CWRU Links

GORDON, WILLIAM J.

GORDON, WILLIAM J. (30 Sept. 1818-23 Nov. 1892), wholesale grocer and iron-ore dealer, best remembered for his gift of GORDON PARK to Cleveland, was born in Monmouth County, N.J., to Jonathan and Mary Conover Gordon. He learned the wholesale grocery business in New York City and arriving in Cleveland in 1839, he started W. J. Gordon & Co., the largest grocery establishment in Ohio within a few years. In 1856, Gordon became partners with Geo. Fellows to conduct business in New York City, later adding Solomon D. McMillan and Martin R. Cook as partners.

In 1853, Gordon and Samuel Kimball shipped the first load of iron ore from the Lake Superior region to Cleveland. Convinced that iron ore could serve Cleveland's manufacturing interests, Gordon helped establish the Cleveland Iron Mining Co., serving as president from 1856-66. With John H. Gorham, he also founded the first woodenware-manufacturing firm in Cleveland. In 1865, Gordon began purchasing land east of Cleveland and laying out a 122-acre park which, at his death, was deeded to Cleveland provided it be forever maintained and kept open to the public under the name of Gordon Park. In 1872, Gordon began improving large tracts of unused land on both sides of the CUYAHOGA RIVER. He purchased the tracts, laid out streets, and erected houses built with economy and taste. These he sold at moderate prices and on easy payment terms, enabling many Clevelanders to afford comfortable homes. Gordon married Charlotte Gertrude Champlin in 1843 and had 4 children: George, Ella, and Georgina and Charles, the latter two survived to adulthood. Gordon died in Cleveland and was buried in LAKE VIEW CEMETERY.