Urban Transportation in Cleveland

From the Encyclopedia of Cleveland

The link is here

URBAN TRANSPORTATION. During the last 150 years, transit in Greater Cleveland has gone from the horse and buggy to modern, diesel-powered buses and electric-rail coaches. Ownership has gone from small, privately owned, and minimally regulated systems (prior to 1910), to private corporations with tight public controls (1910-41), to city programs governed by a small board (1942-75); and to an autonomous regional authority (1975 to the present). Cleveland’s urban transit programs have run the gamut of problems and opportunities faced by all metropolitan systems, whose histories often have been complex and stormy.

The first urban transportation system established in the Cleveland area was the CLEVELAND & NEWBURGH RAILWAY, incorporated in 1834 by prominent Clevelanders. Operated by Silas Merchant, this line ran from a quarry atop Cedar Glen via Euclid to PUBLIC SQUARE, with passenger service commencing at the Railway Hotel at what is now E. 101st St. and Euclid. The line went bankrupt in 1840 and received close to a $50,000 as a subsidy from the county, but continued losing money and ceased operations in 1842. Ca. 1857, omnibuses, or “urban stagecoaches,” appeared on Cleveland’s streets. At first they ran between the downtown hotels and the railroad stations, saving patrons the trouble of carrying bags through “rutted, quagmire streets,” but they later extended service to “residential sections, remote business locales, and parks and water cures.” But omnibus travel, while more convenient than walking, was itself uncomfortable and unreliable. Horse-drawn carriages had difficulty on muddy streets, and omnibuses often did not operate in such conditions. Cleveland omnibus operator Henry S. Stevens sought a solution to this early urban transit problem and found it in the horse-drawn streetcar: rails secured in the streets made it easier for the horses to pull the cars in all sorts of weather. The first “oat-powered railway” in Ohio was introduced in Cincinnati in 1859; that year CLEVELAND CITY COUNCIL granted 2 of Stevens’s companies–the EAST CLEVELAND RAILWAY CO. and the Woodland Ave. Street Railroad Co. (later the Kinsman St. Railroad Co.)–franchises to lay rails in the streets. Service began regularly on 5 Sept. 1860; between 1863-76, 8 other companies were formed to operate lines along other streets.

To extend service from the end of these lines into the countryside, 3 suburban steam lines were organized in the late 1860s and 1870s. The CLEVELAND & NEWBURGH “DUMMY” RAILROAD, organized in 1868, ran from the Woodland-E. 55th St. barns to Broadway and Miles Ave.; its steam locomotives were disguised as passenger cars to fool horses, thus earning it the name “dummy” railroad. It operated until numerous accidents forced it into receivership in 1877. The Rocky River Railroad, organized in 1867, began at W. 58th and Bridge and ran to a resort called Cliff House; this line, instrumental in the development of LAKEWOOD, operated until 1882. The third such line was JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER†’s Lakeview & Collamer Railroad Co., in operation from 1875-81. In the 1870s, complaints about streetcar service were frequent. The uncoordinated transportation system required riders to take several different lines to reach their destinations and to pay a new fare on each. In 1879 TOM L. JOHNSON†, a veteran street railway businessman new to Cleveland, sparked the beginning of a prolonged struggle that would affect not only intracity transportation but local politics as well. He fought to enter the Cleveland street railway business, then worked to develop a single-fare ride from the west side into downtown. The CLEVELAND RAILWAY FIGHT OF 1879-83 pitted Johnson against banking, coal, iron, and shipping tycoon MARCUS ALONZO HANNA† and had profound implications for the future of local transportation.

Between 1879-93, the Cleveland transportation system was electrified and consolidated. As early as 1872, when the EPIZOOTIC epidemic struck area horses and brought most street railways to a halt (a few lines used mules, which were unaffected by the epidemic), street railway owners had sought other forms of motive power. The first local attempt to use electricity to power the cars came in July 1884, but proved unsatisfactory. Electrical power was used successfully by the East Cleveland St. Railway Co. on 18 Dec. 1888; it began running 4 electrical cars the next day and extended its electric service to Public Square on its Euclid line in July 1889. The first electric car to reach the Square, however, had been on the South Side Railroad’s Jennings Ave. (W. 14th) line on 19 May 1889. By 1894 all but 2 lines in Cleveland had been electrified; these were the Payne Ave. and Superior St. lines of FRANK ROBISON†’s Cleveland City Cable Railway Co. Cars on these lines were powered by cable ropes pulled through concrete tubes by large flywheels located in powerhouses. The city’s first cable car appeared on 17 Dec. 1890 on the Superior Line; the change from horse-drawn cars to cable cars was gradual, but Robison had adopted cable cars after they had become outmoded by electricity. The Superior line was electrified in July 1900, the Payne line in Jan. 1901–the latter carried the last cable car in Cleveland on 19 Dec. 1901.

Prior to 1893, Cleveland had 8 different companies operating 22 different lines. Consolidation of these scattered lines began in the 1880s. In 1885 the Kinsman St. Railroad Co. (operating the Woodland and Kinsman lines) merged with Hanna’s West Side Railway Co. (Detroit, Lorain, and Franklin-W. Madison lines) to form the WOODLAND AVE. AND WEST SIDE RAILWAY CO.. In 1889 Frank Robison’s Cleveland City Cable Railway Co. was formed by the mergers of the St. Clair St. Railroad Co. with the Superior Railroad Co. (Payne and Superior lines). In Mar. 1893 the CLEVELAND ELECTRIC RAILWAY CO. was formed by the merger of Azariah Everett’s EAST CLEVELAND RAILWAY CO. (Euclid, Cedar, Wade Park, Garden [Central], Quincy, and Mayfield lines) with Joseph Stanley’s BROADWAY & NEWBURGH STREET RAILROAD CO. (Broadway and Belt lines); in April the Cleveland Electric Railway added Tom and Al Johnson’s Brooklyn St. Railroad Co. (Pearl, Scovill, and Abbey Lines) and their South Side St. Railroad Co. (Jennings [W. 14th], Scranton and Clark, and Fairfield lines). The Cleveland Electric became known as the Big Consolidated, and shortly after its mergers were completed, the Little Consolidated–more properly the Cleveland City Railway Co.–took shape in May when Robison’s Cleveland City Cable Co. merged with Hanna’s Woodland Ave. & West Side Street Railroad.

Cleveland Electric suffered through a violent strike in 1899 (see STREETCAR STRIKE OF 1899), but for the most part it did battle with the Little Con until acquiring it in July 1903. For the rest of the decade, Cleveland Electric fought with reform mayor Tom L. Johnson, who argued for a 3-cent fare andMUNICIPAL OWNERSHIP of the lines, using the battle to educate the people about the evils of “privilege” and the benefits of public ownership. The railway disputes eventually were brought before the U.S. District Court, Northern Ohio, where the determined efforts of Judge ROBERT WALKER TAYLER†, a superb conciliator and mediator, resolved the issue. His “Cost of Living Service,” released on 15 Mar. 1909, was based on the premise that “the community never pays more than the cost of service rendered; that the owners of the property never, by any device, get more than 6% on the agreed amount of their investment; and that the community will at all times know just how the property is being operated and have the power to correct any abuse either of management or of service.” This was the basis of the Tayler Franchise adopted by Cleveland City Council in Dec. 1909 and approved by the voters in Feb. 1910. When the franchise became operational 1 March 1910, it inaugurated a new era in Cleveland’s transportation history. Franchises of the former competing companies were given to the CLEVELAND RAILWAY CO.; appraised value was $14,675,000. Guidelines for costs and changes were prescribed. The innovative agreement provided for the position of city street railroad commissioner (appointed and removed only by the mayor but paid by the company), for boards of arbitration, and for municipal ownership, when such was permitted under Ohio’s constitution. Cleveland’s public/private system caught the attention of the nation. Mayor NEWTON D. BAKER† appointed PETER WITT† as railroad commissioner, who scrutinized every move of the company. Witt also pioneered the “skip-stop” plan, under which inbound cars stopped at every other street and outbound ones at the other. Because each patron walked 1 additional block per day, service was faster. He also developed and patented the “Pete Witt Car,” which had front and rear doors for entrance and exit.

The system that brought Cleveland some of the best and cheapest service in the nation was not immune to the Depression of the 1930s. Decreased patronage, inability to meet fixed charges, including the 6% return, and continued use of aging equipment spurred interest in public ownership. An Analytical Survey of the Cleveland Railway Co., completed in July 1937, carried overtones of the inevitability of public transit ownership, which finally arrived in 1942. Twenty years after the Ohio constitution had permitted a city to purchase a transit system, Cleveland’s city council passed an ordinance for the purchase, transit bonds amounting to $17.5 million were issued, and at midnight 23 April 1942 Cleveland took possession of the system. Operation and management became part of the Department of Public Utilities under Commissioner Walter J. McCarter until 3 Nov. 1942 when voters approved a charter amendment establishing an independent transit board “to supervise, manage and control the transportation system.” The 3-member board, appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council, began to function on 1 Jan. 1943; its first chairman was William C. Reed. McCarter continued as the system’s first general manager. Although the amended city charter completely separated the administration of transportation from other public utilities, the city council retained the right to approve new capital expenditures, the acquisition of other transit systems or franchise extensions, and the disposal transit system property. With these exceptions, the CTS board followed the model of the directors of a private corporation–to determine policies and to give the general manager responsibility for operations.

The city’s performance with public transit was successful until the late 1960s. During World War II ridership had increased rapidly as automobile manufacturing ceased, gasoline was rationed, and employees, including many more women, worked more days per week. With a prosperous CTS, the 1942 debt, scheduled for repayment in 20 years, was redeemed in half the time. A 1951 Reconstruction Finance Corp. loan of $29.5 million was granted by the federal government for the purchase of vehicles for improvements in surface facilities, and for assistance with the construction of a rapid rail system. In exchange for the loan, the RFC insisted that the transit system be free of all oversight by Cleveland City Council and that the number of transit board members be increased to 5. The city council retained its right to approve board appointees, to dispose of the system as a whole, and to issue CTS bonds. Operation of the rapid transit between Windermere and Public Square began on 15 March 1955; service to the west side to W. 117 St. began on 14 August 1955 and was extended to the airport in 1968, making Cleveland the first city in the Western Hemisphere to have rapid-rail transit from the center city to the airport. While the east-west rapid transit marked another milestone in the city’s transportation history, buses, first used extensively in the 1920s, proved more flexible if less glamorous than rail-bound streetcars, which were gradually phased out–the last one ran on 24 Jan. 1954. CTS was a “profit-making” venture between 1942-67, but it lost $483,474 in 1968, $1,774,861 in 1970. Charged with operating from the farebox, Cleveland could no longer hold fares to $.50 for local rides without additional sources of income, but the city was reluctant to give up control of the failing system to a regional authority despite its increasing deficits. In Dec. 1974 the GREATER CLEVELAND REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY was created to rescue CTS and to consolidate the other local transit companies operating in the area. Cuyahoga County voters overwhelmingly approved a 1% sales tax in July 1975 to subsidize RTA’s operations and a new, lower fare structure became effective in September.

