SOLON, incorporated as a village in 1917 and as a city on 5 Dec. 1960, operating under the mayor-council form of government. It is 18 miles from Cleveland in the southeast corner of Cuyahoga County and occupies 21 sq. mi. Solon is bounded by Geauga County on the east, Summit County on the south, ORANGE, MORELAND HILLS, and BENTLEYVILLE on the north, and BEDFORD HTS., OAKWOOD, and GLENWILLOW on the west.
The earliest white settlers in Solon Twp. arrived from Connecticut in 1820. The township was named after Lorenzo Solon Bull, son of Isaac Bull, one of these settlers. Swampland and drainage problems confronted the pioneers. Once the land was cleared and drained, corn and wheat became the staple crops (see AGRICULTURE). In addition, 5 cheese factories were built, creating a profitable dairy business (see BUSINESS, RETAIL). In 1850 the population was 1,034. RAILROADS contributed to Solon's growth; in 1857 the Cleveland-Youngstown section of the Cleveland & Mahoning Railroad opened through the village. The main road was SOM Center Rd., so named because it passed through Solon, Orange, and Mayfield townships. The first INDUSTRY to locate in Solon was the Bready Cultimotor tractor company (1929).
Following an affirmative vote in 1947, Solon developed a zoning code in 1951, setting aside 2,200 acres of farmland (1/6 of the city) for industry, and it began offering inducements to lure manufacturers that were unable to expand in Cleveland. One notable example was when STOUFFER FOODS left the troubled Gladstone urban renewal area for Solon in 1968. Many industries selected property in new industrial parks. In 1966, George Marek sold his vegetable farm to developer Larry Davis, a Romanian immigrant, who turned it into Solon Industrial Parkway. Davis developed four additional industrial parks. Boosted by the opening of the U.S. 422 freeway, Solon added nearly 5 million sq. ft. of industrial space in the 1970s alone. By 1987, more than 150 businesses had located there; small industry traditionally contributed to more than 50% of the tax base. In 2003, the Solon Chamber of Commerce, in its 76th year, included over 500 industrial, commercial, retail and professional businesses. The three largest employers in 2017 were Swagelok, Nestle, and the CLEVELAND CLINIC FOUNDATION.
Partly as a result of rapid industrial development, Solon’s population soared from 2,570 in 1950 to 11,519 in 1970. In 1977, 1987, and 1994, voters approved rezoning ordinances that ultimately set 1-acre minimum lot sizes for 80% of residential land in the city. The growth rate slowed, with the population rising to 21,802 by 2000. With its commercial district concentrated at a central intersection, Solon maintained a small-town appearance as late as the early 2000s. In 2002 over 50% of the land remained undeveloped. The population peaked in 23,348 in 2010 before posting its first decline—to an estimated 22,911 in 2018. As late as the mid 1960s, Solon reportedly counted only a single African American family. By 2016, the city was among the most diverse in Cuyahoga County, with an estimated 12.5% Asian and 11.5% AFRICAN-AMERICAN population. The city also attracted a sizable JEWISH population. In 2018-19, the Solon public school district had 4,084 students in 1 pre-kindergarten, 3 elementary, 2 middle, and 1 high schools. One research firm ranked the district as the best school system in Ohio. City parks and recreational areas in 2019 totaled 9 with 734 acres, and the city enclosed 446 acres of regional metroparks. The city is also home to a branch of the CUYAHOGA COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM.
Updated by Mark Souther
Charles, Carolyn W., and Solon Historical Society. Pictorial History of Solon, Ohio, 1820-1991. Marceline, MO: Heritage House Pub., 1992.
Walsh, Edward J. “The Suburb That Moved Over for Industry.” Cleveland Magazine (July 1978).