Sonny’s Beach – It’s All Over

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

The former Sonny’s Beach marina and vacation community now sits collecting rust as it slowly falls apart into the dirt. Dust sits still, layered thickly across counters and tabletops inside empty vacation cabins, while family’s items lay scattered everywhere. It seems as though everyone left in a blind hurry, never to return. Anything from children’s toys, to complete room furnishings and even canned food remain, sometimes barely having been moved since the day they were left.

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Many are familiar with the incredible and surreal world of Fallout, but for those who are not – imagine a small fraction of the world’s population attempting to survive after the bombs have wiped out nearly everything. What if you could be immersed in something so oddly beautiful? Not through a movie, nor video game or even a book – but right here on your very own Earth. Truth is, places such as this lay scattered all over our planet, as I have displayed through my work time and time again – though this place in particular holds its own unique charm.

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny’s Beach has to be one of Ohio’s strangest forgotten areas, and upon first look, it’s hard to imagine why or how such a place could just fall apart so quickly. As I traveled the long and lonely dirt road, huts to my left and trailers to my right, my curiosity grew as to what kind of interesting life this place must have seen.

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Swimming, boating and fishing were a few of the activities, which had become routine for this popular spot during summer months. Sonny’s Beach was a vision, which came to life in 1956 thanks to Walter R. (Sonny) Lammers and his wife Joyce Martina Kibbel – born on March 4th, 1925. Joyce passed away Feb 21, 2013, just days shy of her 88th birthday.

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

To this day, the land remains still, and quiet – other than the frequent passing trains along tracks adjacent to this former community. Standing inside one of the huts, you can actually feel trains passing as they shake the ground, rattling the structures busted frame. Some stories across the Internet will say that government and city officials shut down the land in 1992, but I believe differently. See, while sifting through forgotten pieces of past lives, I noticed some tins left behind, branded with cartoon characters introduced during the very late 1990s to early 2000s.

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Sonny's Beach

Empty now for possibly 15 years – maybe less, maybe more – Sonny’s Beach now resembles that of the imaginative world designs, which make up the wildest of surreal scenery created for movies and video games (such as Fallout.) From items left behind, straight down to the details of each rust spot, it all seems almost too perfectly placed. Time eats away from the outside in as trees grow older and press against sides of trailers. Some day, they’re either going to swallow them whole or simply push them over. Some day, nothing will be left but the memories.

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66 thoughts on “Sonny’s Beach – It’s All Over

    1. I came across these pictures of Sonny’s Beach you posted and I camped with my family from 1976 until approx. 1995. It was primitive camping. No running water in the campers or cottages. We brought our own big containers of water and we had a huge coffee urn filled so that we always had warm water. It was a very active camp and people ended up on a waiting list to get a place. Most of the trailers where older and used for camping purposes during the summer. The place was very busy. The marina was entirely filled-up and we could swim at the beach or off the docks in front of our trailer. People traveled from many places in Ohio and became like a family during the summer-time cookouts and activities. I have a lot of great childhood memories..

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      1. Do you know why the place was shut down? And, why was everything just left the way it was? Seems like no one took their stuff.

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    2. During the spring it was beautiful there… summer time came and the beach was busy with its regulars who stayed there , my family stayed there from 1971 til early 90’s. I loved going to Sonny’s every summer, i learned to water ski, fish and we had campfires every night if it wasn’t raining. Sonny passed in Nov of 1982, broke my heart when he passed…. he was like a second Dad to me and if I asked my Dad about going somewhere and before my Dad could say NO… Sonny was saying NO. People came from Florida, Galion ,Ohio, Crestline, Ohio, Clyde, Ohio Tiffin, Ohio I could go on with so many different places came from. I made a lot of friends over those years. Got into a lot trouble also over those years, but it was the best memories I have of my childhood now that my Dad( Roger Tea ) has passed away. All i can say is it was a great summer vacation spot for families.

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    3. Yes we had a trailer there and very much treasure the memories we had spending summers there with family and friends.

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    1. Because we were escorted to the main gates told it was closed forever. No trespassing signs were put up and we were told if we tried to come back on property to get our stuff we would be arrested and prosecuted.

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  1. The trailers look old style anyhow, I’m sure it was a great place once but once it closed it was not worth moving all the trailers, broken axels, flat tires, etc. It’s a shame it had to close. Sad is many of these places are disappearing.

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  2. Sonny would roll over in his grave to know his family let him down on keeping his dream alive. Spent many times there in the day along with accomptioning my Dad to experience Lammers Tavern with throwing empty peanut shells onto the floor. Very sad that Sonny’s Beach was left to deteriorate.

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    1. Hi, Bob.

      Yes, it is sad to see the place just sitting like that. I remember going there as a teen. Would be great if someone could revive it. Do you have any old photos?

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  3. I lived in this town in high school, me and my friends always drove down this road; but even living in the area we never did find out why it was like this, it looked like everyone left in a hurry, but no one knew why.

