BUCKEYE-WOODHILL

BUCKEYE-WOODHILL is a Cleveland neighborhood and Statistical Planning Area (SPA) located roughly 2 mi. east of downtown. It is bordered roughly by Fairhill Rd. and Woodland Ave. on the north, East 116th St. / E. Blvd. on the east, and Parkview Ave. on the south. Its irregular western border stretches as far west as the Conrail tracks just east of E. 80th St. Buckeye-Woodhill is the western segment of what often is referred to as Buckeye-Woodland, an informal designation that includes the Buckeye-Woodhill and Buckeye-Shaker Square SPAs. Buckeye-Woodland also encompasses a section of the former Woodland Hills neighborhood.

BY 1880, Buckeye-Woodhill and parts of Buckeye-Shaker Square were home to one of the largest populations of  HUNGARIANS (almost 10,000) in the U.S. Immigrant families and their progenies established old-country institutions, spoke primarily Hungarian and conducted business mostly with former countrymen. Many also found work at EBERHARD MFG. CO., Mechanical Rubber Works, Natl. Malleable Steel Castings, Ohio Foundry, Standard Foundry, Van Dorn Iron Works (see VAN DORN DEMAG CORP.), Glidden Varnish (see GLIDDEN COATINGS & RESINS DIV., IMPERIAL CHEMICAL INDUSTRIES), Cleveland Bronze and Carlin Bronze. Hungarians established 10 churches as well as synagogues, businesses and nationality organizations that reenacted native celebrations. The Hungarian population was bolstered later by ethnics displaced by World War II and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, although these groups did not develop the intense loyalty to "Little Hungary" that old-timers had fostered. For generations, the area’s commercial and residential spine was Buckeye Rd.

By the mid 20th century, younger Hungarian-Americans began exiting the neighborhood, leaving behind an aging Hungarian population. AFRICAN AMERICANS moved into the area, comprising almost 50% of the population by 1972 and more than 90% by 2010.  Undermined by block busting and redlining, housing stock deteriorated. Conflicts between whites and blacks sometimes erupted into violence and further threatened the neighborhood.

Efforts to promote neighborhood stabilization—underway since the 1960s—accelerated by the 1970s. One such entrant was the Buckeye Neighborhood Nationalities Community Assn. (BNNCA), a group of self-styled white ethnic vigilantes.  Incensed by the transition of Lower Buckeye (the Buckeye-Woodhill area) to African American residency, BNNCA set out to “secure" the ethnic predominance of Upper Buckeye (now Buckeye-Shaker Square). In 1969 BNCC briefly sought to secede from Cleveland in the hope of joining Shaker Heights. Seeking more realistic and conciliatory solutions, the Buckeye Area Development Corp. was formed in 1970 to attract federal, state and local funds to refurbish homes and businesses. In 1974 Buckeye-Woodland Community Congress was established to battle redlining; foster interracial understanding; and promote community cooperation, equal-opportunity housing, and neighborhood improvement. Around this time EAST END NEIGHBORHOOD HOUSE, a Hungarian settlement house formed in 1907, modified its board and staff to reflect the neighborhood’s shift to a largely African American population. In 1990, Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc. (BBC) came into being—one of many Cleveland-area community development organizations (CDCs) designed to facilitate neighborhood improvement and connect residents with city government. Originally serving only the Central and Kinsman neighborhoods, BBC’s scope now includes Buckeye-Shaker Square and Buckeye-Woodhill. Government incentives also have been provided to stimulate the Buckeye Rd. commercial district.

More than half of Buckeye-Woodhill’s residents still live below the poverty line ( 3,300 out of a current population of 6,800) but recent developments have been particularly encouraging: In 2018, “CLE Purposed Built Communities”—part of a national organization launched in 2009—was formed to create education opportunities, spearhead redevelopment and coordinate community wellness resources in the Glenville and Buckeye-Woodhill neighborhoods. The Buckeye-Woodhill Rapid Transit Station (near the two roads’ intersection) opened in 2020. A program called Elevate the East is coordinating public art investments. Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity committed to building ten homes along Grandview Ave. Perhaps the most high-profile initiative is the Opportunity Corridor: Burten, Bell, Carr has collaborated with the City of Cleveland and the Fund for Our Economic Future to assemble hundreds of acres of land for redevelopment around the Opportunity Corridor boulevard. Scheduled for completion in 2021, the three-mile thoroughfare will connect I-490 to University Circle, curving across a proposed “job zone” that includes a northern section of Buckeye-Woodhill.

Updated by Christopher Roy

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