KINSMAN is a Cleveland neighborhood and Statistical Planning Area (SPA). It is bordered by Woodland Ave. on the north, E. 93rd St. and Woodhill Ave. on the east, Aetna Rd. on the south and an irregular line on the west that includes E. 55th St. and the Norfolk Southern tracks.
Like its surrounding neighborhoods (FAIRFAX, NORTH BROADWAY, CENTRAL and Buckeye-Woodhill), Kinsman originally was part of NEWBURGH TWP. (org. 1814). The area’s fertile soil attracted settlers who, in turn, established and/or patronized grist, carding, saw and flour mills along MILL CREEK, just south of what is now the Kinsman neighborhood. The first distillery in Cleveland opened nearby. Inns and small retailers followed and by the 1850s a railroad (the Cleveland & Pittsburgh) and a coach road (first called Pittsburgh St., then the Newburgh Rd. and, finally, Broadway) served the area. These arteries, combined with waterpower generated by Mill Creek’s 40’ drop attracted heavy industry, as well as workers.
By the 1850s horse-drawn omnibus lines operated by the Kinsman Street Railroad Co. were running along Kinsman Rd., connecting points east to downtown. At the close of the Civil War there were more than 30 oil refineries operating in the Newburgh area, along with 14 steel mills producing machinery, casting, bar iron, nails, spikes, stoves and other necessities. Also after the war, what had been known as Kinsman Rd. (named after early settler John Kinsman) became Woodland Rd., currently the northern border of the Kinsman neighborhood. In 1868 the CLEVELAND & NEWBURGH RAILROAD began operating a steam line beginning at Willson St. (now E. 55th St.). The line took a southeasterly direction, crossing Kingsbury Run to Broadway Ave. near Newburgh in what is now the Central neighborhood. This is the path that became the current Kinsman Rd. (St. Rt. 422).
Annexation to Cleveland had been chipping off pieces of Newburgh Twp. as early as the 1820s. By 1874, sections south and east had been absorbed by Cleveland and most remaining portions (including Kinsman) were incorporated as the Village of Newburgh. However, annexation continued piecemeal and, by 1894, all of the area now referred to as Kinsman was part of Cleveland. The Village of Newburgh (see NEWBURGH HEIGHTS. )—west of Slavic Village and less than 3 sq. mi.—was incorporated in 1904.
The NICKEL PLATE (est. 1881) skirted the Kinsman neighborhood’s northern border. From the west, its tracks ran southeast through Kingsbury Run, crossing Willson St. and Kinsman before angling northeast toward what is now UNIVERSITY CIRCLE. The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Road (consolidated with the NEW YORK CENTRAL in 1869) paralleled the Nickel Plate, which fell into receivership in 1885 and was reorganized as the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad Co. in 1887. The New York Central sold the Nickel Plate for $8.5 million in 1916 to ORIS P. AND MANTIS J. VAN SWERINGEN who used the right-of-way to complete their SHAKER HTS. RAPID TRANSIT line. Today, the GREATER CLEVELAND REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY’s Red Line follows the path of the Nickel Plate with two stops in the Kinsman neighborhood: at E. 55th St. and E. 79th St.
By the 1920s the Kinsman area was experiencing a strong influx of Jews (see JEWS AND JUDAISM) from the central city. Many Jewish unions and Jewish socialist groups,most notably the WORKMEN’S CIRCLE, also relocated in Kinsman. Buoyed by employment opportunities and public transit access, the area flourished, but a long period of decline began after WWII. AFRICAN AMERICANS from the South (the 2nd Great Migration) poured into the Kinsman area, as did hundreds more displaced by urban renewal projects closer to downtown. Jews moved en-masse to enclaves in CLEVELAND HEIGHTS and SHAKER HEIGHTS, and later BEACHWOOD. The 1966 HOUGH RIOTS occurred north of the Kinsman neighborhood, but the Sidaway Bridge at Kinsman’s western tip was vandalized and later closed, permanently separating Kinsman from the more ethnically diverse Broadway neighborhood to the west and prompting accusations of institutional racism. Myriad FLATS-based manufactories closed between 1950 and 1980. In 1940 Kinsman’s population was 20,189—roughly 2.5% of the population of Cleveland as a whole (878,336). By 2000 Kinsman’s population had dropped to 5,824. Kinsman’s population as of 2014 was 6.985, 97% of whom were African Americans. Neighborhood levels of educational attainment and median household income continue to be significantly lower than the Cleveland city average.
Public housing initiatives have a particularly checkered history in the Kinsman neighborhood. In the late 1950s, 130 acres (formerly a REPUBLIC STEEL dump and slag heap between E. 71st and E. 79th Sts.) were cleared and the 650-unit Garden Valley Estates public housing project was completed. Problems arose almost from day one and federal housing officials soon were describing the property as “the second-worst public housing in the nation, plagued by crime, inadequate maintenance, and mismanagement.” By the 1970s, the CUYAHOGA METROPOLITAN HOUSING AUTHORITY (CMHA) was accused of pushing black families into Kinsman in order to slow white flight from other city neighborhoods. Garden Valley was razed in 2009 to create Heritage View Homes, a mix of single-family dwellings, semi-attached townhouses, and multi-unit buildings). However, the Woodhill Homes complex, built in the 1940s in Kinsman’s northeast corner, remains beset by social and infrastructural problems. A proposal to raze this complex was submitted in late 2019.
In recent decades, CMHA built newer facilities such as the aforementioned Heritage View Homes, which offer reasonably well-maintained facilities for low-income residents. A new CMHA administrative campus, consolidating 400 employees from multiple departments and offices, was completed at E. 81st St. and Kinsman Rd. in 2011. The Kinsman area also has benefited from the continuing presence of Micelli Dairy Products and the ORLANDO BAKING CO.. The Rid-All Green Partnership, an ambitious urban farm initiative, has brought food, jobs and additional green space to the neighborhood. Rid-All is part of a 28-acre tract at E. 81st St. and Otter Ave. that has been christened an Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone.
In 1990, Burton, Bell, Carr Development (BBC), a community development corporation (CDC), was formed to serve the Central and Kinsman neighborhoods. It since has expanded to include Buckeye-Shaker Square and Buckeye-Woodhill. By working to repurpose land, create public spaces and spur new housing and business initiatives, BBC has brought myriad points of light to the Kinsman neighborhood. A good example is the 2008 opening of Bridgeport Place, a $2.2 million, 13,200-sq. ft. retail and commercial complex at Kinsman Rd. and E. 72nd St. In 2019 the city of Cleveland announced plans to locate the new Cleveland Division of Police Headquarters along the Opportunity Corridor, which will skirt the Kinsman neighborhood’s northern edge.
Michney, Todd, “White Civic Visions Versus Black Suburban Aspirations: Cleveland’s Garden Valley Urban Renewal Project,” Journal of Planning History, 10, no. 4 (November 2011): 282-309