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  4. My family grew up there my entire childhood. 4 trailer by the water, rust and tan. My Grand parents had one further down. My Aunt and Uncle had a cabin by the marina. So many great memories there from friends to fishing to water skiing. Sonny was the nicest man you could ever know. Sure miss those great times!

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  5. My family had one of the small cottages and boat dock at Sonnys Beach for 10 years back in the 80’s. I grew up spending every weekend there during the summer. No running water. Had to use a outhouse for rest room. Took showers at East Harbor state park. Pete still owns the property.

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  6. My father bought a Correct Craft from Sonny in 1972, I graduated with Pete his son. It was sad to look at it this summer but the sand filled in the harbour and left the marina almost unusable.

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  7. My family use to have cabin 24. It was great to be a kid. Brings tears to my eyes to see it like this. It is my understanding that it was in the will that it can never be sold as long as there is a another living Lammers. Made lots of lifetime friends at Sonny’s. Lots of memories as well.

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  8. My family started camping there in July of 1971 till the late 90’s. I loved going there every weekend and the 2 weeks we spent there. I have so many memories of this place, my Mom has a lots of pictures of us at Sonny’s. Sonny was like a Dad to me and when he passed it broke my heart. Just recently I lost my Dad to cancer in October, so I decided to take my mom my girls and my 2 grandsons to Sonny’s ,so we could remember the fun times we had there. I have always wished someone would of bought the place.

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  9. My best friend had the pink trailer (seen in a few photos) for a few years in the late 80s. She had all things pink flamingo. We had good times tubing in the bay and bonfires at night. She “sold” it to someone else and our good times at Sonny’s came to an end. I always wondered what happened to the place.

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  10. I came across these pictures of Sonny’s Beach you posted and I camped with my family from 1971 to the early 1990’s. These sure do bring back some good memories during the summer months there swimming at the beach and behind the trailers. Made a few good friends there. Was always a great place to fish from the piers and docks in the harbors. It’s sad to see it in this condition compared to the days in the past.

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  11. My family had a cottage there for a good number of years. A 1 room cottage – No running water and outhouses but we loved it there. It is such a shame what became of it. It was a great place growing up as a kid.

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  12. My grand parents had a place there for years and years. My father and aunts and uncles grew up there! And have many great stories they tell of the place. Years after my grand parents past away my uncle got a cabin there again. I used to take my sons there and had some of the best times of our lives there! It’s sad to see the place now! I believe I have photos of the place from the mid to late 90″s if anyone would be interested in seeing them I could dig some out.

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    1. Hi, Keith. I would definitely be interested in seeing some photos. Grew up in the area and went there as a teen. Pete was my junior high basketball coach. Thanks.

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  13. It is weird seeing things like the dishes and other items that indicated they were coming back. Like I said to someone earlier. It is just like the Mayans. Poof and gone.

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  14. We were one of the last families there. Ours is the blue and white trailer. When Sonny’so wife died the son came to our trailer and said repairs were to expensive and insurance was too high he was shutting it down we were escorted to the main gates where he locked the gates and put up no trespassing signs. We were told if we tried to get back on property we would be arrested and prosecuted. That’s why everything is left. My dad lost trailer and all contents, we were told sorry but nothing can be done.

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    1. How can someone in America knock on a a trailer you own, but you’re renting the space, tell you to leave and not allow you to take your property with you? Seems pretty fishy to me. If this were another country maybe, but renters have rights in America, more so than the property owners in many cases. I’m not buying it.

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  15. The last remaining people whom utilized this place were told to not return anymore as of 2006. It was even at that time a very rundown and antiquated place. As one of the last people to enjoy this history-filled, and at times, magical place, I miss the memories created there. Until the past 2 or-so years, I would walk the grounds and remenice about those days of yore.

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  16. From what I have been told by people that camped here, is they were told to leave in 2006 and it would not be reopened. From what I see in these photos is the place must still have traffic or the lanes would be grass covered by now.

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  17. The owner was my namesake. As a young boy, my family would vacation here all the time. I have little memory of those earlier years, but I do remember the fishing, swimming and the sense of closeness with my family while staying there. Many years later, in 1996, we returned to find a struggling little spot. It had certainly started its decay and alongside it, the sadness creeped in. The realization that this once proud place which housed so many happy memories for so many, had been replaced by destinations and vistas designed to distract us. Just being together and celebrating family and friendship isn’t enough anymore. In a way, it’s indicative of the decay of our own bonds. Mobile devices have replaced conversation, time spent becomes a transaction (I’ve spent half a day with my parents so I’m good for a couple more weeks) and the busyness of life has choked out the root of what’s really important.

    Sonny’s Beach was a place where we could invest in each other and much like the abandoned cabins and trailers, we have let ourselves rust and decay, allowing ourselves to be too easily shook by the trains that roll beside us.

