The FLATS are located along the CUYAHOGA RIVER within the City of Cleveland where the river pursues a sinuous course through a valley about one-half mi. wide. This bottom land, the floodplain of the river separating the high plateaus on which the city stands, is known as the "Flats." Although Cleveland's earliest settlers chose the lowlands near the mouth of the river as the site for their cabins, its swampy character caused so much illness that most soon migrated to higher ground. The unhealthful Flats ultimately were abandoned to commerce and industry. The opening of the OHIO & ERIE CANAL in 1827 spurred a tremendous increase in lake shipping. The Flats offered abundant room for docks and warehouses. Beginning in the 1850s, the RAILROADS found the broad expanse of the Flats advantageous in the storage and handling of freight. In the second half of the 19th century, the Flats were crowded with iron furnaces, rolling mills, foundries, lumberyards, shipyards, flour mills, oil refineries, paint and chemical factories, and other industries. While the Flats facilitated commerce and manufacturing, they hindered communication between the east and west sides of the city. In 1878 the 2 sections were finally united with the completion of the SUPERIOR VIADUCT, and other "high-level" BRIDGES followed. In the 20th century, as industries grew less dependent on water and rail transportation, the Flats gradually lost their concentration of industry. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Flats enjoyed a new vitality as nightclubs and restaurants sprouted along Old River Rd. and other streets. The nonprofit Flats Oxbow Assn. was organized in 1978 to promote the economic well-being of the area. Today the Flats are an amalgamation of commerce, industry, nightlife, and (since the construction of a series of condominiums in 1983-84) residences.

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