The mix of RTA’s revenue sources changed dramatically because much of the new system’s income now came from public sources instead of the farebox. By 1985 total revenues were $135.4 million, with passenger fares bringing in only $36.8 million; the sales tax contributed $77.9 million, the state chipped in $6.8 million, and Federal Operational Assistance provided $11.3 million. In addition, significant monies for new rolling stock, system upgrade, and route expansion were received from the federal government on a matching basis.

The regional authority was not the panacea hoped for in 1975. Although ridership increased from 78 million in 1974 to 130 million in 1980, it began to decline again, this time to 59.97 million in 1993, reflecting the continuing exodus of the city’s population and businesses. Diminishing passenger traffic, reductions in federal subsidies, and reduction in anticipated revenues from sales taxes forced RTA to raise fares and cut service. In 1982 the local fare was raised to $.85 and it continued to escalate, reaching $1.25 for local rides in 1993. Hoping to increase ridership, RTA built a walkway from its TOWER CITY CENTER station to the new Gateway sports center to provide efficient transit service for fans attending CLEVELAND INDIANS andCLEVELAND CAVALIERS games.

Dallas Young (dec.)


Christiansen, Harry. Northern Ohio’s Interurbans and Rapid Transit Railways (1965).

——. Trolley Trails through Greater Cleveland and Northern Ohio (1975).

Morse, Kenneth S. P. Cleveland Streetcars (1955).

Bridges in Cleveland

From the Encyclopedia of Cleveland

The link is here

BRIDGES. Cleveland, split firmly though unequally by the CUYAHOGA RIVER, is deeply dependent on bridges. The city’s east and west sides are joined today by both high fixed spans and lower-level opening bridges. Trains cannot climb steep grades, and their frequency of crossing is low enough to permit the use of opening spans of various sorts. Auto and truck traffic, however, is of such high density that delays occasioned by spans opening for river traffic would be intolerable. Autos and trucks are capable of climbing the relatively steep approaches to high-level bridges over the Cuyahoga River, and today the bridges carrying heavy traffic loads (the Innerbelt Bridge, the HOPE MEMORIAL BRIDGE, the VETERANS MEMORIAL BRIDGE, and theMAIN AVE. BRIDGE) are high fixed spans. There are more than 330 bridges in the immediate Cleveland area, including both the Cuyahoga River bridges and those spanning other features of the area’s mixed terrain and industrial complexes.

When Cleveland was first platted, just before 1800, the east and west sides were joined by ferries, which were soon supplanted by the first Center St. Bridge. The Center St. Bridge was based on a system of chained floating logs, a section of which would be pulled aside to permit the passage of vessels. A later version of this bridge was based on pontoon boats, and ultimately on a succession of fixed structures. The first substantial bridge over the Cuyahoga appears to have been the first COLUMBUS STREET BRIDGE, erected ca. 1836, with a draw section permitting vessels to pass. The roofed bridge was 200′ long and 33′ wide, including sidewalks. In 1836, following the incorporation of both Cleveland and OHIO CITY (CITY OF OHIO), Cleveland ordered the destruction of its portion of the Center St. Bridge, which had the effect of directing commerce across the Columbus St. span, thereby bypassing Ohio City. Enraged Ohio City residents damaged the Columbus St. span and hostilities began. West-siders ultimately gained their point, retaining a Center St. bridge along with the Columbus St. span. With Cleveland’s annexation of Ohio City in 1854, traffic increases led to construction of the Main St. Bridge and the Seneca (W. 3rd) St. Bridge, and a rebuilding of the Center St. Bridge. In 1870 the Columbus bridge was replaced by an iron truss structure, which in turn was replaced by a 3rd bridge in 1895. The Seneca span collapsed in 1857 and was replaced first by a timber draw span, and in 1888 by a Scherzer roller-lift bridge–the first of its kind in Cleveland. The Center St. Bridge had a similar history, its wooden structure being replaced several times, finally with the unequal swinging span of iron built in 1900, which remained in service in 1993 as the sole swinging bridge in the city.

By 1993, 4 great vehicular bridges provided high-level spans over the Cuyahoga Valley. They were the Veterans Memorial Bridge (opened in 1918), the Hope Memorial Bridge (1932), the Main Ave. Bridge (1939), and the Innerbelt Bridge (1959). Near the present Veterans Memorial Bridge may be seen the remains of one of Cleveland’s great historical bridge achievements, the SUPERIOR VIADUCT, opened with great fanfare in Dec. 1878. Its great west side stone approaches were joined with a swinging metal span crossing the Cuyahoga toward PUBLIC SQUARE and downtown Cleveland. The viaduct served until Veterans Memorial was opened in 1918, as a result of complaints about delays in vehicular traffic from the frequent openings that river traffic required. Originally known as the Detroit-Superior Bridge, Veterans Memorial was a 2-level structure, with streetcars utilizing the lower deck until their demise in the 1950s. When inaugurated, it was the world’s largest double-deck reinforced-concrete bridge.

Planned as early as 1916 but delayed by World War I, Hope Memorial was opened as the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge in 1932. The bridge has a lower deck originally designed for rapid-transit trains and trucks, but never used. Four colossal pylons, with figures symbolizing transportation progress, were preserved as the bridge underwent a thorough renovation in the 1980s, at which time it was renamed the Hope Memorial Bridge to honor the stonemason father of former Cleveland entertainer Bob Hope. Planned as early as 1930 to replace the low-level Main Ave. Bridge, with its attendant traffic delays, the Main Ave. High-Level Bridge was opened in 1939, after a remarkably fast construction largely financed with PWA funds. The bridge is 2,250′ long; with approaches, it is more than a mile in length. Eight truss-cantilever spans of varying lengths constitute the bridge itself, with added bridgework at the eastern end joining the bridge to the lakefront freeway. Having undergone significant emergency repairs in the 1980s, the Main Ave. Bridge was closed from 1990-92 for a major rebuilding and renovation of the deck structure, sidewalks, and railings.

The old CENTRAL VIADUCT, opened in 1888, stood approximately at the location of the Innerbelt Bridge (1959). The entire span consisted of 2 bridges of iron and steel placed on masonry piers. Originally the river was spanned with a swing section, which was replaced with an overhead truss in 1912. Closed in 1941, the Central Viaduct was finally replaced in 1959 by the Innerbelt Bridge, built with substantial funding resulting from the Federal Highway Act of 1956. The bridge is Ohio’s widest, and nearly a mile long, with the central portion consisting of a series of cantilever-deck trusses with a reinforced-concrete deck and asphaltic concrete driving surface. It serves to connect I-71 and I-90 West with the Innerbelt Freeway. Two other bridges built as part of the interstate highway system are the I-490 bridge, which replaced the Clark Ave. Bridge, and the I-480 bridge spanning the Cuyahoga through VALLEY VIEW. A substantial high-level rail bridge, the CLEVELAND UNION TERMINAL Railway Bridge, just south of the Veterans Memorial Bridge, carries 2 rail tracks and 2 tracks used by commuter rapid trains of the GREATER CLEVELAND REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY.

Nearly a dozen movable bridges remained across the Cuyahoga serving both vehicular traffic and railroads in 1993. Among the vehicular bridges are the old Center St. Swing Bridge, the Willow St. Lift Bridge (over the Old Cuyahoga Channel between the west side and WHISKEY ISLAND), the Columbus St. Lift Bridge, the Carter Rd. Bridge, and the W. 3rd St. Bridge. The remaining lift bridges serve various railroads; some were actively used, such as the ConRail Lift Bridge near the mouth of the Cuyahoga–the first bridge up the Cuyahoga from Cleveland Harbor–but many remained in lifted positions in the 1980s in response to industrial declines in the Cuyahoga Valley and consequent declines in railroad traffic. The rail bridges included Scherzer roller-lift bridges, bascule structures, and jacknife bridges, in addition to lift bridges such as the ConRail structure.

In addition to those spanning the Cuyahoga River, there are other bridges in Cleveland worthy of note. Architect CHAS. F. SCHWEINFURTH†, noted for his design of the downtown TRINITY CATHEDRAL, designed 4 unusually fine bridges that span Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. (formerly Liberty Blvd.) inROCKEFELLER PARK. Structurally interesting in their combining of steel, concrete, and decorative stone, they include 3 vehicle bridges (Wade Park, Superior, and St. Clair avenues) and a railroad bridge (built for the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway). Other noteworthy structures include the Forest Hills pedestrian bridge in nearby CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, the concrete-arch Monticello Bridge carrying Monticello Blvd. over Euclid Creek, the 1910 DETROIT-ROCKY RIVER BRIDGE (demolished 1980), the Hilliard Rd. Bridge over the Rocky River (1926), and the steel arched Lorain Rd. Bridge crossing Metropolitan Park near the Rocky River.

Although a large number of engineers, designers, and architects, organizations, and consortia can be identified with recent bridge history in Cleveland, several individuals and organizations stand out. One of these is Chas. Schweinfurth, whose designs were referred to earlier. Another prominent designer and builder associated mainly with midwestern railroad bridges was AMASA STONE†, who, unfortunately, is often remembered for the tragic 1876 collapse of his innovative wrought-iron Howe truss bridge that spanned the Ashtabula River, supporting the tracks of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, of which he was president. Cleveland firms that have had prominent roles in the history of Cleveland bridges are Wilbur J. Watson & Associates–known for the 1940 Columbus St. Bridge and later for pioneering concrete bridge structures–and Frank Osborn’s OSBORN ENGINEERING CO., which began building local bridges at about the end of the 19th century. Another firm with historical prominence was the KING IRON BRIDGE & MANUFACTURING CO., which had important roles in the building of the Veterans Memorial Bridge, the old Central Viaduct, and the present (1993) Center St. Bridge. In the post-World War II period, the firm of Howard, Needles, Tammen & Bergendoff was heavily involved with bridges in Cleveland, as attention shifted away from building new bridges to rebuilding and rehabilitating existing structures.

Willis Sibley


Bluestone, Daniel M., ed. Cleveland: An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites (1978).

Bridges of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County (1918).

Watson, Sara Ruth and John R. Wolfs. Bridges of Metropolitan Cleveland (1981).

Aviation in Cleveland

From the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The link is here

AVIATION. In the 1920s Cleveland emerged as a center for the early development of commercial mail and passenger flight operations, and since that time has become a focal point for the advancement of modern aviation and aerospace technology.

