The Eastside Hibernians volunteer at the Father Michael Wittman Ozanam Center, located at St. Philomena’s Church (1903) in East Cleveland. The third Saturday of the month is our day, and we rotate months with the Knights of Columbus from Communion of Saints Parish, to assist with setup. Steps and tables are not fun for those who are listed in the 1950 Census. Me Ma and my uncle Dennis make their first census appearances in 1950.
Setup does not require more than an hour or so and provides a great opportunity for coffee and donuts. It was Tim O’Brien who shared his wisdom, “The key to a volunteer event is donuts.”
This past Saturday, once setup concluded, we concurred on coffee and donuts. Exit the parking lot, north on Wellesley Avene and left on Euclid Avenue. Take a left on 123rd and you arrive at Corbo’s Bakery. That 1.5 mile drive passes Forest Hills Park and Lake View Cemetery.
John D. Rockefeller is buried in Lake View Cemetery. He purchased 700 acres in 1873 and donated the land for what is today Forest Hills Park, both the East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights sides. His ma was from the north of Ireland.
It was nice enough to sit outside of Corbo’s and have coffee, two queens and one king. I went with the chocolate coconut bar, not really a donut, but donuts are kinda a new thing for Corbo’s. Little Italy was already preparing for The Feast.
As we sat and discussed the superiority of Telly and ginger beer over Jamo and ginger from the gun, a young fellow exited the bakery and went to the adjacent apartments. He was all of twelve or thirteen years old, black pants and black shoes covered with flour. His white t-shirt and white apron only camouflaged the flour. A gold chain with a cross encircled his neck and his dark black hair reflected the sun, as if he was Dally from the Outsiders.
Collectively we respected and admired the young fella being taught the business. He had been there since opening, long before we began our setup.
After a quick walk to Holy Rosary (1892), we went our separate ways to Euclid and Cleveland Heights, and not a highway in sight. Those are the same paths Clevelanders took from Glenville, Collinwood and East Cleveland in the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1920 Euclid had 3,363 residents and Cleveland Heights had 15,236, compared to a Cleveland population of 796,841. By 1940 the populations had grown to 17,866 in Euclid, 54,992 in Cleveland Heights and 878,336 in the city of Cleveland.
We have discussed overpopulation and internal migration in previous articles and the 1950 Census provides us with the data. The physical area of each municipality did not increase from 1940 to 1950, however, the population of Euclid more than doubled to 41,396, Cleveland Heights increased to 59,141 and Cleveland increased by over 30,000 to 914,808.
John D. Rockefeller Standard Oil
John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil was now making gasoline and the powers that be were lobbying for highways. If some of them had their way the heights would have a highway. There were seventeen prosed highways for Cleveland and it’s first ring suburbs. The 1956 Federal Highway Act allocated twenty-five billion for 41,800 miles of highway to be completed in ten years. President Eisenhower and many Americans were concerned with a Russian attack and the need to mobilize American troops.
Construction on the Innerbelt began on December 12th, 1954 and was completed in 1962. The Heights Highway through East Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, South Euclid and Lyndhurst did not have public support. The Central Highway which would have run adjacent to Cedar Road and the Clark Highway that was proposed to run along Shaker Lakes were also defeated by the citizens of Shaker and Cleveland Heights.
It was a group of garden clubs and civic organizations who founded the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes in 1966 that defeated the Clark Highway proposal. “A bunch of old ladies,” as St. Louis and Regina grad Ann Meissner describes it.
Route 2 was authorized in 1957 and completed in 1962 and construction on I 90 began in 1952. Those projects and the Innerbelt contributed to the growth of the I-90 suburbs and Euclid’s population, including a number of Irish whose families are still residents today. The Innerbelt also was the catalyst for the demolition of St. Columbkille Church on Superior and East 26th.
One of the early Irish parishes on the Eastside, it was founded in 1871 with Father James O’Reilly as pastor. St. Columbkille was the declared the diocesan center for the deaf and hearing impaired under Father Gallagher in 1933. The last Mass at the parish was Sept, 9th, 1957.
Just as the first streetcar along Mayfield Road, up from Murray Hill, opened migration to newly formed Mayfield Heights in 1898, the construction of highways opened the migration to the eastern suburbs. Even if you build it, they cannot come without transportation.
Cleveland produced the most cars in America from 1896 to 1907, before that Ford guy. His people were from County Cork, at least since the 16th century when they migrated from England.
Ohio was home to C.R. Patterson & Sons, the first and only African American car company, founded in 1915. It was Mary Anderson who was granted the patent for the windshield wiper in 1903.
That year Oldsmobile built 4,000 cars, one-third of the total US production. None of those early Cleveland carmakers, or any other, choose to incorporate the windshield wiper. Cadillac was the first to make the windshield wiper standard in 1922.
Four million cars were produced worldwide in 1930, 2.4 million in the US. The seatbelt was developed in 1959, which made Dead Man’s Curve slightly safer, or at least less deadly.
By 1950, forty million cars were in operation in the US and gas consumption was up 42% since 1945. That year Ford adopted the automatic transmission as American carmakers produced eight million automobiles.
It is in this historical context that the migration of the Irish communities and parishes on the Eastside of Cleveland are to be understood. It is clear that population growth was a major factor in migration, as was infrastructure and automobile production. It begins to explain why there is now a Corbo’s in Mayfield Heights and why I still support Murray Hill and a young baker’s apprentice.
*Francis McGarry holds undergraduate degrees from Indiana University in Anthropology, Education and History and a Masters in Social Science from the University of Chicago. He is the Executive Director of Bluestone Hibernian Charities and proprietor of McGarry Consulting. Francis is the founder and a past president of the Bluestone Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and a past president of the Irish American Club East Side.