BEDFORD HEIGHTS formed as a village in 1951, when it withdrew from Bedford Twp. In 1958, voters approved a municipal charter creating a mayor-council form of government, and the village incorporated as a city on 4 January 1961. Bedford Hts. is a 7-sq.-mi. residential-industrial community approx. 14 miles southeast of Cleveland and bounded by BEDFORD and MAPLE HTS. on the west, SOLON on the east, OAKWOOD on the south, and WARRENSVILLE HTS. on the north. The township was named after Bedford, CT. The early history of Bedford Hts. corresponds with that of Bedford, which had been a largely agricultural area with many dairy farms.
Bedford Hts. began to attract residential subdivision development following World War II. At the time of incorporation, the city had 2,424 residents. In the 1950s and again in the 1960s, the population more than doubled, topping 13,000 by 1970. Bedford Hts. also attracted industrial development, including the research division of JACK & HEINTZ, a major defense-related firm. Although citizen outcry led the village council to deny a permit for a proposed DuPont chemical bottling facility in 1954, Bedford Hts. eventually drew a number of new factories and distribution centers, especially after the completion of I-271 and I-480 in the 1970s. A notable industrial firm was NORTH AMERICAN SYSTEMS (later Health o meter Products), whose Bedford Hts. plant employed as many as 1,500 workers and produced Mr. Coffee coffeemakers from 1974 to 1997.
As overall population growth slowed in the 1970s, Bedford Hts. began to attract its first sizable AFRICAN AMERICAN population. Black real estate brokers had listed homes in Bedford Hts. as early as 1962, but in 1970 the city still had only about a 1% African American population. Concerns about racially motivated attacks on black residents led to the formation in 1978 of the Bedford Hts. Civic Coalition, a fair housing organization. In 1980, approx. 27% of Bedford Hts. residents were African American. As in other SUBURBS, Bedford Hts. experienced steady white flight concurrently with a net loss of population. After reaching a peak of 13,214 in 1980, the Bedford Hts. population dropped by about 20% to an estimated 10,534 by 2018. In 2016, African Americans accounted for approx. 72% of the city’s population, the 3rd highest among Cuyahoga County municipalities.
In 1966 Mrs. Lucille J. (Donald) Reed was elected one of the first women mayors in Cuyahoga County; a park and recreation area were named in her honor. The Bedford Reservation, part of the CLEVELAND METROPARKS SYSTEM, is located in part in Bedford Hts. The city's schools are part of the Bedford School System.
Updated by Mark Souther
See also SUBURBS.