Shaker Heights Revolt Against Highways

Masters thesis by Megan Lenore Chew, Ohio State Universaity, 2009

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Shaker Heights’ Revolt Against Highways.

This narrative details how highway building, environmentalism, race and class intersected in suburban Shaker Heights, Ohio, during the 1960s. The methodology combines local, environmental, political and social histories. While the city’s successful racial integration narrative has defined Shaker Heights, its class narrative is also significant. The unsuccessful attempts to build the Clark and Lee freeway through the eastern suburbs of Cleveland reveal important aspects of the class narrative and had national resonance, directly and indirectly connecting to important individuals and movements of the era. The success of the anti-freeway movement adds to Shaker’s atypical postwar social narrative. Part of a larger movement of freeway revolts, the Shaker Heights activists benefited from class advantages, political connections and the evolution of Interstate highway legislation since 1956. Activists benefited from built and natural environmental movements of the 1960s as well. In succeeding in preventing the highways, citizens managed to protect the suburb’s prewar character during an era of massive physical and social change. Rejecting an archetypal view of suburbs in the postwar era, this project stresses the importance of looking at the variability of actions, individuals and ideas within individual communities. Singular narratives of postwar suburbs, or of suburbs themselves, obscure these differences and prioritize certain narratives over others, including the narrative of this project. Advisors/Committee Members: Childs, William.