Cleveland’s initial contact with aviation began during World War I when the federal government provided incentive for its development by introducing the delivery of mail by air. Just as Cleveland benefited from its position on the New York-to-Chicago railroad corridor, its size and strategic location fit ideally into a coast-to-coast route for airmail delivery from New York City to San Francisco. In 1918 federal officials began constructing a transcontinental system of navigational beacons or “guide lights” to initiate coast-to-coast airmail delivery, and Cleveland, aided by enthusiastic support from the Chamber of Commerce and local business groups, was chosen as one of the principal stops. The first regular airmail service as far as Chicago was inaugurated in mid-December of that year when planes piloted by U.S. Army flyers arrived in Cleveland, landing on a grassy strip in Woodland Hills Park near E. 93rd St. and Kinsman Ave. Planes on these runs carried 850 lbs. of mail (letters cost $.06 to send) and the flights experienced few major difficulties. The first truly transcontinental airmail trips in the nation began 8 Sept. 1920, with planes making their Cleveland stop at Martin Field, located behind the aircraft plant (seeGLENN L. MARTIN CO.) on St. Clair Ave. The U.S. government considered these makeshift fields unsatisfactory, and in 1925, CLEVELAND-HOPKINS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT emerged when a team of city officials and Army Air Service personnel selected 1,040 acres at Brookpark and Riverside Dr. as the site for a new municipal airport. The much larger facility reflected good long-term planning, although the administration and passenger buildings did not open until 4 years later.

The timing of this $1.25 million airport expenditure was ideal because in 1925 Congress passed the Kelly Act, under which the federal government turned over operation of its airmail routes to private parties through competitive bidding. Civil aviation was born, and Cleveland benefited from the entrepreneurial spirit of the early airplane owners. Not only did private contract flyers carry mail to various cities, mostly in the Midwest, but these fledgling businesses began to seek passengers as well. Ford Commercial Air lines inaugurated daily trips between Cleveland and Detroit on 1 July 1925, and soon Natl. Air Transport, a future component of United Airlines, launched what would become the first continuous service. Four thousand planes cleared the new field in 1925; in 1926 the total reached 11,000; and a year later, volume had grown to 14,000. Travelers bound for Detroit in 1929 made the 100-minute flight from Cleveland in a Ford tri-motor metal monoplane paying a fare of $18 one way and $35 round-trip. Airline personnel continually reassured wary passengers that air travel was safe, pointing out that planes, pilots, and mechanics were licensed by the Aeronautics Branch of the Dept. of Commerce and a rigid daily inspection of equipment was made. Aircraft landing was indeed made much safer after 1930 when Cleveland’s municipal airport installed the world’s first radio traffic system. General airport upgrading in the mid-1930s also made for better flying, and pilots favored the Cleveland field because of its relatively obstruction-free approaches.

With the introduction of the improved Douglas DC-3 airplane in the late 1930s, the number of trips canceled by adverse conditions lessened significantly, making it possible for an airline to turn a profit on a flight without hauling mail. By World War II, 3 airlines, American, Pennsylvania Central, and United, dominated Cleveland’s commercial traffic. In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, the greater dependability and faster speeds of the planes, the lower fares, and the decline in intercity railroad passenger service expanded the market for air travel. Both passenger traffic and mail increased, as did the number of flights for airlines such as Eastern, TWA, United, and Trans-Canada, which connected Cleveland travelers to the major cities of the U.S. and Canada and to international flights around the world.

The most notable technological advance during the period was the advent of the jet engine and the rapid disappearance of piston-driven craft. Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 jets began to land at Cleveland Hopkins Intl. Airport, and in the late 1970s, the next generation of wide-bodied Boeing 747s and DC-10s regularly deposited passengers here. Only a few turbo-prop jets reminded passengers of the early jet age, and these craft belonged almost exclusively to small feeder lines such as the locally based WRIGHT AIRLINES, INC.. Massive improvements of Hopkins facilities were begun in 1973 involving a $60 million terminal-expansion plan which included rehabilitation of the west concourse and the longer runways needed to accommodate the jet age and the increase in passengers that it brought.

While physical improvements at Greater Cleveland’s 3 airports were readily apparent, the traveler, after 1978, also recognized that airlines themselves were changing as the revolutionary process of deregulation by the federal government swept the industry in the late 1970s. Competition increased and so did mergers as fares were lowered to attract more passengers. In order to maintain profitability, trunk carriers reduced the number of flights or ended service outright in what was rapidly becoming an intense rivalry. In spite of the volatility, however, a number of new airlines entered the field, and in 1992 Continental and USAir were major carriers operating out of Cleveland’s municipal airport.

Greater Cleveland had satellite airports as well. To relieve congestion, especially traffic generated by private aircraft, Cleveland’s downtown field, BURKE LAKEFRONT AIRPORT, opened in 1947 to provide ready access to the central business for travelers using their own or company planes or the regularly scheduled community flights. The other major landing strip at CUYAHOGA COUNTY AIRPORT on Richmond Rd. also served general aviation. Located in Richmond Hts., this field initially opened in the spring of 1929 when Ohio Air Terminals, Inc. acquired a 272-acre parcel for a flying school and related activities; however, it closed a year later after legal action was taken against the promoters because of airplane noise and danger. A pro-aviation climate after World War II prompted small-plane enthusiasts to win voter approval for the issuance of county general obligation bonds to rehabilitate the field. Although nearby property owners tried to block the plan, the Cuyahoga County Airport opened on 30 May 1950.

Cleveland aviation involved transporting freight as well as mail and people. In Feb. 1936, the Railway Express Agency’s Air Div. started air-rail express service through an interchange agreement with Pan American Airways that linked Cleveland with cities on 20 American airlines and most of Latin America. From the mid-1930s on, the forwarding of express and freight increased steadily. After World War II, air cargo service frequently became part of the individual carrier’s Cleveland operation. American Airlines, for instance, inaugurated such service between Hopkins and 42 other cities on its far-flung system in Sept. 1946. More recently, freight-only air forwarders have served the community, including Federal Express and the Flying Tiger Line.

In addition to the development of commercial aviation, Cleveland played an early role in the research and production of aircraft, beginning in 1918. That year inventor-entrepreneur Glenn L. Martin came to Cleveland and established a factory at 16800 St. Clair Ave. where he and his talented colleagues built the Martin MB bomber–acknowledged by military authorities to be superior in its class. The Martin-designed bomber, scheduled for quantity production when World War I ended, was produced here for the U.S. Army and Navy, for the Post Office, and for commercial use. Although Martin moved his plant to Baltimore in 1929, the GREAT LAKES AIRCRAFT CO. operated a portion of the former Martin facility until that company disbanded in the mid-1930s. Aircraft parts continued to be made here, however, by firms such as Cleveland Pneumatic Aerol Co. and Thompson Products (TRW). Cleveland returned to aircraft production during World War II, when the Cleveland Bomber Plant owned by the Dept. of Defense and operated by General Motors (GM) made the B-29 bomber adjacent to the municipal airport.

Aviation research and development was also furthered by the NATIONAL AIR RACES, which were held here intermittently throughout the 1930s and from 1946-49. In 1929 the quality of Cleveland’s airport and the organizational skills of the Chamber of Commerce, together with support from Glenn Martin and Thompson Products, made possible the first aircraft races and the satellite aeronautical exposition. Although the races popularized aviation and were a source of civic pride, they were also important in advancing aircraft technology. Contests such as the Bendix trophy race from Los Angeles to Cleveland and the Thompson Trophy Race–a 55-mi. closed course marked by pylons–were proving grounds to test the airplanes’ durability and performance under extreme conditions. Cleveland’s stature as a research center was affirmed when the Natl. Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) established an aircraft engine laboratory in 1940. During World War II, its investigations included the problems associated with B-29 engines which were being assembled here by GM. Renamed the Lewis Flight Propulsion Research Laboratory after the war, the NACA facility conducted research to improve jet engine technology. In 1958 the Lewis Research Center became part of the Natl. Air & Space Admin. (NASA) and became actively engaged in the Mercury and Apollo space programs.

Although aircraft production did not remain in Cleveland, the city retained a meaningful presence in the manufacture of airplane parts and the advancement of jet engine and aerospace research and development.

H. Roger Grant

Univ. of Akron


Dawson, Virginia P. Engines and Innovation: Lewis Laboratories and American Propulsion Technologies (1991).

Hull, Robert. September Champions–The Story of America’s Air Racing Pioneers (1979).

Fordon, Leslie N. “On to Cleveland Race–1929,” in American Aviation Historical Journal, Spring (1966).

Wings Over Cleveland (1948).

Giblin, Ann M. “Aviation Enterprise, Technology and Law on Richmond Rd: The Curtiss Wright Hanger and the Cuyahoga County Airport,” in Journal of the Cuyahoga County Archives, (1983).

Morton, Jan. “Cleveland’s Municipal Airport,” in National Municipal Review (1926).

Aviation Library, WRHS.

Information kept by our government should be presumed open to public (by David Marburger 3/10/13)

Article written by David Marburger, a partner at Baker Hostetler’s principal office in Cleveland. Mr. Marburger is co-author of Access with Attitude, a book about Ohio’s sunshine laws.

This op-ed appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday March 10, 2013 

Information Kept by Our Government Should be Presumed Open to Public

It’s time for the Ohio General Assembly to kill the stealth exemption.

The stealth exemption is a nickname for a series of misguided rulings by the Ohio Supreme Court in interpreting Ohio’s open-records law, our most potent catalyst for accountable government.

The court’s rulings have made Ohio the only state where citizens must prove that information kept by public agencies is supposed to be open. 

In every other state, officials must comply with public requests to see records in their custody unless the officials prove that the information matches an explicit description in a statute that identifies the kinds of information that they can withhold.

Ohio’s top court has moved that key component of open government back to the 17th century, when England ruled America.

In England, the government was the king’s government. An English citizen had to satisfy the king’s ministers that the citizen deserved to see particular records. If Mr. Jones could show that he was about to sell his land, he could see his recorded deed. 

But America emphatically rejects that idea. Officials keep and create records only for our benefit, under our authority, and with our money. Open records is the default.

In limited instances, we’ve decided that society benefits more by closing certain categories of records than by opening them. So we’ve enacted statutes that specifically identify categories of records that officials may withhold from us. How government security systems work is an example. 

But about 10 years ago, Ohio agencies began to say no even when recorded information that we requested didn’t fit any statutory exception. The agencies pounced on the statutory definition of record, which applies to recorded information that documents any activity of government. 

The logic: If official information isn’t a “record,” then it can’t be a “public record.” And if it isn’t a “public record,” the public has no right to see it. 

They insisted on narrow, highly literal interpretations of “record,” and they succeeded in persuading the Ohio Supreme Court to adopt the narrow view. Actual rulings: 

• Citizens’ letters kept by a judge that tried to influence her sentencing in a controversial criminal case — closed because they aren’t “records.”

• Parents’ letters received by a public high-school superintendent describing how the high-school basketball coach was treating the student players could be freely destroyed because they weren’t “records.”

