BUCKEYE-SHAKER SQUARE is a Cleveland Statistical Planning Area (SPA) bounded by SHAKER HEIGHTS. to the north and east, Abell and Imperial Aves. to the south, and Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. and E. 116th St. to the west. The district has two distinct segments: the Buckeye neighborhood to the south and west, and Shaker Square in the northeast. Buckeye-Shaker Square is one of the city's most accessible districts by mass transit and bicycle.
Although Buckeye-Shaker Square is one of Cleveland's most compact planning areas, it has a particularly fragmented identity, as its hyphenated name suggests. On the one hand, Shaker Boulevard and the RTA tracks divide the district in half. But Buckeye-Shaker also comprises several distinct neighborhoods: Upper Buckeye, the Cleveland portion of the Ludlow neighborhood, LARCHMERE and SHAKER SQUARE. Additionally, the district spans multiple wards and school districts.
Buckeye-Shaker Square originally was part of NEWBURGH Township (organized 1814). Homestead farms were developed in the area by the 1870s. By around 1910, large subdivisions had been laid out and many single-family homes were subsequently built, including myriad "Cleveland Doubles" (up/down or side-by side units with front porches). These homes were frequently populated by ITALIANS and HUNGARIANS (for much of the early 20th Century, the Buckeye Rd. neighborhood was known as Little Hungary). Many GERMANS and CZECHS also settled in the area.
Much of the contemporary geography of Buckeye-Shaker Square was shaped in 1920s—a period of intensive development. In 1920 Oris and Mantis VAN SWERINGEN completed the SHAKER HEIGHTS RAPID TRANSIT (originally the Cleveland Interurban Railroad), which provided service on Moreland (later Van Aiken) and Shaker Boulevards to PUBLIC SQUARE. Construction of these lines (now known as the Green and Blue Lines) offered residents of the area simple and fast commutes to and from downtown.
High-density living in Buckeye-Shaker Square has its origins in the 1920s. In 1922 JOSIAH KIRBY began building the luxurious MORELAND COURTS apartments (later condominiums) on the north side of Shaker Blvd., east of present-day Shaker Square. Moreland Courts was finished several years later by the Van Sweringen brothers. Shaker Square, considered the second oldest planned shopping district in the United States, was completed in 1929. By the 1930s apartment complexes lined much of Moreland and Shaker Blvds.
Development slowed after the nation entered Great Depression, which claimed the Van Sweringen empire among its casualties. Despite tough times, the COLONY THEATER—later Shaker Square Cinema and, more recently, part of the Cleveland Cinemas and Atlas Cinemas chains—was completed on Shaker Square in 1937. More high-density apartment complexes were built north and west of Shaker Square in the 1940s. Apartment construction continued along Shaker Blvd. until about 1960, by which time most of the district's contemporary physical infrastructure was in place.
Buckeye-Shaker Square faced a new threat in the 1960s when a freeway implementation (Interstate 290) between E. 55th St. and Pepper Pike was proposed. The east-west thoroughfare would have cut through the neighborhood along Larchmere Blvd. and decimated Shaker Lakes. Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights and the Stokes administration (Cleveland Mayor CARL B. STOKES was a Buckeye-Shaker Square resident whose home appears to have been on the destruction path) successfully pressured Governor James Rhodes to cancel plans for the freeway.
The latter half of the twentieth century was also marked by demographic changes throughout Buckeye-Shaker Square. AFRICAN AMERICANS in nearby MT. PLEASANT begin relocating into the southern reaches of the Buckeye neighborhood and along Ludlow Road. No significant number of African Americans moved north of Shaker Blvd. until the 1970s. As was the case throughout the country, the appearance of African American families unsettled many whites. In 1956 a house belonging to an African American couple near Ludlow Rd. was bombed before they could move in. Residents in the Cleveland and Shaker Heights sections of this community formed the LUDLOW COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION in 1957 (incorporated 1959) to help quell racial tensions. The Association gained national attention for its efforts to promote a stable integrated community. In 1960 the CLEVELAND FOUNDATION gave the Ludlow Community Association a $7,500 grant to establish a real estate clearinghouse. The resulting Ludlow Co. then gave financial incentives to whites willing to move into integrated neighborhoods to help keep the community racially mixed. Further west, however, racial shifts occurred more rapidly and completely. By 1970 the census tract south of Buckeye Rd. went from 28.5 percent to 60 percent African American. By 2000 the Buckeye community was more than 90 percent African American.
In 1976, Shaker Square was added to the National Register of Historic Places and the Friends of Shaker Square (now Shaker Square Development Corporation) was formed. The organization provides tenant referral services and neighborhood security programs, and supports improvements to Shaker Square. Virtually all of the Planning Area is now overseen by the Buckeye Shaker Square Development Corporation, a Cleveland area Community Development Corporation (CDC) which often works closely with the Shaker Square Development Corporation and other neighborhood groups.
As of 2010 Buckeye-Shaker Square was home to just over 12,000 residents, some 80 percent of whom are African American. More than half the area’s citizens have at least some college experience. In recent decades Larchmere Blvd. has become an extremely popular destination for seekers of art and antiques. And Shaker Square has maintained its reputation as a premier dining destination. A far-reaching plan to re-invent Shaker Square—possibly involving the closure of Shaker Blvd. though the Square—was under consideration as of May 2019.
Updated by Christopher Roy
Socialexplorer.com. "1940-2000 Census Tract Map. " http://www.socialexplorer.com (accessed March, 2012).