CLEVELAND HEIGHTS began as a hamlet in 1901, was incorporated as a village in 1903, and became a city in 1921. Six miles east of downtown, it comprises eight square miles, bounded on the west by Cleveland, north by EAST CLEVELAND, east by SOUTH EUCLID and UNIVERSITY. HTS. and south by SHAKER HTS. The Cleveland Hts. area originally was farmland in East Cleveland and South Euclid Townships. The oldest surviving house, built in 1825 using stone quarried from the property, still stands on Superior Rd. between Euclid Hts. Blvd. and Mayfield Rd.
In 1895 developer Patrick Calhoun (with a substantial loan from JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER) created what would become the first section of Cleveland Hts.: the “Euclid Hts.” subdivision north of Cedar Rd. and west of Coventry Rd. The plan was to create a suburb for the wealthy in the style of the Garden City Movement popularized in England. Euclid Hts. gained traction (albeit slowly) and within two decades was followed by other area developments, such as Euclid Golf at the western end of Fairmount Blvd.; Mayfield Hts. east of Coventry Rd. and north of Euclid Hts. Blvd; and AMBLER HTS. at the city’s western edge between Cedar Rd. and North Park Blvd. From the 1890s until well into the 20th century, Cleveland Hts. was a "streetcar suburb," with commuter rail lines running along or near Cedar, Coventry and Mayfield Rds. and Euclid Hts. and Washington Blvds.
With 1,500 residents at incorporation, the village of Cleveland Hts. established a volunteer fire department and a public school system, the latter of which began in the old East Cleveland district school (1882) on Superior Rd. at Euclid Hts. Blvd. The community’s first high school opened on Lee Rd., just north of Euclid Hts. Blvd., in 1904. The current high school was built at Cedar and Lee Rds. in 1926 and dramatically renovated in 2017. The first public library opened in 1911 inside Coventry Elementary School. A new Tudor structure was built across Washington Blvd. from the school in 1926. Cleveland Hts.’ school and library systems were later combined with those of University Hts. The Cleveland Hts.-Univ. Hts. School System currently comprises seven elementary schools, three middle (junior high) schools and one senior high school. BELLEFAIRE School on Fairmount Blvd. assists children with behavioral difficulties. The Cleveland Hts.-Univ. Hts. Public Library System consists of 3 branches and a main library on Lee Rd. Local private and parochial schools include a Baptist school, Lutheran East High School, the HEBREW ACADEMY, BEAUMONT SCHOOL, and Ruffing MONTESSORI SCHOOL.
Major shopping areas sprung up at the intersections of Cedar and Lee, Fairmount and Cedar, and Mayfield and COVENTRY in the 1910s and 1920s. Despite merchant turnover and a series of fires in the Coventry area, all three shopping districts continue to attract patrons. No single area is considered Cleveland Hts.’ “downtown.” After much controversy Severance Center (see SEVERANCE TOWN CENTER) was built in 1963 on the site of the JOHN L. SEVERANCE estate at South Taylor and Mayfield Rds.
Under the guidance of mayor FRANK C. CAIN (served 1914-1945) the City established Ohio’s first ZONING ordinance in 1921. It adopted the council-city manager plan of government the following year. (That form of government lasted almost a century until, in 2019, 64 percent of voting residents supported Issue 26: amending the city’s charter to make the mayoral job an elected post with a four-year term of service.) A Georgian Revival city hall was built in 1924 on Mayfield Rd. It was demolished in 1986 and a new structure was built at Severance Town Center.
Spurred by a bond issue in 1916, Cleveland Hts. developed a particularly extensive (135-acre) park system. FOREST HILL PARK, formerly the summer home of John D. Rockefeller, was donated to the City by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in 1938 and is jointly administered by the cities of Cleveland Hts. and East Cleveland. Like Forest Hill Park, Cumberland Park (1925) and Cain Park (created by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s) follow the path of (partly culverted) Doan Creek. Cain Park is home to the Alma and Evans theaters (see CAIN PARK THEATER) which opened in 1938. To the northeast, at Monticello and South Belvoir Blvds., is Denison Park.
Between 1910 and 1940 Cleveland Hts.’ population grew from 3,000 to 55,000. Beginning in the 1920s, largely Jewish communities developed in (what became known as) Coventry Village and later around S. Taylor Rd. south of Cedar Rd. (see JEWS AND JUDAISM). The neighborhood just south of Severance Town Center continues (as of 2019) to have a strong Jewish presence, even though many families moved further east beginning in the1960s. Large clusters of Catholic families occupied neighborhoods near St. Ann Catholic Church at Cedar and Coventry Rds.
With no INDUSTRY to speak of, more than three quarters of Cleveland Hts.’ land is now used for residential purposes. In 1970 the City’s population was 60,767, comprising roughly equal numbers of Catholics, Protestants and Jews. In 1960 AFRICAN AMERICANS made up less than 1% of the population, but in the 1960s and 1970s a sizable influx of black families occurred. Following numerous documented cases of realtor malfeasance, two organizations—The Real Estate Advisory Committee to the State and Heights Community Congress (1972)—were formed to help ensure fair access to housing. By the 1980s Cleveland Hts.’ population had fallen to 56,907, including 41,192 whites and 14,061 African Americans. By 2000, near parity in numbers of African Americans and whites was reached. The most recent census figures show a total population of 46,052, with 22,926 whites and 19,706 African Americans.
Updated by Christopher Roy
Morton, Marian. Cleveland Heights: The Making of an Urban Suburb, 2002