THE FIRST MAP OF CLEVELAND or “The Spafford Map,” is a manuscript map created on the townsite being surveyed by MOSES CLEAVELAND’s party in September of 1796. Made from sections of paper pasted together, it was drawn in the hand of AMOS SPAFFORD as the “Original plan of the town and village of Cleveland, Ohio, Oct. 1st, 1796.” and found in the papers of MILTON HOLLEY, one of the surveying team. It now resides at the WESTERN RESERVE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

The surveying of a townsite at the mouth of the CUYAHOGA RIVER was done pursuant to instructions of the CONNECTICUT LAND COMPANY to layout a capitol city as part of a broader survey of the entire Western Reserve tract in what would become northeast Ohio. Whether this site was originally suggested by the Company is not known, but it had the virtues of being a suitable terrain, a potential harbor in the river, approximately at the center of the Reserve, and as far west as the Greenville Treaty Line then allowed. Up-river at today’s Akron was the “carrying place” for canoe travel along a valuable waterway network between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River. This network linking the upper Cuyahoga with the Muskingum/Tuscarawas river network was likely well known to prominent easterners like George Washington who foresaw the potential for economic prosperity in the region, which was realized after 1927 when the OHIO AND ERIE CANAL began operation.

The surveyors laid out the townsite in accord with the familiar pattern of New England towns. They created an inner section of two-acre residential sites and an outer band of larger tracts for agriculture. Surrounding these sections was placed a third, consisting of hundred-acre parcels for stand-alone farms and settlements. The In-Lots, or Two-Acre Lots were laid out in a traditional gridiron fashion, aligned parallel with or perpendicular to the lake shore. With the shoreline angled at 39 degrees from north here, that meant the grid was so-angled, too. For a “walking city,” this preserved the intimate orientation with the prominent feature of the lake, which was not preserved for the larger Out-Lots and Hundred Acre Lots. The streets were 99 feet (1½ chains) wide but for Superior, at 132 feet (2 chains). These lots were 2 chains wide and 10 deep, or two acres in dimension, except those four minor streets at the western and northern periphery of the townsite, leading to the river, where the inclusion of unwanted slopes of land made them deeper.

The streets were named Superior, Water, Mandrake, Union, Vineyard, Bath, Lake, Erie, Federal, Maiden, Ontario, Huron, Ohio, and Miami. The partial “HOMES” scheme of naming some streets for Great Lakes was apparently developed on-site, as the map shows Ontario first being named Court Street and Superior named Broad before being changed. Where east/west Superior met north/south Ontario, the surveyors created a 9½ acre New England style commons, it not being an oft-reported ten acres due to the differing widths of the two streets. Today it is called PUBLIC SQUARE, but it has had other names and internal configurations as its role has changed.

The In-Lot section of the townsite plat, today’s downtown, is all that this first map displayed. The party surveying these lots roughed out the map by hand and did not include the precision or cartographic elements of a finished map, such a scale or a north arrow for orientation.

The town later grew out rapidly along the extensions of St. Clair, EUCLID, and Broadway from the townsite. Separated at 24-degree angles, they provided faster access to the hinterlands to the east, upon which the town’s economy depended. The town council added other streets internally, predominantly halving the two-acre lot size. After the coming of the Ohio & Erie Canal, in 1827, fulfilling part of the promise of the siting of the town where it was, growth started outstripping the original modest plan.

While not a complete portrayal of the tripartite Cleveland townsite before 1800, nor one as carefully drawn as Seth Pease’s version, completed in Connecticut that winter, this is the first inkling of a city Moses Cleaveland predicted to become one day as large as old Windham, Connecticut, that in fact strained its plat by becoming America’s Fifth City 130 years later.

William C. Barrow

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