History / Architecture
A Brief History Of Cleveland Heights
Settlers, who first came to our community in the early 1800s, lived in log cabins and noted a 'forest of gigantic trees,' along with the presence of rattlesnakes and wolves. It is said that bears, snakes, and wild turkeys inhabited the woods, creeks, and ravines in this area as late as the 1820s. In the 1830s and 1840s, there was a large emigration to the areas adjacent to Cleveland; however, the area in which Cleveland Heights is located was one of the last areas to be settled, due in part to its remote location at the top of a bluff.
Home to Farms & Quarries
Mayfield Road opened in 1828 as a six-foot wide dirt road. In 1877, the road became a plank toll road, and was paved shortly after the turn of the twentieth century. The year 1852 brought the railroad to East Cleveland, and by the mid-1800s, our community was home to hard-working farmers and quarry operators who used the railroad to transport their wares. Superior Road (from Euclid Avenue to Mayfield Road) opened in 1853, and it wasn't until 1898 that Cedar Road was opened from Euclid Avenue to Green Road.
The few dirt roads provided treacherous access to the Heights at times, but the area attracted settlers, as the land here was good for farming. Near Superior and Mayfield Roads, John Peter Preyer bought 75 acres of farmland on both sides of Superior Road and moved his family into a sandstone home built in the 1820s. Legend has it that it was built with Native American labor. The Preyer House, now a Cleveland Heights Landmark is the oldest standing building in the city. (See Landmarks page).
The Legacy of John D. Rockefeller
While most of the families lived a simple lifestyle in this rural community, 1873 brought the arrival of John D. Rockefeller, who purchased a water cure hotel in what is now Forest Hill Park. When the business failed, he turned the hotel into his summer home, named it Forest Hill, and constructed carriage paths, ponds, bridges, and a golf course on the property, where he would gradually acquire 700 acres of adjacent property. John D. Rockefeller owned land throughout Cleveland Heights, and in the late 1920s, his son, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., planned the Forest Hill residential development, portions of which are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1938, he donated land to Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland for the development of Forest Hill Park.
While residences sprung up in the area, commercial establishments developed simultaneously. Although farming was predominant in this area, quarrying was also very lucrative. In 1867, Duncan McFarland, an Irish immigrant, opened a quarry mining bluestone along the east bank of Euclid Creek. The success of his business led to the establishment of the Village of Bluestone, which stretched along Bluestone Road from Quarry Road to the Euclid Creek Valley. Two City Landmarks remain from the early quarrying days: boundaries, the Asa Cady House and the Schroeder House. By 1910, the Bluestone post office closed and concrete was gaining in popularity for sidewalks. Most quarries were closed by 1924. The same fate was true for the other smaller quarries which were located throughout Cleveland Heights, such as in what is now Forest Hill Park, in Lake View Cemetery, and near Roxboro School.
Streetcars Usher in the Twentieth Century
By 1890, Cleveland's population had grown to 261,353 and the industrial city had become crowded and dirty. Cleveland's elite had developed homes on Euclid Avenue, though they were being pushed farther and farther east to avoid the city's growth. People longed for a home away from the grit and noise of the industrial city. As the nineteenth century drew to a close, the Heights stood at the edge of the city's development, and the advent of streetcars would make the previously difficult terrain more easily passable. In the early 1890s, residential developers Haycox and Post lobbied for the extension of the Lake View Cemetery streetcar line to serve their residential development, near the town center of Fairmount, near what is now Superior and Mayfield Roads. The first interurban line traveled along Mayfield Road on December 29, 1899, ushering in the twentieth century.
First a Hamlet, Then a Village
In 1892, developer Patrick Calhoun came to the area and developed the Euclid Heights Allotment, bounded by Mayfield, Coventry, and Cedar Roads to the city line, which was to appeal to Cleveland's elite. He brought a streetcar line up Cedar Hill and opened the Euclid Golf Club to lure Cleveland's elite to his high-class development. The first nine holes, which opened in 1900, lay between Cedar and Euclid Heights Boulevard. Later, land to the south was leased from John D. Rockefeller to expand the course to eighteen holes. Rockefeller's land would later be developed as the Euclid Golf Allotment, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Contemporaneously, M.M. Brown's Mayfield Heights Allotment, bounded by Mayfield, Coventry, Euclid Heights Boulevard, and Superior, was underway (see Old Mayfield Heights), as was the Walton Brothers' Cedar Heights development of Grandview. In response to the impending growth of the area, Cedar Glen was widened 300%.
These early residential developments and street improvements provided the impetus for residents to organize and form the Hamlet of Cleveland Heights in 1901. By 1903, the State phased out this designation, and the Village of Cleveland Heights was incorporated. While the earliest residents of the area that would become Cleveland Heights were primarily farmers and quarrymen, later residents who arrived in the early parts of the twentieth century were among Cleveland's social elite, building large homes in the western portions of the village.
Cleveland Heights Earns City-Status
By 1910, the village's population was about 5,000 residents. Large-scale residential developments,
many of which were adjacent to streetcar lines, sprung up in the 1910s. BY 1920, the population had increased to 15,396, and by 1921, the population had swelled enough to earn the once-small hamlet the status of a city. The city was incorporated on August 9, 1921.
The 1920s, by far, saw the most construction in this community. The construction of large mansions had diminished, but modest bungalows, apartment houses, gracious Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival homes and commercial districts were rapidly expanding the city. By 1930, the population had grown to 50,945. In a 20-year period, the community's population had increased five-fold, even with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, which had slowed building in Cleveland Heights.
The City for a Lifetime
Over the middle and later part of the twentieth century, Cleveland Heights became home to a diverse mixture of immigrants and people of different ethnic backgrounds, all living in a community of unique, tree-lined streets, dotted with beautiful neighborhood parks and with homes and businesses with beautifully crafted architecture. Today, Cleveland Heights retains the charm and character established in the early part of the twentieth century, and the architecture very much stands as it did in those early days. Walking through our fine neighborhoods and commercial districts gives one an appreciation of the fine details and craft of our forefathers.
- History of Cuyahoga County, Ohio compiled by Crisfield Johnson, 1879
- In My Day edited by Suzanne Ringler Jones, 1978
- In Our Day edited by Joanne M. Lewis, Richard Karberg and Suzanne Ringler Jones, 1986
- The Proud Heritage of Cleveland Heights by Mary Emma Harris and Ruth Mills Robinson
- More about The Proud Heritage of Cleveland Heights by Clay Hellwig, 1980
- Cleveland Heights: The Making of an Urban Suburb by Marian J. Morton
- Forest Hill: The Rockefeller Estate by Sharon Gregor
- Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery by Marian J. Morton
- Euclid Golf Neighborhood by Deanna L. Bremer and Hugh P. Fisher
- Cleveland Heights Women's Civic Club Collection at Western Reserve Historical Society