Painesville is the county seat of Lake County, Ohio. Established in 1800, the town was originally known as Champion, named for Henry Champion, the man who surveyed the community. Residents quickly changed the town’s name to Painesville, in honor of General Edward Paine, a hero of the American Revolution. The town’s most prominent resident during its first years of existence was Ohio Governor Samuel Huntington, who died in Painesville in 1817.
Painesville grew quickly, having 1,014 residents in 1840. In 1846, the town contained four churches, fourteen stores, one flour mill, one bank, and one newspaper office. It was the largest community between Cleveland, Ohio, and Erie, Pennsylvania. Painesville continued to grow over the next several decades. In 1880, 3,841 people inhabited the town. This growth was partly due to two railroad lines passing through the community, making Painesville a booming economic center. Four newspapers, five churches, and three banks existed in the town in 1886. Several manufacturing businesses operated in the town. The Paige Manufacturing Company, a machine works, was Painesville’s largest employer in 1886, with forty-eight workers.
During the twentieth century, Painesville continued to grow. In 2000, it ranked a distant fourth in size among Lake County towns, with just over 17,500 residents. Many of these new residents had left Cleveland, in nearby Cuyahoga County, for a quieter life in Painesville and Lake County. Over the course of the twentieth century, a tourism industry arose, taking advantage of Painesville’s close proximity to Lake Erie. Numerous local residents operate bed and breakfasts, restaurants, or other businesses that cater to summertime tourists.