West Park, Cleveland

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West Park was a city in the U.S. state of Ohio that was annexed to the city of Cleveland in 1923.[1] West Park covered 12.5 square miles, stretching from West 117th Street on the East, to the Rocky River Valley on the West; from the City of Lakewood, on the North, to Brookpark Road on the South. Since 1923, those borders have remained the same for the West Park neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. The Statistical Planning Area of Cleveland traditionally divided West Park into four subneighborhoods: Jefferson, Kamm’s Corners, Puritas-Longmead, and Riverside [2] In 2015, the city of Cleveland made an alteration in the naming of the West Park neighborhoods with the Riverside neighborhood changed to Hopkins. [3]

History[edit]

Up until the 1600s, the area of West Park had no name. West Park was part of the vast, forest-covered wilderness that once blanketed most of the eastern half of the present United States and it followed the pattern of settlement from Native American civilizations to migration from eastern colonists.[4] In 1796, the Connecticut Land Company sent an expedition, led by General Moses Cleaveland, to explore and survey their new holdings in the Connecticut Western Reserve. Cleaveland landed at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River in July and founded Cleveland, Ohio.[5]

Rockport Township[edit]

In 1810 Cuyahoga County was formally organized with Cleveland as the county seat. At this time the site of future West Park, seven miles west of Cleveland, was in a region officially known only as Township 7, Range 14 of the Western Reserve.[6] In 1812, Nathan Alger, with his wife and sons, Henry, Herman, Nathan, Jr., and Thaddeus P., and his son-in-law, John Kidney, all from Litchfield County, Connecticut, settled upon sections twelve and thirteen in the township and founded Alger settlement.[7] Two days later, Benjamin Robinson, afterwards son-in-law of Nathan Alger, came from Vermont and also settled in that area. [8] Nathan Alger, Sr., died January 21, 1813, being the first white person who died in the township.[9]

In 1819, the eighteen families living in the area decided to adopt a more proper name than just being referred to as Township 7, Range 14. They chose “Rockport Township,” inspired by the high rocky embankments along the lake and both sides of Rocky River.[10] Using present day landmarks, it was bounded by Lake Erie on the north, West 117th on the east, Brookpark Road on the south and West 230th, in the present City of Fairview Park on the west. As the population of the 15,207 acre township grew, hamlets and villages were formed, eventually leading to the establishment of surrounding Lakewood, Rocky River and Fairview Village (Fairview Park). [11]

In 1892, Rockport Hamlet (future West Park) was formed within Rockport Township, bounded by the Rocky River on the west, West 117th street on the east and Brookpark Road on the south. On January 31, 1900, Rockport Hamlet petitioned the county to form its own co-existent township with Rockport Township.[12] On March 7, 1900, the request was granted and a new Township of West Park was created. In 1902 the Rockport Hamlet was incorporated as Rockport Village within West Park Township. Finally, on February 1, 1913, Rockport Village changed its name and became the Village of West Park. In February, 1921 it officially became West Park City with a population of 5,000 residents. [13]

Naming of West Park[edit]

The name West Park was named after one of its early settlers, John M. West. West was born in 1811 in County Leitrim, Ireland. He immigrated to America with his parents in 1826. In the 1840s he married Frances O'Brien who was born in County Roscommon, Ireland.[14]

In about 1842, John West bought a 600-acre farm in Rockport Township, situated along the south side of Lorain Avenue and extending roughly from present West 137th to West 143rd Streets.[15] As of 2014, the red brick home he built still stands at 3684 West 136th Street. John and Frances West had a family of eight children in the house, raising six of them to adulthood.[16] The West Farm included a 25-acre “front yard” and an artificial lake complete with rowboats. This park-like wooded preserve, located at present West 138th Street and Lorain Avenue, came to be called “West Park.” Thus, John M. West is not the founder of West Park nor its first settler, but he did create the estate from which the city of West Park took its name.

City of West Park[edit]

West Park existed as a separate municipality for approximately nine years and eight months but during that brief period it was a fully functioning city. It had a two-story brick city hall on Lorain Avenue near West 158th Street which housed the mayor's office, all city departments, and police headquarters. The West Park police department consisted of a chief, two sergeants and 12 officers. The fire department boasted two fire stations, a chief, a captain, three lieutenants, 20 men, and a motorized fire engine.[13] West Park also claimed a well-developed public school system with nine schools, one of them a high school with 300 students (the old John Marshall High School at the corner of W. 152nd and Lorain Avenue) and 2650 pupils and 94 teachers overall.[17] The city's total property evaluation in 1922 was $27,000,000. [13]

A well-known area within West Park is Kamm’s Corners.[18] Oswald Kamm emigrated from Switzerland and in 1875 he purchased four acres at the southwest corner of Lorain Avenue and Rocky River Drive. [19] Kamm opened a general store which also served as the local post office.[20] The original store was torn down in 1900 and a second store was built on the same site which still stands in 2015 where Kamm’s Corners is still a shopping district.[21]

Annexation to Cleveland[edit]

