PEPPER PIKE, originally part of Orange Twp., was incorporated as a village on 1 Oct. 1924 and as a city in 1970. Pepper Pike operates under the mayor-council form of government. It is located 13 miles east of Cleveland and bounded by LYNDHURST and MAYFIELD HTS. on the north, HUNTING VALLEY on the east, WOODMERE, ORANGE, and MORELAND HILLS on the south, and BEACHWOOD on the west, and occupies 7 sq. mi. Pepper Pike is home to URSULINE COLLEGE, Gross Schechter Day School, Lillian and Betty Ratner Montessori School, PARK SYNAGOGUE East, various recreational facilities, and the Orange Branch of the CUYAHOGA COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM.
In 1815 the first pioneers began settling in Orange Twp. (organized in 1820), which included the modern communities of Pepper Pike, Orange, Moreland Hills, Hunting Valley, and Woodmere. The origin of this city's name remains unknown, although some say that an early settler's name was Pepper. The area developed during the first 100 years primarily as a farming community (see AGRICULTURE), and by the late 1880s, cheesemaking had become the primary INDUSTRY. Although still rural at the turn of the century, the Chagrin Falls-Cleveland interurban railway made the community accessible to the city from 1897 until service was discontinued in 1924 (see INTERURBANS).
In 1910, ORIS P. AND MANTIS J. VAN SWERINGEN acquired four farms totaling 660 acres in what became Hunting Valley. By 1926 the Van Sweringen Company controlled thousands of acres to the east of Green Road. They began to market the area, including Pepper Pike, as Shaker Country Estates, an exurban extension of SHAKER HEIGHTS. They laid out Gates Mills Boulevard with an ample median to accommodate a planned extension of the SHAKER HEIGHTS RAPID TRANSIT to serve their intended development of large residential estates. Although the Van Sweringen development foundered as a result of the Great Depression and the developers’ deaths, Pepper Pike preserved a measure of their vision through the opening of Pepper Pike Country Club (1924), the relocation of the COUNTRY CLUB from BRATENAHL (1930) at the invitation of the Van Sweringens, and deed restrictions that included one-acre minimum lot sizes.
As the population increased, with development by the Van Sweringens and others in the 1920s, so did the need for more local government representation. Residents of northern Orange Twp. voted to separate and form the village of Pepper Pike. In contrast to this move toward localization, the schools consolidated into the Orange School District, and undeveloped land was subject to the control of a private company. Though elected by citizens, the mayor of Pepper Pike served for many years as one of three trustees (along with his counterparts in Shaker Heights and Beachwood) of the Van Sweringen Company Foundation, including responsibility for maintaining its deed restrictions, long after the foundation’s namesake itself disbanded in 1959. By that time, Jews were beginning to diversify the populations of a few outer suburbs, including Pepper Pike (see JEWS & JUDAISM). Sometimes their arrival stirred opposition, as in 1962-65, when the Pepper Pike Home Owners Association blocked the construction of Temple Beth Sholom. Around the same time, the Brith Emeth congregation succeeded in obtaining the necessary clearances to build Brith Emeth Temple (now the Lillian and Betty Ratner Montessori School), but plans for additional synagogues and various other institutions prompted citizens to vote heavily in favor of a charter amendment in 1968 that limited nontaxpayers to 15% of the village’s area.
After posting a growth rate of more than 500% between 1950 and 1970, Pepper Pike’s growth slowed after 1970, rising from 5,382 to 6,177 (15%) in 1980 before leveling off and contracting slightly to 5,979 by 2010. The slowdown coincided with significant changes in the population composition that saw Pepper Pike transform from a blueblood retreat to a more socially diverse community. The Jewish proportion of the Pepper Pike population climbed from an estimated 28% in 1970 to 53% in 1996, and by 2010 African Americans comprised 6.5% and Asian Americans accounted for 5.5% of the city’s population. A realignment of Brainard Road south of Shaker Boulevard supported new housing construction, including single-family homes on smaller lots and an apartment complex. The result was a modest population rebound, enabling Pepper Pike to grow at a time when most of Cuyahoga County’s suburban municipalities were losing population.
Updated by Mark Souther
Last updated: 6/18/2019
Fant, Kathleen Griffin. Orange Township . . . Orange Community, a History from 1815 to 1924 (1982), Orange Community Historical Society.
Fulfilling the Dream: A History of Pepper Pike on the Occasion of Its 75th Anniversary, 1924-1999 (1999), Pepper Pike 75th Anniversary History Committee.