according to a long-time Aurora resident, wild horses from the west were brought and to auctioned off to local farmers. The focus of the auction soon shifted to the sale of cattle. The auctioneer, S.C. Sprunger of Kidron, Ohio used his “rapid-fire spiel” and was known by auction-goers throughout all of northern Ohio. Stutzman’s son-in-law Glenn Shaffer helped to manage the auction.
The popularity of the auction attracted people from all over Northeast Ohio. The location of the auction was moved to the current location of the Aurora Premium Outlets on the farm of another Stutzman family relative, Myrtle Schaffer and her son Glenn. As interest in the auction grew it was soon expanded to include more than the sale of livestock. Farm tools, furniture, household goods and clothing were auctioned for a fee of 10% of the sales. Merchants and “peddlers” could rent an area and set up a booth or spread their wares on the ground. Over the years the auction evolved to include a flea market and a farmers’ market. One of the buildings was reserved for the sale of antiques.
We certainly don’t miss the traffic generated by the farms and the parks that crowded Aurora’s roads on the weekend. But I would surmise that there are many of us to lament the fun of going to the auction on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and searching through the flea market for that certain item, giving credence to the old adage that “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”
Printed with the permission of the Aurora Historical Society which retains rights to all content and photos.
This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Aurora History: Premium Outlets started as the Aurora Farm Auction