LARCHMERE is a neighborhood in the Buckeye-Shaker planning district of Cleveland known for its restaurants, art, and antique stores. The neighborhood is bounded by E. 116th Street/MLK on the west, Kemper Road and North Moreland Boulevard on the on the east, Shaker Boulevard on the south and Fairhill Road on the north. Although the area has been developed since the 1910s, it was not always considered a distinct community.
The land in what is now Larchmere was originally part of Newburgh Township. By the 1870s, a number of farmers had made homestead farms along North Woodland Avenue (now Larchmere). The area remained rural but began to change when in 1905, the wealthy brewer, Otto Leisy, (see Leisy Brewing Company) constructed a 36 room mansion on present-day Martin Luther King Boulevard and Fairhill Road.
The 1910s proved to be the neighborhood's formative years. In 1911, Cleveland annexed most of today's Larchmere neighborhood from the newly formed Village of SHAKER HEIGHTS, while a portion of land between E. 126th Street and Coventry remained in the Village of Shaker Heights. Shaker Heights had a policy of renaming all streets that passed through its border, and thus named the stretches of Woodland Avenue within its limits "Larchmere Boulevard." Since the street was used as a municipal border, some addresses on the south side of the road in Cleveland were still considered to be on Woodland Avenue, while those on the north side in Shaker Heights were considered on Larchmere. This partial re-naming of Woodland Avenue helped residents and business owners form a sense of distinction from the rest of the Woodland Avenue community. Evidence of this can be seen in the 1940s, when locals asked the city of Cleveland to change their side of the street's name to "Larchmere" in order to both address the problem of competing names and distinguish themselves from the rest of Woodland Avenue. This was finally achieved circa 1989.
The 1910s were also crucial to the physical development of the Larchmere neighborhood. Around 1910, large subdivisions in the area were laid out and sold in unbuilt lots. Many of the area's homes were constructed between this time and 1925. The housing built during this era was largely a mixture of "Cleveland doubles," and single family units. Many of these new homes were inhabited by Catholics, whose ethnic neighborhoods had expanded along Buckeye (see Buckeye-Woodland) and Woodland into the area. By the 1920s, present-day Larchmere had large populations of ITALIANS and HUNGARIANS as well as GERMANS and CZECHS. To accommodate the growing Catholic population in the area, Father James Cummins was assigned to organize a new Catholic parish for the area, Our Lady Peace at 12601 Shaker Boulevard in Cleveland in 1919. After first meeting at nearby LUNA PARK, a temporary church was built in 1920. The congregation moved into new building in 1923, and then into the present church building in 1951.
In 1929, SHAKER SQUARE , which has been called the nation's second oldest shopping center, opened. The Square provided shopping opportunities for residents and created additional demand for housing in the Larchmere area. Later that year (1929), a new U.S. Marine Hospital was constructed at E. 124th and Fairhill Road, the site of the Otto Leisy Residence. In the 1953, the U.S. MARINE HOSPITAL closed, and in 1959, FAIRHILL MENTAL HEALTH CENTER operated on its grounds until it closed in 1983. In 1989, Fairhill Center for Aging (Fairhill Partners) opened at this location.
Population expansion in Larchmere did not last long. After many white ethnic Clevelanders became more affluent, they often moved to the suburbs. Since immigration from southern and eastern Europe had been severely limited by the Federal government in 1924, there were almost no new Hungarian or Italian immigrants to take the places of existing residents. As a result, most Larchmere census tracts experienced modest population losses from 1940 to 1960 (although the population around Shaker Square did increase).
During the 1960s, Larchmere faced the prospect of destruction and dislocation, after plans were unveiled to build a freeway from E.55th Street in Cleveland to Pepper Pike to the east. The proposed I-290's path would cut across the neighborhood along Larchmere Boulevard. Opposition from the Stokes administration, Shaker Heights, and Cleveland Heights (whose residents opposed displacement and environmental devastation in their own communities) helped pressure Governor James Rhodes to cancel plans for the freeway.
Despite increased African American migration to Cleveland after World War II, Larchmere was almost entirely white until the 1970s. By 1980, the Larchmere area census tract west of 127th street was about 49% African American, while the area around Shaker Square was about 32%. Several factors probably played a role in the neighborhood's demographic transition. White flight from Cleveland's East Side ensued at a time when many African Americans were making economic gains and could now afford property in the area. Meanwhile, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing. Symbolic of this demographic transition, the nation's first African American mayor of a major city, CARL B. STOKES , moved into a house on Larchmere Boulevard (although technically just outside of the Larchmere neighborhood).
Businesses on Larchmere Boulevard were also experiencing changes. The boulevard had traditionally been home to mom and pop shops that catered to local residents. As the area's population shrank and chain stores grew in numbers, many smaller stores could not compete. Although Larchmere lost many of its small grocery stores during this time, it became a city-wide destination for its antique stores. Larchmere experienced a major setback in 1989, when Sedlak Interiors moved to Solon, but new businesses have since opened to make the neighborhood one of Cleveland's most successful arts and antiques districts.
The 1970s and 80s also saw an increase in community activism. Community volunteers like Vince Francioli helped form the Fairwood Community Association for residents and the Larchmere Development Association for businesses. Both organizations were dedicated to creating a stable, safe, and beautiful community. The Fairwood Community Association included an auxiliary police force.
As of 2011, Larchmere is an integrated community of home-owners and renters. It is home to numerous independent antique dealers, studios, stores, restaurants, service providers, Wolf's Fine and Decorative Art (See WOLF'S FINE ART GALLERY AND AUCTIONEERS ), and Loganberry Books, one of largest independent book stores in the Cleveland metropolitan region. Larchmere further cemented its reputation as one of Cleveland's premier arts districts with its annual Larchmere Porchfest Festival, a one day series of concerts by Northeast Ohio musicians performing on residents' porches and Shaker Square.
In 2012, Larchmere was served by community organizations such as the Larchmere Community Association, Larchmere Merchants' Association, and numerous block clubs. Roughly half of the neighborhood is in the Shaker Heights School District while the other half is in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
Socialexplorer.com. "1940-2000 Census Tract Map." http://www.socialexplorer.com (accessed March, 2012).
The Cleveland Memory Project. "Cleveland's Forgotten Freeways." Cleveland State Libraries. http://clevelandmemory.org/freeways/index.html (accessed May, 2012).
Cleveland, OH. Cleveland State University, Cleveland Press Collection, Woodland and Larchmere Files.