While driving down the west leg of the Sherman Access leading to Charlton Avenue below, I couldn’t help but notice the majestic ice cones forming on the escarpment under the old Nora Francis Henderson Hospital.
As it has done for thousands of years, what we call John Fish Lake, a cavernous underground body of water under the hospital, is seeping through the rocky face of the Sherman Cut.
I wrote previously about how young John Fish and his indian chum crawled into a cave entrance on the brow and discovered a vast, deep body of crystal clear water.
In his old age, John still insisted that one day, if we weren’t careful, the lake could burst through the rocky face of the escarpment and pour torrents of water down the slope into the valley below.
It became quite a joke as I recall years ago hearing about Fish’s lake. Naysayers sought proof of this mystical rocky lake.
We know what happened that crazy day back in 1954 when a steam shovel digging the foundation for the new Henderson Hospital scraped away at a spot several feet below Concession Street.
A hole broke open and the entire excavation was filled to a depth of 30-odd feet. The shovel operator clambered out of his machine and barely missed being swamped by the blue-green water.
Back in 1922, a similar flooding happened under the Sherman Avenue bridge on the Mountain brow. Excavators digging out the Sherman Cut that runs to Crockett Street punched a hole in the rocky slope and created the Mountain’s very best swimming hole.
Kids from all across the Mountain rushed to the site and dove off the banks into yet another 30-foot body of water.
John Fish warned the city engineer at the time of an impending catastrophe, but was laughed out of city hall as being a bit eccentric.
Well, here we are close to 100 years after John and his buddy found the opening to the mystery lake and people as then are still very skeptical of the story.
Despite two breakouts, one in 1922 and the other in 1954, we still naively brush off the story as being a local legend, a little boy’s yarn, you might say.
So for the naysayers who don’t believe Lake Erie water couldn’t possibly run down hill through underground channels to the Mountain face, just hop in the car with your camera and go down the Sherman Cut. Swing left at the brow and take in the long row of ice cones pushing their way out of the rocky Mountain face along the Sherman Access.
At no other point along the escarpment will you find these ice cones. As the winter gets progressively colder, the cones will be seen to grow into majestic waterfalls.
Some will say, “There’s always water seeping out along that stretch of road!”
If you take a good look, there is no creek running downhill to mention. A more convincing argument is that the the icey cold water underground loosens the shale rocks allowing water to run freely to the face of the escarpment.
Recent rock slides, I’m afraid, will destabilize the slope under the hospital and cause first a trickle then later a torrent to cascade forth as John Fish predicted.
Henderson Falls sounds good!
Mountain historian Colwyn Beynon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.