ERIE ST. CEMETERY, preserving E. 9th St.'s original name, has been a municipal cemetery of controversy since 1826. Cleveland village trustees, desperate to replace the informal community burial ground south of PUBLIC SQUARE with a permanent site, purchased the location for $1 from LEONARD CASE, SR. So remote and spacious was the land that the council permitted a gunpowder magazine (1836) and a poorhouse-hospital on the unused portion. Disgruntled heirs of the original lot owners, claiming infringement of a covenant restricting use to burials, fruitlessly sued Cleveland in federal court (1836-42).
Since there were no other church or private CEMETERIES nearby, this city cemetery buried all Christian denominations. The Jewish community petitioned the city for a section of Erie Street Cemetery for their usage on 1 April, 1840, but were denied. In response, the Israelitic Society established WILLETT ST. CEMETERY (1840). Even after WOODLAND CEMETERY opened in 1853, the old city cemetery retained favor with Cleveland's pioneer generation; but no improvement—such as plantings, fencings, and a formal gateway—could disguise Erie St.'s infirmities. For Progressives, beginning with Mayor TOM L. JOHNSON, the cemetery mocked an efficient city. His administration, which developed Highland Park Cemetery (1904), reinterred bodies there, not without opposition, and reclaimed land from Erie St. for city streets.
The struggle resulted in the Pioneers' Memorial Assn. (1915), which was influential in the decision of City Manager WM. HOPKINS in 1925 to build the proposed Lorain-Carnegie Ave. Bridge around rather than through Erie St. Cemetery. Following this, serious attempts to remove the cemetery ended. Complaints of neglect inspired WPA action, including erecting a fence fashioned from the demolished Superior Ave. viaduct's sandstone. In 1940 the refurbished cemetery of historic graves, including that of Sauk Chief JOC-O-SOT, was rededicated.
Cimperman, John D. Images of America: Erie Street Cemetery. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2011.