Ohio City—or the “City of Ohio” as it was known at its 1818 founding—was originally a part of Brooklyn Township. On March 3, 1836, just 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 the city of Cleveland.
Despite Cleveland’s much larger population—6,000, compared to Ohio City’s 2,000—the two cities were fierce economic competitors. In particular, shipbuilding and tonnage from canal boats were two arenas of rivalry. The 1836 “Battle of the Bridge” illustrates this rivalry most infamously: Violence erupted when Ohio City residents sought to prevent the use of Cleveland’s new Columbus Street Bridge, which siphoned off commercial traffic to Cleveland before it could reach Ohio City’s mercantile district.
Known as the “Near West Side” upon annexation to Cleveland, Ohio City attracted migrants and immigrants through the late 19th and early 20th centuries from places like New England, Germany, Hungary, and Ireland. These came seeking employment at the docks, mills, foundries, distilleries and bottling works.
Constructed in 1912 , the West Side Market in particular became a neighborhood focal point and source of community interaction. Josiah Barber, the first mayor of Ohio City, together with pioneer Richard Lord, deeded the site to Cleveland on the condition that it remain 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).
After the end of World War II, Ohio City experienced a period of great change. In response to growing social needs, social service agencies and individual activists played an increasingly prominent role in the neighborhood. In 1968, the Ohio City Redevelopment Association was chartered to stem the tide of blight and neglect in the historic neighborhood. The Association seized on and strengthened the momentum of a trend toward restoration that began earlier in the decade. Between 1963 and 1978, more than 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.
The redevelopment effort owes much to the middle-income households who, attracted by its historic architecture and the diversity of the urban environment, “rediscovered” Ohio City in the late 1970s. Recent rehabilitation projects have focused on commercial development, including expanded storefront renovation, multi-million-dollar renovation of the West Side Market, and an RTA station built in 1992. New vitality and neighborhood interest have taken the shape of newly constructed condominiums and townhouses throughout the neighborhood, as well as a thriving retail and restaurant scene.
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 farther to the west on the same street.