Cleveland, Ohio
United States of America


Cleveland (Ohio), the second largest city in Ohio and seat of Cuyahoga County, located where the Cuyahoga River enters Lake Erie. A major manufacturing and commercial center, it ranks as one of the chief ports on the Great Lakes, and the city has long functioned as a collecting point for highway and railroad traffic from the Midwest. In the 1990s Cleveland developed new cultural, sports, and entertainment attractions in the downtown area and increased its vitality.

The eastern part of the Cleveland metropolitan area lies on the Appalachian Plateau at an elevation of about 330 m (about 1,100 ft), while the western part sits upon the Lake Plain and associated terraces at about 180 m (about 600 ft). The eastern area’s higher elevation results in significantly greater snowfalls in winter. Annual precipitation, measured at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport in the west, is 930 mm (36.6 in) and falls evenly throughout the year. Temperatures in the city are moderated by its location on Lake Erie. The average high in January is 0° C (32° F) and the average low is -8° C (18° F); average high in July is 28° C (82° F) and the average low is 16° C (61° F).

Cleveland is named for Moses Cleaveland, who laid out the city as part of a survey in 1796. The spelling of the name was later shortened; one story holds that it was done by a newspaper editor in order to fit the name in the newspaper’s masthead.

Cleveland and its Metropolitan Area

Most of the northern and downtown sections of Cleveland lie on terraces between 18 and 24 m (60 and 80 ft) above Lake Erie. These terraces are divided by the valley of the Cuyahoga River, which flows northward through Cleveland. The valley, called the Flats, was once the city’s main industrial section but has since been converted into an entertainment district, with numerous restaurants and nightclubs in renovated warehouses on both banks of the river. High bridges across the Flats link the commercial and residential areas to its east and west.

The heart of the central business district is Public Square, on a lake terrace east of the Flats. The square contains a large monument to participants in the American Civil War (1861-1865) and statues of city founder Moses Cleaveland and of one of America’s greatest reform mayors, Tom L. Johnson, who served from 1901 to 1909. Public Square is the focal point of several main thoroughfares and is dominated by the 52-story Terminal Tower (1929), which for several decades was the tallest building in the United States west of New York. Terminal Tower’s lower concourse, originally the station for the New York Central Railroad, was renovated in 1990 into an open three-level development of retail stores and restaurants known as Tower City. Other important retail complexes in the downtown are The Galleria, a collection of stores in a mall-like, ultra-modern building; and the Arcade, a magnificently restored late 19th century three-story shopping and office arcade listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Euclid Avenue, which runs eastward from Public Square, formerly was the main retail concentration, but its shopping influence is today greatly reduced. Eastward along Euclid Avenue is the University Circle area, a neighborhood of educational, medical, and cultural facilities.

In 1895 the Cleveland Architectural Club challenged its members to produce a “grouping of Cleveland’s Public Buildings.” Out of this idea emerged the Group Plan, patterned on the “city beautiful” concept expressed in the redevelopment of the Chicago waterfront for the Chicago World’s Fair. Both Daniel H. Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted, architects of the Chicago plan, played key roles in developing a mall in downtown Cleveland where an impressive concentration of public buildings was erected in the first third of the 20th century. Structures include the Federal Building, the County Court House, the Cleveland Public Library, City Hall, the Cleveland Board of Education Building, Cleveland Municipal Stadium, and Public Hall (a combination auditorium, convention center, and exposition hall).

The land area of the city of Cleveland is 199.4 sq km (77.0 sq mi). But this represents only a small fraction of the city’s metropolitan region, which spreads over Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lake, Medina, Ashtabula, and Geauga counties, with a land area of 7,012.4 sq km (2,707.5 sq mi). The Cleveland metropolitan area includes the communities of Parma, Lorain, Lakewood, Elyria, Euclid, Cleveland Heights, Mentor, East Cleveland, Strongsville, Garfield Heights, Shaker Heights, and many smaller communities.


According to the national census, the population of Cleveland was 505,616 in 1990, a decline of 11.9 percent from the 1980 population of 573,822. The decrease continued into the 1990s, falling a further 5.4 percent between 1990 and 2000. The population was 478,403 in 2000. The decrease is attributed to a continuing flight to the suburbs, begun before 1970 and fueled by racial polarization and public school problems.

In 2000 blacks were 51 percent of the population, whites 41.5 percent, , Asians 1.3 percent, Native Americans 0.3 percent, and people of mixed heritage or not reporting race 5.8 percent. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders numbered 178 at the time of the census. Hispanics, who may be of any race, are 7.3 percent of the people.

