FAIRFAX is a neighborhood and Statistical Planning Area (SPA) on Cleveland's east side. It is bounded roughly by Chester Ave. on the north, E. 71st St. on the west, E. 105th St. and Woodhill Ave. on the east, and Woodland Ave. on the south. The area is named for FLORENCE BUNDY FAIRFAX, a Cleveland recreation superintendent. A recreation center built in 1957 on E. 82nd St. bears her name.
Originally part of Cleveland Twp., a large area of the east side—from E. 105th St. to E. 22nd St. and Euclid Ave. to Woodland Ave.—joined East Cleveland Twp. in 1866 and was annexed to the city of Cleveland in 1872. From then until the 1950s (when it received its current name), Fairfax was part of this giant tract known as “Cedar-Central” or just “Central” (see CENTRAL (NEIGHBORHOOD)). Cedar-Central’s racial composition began to shift following the first Great Migration and by 1930 it was largely AFRICAN AMERICAN. The number of residents in the Fairfax segment grew steadily, reaching 34,000 in 1920 and a peak of 39,380 in 1950. Unlike the older portions of Cedar-Central to the west, the eastern section of what became Fairfax comprised a number of affluent professional African American households. By 1960 nearly all of Fairfax and Cedar-Central was African American but the segment closest to University Circle was already experiencing an outflow of middle-class blacks to newer neighborhoods such as Lee-Harvard. In 2010, 5,167 people were reported to live in Fairfax, 97% of whom were African American.
With the exception of a somewhat-built-out community south of Euclid Ave. and east of Bolton Ave. (now East 89th St.) the Fairfax area was sparsely settled until the last decades of the 19th Century. However, a commercial hub on the neighborhood’s eastern edge—DOAN'S CORNERS—had been thriving since the 1870s. Stores, churches, small industries, a hotel, and a post office all operated around Doan St. (now E. 105th St.) at Euclid Ave. By the 1920s Vaudeville (followed by motion pictures) brought thousands to the Alhambra, Circle, KEITH’S E. 105TH ST., Park, and University theaters. In 1928 Sears, Roebuck & Co., built a flagship store at E. 86th St. and Carnegie Ave. The store operated for roughly 50 years before the building was sold to the CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE, which used it as an annex to the newly constructed Bolton Theater designed by architect Philip Johnson. The theater was sold to the Cleveland Clinic (see CLEVELAND CLINIC FOUNDATION) when the Play House moved to downtown Cleveland in 2011. Fairfax also has been home to numerous manufactories, including Ohio Foundry Co. (1893), National Malleable & Steel Castings Co. (1891), the PEERLESS MOTOR CAR CORP. factory (1889) and Carling Brewing Co. (1933).
Since 2010, Fairfax’s population has rebounded slightly to about 6,000 in 2019, roughly 95% of whom are African American. The area has experienced explosive economic growth, primarily due to the near-continuous expansion of the Cleveland Clinic, myriad initiatives in nearby University Circle, and implementation of the Midtown Corridor project (see MIDTOWN CORRIDOR INC.) and GREATER CLEVELAND REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY Healthline along Euclid Avenue. These actions have spurred a variety of ventures within or near Fairfax, including a new medical and dental school, new and refurbished hotels, several apartment buildings, a shopping plaza (see CHURCH SQUARE SHOPPING CENTER), and a supermarket.
In 2013 the State of Ohio launched the Opportunity Corridor project, a new roadway that will connect the eastern terminus of Interstate 490 (at E. 55th St.) with the southern edge of Fairfax. Seeking to leverage the access that Opportunity Corridor will provide, in 2017 Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation (est. 1992) announced plans for “The New Economy Neighborhood,” a mixed-use technology research district, and “Innovation Square,” a redevelopment of several residential blocks with public spaces and single- and multi-family housing in a five-block area between Cedar and Quincy Aves. and E. 97th and E. 105th Sts. The first up-and-running component of the New Economy Neighborhood is Explorys, a health care data analytics company launched by the Cleveland Clinic and now owned by IBM Corp.
Fairfax continues to be home to many of Cleveland's most important cultural and ecclesiastical institutions. Among the former is KARAMU HOUSE, the nation's oldest African-American theater, founded in 1915 by white social workers ROWENA and RUSSELL JELLIFFE with the support of the Second Presbyterian Church. Many plays by the area’s favorite son, LANGSTON HUGHES, were developed and premièred at Karamu House. Fairfax’s numerous houses of worship include Liberty Hill Baptist Church (see BAPTISTS), ST. JAMES AME, True Holiness Temple (formerly Second Church of Christ Scientist, see CHRISTIAN SCIENTISTS), ANTIOCH BAPTIST CHURCH, a Kingdom Hall of JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES, a Mormon church (see MORMONS) and Masjid Bilal (see ISLAMIC RELIGION).
Updated by Christopher Roy
Last updated: 11/7/2019
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Cleveland Neighborhood Link (Cleveland State University). "Fairfax," http://www.nhlink.net/neighborhoodtournew/ (accessed May, 2013).
City of Cleveland of Ohio Planning Commission. "Cleveland Neighborhood Fact Sheet." http://planning.city.cleveland.oh.us/census/factsheets/spa29.html (accessed March, 2012).
—. "Fairfax SPA." http://planning.city.cleveland.oh.us/maps/jpg/fairfax.jpg (accessed March, 2012).