• Responses by prospective jurors in a criminal case to the court’s written questions, and used to select which jurors to keep and exclude from the case — closed because they aren’t “records.”

• Emails among county employees using county computers while on the job that racially harassed another employee — closed because they aren’t “records.” 

• Applications to become public-school superintendent sent to the school district’s post office box at the school district’s instruction were not “records,” and so were closed until the school board disclosed them at the board’s own initiative.

The definition of record has become a stealth exemption from the public’s right to know. It’s a black hole of government-stored information that we can’t see and that no one can categorically identify.

The Ohio Supreme Court has never answered this question: Which law allows our agencies to keep recorded information that isn’t a “record”? Answer: There isn’t one.

Or this question: Which theory of democracy justifies allowing officials to conceal information kept in managing our affairs, collected using our authority, and paid for with our funds — when no law identifies that information? Same answer.

All recorded information kept by our government agencies must be presumptively open to the public unless expressly closed by statute.

If that makes the family photos on the mayor’s secretary’s desk a public record, then pass a law that exempts the personal effects of public employees that are incidental to their employment. But nothing should be exempt from public view unless one of our statutes says it is.

 

Recollections of Secretary Newton D. Baker by FQC Gardner

Remarkable chapter from the memoirs of  FQC Gardner, an associate of Secretary of War Newton D. Baker

The full memoir is here

Having set down at such length my recollections of General March, I should also like to set down some of my recollections of Secretary of War Baker.

Secretary Baker was about as different from General March as any man could be. He was a small (slightly more than five feet tall), quiet spoken, rather frail looking, unaffected man, of simple tastes, who worked about fourteen hours a day and whose chief relaxation was reading Greek and Latin classics (in the original).

Like everyone with or under him, I came to have the greatest respect, admiration and affection for him.

Frederick Palmer‘s book “Newton D. Baker” (Mr. Baker was never willing to write his own autobiography) affords an excellent insight into the magnitude of the problems that confronted him in directing the greatest mobilization of the Nation in its history.

I shall not concern myself here with Mr. Baker’s accomplishments beyond stating that I believe, from my recollections of him, that he was directly and personally responsible for:

(a) Overruling the opinion of Judge Advocate General Crowder, construing Section 5 of the National Defense Act as eliminating the supervisory functions of the General Staff, and as leaving it only advisory.

(b) The enactment of the Draft Act, and for the policy of using local civilian Draft Boards.

(c) The creation of the Council of National Defense and of the War Industries Board.

(d) The establishment of the policy that all American troops should be grouped into an independent American Army, and for the adherence of President Wilson to this policy.

(e) Securing President Wilson’s backing for unity of command of all Allied forces.

(f) Securing President Wilson‘s backing for the policy of eliminating politics and favoritism from the appointment, promotion and assignment of all personnel of the Army.

(g) Spending more than a billion dollars before the passage of the Emergency Appropriation Bill.

(h) Personally conducting with the British the negotiations leading to the allotment of British shipping and to the settlement of claims involving this shipping.

Mr. Baker had the keenest mind of any man I have ever known. He also was the ablest extemporaneous speaker that I have ever heard speak.

As Secretary of the General Staff I had no official dealings directly with Mr. Baker. However, he knew that perhaps 75% of the letters for his signature passed through my hands, and that many of them were rewritten by me before I submitted them to the Chief of Staff.

He would occasionally, generally in the afternoon after he had finished his daily session of dictation, stroll through General March‘s office into mine, and, generally while sitting on the edge of my desk, smoking his pipe, would talk with me, generally about something he had read, in Greek or Latin, the night before preparatory to going to sleep.

I recall particularly one such occasion which might be of some interest to you, as affording some insight into Mr. Baker‘s personality.

He remarked that the next day he was leaving for West Point to deliver the Graduation Address, and he asked me if I would like to accompany him as his Aide. (I think that this was his way of giving me an opportunity to get away a while from my desk). I replied, of course, that I should be very glad to go.

We took the night train, arriving in New York about 6:30 a.m., and took a taxi to Grand Central Station, where we were to take a NYC train of day coaches only, to Garrison, where we would take the ferry to West Point.

Mr. Baker had a small suitcase, and suggested that we get in the smoker, (which was the car immediately in rear of the baggage car). Mr. Frederick P. Keppel, an Assistant Secretary of War, had joined us at the station, en route to some point beyond Garrison. I turned one of the seats over so that the two seats faced one another, and the three of us sat down. Mr. Baker had a book under his arm, and he said, “I picked up a copy of Morris Schaff‘s ‘Spirit of West Point‘. I have had no time to give any thought to my speech today, and I want to glance through this book while we are en route in order to get something of a background on West Point.”

The smoker filled up rapidly. Just before the train started, a man, evidently an educated man of affairs, entered the car, and seeing the one vacant seat by Mr. Baker, asked if he might seat himself. Mr. Baker urged him to do so. When the train was under way, all four of us began to glance through the headlines of the morning paper. In a few minutes this led to comment by one of the group on some item of the news. This, in turn, led to some discussion between Mr. Baker and the gentleman. They differed in their point of view, and the discussion became quite interesting as each stated his views so logically and succinctly that we were all oblivious of the time. At last Mr. Baker looked at his watch, and, saying “I didn’t realize that we will be in Garrison in about ten minutes. Please excuse me for a moment,” he picked up his suitcase and disappeared into the baggage car. In a few minutes he returned, having changed his street clothes for a more formal morning coat, striped trousers and a high hat. As he returned to his seat, his seat mate stared at him with some consternation, and said, “Aren’t you Mr. Baker, the Secretary of War?” Upon Mr. Baker’s reply in the affirmative, he said, “Well, Sir, I must apologize to you. I assure you that I did not recognize you before and I am afraid that I must have said some things that I would not have said had I known you were who you are.” Mr. Baker smiled, and, as we pulled into Garrison, said, “You certainly do not owe me any apology. While we have not seen alike in some matters, I have enjoyed our conversation very much and have found it very stimulating. I must congratulate you upon your skill and your candor in explaining your points of view.”

The point I wish to make here is that Mr. Baker had not had an opportunity even to open “The Spirit of West Point.”

We were met at the ferry landing by an official car and escort, and were whisked up the hill to the Battle Monument, where the Graduation Exercises were to take place, and within not more than five minutes of our arrival there Mr. Baker was introduced by the Superintendent and made the most eloquent and the most fitting Graduation address that I had ever heard made there.

Immediately on the conclusion of the Exercises we were whisked down the hill in time to catch a NYNH&H train for Pennsylvania station in New York. When we arrived there we were met by the Station master (who apparently had been advised by the Station Agent at West Point that Mr. Baker was on board) who told Mr. Baker that the station included a private waiting room for VIP’s and he urged Mr. Baker to make use of it for as long as he might be waiting for his train to Washington. Mr. Baker thanked him, but stated that he would not have the time to avail himself of the invitation.

We checked our bags, and Mr. Baker turned to me with a smile and said, “Well Colonel, what do you say to our going out and doing the town?” While I couldn’t clearly visualize just what might be Mr. Baker’s conception of “doing the town,” I hastened to reply that I thought it would be great fun. So we walked up to Macy’s, where Mr. Baker spent an hour or so browsing through the Book Department and discussing, at some length, some of the new books with the peroxide blond sales girl, in which discussion he succeeded in getting a full explanation as to her views as to the various characters and of the plot, to which he listened with close attention and with much interest. After he had bought one or two books we then walked up to Gimbel’s book store, where the same procedure was repeated.

By that time it was getting dark, so we walked back to Penn Station and went in the Restaurant to have dinner. After finishing dinner (a simple meal) we had a couple of hours to wait before we could get aboard the train for Washington, and we spent the time sitting at the table, smoking and discussing the events of the day. I recall a part of the conversation. At one point I said, “Mr. Secretary, I know that you had practically no opportunity to prepare your address today. But the address you delivered was the most eloquent and most fitting one I have ever heard at West Point. Will you please tell me how it was possible for you to deliver such an address extemporaneously?” He smiled and replied, “I am glad you liked it. To answer your question I would say that, for some years, I was City Attorney in Cleveland while Tom Johnson was Mayor. At that time he was actively engaged in his campaign for a 3-cent street car fare. Almost every day there were delegations of one kind or another who upon Mr. Johnson to protest against something he had done. Mr. Johnson adopted the plan of sending all these delegations to my office for me to handle. As the result I found myself making speeches almost every day to these delegations. I attribute any facility that I may have acquired in speaking extemporaneously to this experience.”

At another point in the conversation I referred to some tribute that Mr. Baker had, in his speech, paid to West Point. I felt very proud that he had paid such a tribute to the Military Academy, and I asked him if he would tell me what, in his experience as Secretary of War, had prompted him to do so. His reply, in substance, was as follows:

“As you, of course, know, it has frequently devolved upon me to select a man to head up some new and vitally important activity. In such cases it has been my policy to call upon two or three of the outstanding experts in the particular field involved to recommend to me several of the men whom they considered to be the best qualified to take over the task in question. I would then select one of these men to come and see me. I would explain to him the nature of the work involved and ask him if he would be willing to undertake it. In a great many cases the reaction was the same. The man would thank me for having considered him, and would state that before making a decision he would like to consult his associates in business. A few days later, upon his return to my office, he would say, in effect ‘After careful consideration I have decided that I must decline to accept the position. I have had no experience along this particular line, and I am not sure that I would make a success of this job. A failure would undoubtedly detract greatly from my professional reputation and prestige, that has taken me years to build up in the work in which I have specialized.’

I would then call upon each of the other men who had been recommended to me, with a similar reaction from each. Finally, in desperation, I would call upon the Army to select an officer considered best qualified for the position. When he came to see me, in almost every case he would say, in effect, ‘As you doubtless know, Mr. Secretary, I have had no experience in this particular field, and I have but little knowledge as to the nature of the problems involved. I believe, however, that, given a reasonable time to study the matter, I should be able to analyze the situation and, with the advice of such experienced associates that may be found to be required, to set up an organization which, with such modifications as actual experience may indicate as being advisable, will function effectively. If, after full consideration, you still wish me to take the position, I shall do so.’ In practically every instance the officer concerned has handled the job, no matter how complicated or extensive it might be, with outstanding efficiency and success.

In looking back over the past, I have been struck by the fact that, with very few exceptions, these men were all graduates of West Point.

The fact that West Point is able to turn out men whose reaction, when confronted with a new and difficult problem, is not “Whom can I find to tell me how to do this” but rather “Given time enough to study the problem I shall be able to analyze it and resolve it into its basic factors”, and who possess the leadership, loyalty, integrity and executive ability to organize and direct effectively and successfully the organization involved, makes West Point an invaluable and indispensable asset to the country, in peace or in war. It was this thought that I had in mind in my address this morning.”