The city of Cleveland has long been stereotyped as a community of two halves: a black eastern half and a white western half. Although a gross over-simplification, this perception has been widely accepted and has governed many community attitudes and actions. In reality, the city of Cleveland and much of the larger metropolitan area consists of distinct ethnic neighborhoods or communities. In large part this is a heritage of the employment opportunities available to blacks from the southern United States, whites from the Appalachian hill country, and immigrants from eastern and southern Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The population of the metropolitan area in 1980 was 2,278,000, but by 1990 it totaled 2,202,000, or a decrease of 3.3 percent. The trend reversed in the 1990s. In 2000 the population was 2,251,000. Accurately characterizing the population of the metropolitan area is difficult because the fastest growing regions in 1990 actually were outside the officially designated area. For example, northern Summit County, while in Cleveland’s economic and cultural orbit, is counted as part of the Akron metropolitan area.

Education and Culture

Cleveland’s principal universities include Case Western Reserve University (1826), an internationally known school, especially for engineering; Cleveland State University (1964), particularly known for its urban-oriented curriculum; and David N. Myers College (1848). The Cleveland Institute of Art was founded in 1882, and the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1920. John Carroll University (1886) is in suburban University Heights and Baldwin-Wallace College (1845) is in Berea. Cleveland is famous for medical research and treatment, led by the Cleveland Clinic and its outstanding heart surgery program. The University Hospitals, affiliated with Case Western Reserve University, also enjoys an international reputation for high quality medical services.

Most of Cleveland’s cultural, educational, and medical institutions are located in the University Circle area, 6 km (4 mi) east of downtown. Leading cultural institutions include the Cleveland Museum of Art, with one of America’s best collections of Asian art; the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, with fossils of dinosaurs and human ancestors; and the Western Reserve Historical Society Museum, containing exhibits on the Western Reserve from the late 18th to early 20th centuries, and the adjacent Crawford Auto and Aviation Museum, including an exhibit on automobiles built in Cleveland. Of particular interest to families are the Health Museum of Cleveland and the Cleveland Children’s Museum. Also located in University Circle is Severance Hall, the home of the world-acclaimed Cleveland Orchestra. Nearby is the Cleveland Play House, with three large, restored theaters and one of the largest non-profit professional theaters in the country. Downtown is Playhouse Square Center, with four recently restored theaters, home to the Cleveland Opera and the Great Lakes Theater Festival. On the waterfront is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, opened in 1995 and exploring the rich history of rock music. Next door is the Great Lakes Science Center, an interactive science museum. A popular cultural event in the city each spring is the Cleveland International Film Festival.


Cleveland possesses an outstanding collection of parks, including Edgewater Beach State Park and Gordon Park along the Lake Erie shore, and Rockefeller Park and the Rocky River Reservation extending inland along ravines leading back from the lake. The city is nearly encircled by woodland parks, with interconnected trails, nature centers, and picnic grounds. To the south, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, administered by the National Park Service, is one of the most visited national park units in the country. Professional sports teams in the city include the Cleveland Indians (baseball), the Cleveland Browns (football), and the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Rockers (men's and women's basketball). In 1996 the owner of the Browns moved the team to Maryland, where it played as the Baltimore Ravens. In 1999 a new football franchise, also called the Browns, began play in the newly constructed Cleveland Browns Stadium. The other professional teams also play in stadiums built in the 1990s: the Indians in Jacobs Field in downtown Cleveland and the Cavaliers and Rockers in nearby Gund Arena. The Cleveland Grand Prix automobile race is held in early summer at Burke Lakefront Airport, which is also the site of the Cleveland National Air Show on Labor Day Weekend.


Manufacturing provided the historic supports to Cleveland’s economy. But heavy industry in the city was hard hit in the later part of the 20th century, with aging plants unable to compete with cheaper goods from overseas. Manufacturing employment declined by about one-third from the 1970s; today it accounts for only about one-fifth of the labor force. Nevertheless, manufacturing remains important and will likely stay a central part of the economy because the city is within a short transportation distance of many of the country’s people. Since the 1970s the economy has also diversified, adding business services, high technology, and tourism to its traditional base. This helps the city weather downturns in any one industry.

Cleveland is the home of many large manufacturers—among them are TRW (transportation components), the Eaton Corporation (vehicle power train components, electrical equipment, and controls), Sherwin Williams (paints and varnishes), Parker Hannifin (motion control components), and American Greetings Company (greeting cards). Hundreds of smaller manufacturing plants, led by the makers of machinery and machine tools, transportation equipment, electrical equipment, fabricated metal products, and plastics and polymers, are located throughout the Cleveland metropolitan area. Research and development in Cleveland includes biomedical engineering drawing on university and hospital research programs, and polymer research based on years of experience in plastics and rubber manufacture. The John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is situated near Cleveland’s airport.

