Ohio City History
One of Cleveland’s older neighborhoods, Ohio City (City of Ohio) was originally part of Brooklyn Township, founded in 1818. On March 3, 1836, two days before Cleveland’s incorporation, the City of Ohio became an independent municipality. It remained so until June 5, 1854, when it was annexed to Cleveland.
Although Cleveland had 6,000 people, compared to Ohio City’s 2,000, the two cities became fierce competitors, especially in the area of commerce. With Ohio City’s incorporation came a fight for shipbuilding and tonnage from canal boats. This rivalry was best demonstrated in 1836, when Ohio City residents sought, violently, to stop use of Cleveland’s new Columbus Street Bridge, which siphoned off commercial traffic to Cleveland before it could reach Ohio City’s mercantile district. This battle is referred to as the "Battle of the Bridge."
Upon annexation to the City of Cleveland in 1854, Ohio City became known as the Near West Side. In the late 19th century, the area attracted people from New England, Germany, Hungary, and Ireland who were seeking jobs at the docks, mills, foundries, distilleries and bottling works. One of its focal points was, and still is, the West Side Market, built in 1912 on a site that the first mayor of Ohio City, Josiah Barber, and another pioneer, Richard Lord, deeded to the City on condition that is be kept a marketplace. Market Square, so designated since around 1840, was originally the site of the Pearl Street market, a one-story wooden market built in 1868 at the corner of Lorain Avenue and Pearl Road (West 25th Street).
Following World War II, the area entered a period of change. Many social service agencies and individual activists played an increasingly prominent role in the neighborhood in response to social needs. In 1968, the Ohio City Redevelopment Association was chartered to stem the tide of neglect in the historic neighborhood. The association helped to strengthen a developing trend of restoration that had begun in the early 1960’s. From 1963 to 1978, over 100 structures were refurbished, restored or redeveloped, including St. Ignatius High School, the Carnegie Branch of the Cleveland Public Library, and the West Side Market, as well as numerous private residences. The cost of these projects was $30 million.
By this time, Ohio City was home to over 15 ethnic groups representing 25,000 people in a 4.5 square-mile area. Among the new immigrant and migrant groups were Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, Native Americans and people from Appalachia.
Redevelopment continued in Ohio City thanks to a rediscovery of the area in the late 1970’s by middle-income households attracted by historic architecture and the diversity of urban living. More recent rehabilitation projects have focused on commercial development, including expanded storefront renovation, multi-million dollar renovation of the West Side Market, and a new RTA station built in 1992. Newly constructed condominiums and townhouses throughout the neighborhood, as well as a thriving retail and restaurant scene, have also added new vitality to the neighborhood.
Did you know...
James A. Garfield, who later became the 20th president of the United States, served as pastor of Franklin Circle Christian Church in 1857.
James Ford Rhodes, who was the rare combination of millionaire businessman and Pulitzer Prize winning historian, was born and raised in Ohio City. His brother Robert’s house is a landmark at 2905 Franklin Boulevard.
A plaque from the Ohio Historical Society on Bridge Avenue marks what is believed to be the birthplace of John Heisman, the innovative football coach. However, some historians contend that he was actually born a few blocks further to the west on the same street.