In the early 1920s, a campaign began to annex West Park to the city of Cleveland, its immediate neighbor to the east. Miss Carrie Norton, stated, “annexation is inevitable and the logical moment has arrived.” [13] Cleveland was then the fifth largest city in the country and had annexed many of the smaller communities around it. As had the citizens of Newburgh, South Brooklyn and Collinwood, among others over the years, West Park residents voted to merge with the City of Cleveland in 1922. By 1922, Cleveland wanted to add West Park to the list. The majority of people in West Park liked the idea. Mayor George C. Reitz stated he'd no longer be mayor of West Park, but "I'm going to be a resident of Cleveland,"[13] Some of the issues that persuaded West Parkers to want to become a part of the city of Cleveland, was Cleveland’s promise to lower taxes and public transportation fares, updated utilities and infrastructure, as well as, a better safety force and lower-cost schools. The tax rate in West Park was $2.78 while Cleveland's rate was $2.49. Cleveland pledged to provide West Park with street car service for a $.05 compared to the current fare of $.07 ½ and cut water bills in half. Cleveland also claimed to provide a superior school system for a lower cost per pupil. They also promised better police protection, more paved streets, better lighting, and increased public service. In spite of all the claims, street car service was the main issue in the annexation battle.[13] The matter came to a vote on November 7, 1922. Annexation won by a vote of 2,011 to 1,077. West Park became Cleveland's new ward 33. The public property and services were taken over by Cleveland, and West Park became a part of Cleveland on January 1, 1923. West Park was the last independent city to be annexed by Cleveland. [1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "West Park". The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Case Western Reserve University. Retrieved December 14, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Statistical Planning Area Map (Neighborhoods)access-date=April 19, 2015". Neighborhood Link. 
  3. ^ "City Planning Commission access –date=April 22, 2015". Zoning Layer. 
  4. ^ A History of Ohio, Eugene H. Roseboom and Francis P. Weisenburger, (Columbus: The Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1953).
  5. ^ "Moses Cleaveland,". Ohio History Central. Retrieved October 12, 2014. 
  6. ^ Anthony J. Iezzi, History of Rockport Township and The City of Fairview Park From Its Origins to 1923, (Fairview Park: Saint Angela Merici Parish, 1999), 3.
  7. ^ History of Cuyahoga County, Ohio; Part Third: The Townships, compiled by Crisfield Johnson, (D. W. Ensign & Co., 1879), 502, accessed on October 12, 2014. http://archive.org/stream/cu31924010461790/cu31924010461790_djvu.txt <
  8. ^ “Alger, Nathan,” Early Settlers and Their Legacies, History of the West Park Neighborhood, Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, last modified June 17, 2004. http://www.westparkhistory.com/history/settlers.htm
  9. ^ “Alger, Henry.” The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History last modified July 10, 1997, http://ech.case.edu/cgi/article.pl?id=AH5
  10. ^ Anthony J. Iezzi, History of Rockport Township and The City of Fairview Park From Its Origins to 1923, (Fairview Park: Saint Angela Merici Parish, 1999), 3-4.
  11. ^ “Rockport” The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, last modified July 22, 1997, http://ech.case.edu/cgi/article.pl?id=R4
  12. ^ Anthony J. Iezzi, History of Rockport Township and The City of Fairview Park From Its Origins to 1923, (Fairview Park: Saint Angela Merici Parish, 1999), 4.
  13. ^ a b c d e f ’’Howdy, Miss West Park!” Says Uncle Mose. Cleveland Welcomes Healthy Baby Into Family.’ Cleveland Press November 11, 1922 . It should be noted that the dates for these events will sometimes differ among various authors or sources, depending on whether the date elected is for the original citizen petition, or the official approval and designation by the County Commissioners, or the first formal meeting of their Council.
  14. ^ “West, John M.”, Early Settlers and Their Legacies, History of the West Park Neighborhood, Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, last modified June 17, 2004. http://www.westparkhistory.com/history/settlers.htm
  15. ^ Gary Swilik, “Meet the REAL Founder of West Park!http://www.westparkhistory.com/history/realwest.htm last modified August 7, 2013.
  16. ^ Some sources incorrectly claim West Park was named for "Benjamin West". An early researcher got it wrong years ago and the error has been repeated ever since. For example, see Iezzi, History of Rockport Township and The City of Fairview Park From Its Origins to 192, 6.
  17. ^ Detroit Board of Education, The Detroit Educational Bulletin (Detroit, MI., 1922), 27.
  18. ^ Obituary of Lena Kamm Colbrunn, (Cleveland) Plain Dealer February 10, 1978.
  19. ^ Memorial Record of Oswald Kamm . County of Cuyahoga and City of Cleveland, Ohio (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1893).
  20. ^ “Kamm’s Corners” The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, last modified June 20, 1997, http://ech.case.edu/cgi/article.pl?id=KC
  21. ^ ‘Kamm, Oswald,” Early Settlers and Their Legacies, History of the West Park Neighborhood, Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, http://www.westparkhistory.com/history/settlers.htm#KAMM, last modified June 17, 2004.