UNION-MILES NEIGHBORHOOD. Union-Miles is a Cleveland neighborhood and Statistical Planning Area (SPA). Roughly 5 mi. southeast of downtown, Union-Miles is bounded by Miles Ave. on the south, Union Ave. on the north, Broadway Ave. and the Norfolk Southern rail tracks on the west, and an irregular line that stretches as far as E. 154th St. on the east. The Union-Miles SPA is a recent City-planning amalgam that includes most of the former Union-Miles Park and Corlett neighborhoods as well as slivers of the Mount Pleasant and Kinsman SPAs.
Native American (see AMERICAN INDIANS) settlements have been identified near what is now the Union-Miles neighborhood. By the early 1800s, however, most Native American populations had left the area, and in 1814 the 6-sq.mi. township of NEWBURGH was formed. Recently arrived settlers initially considered Newburgh more important and healthier than Cleveland, with the latter occasionally described as "six miles from Newburgh." That early prominence made Newburgh a likely candidate for the county seat, but Cleveland was selected because of its waterfront location. As a result, beginning in 1823, Newburgh Twp. was annexed piece by piece to Cleveland, E. Cleveland and Independence townships.
One of the first settlers in the Union-Miles area of Newburgh Twp. was Judge JAMES KINGSBURY, who built a house and sawmill near the present intersection of East 93rd and Union. Another was Charles Miles Sr., for whom the street and area are named. Miles Park, built on land donated by Charles Miles’ son Theodore, became Newburgh Twp.’s public square. Located at what is now the intersection of East 93rd and Miles, a park and commons were platted in 1850 and a town hall erected ten years later. When a large chunk of Newburgh was annexed to Cleveland in 1873, the site was christened Miles Park. The area later became the southeastern terminus for Cleveland’s once-extensive streetcar network. It now is the site of Miles Park School, which hosts almost 500 students in grades PK through 9.
Farms and orchards were preponderant around Union-Miles during first half of the 19th Century. By the 1850s, however, the area was becoming one of NE Ohio’s principal steelmaking centers. IRISH, Scottish and Welsh immigrants (See: BRITISH IMMIGRATION) flocked to the area seeking jobs, and the intersection of E. 93rd and Union soon became known as "Irishtown." A steel strike in 1882 at the CLEVELAND ROLLING MILLS was broken using CZECH and POLISH strikebreakers, and these newer groups soon gained a place in the mills, but they too would strike in 1885 (See: CLEVELAND ROLLING MILL STRIKES). Steel making thrived in the area for almost half a century, still staffed largely by east European immigrants. Slovenians also became part of the area, founding St. Lawrence Church on E. 81st Street in 1901. Between 1910 and 1930, the neighborhood’s population nearly tripled to almost 30,000
The eastern section of what is now Union-Miles used to be called Corlett, named after Eliza and Harriet Corlett, early Manx (See: BRITISH IMMIGRATION) settlers and Cleveland Public Schools principals. Carved from Newburgh Twp. and a small segment of WARRENSVILLE TWP., this neighborhood grew up around the intersection of E. 131st and Miles. Corlett School was built in 1915 at E. 131st and Corlett. The school recently was torn down and replaced by a new facility, Charles Dickens Elementary School. Czech immigrants predominated in this area, working in the mills and socializing at Sokol Tyrs Hall, a recreational facility built in 1926 (See: SOKOL CLEVELAND).
Steel mills in the Union-Miles area buckled during the Great Depression, launching a steady metamorphosis from an ethnic enclave to a city neighborhood populated largely by AFRICAN AMERICANS. Afflicted by redlining, block busting and race baiting, white outmigration reached a peak in the 1960s and 1970s, with the area’s ethnic populations almost completely replaced by African Americans eager to take advantage of inexpensive housing. In the Corlett neighborhood alone, the non-white population transitioned from approximately 10% in 1960 to more than 90% in 1980.
Union-Miles has been beset by the challenges that frequently bedevil fast-changing neighborhoods: poverty, crime, limited job opportunities and substandard housing. To deal with the challenges, Union-Miles Development Corporation (UMDC), a non-profit 501(c)(3) community development organization (CDC) was organized in 1981. UMDC has since worked to plan and facilitate neighborhood revitalization projects, attract new businesses, and create home-ownership and employment opportunities for Union-Miles residents. An important recent sign of UMDC’s success and Union-Miles’ regeneration was a significant jump in population between 2000 and 2010—the first notable increase in 80 years. UMDC is located inside the historic old Carnegie Library on Miles Park Square.
The Union-Miles neighborhood contains roughly 30 houses of worship—quite possibly the greatest number of any Cleveland neighborhood. In the Corlett section alone—an area of roughly 1.5 sq. mi.—reside the New Light Missionary Baptist Church, Alpha Omega Holy Temple, East Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Greater Harvard Ave. Church of God, Zion Pentecostal Church of Christ, Assembly Baptist Church, Fifth Christian Church, True Vine Holiness Church, Miracle of Faith Cathedral, Christ the King Missionary, Triumph Church of the New Age, Sanctuary Baptist Church, Greater Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, Bethany Christian Church and Holy Trinity Family Center. Union-Miles residents also enjoy a modern Cleveland Public Library built in 1981 at E. 93rd and Union. The Earl B. Turner Recreation Center at 11300 Miles offers a variety of services for seniors, families and children, including meal programs, classes and a gymnasium and indoor pool.
Union-Miles’ population (the sum of residents in the former SPAs of Union-Miles Park and Corlett) currently stands at around 21,000, 95 percent of whom are African American. Unemployment in the area is lower than Cleveland as a whole.