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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

FENCE WAR OF PUBLIC SQUARE

FENCE WAR OF PUBLIC SQUARE

The FENCE WAR OF PUBLIC SQUARE arose between Cleveland residents, who wanted the entire PUBLIC SQUARE fenced in as a central park, and the local commercial interests, who felt that the closing of Superior and Ontario streets at the Square hindered the area's commercial development. By 1839 the city had fenced in each individual quadrant of Public Square. With the open country boundaries being pushed farther out, attention turned by 1852 to the need for city parks. Residents near the Square wanted it fenced in and the street entrances closed to form a central park. A petition to that effect was introduced to city council on 22 July, but the law department declared it illegal. After 5 years of ensuing discussion, the council voted in Jan. 1857 to vacate all intersecting streets at Public Square. On 24 Mar. the Square was entirely enclosed by a fence, erected at night in order to circumvent any court injunctions that might have been issued. The Square became a popular recreation area, as traffic was obliged to circle it. Opposition continued, especially from the local commercial interests on Superior east of the Square, who felt the fence hindered business activity. Aided by the city's having allowed the fence to fall into disrepair and a street railway company's wanting the right-of-way through the closed streets, in 1867 opponents of the enclosed Square presented city council a petition against the continued blockading of Superior. When a specially appointed committee failed to reach agreement, the council adopted its minority recommendation that the courts should adjudicate all legal issues. Municipal Court Judge Samuel B. Prentiss ruled that Superior Ave. had been dedicated as a continuous street and that the closing was unconstitutional. On 24 Aug. Superior was reopened. Ontario St. soon followed suit, thus ending Cleveland's "great central park."