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    1. It is on Bay View. If you are crossing the bridge going toward East Harbor it is to your right. Hank’s Place was on both sides under the old bridge.

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  18. Fond memories of visiting Sonny’s Beach. I don’t remember too much from when I was a small child when we would visit. But times here and there growing up I can remember my grandparents converted milk truck camper. Once I was married my husband and I rented a cabin for a season next to my aunt and my parents and would go up every weekend. It was the best times. A few years back I had gone up to port Clinton and took a little side trip to see Sonny’s Beach and was so saddened to see how deserted it was.

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  19. Grew up my entire life every summer at the other end of that Sonnys Beach road at Hanks on the Bay. Still have a place there. Sonny’s was always the “snooty” place with the Ski Naitique ski team and the ski jump in the bay. The end of Sonny’s was crazy sudden, one day folks were turning left after they crossed the tracks and then we noticed the traffic stopped. We still take walks down through Sonny’s once in awhile, it’s a sad waste. I wouldn’t trade my youth and summers at the lake for anything. Met my dearest friends at that lake and we are still sharing the love of simple lazy summer days with our daughters and I know they love it at the lake as much as we do. I think funding and progress were the sad death of Sonny’s

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  20. I grew up here in the summers until the early 90’s. From the time I was born in 1976. Great memories with wonderful family and friends.. Thank you for capturing these priceless photos..

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  21. My husband’s family had a cabin at Hank’s Place that adjoined Sonny’s Beach while he was growing up and then they bought a mobile home next to the old bridge. When we got married in 1968 we spent a lot of time there. Later we bought a mobile home there. You could catch all the fish you wanted to and there were two ladies in one of the houses that would clean your fish for you. (One Saturday we caught 100 perch in the bay). Our two boys and their cousin learned to swim off the docks by pretending one was drowning and the others would “save” him. They waterlogged all our life jackets (they were the old fashioned ones) before my husband told them they had to stop using them and learn to swim. We traveled from Columbus to Bay View almost every weekend until we bought property in southern Ohio and had to make a choice so we sold out in about 1980. Lots of memories.

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  22. My family started camping @ Sonny’s in 1971 in a little camper before the cottages my sister and I grew up there where we crappie fished in the marina(best crappie fishing ever) I learned how to water ski from a good friend of my parents that also camped there(bobby britton) as we got older my parents(dick and judy grogg) bought a bigger trailor farther down the beach they used to have so much fun @ the campground and occasionally @ lammer’s inn with the bartender they really liked whose name was jude if I remember correctly.My grandma ryan camped for many years there also with my sister and her family and when I started my family in 1985 we stayed in a cottage for many years and then purchased my sisters trailor . I am so happy that I raised our 3 daughters @ the same campground I grew up in where they learned to fish and with many regrets we stopped camping @ sonny’s in 2002 . We still go camping every weekend in the summer but we are @ wild wings marina and we love it but there will never be a campground that will ever share as many memories as Sonnys!!!!!! Sonny and his family were always very good to me

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    1. Hi my name is tracy finley , sonny was my uncle , I new Bob an Carl Britton. Me an my brother just went back through theresearch, an check out hanks , hank was a good old guy , then went in lammers bar , wow good old times , spent our summers there , good good fishing .good people , those was the good old days

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  23. Wonderful photos. I have had the same wonderings driving along the interstate when I see abandoned houses. Thanks for the glimpse into your memory. I lived in Northwrst Ohio for awhile but I am not familiar with this pkace.

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  24. I grew up directly N, about one mile from here. My dad, (David, aka Dave) and or grandpa, (Frank, aka Fritz) took my brother and I into the bar as kids. We’d belly up to the bar and have a pop while dad had a beer. Grandpa would drop a coin in the jukebox, turn his ball cap backwards, and then find a lady to share a dance with… and have a beer! We’d sit on the tailgate of the truck and watch the trains go by, anxiously waiting for the caboose and a wave from the lucky guy helping bring up the rear! It was great! Grandpa worked for Hank Wendt at Hank’s Place next door. In the summer of ’84 I worked there for a new owner,, lots of traffic!.. There was friendship and camaraderie, (mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together) in that bar. As an adult I’m trying to convey, very simply, this is a loved childhood memory and it saddens me to see the area going to,, ahem,, hell.

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  25. My family and I had a cabin at Sonnys beach!!! We used to go there for summer months!!! Our cabin was right across from the small beach with the mulberry tree!!! And I remember those railroad tracks shaking the cabin every morning!! I remember walking down to the little corner store and buying tootsie rolls from the old woman for a penny…We docked our boat on those docks…. I used to fish on that dock and watch sunsets.. I have the best childhood memories there❤️ It’s sad that it just went to waste like that….

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  26. vacationed there as a child. went back for a couple years with my family. people breaking into cabins & taking things when we were not there. wasn’t worth it anymore.

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