This tribute to West Point, by Mr. Baker, can, in my opinion, always be a source of pride to any graduate. I do not know of any man in our history who, by actual experience, intelligence and insight, has been better qualified to make such an appraisal.

One of Mr. Baker’s outstanding characteristics was his intensive love of justice. All Court Martial records with sentences of death or (for officers) of dishonorable discharge) required the approval of the President, and were sent by the Judge Advocate General to the office of the Chief of Staff for transmission to the Secretary of War for his recommendation to the President. I reviewed these cases before presenting them to the Chief of Staff, and in a few cases I submitted a Memorandum recommending the disapproval of the recommendations of the Judge Advocate General.

Mr. Baker personally studied each of these proceedings (some of which were two or three feet high), this work being done at night after every one else in his office had left, and frequently not being finished until two or three o’clock in the morning.

I once asked him why he felt it necessary to do this and why he would not delegate most of this work to some eminent lawyer or judge in whom he had entire confidence. His reply was, in effect, “In reviewing these cases I am not so much concerned with the individual concerned as I am in his sons and daughters. I desire, if possible, consistent with justice, to spare these from the humiliation of being ashamed of the record of their father in the War, and I cannot decide what is just, in a particular case without personally studying the record.” I doubt very much if the Secretary of War in any other war followed such a laborious and painstaking procedure.

The following quotations, from several people who, in my judgement were especially qualified to do so, express, in words more fitting than any I could use, my own opinion of Mr. Baker.

Walter Lippman wrote of him: “Mr. Baker, it always seemed to me, had the exceptional strength of an almost selfless man. I do not know of any public man in our time who rose to such heights of power with so little personal ambition, or who gave up power so easily and with so little personal regret. He had many enemies, but he, himself, was almost without enmity. He was one of the kindest, most considerate, and most magnanimous human beings of our time. He had no vanity, no resentments, and no sense, I think, that he had been called to a high place in a great moment in history, and that he had a chance to carve out for himself a memorable career and a resounding reputation.

Everywhere it is now known that he was a great Secretary of War, undoubtedly the greatest this country has ever had in time of war.

We shall not often see a man of his quality, and those who had the pleasure of working for him will think of him as one of the most unworldly men who ever in any time played so great a part in the world.”

Mr. Tumulty, who was secretary to President Wilson, wrote:

“his great gift was his sense of understanding, magnanimity and his passionate love of justice and liberty…

In all relationships of life, whether personal, professional or political, he was a man of incorruptible integrity.”

General March wrote (The Nation at War) :

Secretary Baker was a little man physically, but that was the only small thing about him. He united a remarkably alert mind with a mastery of the apt word and a sense of fairness and justice I have never seen surpassed in any one…

As the Army grew he too grew in stature as Secretary of War. When we entered the War he knew little about the business of war. But neither did any one else in America. As his responsibilities increased, he developed with them. He visibly, almost from day to day, became a bigger man, with a complete and comprehensive grasp of the whole military purpose.

It is my considered opinion that Newton D. Baker is the greatest Secretary of War this nation has ever produced. And in saying this I do not exclude the forceful Stanton or the brilliant Root; no Secretary ever solved his difficulties with more success. Secretaries of War who have followed him have found his state papers models of clearness, justice and freedom from error.”

Deferring Dreams: Racial and Religious Covenants in Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland, 1925 to 1970 By Marian Morton

The pdf is here

Deferring Dreams: Racial and Religious Covenants in Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland, 1925 to 1970

By Marian Morton

     Suburbia is mostly about dreams – of more gracious homes and more spacious lawns, dreams of leaving behind the old neighborhood for greener pastures, better schools, and nicer neighbors. Two realtors – the legendary Van Sweringen brothers and Abeyton Realty, created by the son of the legendary John D. Rockefeller – sold those dreams. “As you drive through Shaker Village and marvel at the consistent beauty of its development, remember this: it is a HOME SANCTUARY,” boasted the Van Sweringen Company’s advertisement in August 1925. “Protection attracts the finest homes.” Five years later, Abeyton Realty, developer of the Forest Hill allotment in Cleveland Heights, promised “surroundings … where your neighbors are inevitably people of tastes in common with yours …. The careful restrictions placed on Forest Hill today will never be lowered.”That “protection” and those “restrictions” referred to the racial covenants embedded in Shaker Heights and the Rockefeller’s Forest Hill property deeds that for four decades deferred but did not defeat the suburban dreams of Jews and African Americans.

     Before cities and suburbs imposed zoning restrictions, developers of residential allotments customarily included in deeds covenants that mandated home prices and sizes, setbacks and sometimes landscaping. The assumption was that a factory or store or some other undesirable land use lowered property values.

     Racial covenants were based on the assumption that undesirable racial groups lowered property values. Municipal efforts to impose racial restrictions on property ownership were declared unconstitutional in 1917 by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, in 1926 in Corrigan v. Buckley, the court affirmed the right of private individuals or corporations to Impose through covenants restrictions on home sales by race or other criteria. These covenants prevented property owners from selling to specific groups or selling without the permission of the developer. 3(In the same year, the court affirmed the right of cities to impose zoning restrictions on private property in Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty; zoning would often have the same effect as racial covenants.) These decisions reflected two simultaneous trends: the rampant anti-Semitism and racism that found open expression in the (short- lived) rise of the Ku Klux Klan, tightened federal immigration restrictions, and the enormous suburban boom of the 1920s.

     Although there have always been other strategies for keeping undesirable persons out of a community – for example, realtors could simply refuse to show them homes-, racial covenants came into common use in much of the United States from the mid-1920s through the 1940s. Most covenants targeted specific racial groups that appeared to be a threat at that time and place: African Americans in many places but Asians on the West Coast; some covenants mentioned “Hebrews.”4

     The covenants in Shaker Heights and Forest Hill did not mention any specific racial group but required that a property could not be re-sold without the consent of the developer and/or the surrounding neighbors. This vagueness meant that any undesirable neighbor could be excluded – for his occupation or politics, for example. The context in which those covenants were created in Shaker Heights and Forest Hill, however, make it clear that the real targets, as elsewhere, were Jews and African Americans. 5

     Shaker Heights began as a planned community. Inspired by their success at selling distinguished homes in the Cleveland Heights’ neighborhood now referred to Shaker Farm, along Fairmount Boulevard east of Coventry Road to Lee Road, Oris Paxton and Mantis James Van Sweringen (the Vans) purchased 1,200 acres of the former community of Shakers (the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing) from a Buffalo real estate syndicate in 1906. The Vans’ Shaker Heights Village separated from Cleveland Heights in 1911 and was officially recognized as an independent village by the state of Ohio in 1912. The Vans quickly delivered on the suburban dream and laid out grand boulevards, green parks, curving streets, handsome public schools, two exclusive country clubs, two new lakes in addition to the two built by the Shakers, and tasteful commercial districts – and also built a rapid transit to carry their homeowners to and from downtown Cleveland. The early property deeds placed strict restrictions on the homes and property use, specifying architectural styles, colors, landscaping, locations of homes, driveways, garages, allowing the growing of flowers but not vegetables, prohibiting “weeds, underbrush, or other unsightly objects.” “No spirituous, vinous, or fermented liquors” and no “barns, stables, or water closets” were permitted. 7

     Shaker Heights quickly became a smashing success; its 1911 population of 200 soared to 1,600 in 1920. Although prices of the homes varied, the initial assumption was that even moderately priced homes would be beyond the reach of undesirable buyers.

     Right next door, however, on Shaker’s southwestern boundary was the Kinsman-Mount Pleasant neighborhood, which stretched along Kinsman Road from E. 116th to E. 154th Streets. In the 1920s this became a working–class Jewish community. Its streets were lined with two-family homes, clothing stores, confectionaries, groceries, and delicatessens that catered to the Jewish clientele who also built the Kinsman Jewish Center (Congregation B’nai Jacob Kol Israel) and the Jewish Carpenters Hall.Most were not Reform or Conservative Jews, who had become more or less assimilated into American life, but Orthodox Jews, recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, who had moved east from the Jewish neighborhood around Woodland Avenue. (Kinsman Road within the Shaker boundaries was re-named Chagrin Boulevard in 1959.)

     In early 1925, the Vans began to add to their property deeds the covenants that restricted re- sale of properties: “No sublot of the property … shall be occupied, leased, rented, conveyed, or otherwise alienated … without the written consent of the Van Sweringen Company.” This consent could be granted, however, if the company was presented with a written request from the majority of neighbors within five sublots of the home in question. If the company was not available to provide the consent, it could be provided by the majority of those same neighbors. 10

     In late September 1925, a crowd of 500 angry residents united “to bar undesirables … aroused by the fact that two colored persons have purchased property in their neighborhood. “11 In October 1925, the Shaker Protective Association attempted to get pre-1925 home owners to sign re-sale covenants, warning them of an “ever-present menace to every resident of Shaker Village and throughout Cleveland…. Unless a street is 100% signed up for restrictions, … the danger of an undesirable neighbor is an ever-present one.”12

     Two ugly racial incidents had also taken place that fall; the first, in the Wade allotment in University Circle where a black doctor’s home was bombed. The second happened in Shaker in September when the Huntington Road home of another black doctor, Dr. Edward A. Bailey, was attacked. Shaker police stood guard outside the home, but Bailey regarded this as harassment and threatened to sue Mayor W.J. Van Aken. 13

     The immediate impetus for the Shaker Protective Association was the fear of African American neighbors. The newly restrictive covenants, however, pre-dated these incidents by some months. Possibly the Vans were as prescient about blacks’ desire for suburban life as they were about whites.’ But most blacks, newly arrived in Cleveland from the South, were concentrated in the Central and Woodland neighborhoods, not close enough to be an imminent threat yet. Regardless, whether compelled by a Jewish neighborhood nearby or by a few blacks in their midst, three-quarters of Shaker residents had agreed to extend their deed restrictions for 99 years by 1927.14

     Cleveland Heights developed piecemeal and haphazardly. Developers had started carving suburban allotments out of the farms and vineyards of East Cleveland Township in the 1890s. Cleveland Heights became independent of East Cleveland Township in 1901. The village early included middle-class allotments such as Cedar Heights (Bellfield and Grandview Avenues south of Cedar Road) and Mayfield Heights, just east of Coventry. But in the first two decades of the twentieth century, Cleveland Heights was just as socially ambitious as Shaker Heights; Cleveland Heights too had its curving boulevards, grand homes, green parks, and handsome schools. In addition, it included a portion of John D. Rockefeller’s estate and the Severance family mansions and was home to dozens of families listed in the Cleveland Blue Book. 15 They lived in the elegant allotments of Euclid Heights, Ambler Heights, Euclid Golf, and the Vans’ Shaker Farm. Deed restrictions on these properties mandated only single-family residential use and specified sizes and prices of homes. Advertisements often described these allotments as “exclusive,” but deeds did not restrict sales. 16 As in Shaker Heights, developers and homeowners assumed that the high cost of the properties would limit sales to desirable neighbors.