Cleveland is a distribution center and a market for raw materials. Large quantities of iron ore, limestone, sand and gravel, iron and steel products, petroleum products, and cement pass through the city’s port annually. Diversified international trade is steadily becoming more important, in part a consequence of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which opened the city to oceangoing ships. Leading exports are chemicals, industrial machinery, and electronic equipment.

Cleveland is a principal transportation center of Ohio. It has major railroad and airline facilities, as well as shipping lines, trucking companies, and bus lines. The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority serves the entire metropolitan area with bus and rapid transit service. Commercial air transportation is through Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport, an airline hub. Interstates 80 and 90, combined as the Ohio Turnpike, fork at the western reaches of Cleveland, with Interstate 90 passing through the heart of the city along the lakeshore and Interstate 80 collecting traffic through the southern suburbs. The city is the northern terminus of Interstate 71, from the southwest, and Interstate 77, from the south.


Cleveland’s government consists of a mayor and a 21-member city council. All are elected to four-year terms, with voters electing the mayor city-wide and council members by ward. The Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority was the first such government agency in the United States and a model adopted by other urban areas.

Cleveland has had a long but intermittent tradition of reform government, beginning with Tom L. Johnson, who was elected in 1901. Noteworthy among Johnson’s reforms were the introduction of public transportation and the establishment of a publicly owned power plant, which still operates today. Another Cleveland resident, Florence E. Allen, became the first woman to serve on a state supreme court. She was subsequently appointed a federal judge. A colorful chapter in reform was inaugurated in the late 1920s when Eliot Ness became commissioner of public safety; Ness is best remembered today for fictionalized accounts of his battle against organized crime. In 1967 Carl Stokes (the great-grandson of a slave) defeated Seth Taft (the great-grandson of a U.S. president) to become the first black mayor of a major American city.


Northeastern Ohio was once part of the Western Reserve, a tract of land that Connecticut claimed under its colonial charter. In 1795 Connecticut sold most of the territory to the Connecticut Land Company, which sent out a surveying party headed by Moses Cleaveland. In 1796 Cleaveland laid out a public square with radiating streets on the site of the present-day city, east of the Cuyahoga River. The settlement was named for him and was incorporated as a village in 1814.

Completion of the Ohio and Erie Canal in 1832 transformed Cleveland from a frontier community to a commercial center at the head of an important waterway connecting the Ohio River and Lake Erie. With the completion a few years earlier of the Erie Canal, connecting the lake to the Eastern seaboard, Cleveland stood on the principal transportation route between the Midwest and the country’s urban centers. Population more than tripled by 1836, when Cleveland was incorporated as a city. The first railroad arrived in 1851. Ohio City, a community on the west bank of the river, was annexed by Cleveland in 1854.

The American Civil War (1861-1865) created a demand for Cleveland’s iron and steel products and stimulated the city’s growth. This industry, in turn, formed the basis for other heavy industries. By 1900, for example, six major automobile manufacturers were operating in Cleveland. The city’s industries created vast fortunes for industrialists, notably John D. Rockefeller, founder of the Standard Oil Company. Rockefeller and Marcus Hanna, a steel and shipping king and political boss, were classmates at Central High School. Another pair of classmates, at Glenville High School in the early 1930s, developed the comic book character Superman.

A strong tradition of citizen participation exists in Cleveland. The first modern Community Chest was founded in Cleveland in 1913, developing a way of dispersing funds that became a model for the United Way. The Citizens League of Greater Cleveland has acted as a civic spur to improve government for more than a century. The City Club is recognized as the oldest forum for political and community dialogue in the country. The Cleveland Foundation was the first community-funded civic foundation in the United States.

Beginning about 1960 Cleveland entered a long period of decline. Aging industrial plants, high labor costs, outmoded municipal facilities, the migration of population, and increasing racial tensions all contributed to political strife and a deteriorating economy. In 1978 the decline culminated in Cleveland becoming the first municipality to default on its debts since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Cleveland was earning an unenviable title of “The Mistake by the Lake.” By the 1980s a renaissance began. Civic pride was restored by solid examples of confidence in the community, such as the redevelopment of the Lake Erie shoreline and the building of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, combined with intangibles such as the inauguration of the Cleveland Grand Prix and a league championship season for the Indians baseball team. Challenges such as improving public schools remain, but Cleveland has replaced its old nickname with “The New American City.”