Fun Facts About Cleveland, OH That May Surprise You

Cleveland sits along the southern shore of Lake Erie in northeastern Ohio. It’s Cuyahoga County’s central metropolitan hub and sits on the U.S. maritime border with Canada. Now that we got the basics out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff. Here are seven fun facts you might not know about the Forest City.

Why the Name Cleveland?

Sign of Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland licensed under CC BY 2.0 by Erik Drost

With more than two centuries of history, Cleveland has a few gems in its past, including how it earned its name. The Connecticut Land Company began developing the area at the turn of the 19th century. This part of the country was once considered the Connecticut Western Reserve.

Investor General Moses Cleaveland led the company’s land survey and helped settle Cleveland, the Reserve’s first town with 220 lots costing $50 each. Officials called its city Cleaveland until 1831, when the local newspaper, The Cleveland Advertiser, dropped the extra “a” because it didn’t fit in the paper’s masthead, and the new spelling stuck.

Home Lots in Cleveland Were a Hard Sell

Of all the beautiful things about Cleveland, this fact is one of the best. No one wanted to live here. Today, the city’s population includes nearly 1.8 million residents, and the median home price is far from the original $50, at $103,869 today. However, surprisingly few settlers wanted to pay the Connecticut Land Company to live this close to Lake Erie.

Only three men lived in town in 1800, and a decade later population had slowly increased to just 57 people. As of 1820, a whopping 606 residents called Cleveland home, and then by 1920, it grew rapidly to take over the spot as the country’s fifth-largest city.

Modern Transportation Arrives in Cleveland

So what happened in Cleveland during its century of growth from 1820 to 1920? Cleveland’s booming population was a result of innovations in transportation. Lake Erie’s first steamboat, the Walk-In-The-Water, arrived in the area, opening up commerce with other towns along the shore. The vessel embarked on its first journey on August 25, 1818, captained by Job Fish. Native Americans said it looked like the boat was walking in the water, and the term stuck.

In the 1830s, the Ohio and Erie Canal gave shipping companies access to the Atlantic Ocean through the Ohio River. It traveled through the Cuyahoga Valley and changed the course of history throughout the region. This waterway helped connect the developed East with the frontier in the West.

The railroad arrived in Cleveland in 1849, and for more than a century, it would transport goods and people to and from the city. Columbus and Cincinnati Railroad’s lone engine and a string of flatcars left the city from its stop near River Street. The company went on to open its first segment: a 36-mile journey to Wellington.

Cleveland’s New Industries

With Cleveland’s prime location along numerous transportation routes, it became an important industrial city at the end of the nineteenth century. The town was also close to vast iron ore and coal deposits, and with mining operations in full swing, residents prospered.

During the early 1870s, John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Company in Cleveland, while Samuel Mather began steel production in the city. As of 1880, steel mills employed 28% of local workers, making the city a vital industrial center. However, by 1933, the Great Depression cost Cleveland roughly one-third of its steel and oil company employees to layoffs.

Cleveland Was the First City of Light

Cleveland inventor Charles Brush created the arc lamp. With his new product, the City of Cleveland lit up Public Square, known then as Monumental Park, in 1879. This first public street lighting demonstration earned Cleveland the nickname “City of Light.”

The inventor installed a dozen carbon electrode-arcing lamps around the public space. To the delight of thousands of onlookers, each post produced 4,000 times the glow of the former candle-lit lights. Brush’s product would replace gas lamps along the city’s streets, making him a wealthy man. His creation cost one-third the price of a gas lamp, making them a popular lighting alternative all over the country.

Cleveland Lost Its Football Team

Cleveland got its own professional football team in 1944 when local businessman Arthur B. McBride first acquired the Browns franchise. But, much to fans’ displeasure, the team’s owner Arthur B. Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore, Maryland, in 1996, becoming the Ravens.

City officials tried to block the move. However, the Browns returned to Ohio in 1999 after making a deal with the NFL for a new state-of-the-art stadium. It’s still one of Cleveland’s best must-see attractions. In addition, Modell agreed to relinquish the Browns’ name and history to the new owner, Al Lerner.

Cleveland Was in Debt

Cleveland was the first city since the Great Depression to neglect its financial obligations. The city had accumulated more than thirty million dollars in debt in 1978, including $15.5 million in loans from local banks. The government failed to pay back its debts and remained in default until 1987.

Officials cited declining populations and the loss of businesses as they relocated out of the area over the last two decades as the reason for its financial troubles. As property values and resulting taxes continued to plummet, Cleveland didn’t have the funds it needed to operate. Voters repeatedly rejected tax increases, while the city increased expenditures by 30% under the leadership of Major Ralph J. Perk.

Mayor Dennis Kucinich tried to negotiate with lenders but failed. Citizens elected George Voinovich mayor in 1979 with the hopes of a turn-around. They were right, and within a year, he refinanced Cleveland’s debt with eight local banks. It took the city seven years to recover from its financial collapse, much longer than the predicted three.

Contact North Coast Auto Mall of Cleveland

So, there you have it. North Coast Auto Mall put together this list of fun facts about Cleveland. What do you think of the topics we picked?  What’s your favorite thing about the Forest City? Please send us a note so we can add your ideas to this post. 

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