     Much of Cleveland Heights was already built out by the time the Rockefellers’ Forest Hill allotment got underway in late 1929. John D. Rockefeller had made his legal residence in New York City in 1884 but kept a summer home and working farm on his estate, Forest Hill, with a golf course, riding trails, and scenic pond and boat house, until 1917 when the house burned down. In 1923, he sold the property, bounded roughly by Glynn Road (in East Cleveland) on the north, Taylor Road on the east, Mayfield Road on the south, and Superior Road on the east, to his son, John D. Rockefeller Jr., to develop. The local press was ecstatic: the development would improve “the whole tone … in the entire eastern end of Cleveland Heights and [check] certain isolated tendencies toward inferior development.” 17 After some years of bickering with Cleveland Heights over roadways and sewers, Rockefeller Jr., with the help of architect Andrew J. Thomas, began building homes along the northern boundary of the allotment. Six hundred homes, all in the French Norman style, were planned; these elegant homes in East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights were not Shaker Heights mansions, but they were definitely designed for a middle-class clientele who knew elegance when they saw – or bought – it.

     In imitation of the Vans’, Rockefeller properties had stringent restrictions on land use, mandating the price of the homes, placement of the garage, home, and driveway, and landscaping. From the very beginning of the development, however, deeds also included covenants that limited re- sale. Abeyton Realty and prospective Forest Hill homeowners had far better reason than the Van Sweringens to worry about Jewish neighbors, for there was already a significant Jewish presence in northern Cleveland Heights: the Mayfield Cemetery, just west of Coventry; the Montefiore Home on Mayfield, just east of the Heights Rockefeller Building; Jewish-owned shops on Coventry Road, and across Mayfield from the Montefiore Home, the congregation B’nai Jeshurun’s Temple on the Heights. The Rockefeller interests in 1924 had tried to persuade the congregation to exchange that location for a larger parcel on Superior Road; the congregation actually halted the construction of its new building, but the land swap fell through. 18 These were Conservative, not Orthodox, Jewish institutions, but hardly more welcome in the neighborhood.

     Rockefeller’s timing was dreadful. The first advertisements for the Forest Hill allotment appeared in 1930, only months after the bottom fell out of the American economy and the Great Depression began. Only 81 of the French Norman homes, most in East Cleveland, and the Heights Rockefeller building, at Lee Boulevard and Mayfield in Cleveland Heights, were completed in the early 1930s.

     The ads for Forest Hill always stressed the prestige that homeowners would gain just by living on or near the Rockefeller estate, but in the early years of the Depression, ads also emphasized that these homes were a great bargain (which was undoubtedly the case) and a good financial investment. Nevertheless, home-building and buying slowed to a crawl in the mid-1930s. In 1938, after his father’s death, John D. Rockefeller Jr. gave much of the original estate to East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights for a public park. When the economy began to recover in the late thirties, the exclusivity of the allotment once again became a key selling point: “Its high residential standards are carefully guarded by well chosen restrictions intelligently administered.”19 This Rumson Road deed, dated 1939, required that the Grantor (the developer) had to give permission for the owner to re-sell the property; if the Grantor was not available , permission “shall be deemed to be sufficiently obtained if obtained from a majority of the owners of the ten (10) nearest sublots,” who also had the right to enforce the restrictions.20 In early 1946, Rockefeller re-issued deeds to hundreds of Forest Hill residents that extended this restrictive covenant from ten to 20 years. When Rockefeller sold the remaining parcels to George Roose in 1950, the covenants were included in the deed of sale. 21 Roose also included the covenants in property deeds until at least 1959. They were not included when he sold the remaining parcels to Vinewood Incorporated in 1962.

     In 1948 the Supreme Court had ruled that restrictive covenants could not be legally enforced. The court decision did not preclude informal or extra-legal means of enforcing covenants, however, and the vagueness of the Shaker Heights and Forest Hill covenants meant that any group considered undesirable could still be excluded.

     By the early 1950s, African Americans presented a much more likely threat to suburban exclusivity than they had in the 1920s. In 1950, they constituted 16 percent of Cleveland’s population (up from 14 percent in 1940),22 and like other Americans in the prosperous postwar period, they dreamed of green lawns, fine homes, and social acceptance. They became the targets not only of racial covenants but of racial violence. In 1954, the home in the Ludlow neighborhood of a prominent black attorney, John Peggs, was bombed. There were several racial bombings and a racially inspired murder in Cleveland Heights in the late 1960s.23

     But a seismic change in racial attitudes, reflecting the strengthening civil rights movement, was underway. In 1968, Congress passed the Housing Rights Act that made illegal racial or religious discrimination by housing providers and home-owners.

     Shaker citizens, energized by the 1954 bombing, had already begun to work for peaceful racial integration, forming citizens’ groups in the Ludlow, Moreland, and Lomond neighborhoods. These organizations welcomed black neighbors and at the same time, tried to halt blockbusting and white flight. In 1965, the city’s Shaker Heights Housing Office assumed these responsibilities.24 Cleveland Heights residents followed a similar path. Led by members of St. Ann Church (now Communion of Saints), residents formed the Heights Community Congress to achieve a racially integrated community. Cleveland Heights City Council passed fair housing legislation and in 1976 established a city housing service. 25 Both cities still maintain fair housing programs.

     It is difficult to assess the impact of restrictive covenants during the decades when they were legally viable. Memories of those who were made unwelcome remained vivid and sometimes bitter decades later. In the 1980s, Manny Rocker, then Shaker Heights Municipal Court Judge, remembered his unsuccessful efforts to buy a house on Lomond Boulevard forty years earlier; when his realtor offered to evade the restrictions against Jews, Rocker refused: “I considered the whole business a slap in the face.” He bought a house in another Shaker neighborhood, apparently without difficulty.26 Bernard Isaacs described the Van Sweringen covenants (probably incorrectly) this way: “as absolute and as restrictive as any in the nation … The covenant was used to deter Jewish families from settling in certain parts of Shaker.” 27 Winston Ritchie recalled that in 1966, already a resident of Shaker although he was African American, he applied for but did not get the “Van Sweringen consent” to buy a lot on Green Road; he finally did get the consent of five people on either side of the lot and ten across the street, but not before he was turned down by one of his Jewish neighbors. Ritchie was later elected to the Shaker Heights City Council.28

     Forest Hill residents had similar memories. “The Rockefeller area was very restricted, especially at the beginning …. [T]hey did not want either Catholics or Jewish people, or blacks or anybody who wasn’t WASP to be a part of the area. … When we moved back in [19]65, we were interviewed and asked many questions to see whether they were willing to accept us;” Catherine Ballew was herself a former Forest Hill resident. 29 Dr. Herbert Jakob had lived in Cleveland Heights almost all his life. When he and his family moved to Forest Hill in 1967, “Forest Hill was totally segregated and to get in there you had to pass an inspection by a person who was very arrogant whose name I can’t recall. But in a very subtle manner he would determine whether or not you were eligible. To the best of my knowledge I was the first Jew that moved in there.”30

     Yet the racial covenants did not cover all homes in Forest Hill and Shaker Heights all the time. Twenty-five percent of Shaker residents apparently resisted the 1925 plea by the Shaker Protective Association. The covenants of the first Forest Hill residents expired after ten years, which would have allowed them to resell without permissions. (This may explain the 1946 efforts by the Rockefeller interests to extend the covenants.) Clearly, covenants were difficult for developers to enforce, placing the burden on home-owners. But home-owners, anxious to sell and/or opposed to racial covenants in principle, may have ignored them; home-buyers, anxious to buy or opposed in principle, may have evaded them.

     Consequently, demographic data tells a slightly different story than the personal recollections. In 1937, demographer Howard Whipple Green located Jewish children in all of Shaker’s public schools, most clustered near the border of Kinsman-Mount Pleasant in what is now the Lomond neighborhood; he estimated that there were already 873 Jewish families in Shaker.31 The Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland estimated that Jewish children constituted 9.3% of Shaker’s school population in 1944, 16 percent in 1951, and 18.4 percent in 1968. The federation also estimated that there were 14,700 Jews in Shaker Heights in 1970, slightly more than 40 percent of Shaker’s population. 32 Shaker was home to only two Jewish institutions, however. Beth-El Synagogue was built on Kinsman just within the Shaker boundaries in 1954, leaving in 1998 to join the congregation that is now Beth El-Heights Synagogue in Cleveland Heights. Only one other Jewish congregation established a synagogue in Shaker Heights, Shaker Lee Synagogue, completed in 1961; this Orthodox congregation left in 1971 to join the Warrensville Center Synagogue.

     Green’s data on Cleveland Heights in 1937 shows a heavy concentration of Jews along Mayfield and Coventry Roads and Jewish children in all public schools, but especially those in northern Cleveland Heights. Dr.Jakob’s recollections notwithstanding, Green counted more than 70 Jewish families in the census tracts that included the still almost undeveloped Forest Hill in 1937.33 A post-war influx of Orthodox Jews swelled Cleveland Heights’ Jewish population to an estimated 27,000 in 1944, perhaps half of the city’s population. 34 The Jewish Community Federation estimated that Jewish children constituted 33.6 percent of Cleveland Heights public school children in 1944, 47.3 percent in 1951, and 19.8 percent in 1968. The federation also estimated that there were 15,300 Jews in Cleveland Heights in 1970, about 25 percent of the total population. 35 There are no precise figures on a Jewish population in Forest Hill, but in 1970, there were two large Conservative congregations on Mayfield Road, and several small Orthodox congregations and the Jewish Community Center on Taylor Road on the southern and western boundaries of the allotment.

     The black migration to suburbia, prior to the 1968 federal legislation, was slower, impeded not just by covenants but by real and threatened violence in both suburbs, as well as by economic barriers. Nevertheless, in 1970, blacks constituted two percent of Cleveland Heights’ population (25 percent a decade later) and 14.5 percent of Shaker’s. 36

     Despite the 40 years of racial covenants, Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights (and University Heights) in 2011 have retained the largest share of Cuyahoga County’s Jewish population: 27 percent, an estimated 22,200 people and a decline of four percent from 1996 as the Jewish community continues to move east and south.37 Shaker Heights’ 2010 population was 28,448; 55 percent were white, 37 percent were black, and the rest were American Indian or Asian. Cleveland Heights’ population in 2010 was 46,121; 49.8 percent were white; 42.5 percent were black, and the rest were American Indian or Asian; African Americans lived in all neighborhoods, including Forest Hill. 38

     Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights today pride themselves on their racial, religious and economic diversity, diversity that their founders never imagined. Suburbia is still about dreams – same dreams, different dreamers.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 15, 1925:17.
Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 9, 1930: 74.
Robert M. Fogelson. Bourgeois Nightmares. Suburbia, 1870-1930. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005), 95-105.
http://www.bostonfairhousing.orghttp://washington.edu/civilr/covenants.htm
 

There may have been efforts to keep Catholics out of these communities as well. However, documentation is scant because individual Catholics are difficult for real estate agents and neighbors (and later historians) to identify. There are suggestions that the Shaker Heights Zoning Board made it difficult for St. Dominic’s, the only Catholic congregation in Shaker, to build its church, completed in 1948. The congregation was a spinoff from St. Cecelia’s Church in Mount Pleasant and may have had African American members. ((http://www.stdominicchurch,net). St. Louis Church (now closed) was denied permission to build in Forest Hill – Forest Hill Church Presbyterian had already bought property there – but did complete its building across the street on Taylor Road in 1951. (Marian J. Morton, Cleveland Heights Congregations (Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2009), 81.

