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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

THIRD POLICE DISTRICT

THIRD POLICE DISTRICT

The THIRD POLICE DISTRICT, better known as the "Roaring Third," was situated in the older neighborhood northeast of PUBLIC SQUARE at the turn of the century. As the commercial and residential activity of the city moved farther out, this inner-city area became the center of the city's gambling, drinking, and prostitution district. By 1900 gambling houses operated along Superior Ave. between Public Square and Erie (E. 9th) St. Saloons in the district routinely stayed open after hours, and west of Erie St. was the city's "tenderloin," or red-light district. In Cleveland, as elsewhere, this district was tolerated by local authorities and the general public. The operations were a source of considerable payoffs to corrupt politicians and police. These payoffs became a popular method of raising campaign funds for local officeholders.

It was a common practice for a newly elected politician to have the police raid any establishment that had supported his opponent. It was in raids of this type that police lieutenant FRED KOHLER first came to public attention. During the bitter 1899 reelection campaign of Republican mayor ROBT. E. MCKISSON, Kohler's raiding squad destroyed many illegal establishments that were aligned with the Democratic opposition. While spectacular, these occasional raids did little to alter the character of the area. By the early 1900s, the entire area from Bond (E. 6th) St. to Erie St. from Vincent Ave. north to the lakefront was saturated with gambling houses, illegal saloons, and brothels.

In 1901 newly elected mayor TOM L. JOHNSON pledged to eliminate graft in the city. He appointed Fred Kohler as chief of police in 1903 and instructed him to drive the gamblers out of business through the simple device of stationing a uniformed policeman at the door of each establishment. The policeman was to take no action other than recording the names of those who entered. Though simple, this tactic was extremely effective, and many gambling houses closed. In 1906 Chief Kohler caused a major outcry when he proposed to shift the city's red-light district from Hamilton Ave. south to Chestnut (now Chester Ave.). Despite the powerful objections of Rev. Patrick Farrel of ST. JOHN CATHEDRAL, the resorts were relocated. It was later revealed that the city was buying up the land of the "tenderloin district" for the Group Plan. Public Hall was built on the site of the former district. The saloons, gambling houses, and brothels were driven from the area for good by the later development of E. 9th St. as the city's financial district.