Wednesday, March 12, 2014


 This posting is a bit of a digression from the history of East Cleveland during the 1940s and 1950s with which I am more familiar.  However, I believe those who follow this blog would also like to stay current on issues affecting East Cleveland today.  In previous postings I tried to avoid much discussion of current issues, because for the most part I only know what I read in the papers.   My current knowledge of East Cleveland has been gained through research I have done at the East Cleveland Public Library and occasional visits to my old neighborhoods.

Like many of you who grew up in East Cleveland and then returned to visit, I am shocked by the physical deterioration of the town.  Whole blocks of houses and apartments have been abandoned or burned out and boarded up.  Those housing units, which are still occupied, tend to be in marginal states of maintenance.  Most housing is not owner occupied.  The population is the poorest of the poor.  Many of you have commented on my blog about how depressing it is to see what has happened to our old home town.

There are those who will blame the current state of affairs in East Cleveland on the racial change, which occurred starting in the 1960s.  I have received comments to that effect on this site.  I lived in East Cleveland during the early 1960s while attending Western Reserve University.  I studied sections of the City as part of an Urban Sociology class project in 1962.  Later in the decade, I walked all the streets of East Cleveland meeting people as a candidate for State Representative.  I met many of the new African-American citizens and found them to have similar values, hopes and dreams as I and my long time East Cleveland friends and neighbors.  Unfortunately, White flight, encouraged by real estate block busting tactics, moved too fast to allow the development of a stable integrated community.

East Cleveland became a stable majority African-American community by the 1980s.  It was still a community of middle class values, which encouraged strong families, home ownership and property maintenance. Unfortunately, the transformation of East Cleveland into a majority African-American community coincided with the major economic decline of the Cleveland region resulting in what we know as the rust belt.  This combined with the flight of the middle class (both White and African-American) from the inner ring suburbs left East Cleveland with a different population.  The difference was not African-American or White.  The difference was economic class. 

Merger of East Cleveland with Cleveland

Back in 2011 I started this site with the following comment: “An argument could be made that East Cleveland had no clear identity of its own.  Each part of East Cleveland is like the community it borders.  On the North it borders the Collinwood section of Cleveland.  On the West it is adjacent to The Glenville section as well as University Circle and Little Italy.  Finally, on the South and East is Cleveland Heights.  In many ways the socio-economic groups, housing etc. in East Cleveland were quite similar to those in adjacent communities.”  I went on to argue that East Cleveland did, in fact, have an identity of its own and went on to describe that identity in detail.

In September 2012 I made the following comment in my presentation to an urban history class at Case Western Reserve University:  “As much as it pains me to say it, there may not be a reason for the City of East Cleveland today.  In fact the very existence of the City of East Cleveland may be a barrier to solving the problems of the area known as East Cleveland.  I already pointed out the similarities of sections of East Cleveland with the neighboring cities.  The problems of the economically depressed population of East Cleveland are more appropriately the problems of the entire Cleveland metropolitan area.  If the area of East Cleveland were a part of Cleveland and/or Cleveland Heights, the current concentration of economically depressed people could be absorbed by the larger tax base of those communities or Cuyahoga County.  The barriers to land development within the current boundaries of East Cleveland would be lowered.  I even believe that East Cleveland as it exists today is no longer a viable power base for the African-American political establishment, if it ever was in the first place.”

Since my presentation in September 2012, there has been considerable discussion in the media and the community of East Cleveland about the possible merger of East Cleveland with the City of Cleveland. 

In fact, the mayors of the two cities have come out in favor of that merger.  Former Cleveland Council President and former head of the NAACP, George Forbes seemed to initiate this discussion.  There have already been examples of mergers of some city services with those of Cleveland including the Water Department.  A strong movement to merge the East Cleveland Public Library with the Cuyahoga County Public Library failed due to opposition from a small but vocal group of citizens even though the Library Board had recommended the merger.  It now seems as if the greatest impediment to the final merger will be the East Cleveland City Council.  It will take a vote of the people to finally decide the future of the community. 

Last night I watched a 40 minute program, which describes the heartbreak and despair felt by current and former citizens of East Cleveland.  That heartbreak and despair is similar to that which many readers of my blog expressed, when seeing what has become of East Cleveland.  The difference is that most of my readers have been White former citizens, who lived in East Cleveland, when I was there too.  The people you meet and hear on this program lived there during the 1990s and later.  They are all African-American.  The hopes, values and sorrow they express are the same as mine and those of most of my readers.


  1. I quite like looking through an article that can make men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing me to comment! i really appreciate your site.. its very cool.. i really like this type of site.. thanks.

  2. Komal: Thanks for reading my stuff. I hope I can keep you and others interested in my memories of East Cleveland and opinions concerning the future of East Cleveland. I wouldn't be doing this unless I loved that town and were concerned about it's future.

    Bob Dreifort

  3. Hi Robert! I am really enjoying reading your site, and I hope you continue to post. I agree with your comment that the deterioration of East Cleveland is more of a class issue, rather than a race issue. I am an African-American woman whose family moved to East Cleveland in the late 1970s. I attended Christ the King and I LOVED it there. I remember East Cleveland being a safe community at the time. EC at the time in the late 70s and 80s had transitioned to a predominantly Black community, but it was very much Black middle class. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and my dad worked in the trades for the city of Cleveland. We owned our home at 2000 Hanover Driver (I wish you would say more about that area of EC). We meticulously maintained the home, and made many improvements. My neighbor, Mrs. Brickman was one of the original residents of that area, born in the late 1800s and taught me how to spell complicated words over tea. Her husband was a doctor who had passed away. I walked to school every day. My family moved from EC to the Eastern suburbs in the late 1980s for many of the reasons that others left: the quality of the public schools had begun to transition and as our family was growing, private school tuition became more burdensome. I also agree that the economic downturn in the 1980s also played into the transition of EC. I live in California now, but when I go back and look at my old house and the abandoned buildings, and homes in disrepair, it makes me just as sad as any of your other readers. My years in East Cleveland were the happiest of my life. Thanks for writing this blog! Keep up the great work!

  4. Thank you for posting your memories of East Cleveland. I remember Hanover very well. I think it is interesting that the streets around there were named after German cities or states (Hanover, Brunswick, Dresden). I'll have to look into that. I lived in that neighborhood from 1953 to 1962, when I got married, graduated from college and moved to my first post college job in Chicago. I was there when they built the library on Caledonia, where I spent a lot of time. I played a lot of baseball in the Caledonia school playground and explored the ravine behind the school. Another fond memory is attending lectures at the Observatory on Taylor Road. My walk to Shaw from my home on Nela View was a mile long. I tell my Children that I did that walk every day through rain, sleet and snow and it was uphill both ways. Keep reading and I will try to write more about our neighborhood.

  5. To Robert, I graduated from Shaw in June, 1958. I remember the fun times, the red shoes, the Black and Red Reviews, the skit I wrote for Sue Henderson's Homecoming Queen competition in which you were the many years and yet I still remember it well. In the yearbook, it said I would be a professional Charleston dancer. I like your blog. My last name is McCafferty, now. Happy days!

    1. Sandra: It is good to hear from you. The yearbook said that I would be and engineer and I thought it might be true. Under the influence of Sputnik, that was the thing to be back then. When I got to college I followed a different path. My real interests were history and political science. I'm happy that I realized that, because I may have ended up an unhappy engineer. I hope the path you followed made you happy. Keep reading.