Cuyahoga County Recorders Office, #1812714, Volume 3379, 101

7  Cuyahoga County Recorders Office, #1715174, Volume 3204, 557

8  David G. Molyneaux and Sue Sackman. 75 Years: An Informal History of Shaker Heights (Shaker Heights: Shaker Heights Public Library, 1987), 24.

Lloyd P. Gartner,History of the Jews of Cleveland (Cleveland: Western Reserve Historical Society, 1978), 183. Judah Rubinstein and Jane Avner. Merging Traditions: Jewish Life in Cleveland. Revised edition (Cleveland: Western Reserve Historical Society, 2004), 161-184.

10 Cuyahoga County Recorders Office, #1715174, Volume 3204, 557.
11 Heights Dispatch, October 1, 1925: 1.
12 Molyneaux and Sackman, 85.
13 Kenneth L. Kusmer, A Ghetto Takes Shape: Black Cleveland, 1870-1930 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1978), 168-169; Heights Dispatch, October 15, 1925: 1.

14 Molyneaux and Sackman, 20.
15 Marian J. Morton. Cleveland Heights: The Making of an Urban Suburb (Charleston, S.C.: 2002), 39. 

16 Morton, 56-57.

17 Heights Press, April 17, 1925: 1.
18 Morton, 110.
19 Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 23, 1939: 51.
20 Cuyahoga County Recorders Office, #2734469, Vol. 5020, 514. 

21 Cuyahoga County Recorders Office, #207187 Vol. 6646, 524.

22 Carol Poh Miller and Robert A. Wheeler. Cleveland: A Concise History, 1796-1996 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), 157.
23 Molyneux and Sackman, 81; Morton, 126-130.
24 W. Dennis Keating, The Suburban Racial Dilemma: Housing and Neighborhoods (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994), 96-106.

25 Morton, 126-130.
26 Molyneux and Sackman, 92.
27 Molyneux and Sackman, 81,
28 Molyneux and Sackman, 84. .
29 Oral History, Catherine Ballew, July 27, 2002.

30 Oral History, Dr. Herbert Jakob, January 18, 2002.
31 Howard Whipple Green. Jewish Families in Greater Cleveland (Cleveland: Cleveland Health Council, 1939), 6, 64. 

32 Judah Rubinstein, Estimating Cleveland’s Jewish Population (Cleveland: Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland), 6, 9, Appendix C.

33  Green, 6, 64.

34  Morton, 113.

35  Rubinstein, 6,9, Appendix C.

36 Keating, 135, 101.
37 http://issuu.com/jcfcleve.
38 http://quickfacts.census.govt; Keating, 137.

Blacks’ journey to Cleveland laid groundwork for success: Elizabeth Sullivan (Plain Dealer 2/24/2013)

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Blacks’ journey to Cleveland laid groundwork for success

 
Elizabeth Sullivan, The Plain DealerBy Elizabeth Sullivan, The Plain Dealer 
on February 24, 2013 at 6:00 AM, updated February 24, 2013 at 6:07 AM

Minorities living in Cleveland confront an “opportunity chasm” in high-tech entrepreneurship and education that freezes many out of today’s innovation economy, a recent study found. But 160 years ago it was a different story. 

On the eve of the Civil War, Cleveland was a mecca for black entrepreneurs and scholars from a handful of towns in North Carolina where free African-Americans could acquire skills, businesses and property — or just purchase their own freedom, or that of family members. 

These families’ journey to Cleveland is more than just an interesting historical footnote.

It also carries potential lessons on how a zeal to excel in education and business born of deep historical wrongs can help elevate individuals and sometimes even entire communities.

By 1860, 39 of Cleveland’s 176 “mulatto” or mixed-race families were from North Carolina, the HeritageQuest database at the Cleveland Public Library reveals. These new arrivals represented a combined wealth of nearly $21,000 — roughly $600,000 in today’s money — the census data show. That’s doubly astounding given that those assets would have mostly been acquired in the slaveholding South.

Of the 28 mixed-race North Carolina families with working-age men in Cleveland by 1860, 27 worked skilled trades, including as plasterers, shoemakers, barbers and tailors.

Descendants of John Carruthers Stanly, one of the wealthiest black Americans in pre-Civil War North Carolina, were among those drawn in the 1850s from the port town of New Bern, N.C. — lured in part by Oberlin College and its educational opportunities for young black women and men.

Stanly, who died in 1845, had been freed in 1795 by white owners Alexander and Lydia Stewart, who were friends and neighbors of the man widely believed to be Stanly’s father — wealthy privateer and plantation owner John Wright Stanly.

The Stewarts ensured their former slave was trained as a barber so he could support himself. According to a 1990 article by Loren Schweninger, “John Carruthers Stanly and the Anomaly of Black Slaveholding,” (pdf) Stanly turned proceeds from his highly successful barber shop into profitable investments in plantations, land and slaves — and, starting in 1800, bought his five children and wife out of slavery and freed them.

One of the first he freed was his son John Stewart, born in about 1799, whom he middle-named for his former owners.

John Stewart Stanly eventually ran a popular school for free blacks in New Bern — education being a powerful beacon for previously enslaved black Americans who by law had been denied the right to learn to read or write.

In 1852, John Stewart’s daughter Sarah enrolled in Oberlin, leaving two years later without graduating. She later became a Cleveland schoolteacher and anti-slavery activist.

Sarah was the first of a handful of other “New Bernian” women of color to attend Oberlin, including Ann N. Hazle and her sister Elizabeth, daughters of New Bern’s free blacksmith and baker, Richard Hazle (also spelled Hazel).

hazle.jpgAnn N. Hazle, daughter of free black baker and blacksmith Richard Hazle of New Bern, N.C., became only the third African-American woman to complete Oberlin College’s literary course in 1855. The Hazle family moved to Cleveland two years later. This photo of Oberlin College graduates of 1855 is from the Oberlin College Archives. Hazle is third from the left in the middle row. 

Ann Hazle was only the third black woman to complete Oberlin’s “literary course” when she graduated in 1855.

This Oberlin connection proved telling as anti-black attitudes hardened in New Bern. In about 1857, John Stewart Stanly moved his entire family to Cleveland in company with many of his free black neighbors of means.

John Patterson Green, the first black politician elected in Cleveland, who’s credited with inventing Labor Day, also moved from New Bern with his family in 1857, when he was 12. Green later noted in his evocative, wryly written memoirs, “Fact Stranger than Fiction,” that blacksmith-baker Richard Hazle — also part of this migration to Cleveland — was one of the few dark-skinned blacks to attain wealth in New Bern during the period of slavery; typically the path to money-earning apprenticeships was eased by a white relation.

Green recounts vividly what life was like in New Bern for an inquisitive, impoverished but free black boy in the early 1850s — full of injustices that no doubt contributed to his later decision to become a politician and lawyer in Cleveland.

green.jpgJohn Patterson Green was 12 when his widowed mother moved the family from New Bern, N.C., to Cleveland in 1857. In 1873, he became the first African-American elected to political office in Cuyahoga County, as justice of the peace, and was later the first black to serve in the Ohio Senate. In his memoirs, “Fact Stranger Than Fiction,” he wrote that his father’s parents were John Stanly Jr., the white North Carolina congressman, and a slave named Sarah Rice. This uncredited photograph is taken from his memoirs. 

Green’s mother, Temperance Durden Green, was so light-skinned that on most census sheets she was demarcated as white, a consequence of the complex and exploitative race relations of the era. In fact, her son’s surname should not have been Green at all. He was actually a Stanly.

As John Patterson Green tells it in his memoirs, his grandfather was John Carruthers Stanly’s white half-brother, John Stanly Jr., a federalist congressman who also was a fierce political opponent of Richard Dobbs Spaight, a signer of the Constitution — whom Stanly later killed in a famous 1802 duel that caused North Carolina to outlaw dueling. Spaight was also the white slaveowner of Sarah Rice, with whom the congressman had fathered a child — so Rice found it prudent to give their son the last name of Green, not Stanly.

Sarah Rice was eventually freed by Spaight’s descendants. But her son, Johnnie Rice Green, remained in slavery, learning the trade of tailoring — and earning enough to buy his own freedom for $1,000 in 1837, when he was in his mid-40s, and about to marry Temperance Durden, a free black woman, as his second wife.

Temperance Durden Green’s free black relations from what is now Fayetteville, N.C., also journeyed north as part of this 1857 migration to Cleveland.

Among them was the father of Charles Waddell Chesnutt, who was born in Cleveland in June 1858 and later returned as a married adult to pursue his career as a writer and activist for African-American rights.

Chesnutt’s brilliant books and short stories reflected the complex racial identity of men like himself, with feet in both the white and black worlds.

fact.jpgAn inscription by John Patterson Green inside a copy of his memoirs, “Fact Stranger Than Fiction,” which he presented to then-Ohio Gov. Myers Y. Cooper in 1930. It includes his rendition, in the Greek alphabet, of a saying he attributes to James Hadley, a 19th-century Yale professor of Greek. 

The arrival in the 1850s of a large number of free black families from North Carolina with money to spend and marketable skills made an immediate impact on Cleveland, as many bought homes and opened small barbershops, bakeries, carpentry and masonry shops, tailoring establishments and the like.

Barbering had become a key vector to prosperity for a whole generation of free black men — as chronicled by historian Douglas Walter Bristol Jr. in his 2009 book, “Knights of the Razor; Black Barbers in Slavery and Freedom.”

And what these barbers craved — as did John Carruthers Stanly’s descendants in Cleveland — was education for their children, the education that most of them had been denied.

The first black man to receive a degree from Oberlin College was George B. Vashon, son of a successful Pittsburgh barber and prominent abolitionist, John Vashon.

The first black woman to complete Oberlin’s literary course, Lucy Stanton, was born in Cleveland to a black barber. Her stepfather was wealthy barber John Brown, who left a fortune estimated at $40,000 when he died in 1869, making him Cleveland’s wealthiest black resident of the era, according to scholar Bessie House-Soremekun in “Confronting the Odds: African American Entrepreneurship in Cleveland, Ohio.”

