WEST BOULEVARD NEIGHBORHOOD

WEST BOULEVARD is a Cleveland neighborhood and Statistical Planning Area (SPA). Its approximate borders are I-90 on the north, Memphis Ave. on the south, W. 117th St. on the west and Clinton Ave. and W. 73rd St. on the east. The neighborhood, which is effectively sandwiched between I-90 and I-71, takes its name from the West Blvd. thoroughfare which runs north-south through the district’s center. Cut through at the turn of the 20th century, West Blvd. was designed by city fathers to connect EDGEWATER PARK and Brookside Park (see BROOKSIDE RESERVATION)—much as Liberty Blvd. (now Martin Luther King Blvd.) was designed to connect Lake Erie with Garfield Park (see GARFIELD PARK RESERVATION). Neither plan succeeded in reaching its planned southern terminus; West Blvd. now ends roughly 1 mi. northwest of Garfield Park.

The West Blvd. neighborhood once composed the western edge of BROOKLYN TOWNSHIP, created in 1818 by settlers as part of the WESTERN RESERVE of the state of Connecticut. For centuries previous, the area had been occupied by members of the Ottawa, Potawatomi, Chippewa, Wyandot, Munsee, Delaware and Shawnee nations. However, after the Treaty of Fort Industry in 1805, virtually all indigenous peoples were moved west, past a line designated as 120 miles from Pennsylvania’s western border. Most of Brooklyn Twp.’s early white settlements were established in areas east of what is now the West Blvd. neighborhood—nearer the CUYAHOGA RIVER in what are now BROOKLYN CENTRE, STOCKYARDS-FULTON and TREMONT.

Part of the West Blvd. section of Brooklyn Twp. was annexed to the City of Cleveland in 1873. The remainder was incorporated in 1902 as part of the village of LINNDALE and, one year later, annexed to Cleveland. By this time—buoyed by the growing reach of the railroads—Cleveland’s industrial and residential settlements were moving farther west of the river, displacing lightly populated farms and rural properties. The West Blvd. area, however, remained largely void of industry—a sort of bedroom community occupied by residents (initially GERMANS, CZECHS and HUNGARIANS) who commuted to nearby neighborhoods to work in the stockyards, brewing companies, auto manufacturers, steelworks and railroad yards.

By the late 20th century, many of the west side’s largest employers had ceased operations, thus altering the social, ethnic and racial character of West Blvd. and its neighboring communities. The neighborhood did not lose its largely residential character—its population density is almost double that of Cleveland. However, the racial makeup shifted: Among its more than 15,000 residents, 42% are white, 25% are Hispanic (see HISPANIC COMMUNITY) and 22% are AFRICAN AMERICAN. Among these groups, it is the Hispanic population, primarily Puerto Rican, that has seen the greatest increases: The percentage of West Blvd. residents who are foreign-born and/or speak little or no English is more than double that of the city as a whole. Still, the neighborhood’s median income of $34,000 is about 25% higher than that of Cleveland.

Christopher Roy

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