BEREA is a 5.72-sq.-mi. residential suburb approximately 10 miles southwest of downtown Cleveland. It is bounded on the north by BROOK PARK, on the east by MIDDLEBURG HTS., on the south by STRONGSVILLE, and on the west by OLMSTED FALLS. Originally part of MIDDLEBURG TWP. (founded 1820) Berea was incorporated as a village in 1850 and as a city in 1930. Early aboriginal populations included Ottawa, Potawatomi, Chippewa, Wyandot, Munsee, Delaware and Shawnee, all of which were pushed westward following the Treaty of Fort Industry on July 4, 1805.
The earliest non-native settler was Jared Hickox, a blacksmith who arrived in 1809. Shortly after came the Vaughn, Fowl, Beckett and Meeker families. In 1828 a group of Connecticut Methodists —JOHN BALDWIN, Reverend H.O. Sheldon, Reverend James Gilruth, and Josiah Holbrook—established a utopian Christian socialistic community in the twp. Naming it the Lyceum Society, they established a missionary school, purchased land, issued stock, and renounced personal property.
A decade or so later, the Lyceum Society avoided bankruptcy when sandstone was discovered along the Rocky River. In 1842 John Baldwin founded the Baldwin Quarry Co., launching an industry that lasted almost a century. The quarries consolidated into the Cleveland Stone Quarry Co. in 1886. It closed in 1946, by which time sandstone supplies were largely depleted. In their heyday, Berea quarries shipped 400 tons daily throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia. The quarries were responsible for much of Berea’s early growth, attracting Scottish, Irish, and English workers (see BRITISH IMMIGRATION), and later POLES and GERMANS. The completion of the Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati Railroad around 1850 also brought growth and jobs to the area.
In 1864 Wilhelm Ahrens established the German Methodist Orphan Asylum, the first Methodist orphanage in the country. Evolving later into the Berea Children's Home, it was founded to aid children whose fathers had died in war or quarry work. It expanded over the next 150 years to include social, mental, and behavioral programs, as well as foster care.
In the mid 18th Century, two institutions of higher learning were founded in Berea. The Baldwin Institute (est. 1845 and later known as Baldwin University) was founded with a gift of land from John Baldwin. After sandstone deposits were discovered under the institution’s original foundations, all of the buildings were relocated to accommodate the Cleveland Stone Co. Catering to a fast-growing German population, German Wallace College was launched in 1863. The two schools merged in 1913 to form Baldwin-Wallace College (renamed BALDWIN-WALLACE UNIVERSITY in 2012). Since 1933 the school has been home to the annual Baldwin Wallace Bach Festival, the oldest collegiate Bach Festival in the United States.
In 1894 the Cuyahoga County fairground, previously located on Kinsman St. in NEWBURGH and CHAGRIN FALLS, moved permanently to Eastland Rd. in Berea. The city's growth was further aided by construction of nearby CLEVELAND HOPKINS INTL. AIRPORT in 1925, NASA Lewis Research Center (now NASA JOHN H. GLENN RESEARCH CENTER AT LEWIS FIELD) in the 1940s, and the completion of I-71 in the 1950s.
At the end of World War II Berea's population was 6,025. In 1960 the city adopted a charter form of government. The population continued to rise quickly: from 16,592 in 1960 to 22,396 in 1970. In 1986 the community had more than 5,000 homes and apartments, more than 175 retail establishments, more than 50 small manufacturers, and a branch of the CUYAHOGA COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM. Berea is part of the Berea School District, which also includes Brook Park, Middleburg Hts., and RIVEREDGE TWP. The district's two high schools merged in 2013 to become Berea-Midpark High School.
The former sandstone quarries have been repurposed as recreational lakes. Baldwin Lake and Wallace Lake (created in 1941) are maintained by the Cleveland Metroparks as part of the Mill Stream Run reservation, and Coe Lake is maintained by the city of Berea. Coe Lake Park completed a major upgrade in 2018, including a new amphitheater, pavilion, and improved amenities.
A training complex for the CLEVELAND BROWNS opened in Berea in 1991 and was renovated in 1999 for the team's return to Cleveland. Berea also purchased a bowling alley and skating rink which was transformed into a public recreation center in 1995.
A large number of Berea venues have been placed on The National Register of Historic Places, including the North and South Campus Historic Districts of Baldwin-Wallace University; the Lyceum Village Square & German Wallace College; the Berea District 7 School; the Union Depot train station; the Buehl House (operated by the Berea Historical Society as the Mahler Museum & History Center); and the homes of John Wheeler (first president of Baldwin University) and George W. Whitney (city postmaster and sandstone tycoon).
With 20,117 residents Berea’s population peaked around 1990. It contracted to 18,970 in 2000 and has remained largely stable since, with an estimated 18,655 residents in 2018. As of 2016, roughly 85% percent of Berea’s citizens were white, while 6% were black and 4% Latino.
Updated by April Miller
Last updated 10/25/2019
Holzworth, Walter F. Men of Grit and Greatness: A Historical Account of Middleburg Township, Berea, Brookpark, and Middleburg Hts. (1986).
Shaw, Willard H. Historical Facts Concerning Berea and Middleburg Township (1936).
View image gallery of Berea Fair at Cleveland Memory.
See also SUBURBS.