Frances Stanly, the younger sister of Sarah, married two wealthy barbers in succession. Her second husband, James E. Benson, parlayed political connections to become one of the earliest black trustees of Ohio University.

One of the barbers who worked at Benson’s barbershop in the fancy Weddell House hotel was George Myers — who used that job to befriend some of Cleveland’s wealthiest movers and shakers, including The Plain Dealer’s Liberty Holden, who helped him buy the barbershop in the newly-opened Hollenden Hotel in the late 1880s. Myers’ political influence became so extensive, according to historian Bristol, that his detractors called his patronage system “Little Black Tammany.”

For many of these craftsmen, an overarching goal was for their children to reach the professional ranks that had been largely barred to them — an ambition that carried through to later generations as well.

One Stanly descendant — Dr. Catherine Deaver Lealtad, born in 1895 in Cleveland — became the first black graduate of Macalester College in Minnesota, earning a double degree with honors in chemistry and history in 1915. Lealtad got her medical degree in France and at the outbreak of World War II was commissioned as a major in the U.S. Army.

All four of Charles W. Chesnutt’s children graduated from college, including his three daughters, who all became teachers. His son became a dentist. Chesnutt’s oldest child, Ethel, a Smith College graduate, married Edward Christopher Williams, the valedictorian of his Western Reserve University Adelbert College class in 1892, who was widely acknowledged before his untimely death in 1929 to be the best-trained black professional librarian of his day.

But the world has changed. So it’s this enduring tilt in the African-American community toward professional aspirations over entrepreneurism and the sciences that Randell McShepard, the RPM executive who is board chairman of the PolicyBridge think tank in Cleveland, is trying to counter. A study the think tank did last year revealed that minorities in Cuyahoga County are grossly underrepresented in high-tech fieldspoised for explosive growth, such as the biosciences, advanced energy and propulsion.

“Twenty percent of the population in the county is minority; less than 2 percent are represented in those high-growth sectors,” McShepard said in an interview last week.

“Back in those days, if you were frugal and managed your money well, you could maybe amass a little bit of real estate and open up a few barber shops and make yourself a fortune,” he added. “But in today’s economy, those opportunities are few. The technology field is literally exploding; we need to make sure that we are inclusive.”

McShepard does take one lesson from the saga of the Stanly and Chesnutt families, however: “We need to want it as much if not more as they did back then. The irony is with all the gains we have made, we find ourselves as dependent as ever on high-quality education to compete, and to be the entrepreneurs the DNA tells us we can be.”

Sullivan is The Plain Dealer’s editorial page editor.

To reach Elizabeth Sullivan: esullivan@plaind.com, 216-999-6153

Walter Lippman on Newton D. Baker 12/28/1937

Walter Lippmann (23 September 1889 – 14 December 1974) was an American intellectualwriterreporter, and political commentator who gained notoriety for being among the first to introduce the concept of Cold War. Lippmann was twice awarded (1958 and 1962) a Pulitzer Prize for his syndicated newspaper column, “Today and Tomorrow”.

This article was published on December 28, 1937 on the occasion of Newton D. Baker’s death.

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40 years ago, a spark helps Cleveland’s PlayhouseSquare find its way back to the lights (Plain Dealer 2/5/2010)

40 years ago, a spark helps Cleveland’s PlayhouseSquare find its way back to the lights

Published: Friday, February 05, 2010, 4:00 AM     Updated: Friday, February 05, 2010, 1:45 PM
 

state theatre.jpg

View full size The State Theatre’s marquee lights cast a glow on Euclid Avenue.

Sometimes it takes a lunatic.

Sometimes it takes a self-described “career professional giant pain in the butt.”

Sometimes, in other words, it takes a Ray Shepardson.

ray shepardson.jpg

View full sizeRay

Shepardson sits in the shell of the Wheaton Grand Theater in Wheaton, Ill., on Thursday. Shepardson is planning on renovating this theater. He is credited with saving Playhouse Square.

He’s the visionary who doesn’t take “no,” even back when the odds of saving a historic piece of Cleveland were slimmer than the flagpole atop the tower that symbolized the prevailing prognosis: Terminal.

 
Forty years ago today, on Feb. 5, 1970, Shepardson launched downtown’s renaissance by initiating its first and arguably most successful restoration project: PlayhouseSquare.

He did it with an act so simple and so unheralded that there will be no parade down Euclid Avenue to mark it. In fact, executives at Cleveland’s theater district were unaware of the day’s significance.

As a functionary working for the Cleveland public schools, the mutton-chopped Shepardson was in search of a makeshift lecture hall that Thursday. He wangled a set of keys from a real-estate agent, the first of many to think the guy was nuts.

Shepardson — who called himself “a 26-year-old farm boy from rural Washington state” — unlocked the future by unlocking the doors of the State Theatre, a 1921 vaudeville house situated among three other 1920s venues along the desolation row that was Euclid Avenue.

It had been stripped of its Greek, Roman and Baroque filigrees in preparation for its demolition. But Shepardson, a former Mercedes salesman with no experience in theater or historic preservation, was impressed.

“I was in awe,” Shepardson, now 66, said from Wheaton, Ill., where he has been trying for five years to restore another historic theater.

Four decades later, PlayhouseSquare is home to eight theaters, whose 10,750 seats attract 1 million visitors to more than 1,000 events a year, making it the nation’s largest performing-arts center outside New York City.

With an annual operating budget of $60 million — surpassing the better-endowed Cleveland Orchestra and Cleveland Museum of Art — PlayhouseSquare broke the mold for performing-arts centers, establishing a model copied by the like-minded from Japan to New Jersey.

The nonprofit organization now encompasses a public-broadcasting studio/arts education center, a 205-room hotel and more than 1.6 million square feet of office and retail space housing 3,000 employees.

More important, PlayhouseSquare’s success paved the way for the rest of Cleveland’s efforts to restore the city core to its former glory, said Arthur Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

“The Warehouse District, the Tower City project, Gateway, the Flats, the East Fourth Street district — they all followed PlayhouseSquare,” said Ziegler, who consulted on the early phases of the PlayhouseSquare project.

“The economic muscle and very creative thinking behind PlayhouseSquare was unheard of until it came along. And it has lasted. These theaters haven’t gone bankrupt.”

Rather than going bankrupt, PlayhouseSquare earns 90 percent of its operating budget — almost twice the norm for nonprofit cultural organizations, which usually depend more on contributions — and is one of the leading stops for national touring Broadway shows.

The credit belongs to a long list of people — volunteers who worked for free, businessmen who put up money, a newspaper reporter named Bill Miller who championed the cause, and theater and preservation professionals who took over the project from Shepardson in 1979.

But Shepardson was “the spark,” said Lainie Hadden, who as president of the Junior League in 1972 came up with $25,000 to stop the wrecking balls threatening the Loew’s Building, which houses the State and Ohio theaters.

“When I first met Ray and heard his pitch, I said: ‘Mr. Shepardson, you are out of your mind. Nothing can be done for downtown Cleveland. It’s too far gone,’ ” Hadden said. “But eventually the spark caught in me.”

Shepardson said his “Ah-ha!” moment took place a few weeks after discovering the State. He was getting a haircut and pulled open the fold-out cover of the Feb. 27, 1970, Life magazine, which included a photograph of a mural in the State Theatre lobby.

The story was about the demise of old Hollywood, but marquee lights in Shepardson’s head went on. He made an abrupt career U-turn, established a nonprofit organization and started peddling an idea that would change the city for good.

Cleveland was a town in a tailspin in 1970, 3 1/2 years after the Hough riots touched off a stampede for the exit doors to the suburbs and seven months after a river burned a brand on Cleveland’s image. Shepardson bucked the trend and gained access to the theaters.

“The real-estate company gave me a lease, I think, so they could watch me fall flat on my behind, which I did several times,” Shepardson said. “I nearly died one day on a ladder stringing up a banner outside the theater when the wind picked it up, and me with it.”

Then he set about sprucing up the theaters and soliciting others to help, including Hadden.

“The place was full of rats and smelled terrible,” Hadden said. “He was literally cleaning out Cleveland’s Augean stables.”

His efforts won the attention of a young politician named Dennis Kucinich. Later, as the boy mayor, Kucinich fought the City Council over $3.1 million slated to be used in a renewed effort to tear down PlayhouseSquare.

Kucinich won and in 1978 had the money transferred to Cuyahoga County to help purchase and renovate the Loew’s Building.

“That was a huge fight,” Kucinich said. “But I was determined not to let that money be used to reduce those jewels to a parking lot.”

Shepardson gathered a staff of 10 or 12 people who shared his crazy dream. One of them was John Hemsath, who joined PlayhouseSquare in 1975 and is now its director of theater operations.

“I met Ray in a coffee shop just to hear what he had to say, and I walked out with the job of running the group sales office and the special-events department,” Hemsath recalled.

“But he didn’t have money to pay me, so he gave me the coat-check concession. I was Johnny Coat-Check and made my way earning tips. But that was OK. The whole place was surviving on popcorn and beer sales, and nobody was getting paid, including Ray.”

Shepardson’s key decision was to start producing shows before campaigning for major renovations. He had to prove that suburbanites would come downtown.

He booked acts like Lena Horne, Red Skelton, Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughan and the Beach Boys, charging $2 a ticket.

“We called it ‘Ray’s House of Has-Beens,’ ” said one former Shepardson colleague who asked not to be identified. “But it worked.”

Sometimes even the performers — including Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary and Broadway legend Chita Rivera — grabbed paintbrushes and climbed ladders to help out.

And Shepardson started a series of popular cabaret shows, most prominently “Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris,” which ran for more than two years.

Shepardson left the project before the first theater to be renovated — the Ohio — reopened, in 1982. But he has left his mark: True to Shepardson’s “make it up as we go along” plan, PlayhouseSquare continues to reinvent itself.

In 2008, Great Lakes Theater Festival renovated the Hanna Theatre into a new home.

Construction is scheduled to start next fall to transform the Allen Theatre into the new home of the Cleveland Play House and Cleveland State University’s drama department.

Other ideas on the drawing board, said PlayhouseSquare President Art Falco, include a major retail initiative and two residential projects.

Meanwhile, Shepardson has mounted a theater-restoration campaign across America with a resume that includes the 5,000-seat Fox in downtown Detroit.

And he’s still crazy — and still visionary — after all these years.

“His vision is in Technicolor, instead of the studies that are done in black and white and have no power to move anyone,” Hadden said. “While others tear down, Ray thinks on the big screen.

“Some people call that visionary. But I looked that up, and it said visionaries chase rainbows and mirages. He chases something substantial. Ray is a divine madman who had the charisma to save downtown Cleveland when nobody else would.”

 

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