Cleveland Irish: Ward 25, 1940

Cleveland Irish: Ward 25, 1940
By Francis McGarry

The City of Cleveland created a list of construction projects in 1938, which included the replacement of the Central Viaduct.  The Central Viaduct was one of the Cleveland bridges built in the 19th century. The bridges would replace the ferry and chained platforms of logs. 

The Central Viaduct had its share of tragedy. In 1888, multiple workers were killed as part of the bridge collapsed during construction.  In 1892, a streetcar derailed and struck oncoming traffic. In 1895, an electric railcar failed to stop at the gate and crashed 100 feet into the Cuyahoga, killing seventeen of its twenty-one passengers.

The Columbus Road Bridge was built in 1835 by James S. Clark.  It was replaced in 1940 as part of the municipal construction projects federal funding request of over $30,000,000. After James Clark built the bridge, he gifted it to the City of Cleveland. 

Ohio City, which at the time was a city, felt slighted.  The two cities previously failed in 1832 to jointly construct a bride at Euclid Avenue.  Technically, not an Eastside vs. Westside beef, but no love lost. 

Ohio City received its charter from the state before Cleveland. Ohio City’s attempt to build an independent harbor and canal system failed. The Columbus Street Bridge was assisting the economy of Cleveland while many Ohio City residents were concurrently boycotting it.

In 1837, Cleveland City Council voted to remove its half of the Main Street floating bridge to force Ohio City folks to use the Columbus Street Bridge. Ohio City Council determined the bridge to be a “public nuisance.” 

The Ohio City Marshall dynamited the west end of the bridge, and a large group of Ohio City residents attacked the bridge with a variety of tools. The City of Cleveland mobilized its militia and an actual battle took place that included artillery. Major Hoopples did not participate in the combat.  The animosity was taken to the courts.  The county rebuilt the bridge in 1870, with iron replacing the wood, and in 1895 that was replaced by the first double-wing lift bridge in the world. 

The Original Ohio Lottery
In the late 1930s, Cleveland was not just attempting to update the physical façade of the city, it had crime on the agenda as well, with all types of transgressions. Traffic tickets were a big issue.  1,502 of the 4,221 persons issued tickets in 1936 never went to court.

Safety Director Eliot Ness and Justice Griffin instituted a new system so that officers could complete all traffic paperwork at the scene of the ticket. In 1939, the City of Cleveland began utilizing chemical analysis for impaired motorists. That year, 1,072 DWI arrests resulted in 997 convictions. 

Cleveland looked to copy New York and Cincinnati laws that made it illegal to possess a gambling slip. The City was also using the “Suspicious Person Ordinance” to detain “known mobsters.” 

Some of those “known mobsters” were living in Ward 25 on the Eastside.  The 25th Ward is to the south of St. Aloysius, at 110th and St. Clair, bordered on the west by the Cultural Gardens, on the east by Eddy Road and on the south by University Circle.  East 110th becomes Lakeview Road south of St. Clair. That was the home of the Lakeview Road Gang, mentioned in Godfather II.  Suspected members were detained as suspicious persons.

In 1940, unlike Ward 24 to the west and Ward 27 to the east, Ward 25 had a substantial number of Italian inhabitants, over 600 native born Italians. A small percentage of that population were members of the Lakeview Road Gang, and later the Mayfield Road Mob.

The Italian population in Ward 25 lived close to Little Italy. There were also a significant number of arrests of suspected members of Jewish and other crime organizations. Sometimes they were arrested together.

Ward 25 consisted of 1,705 native born Russians, many of the Jewish faith, almost 800 native born Hungarians, 400 native Germans, and slightly over 300 Lithuanians.  Those general numbers and proportional relationships are similar to neighboring wards.

The native born Irish in Ward 25 numbered 169. American born with Irish surnames, following the pattern of Ward 27, brings that portion of the population to almost 1,500 people.  However, that number does not include the immigrants from Canada (234), England (334), Scotland (115), and Wales (31) with Irish surnames.

In the general narrative of the Irish Diaspora, those inhabitants are potentially Irish, but that introduces methodology that I have not embraced. What is of note is the larger number of immigrants from countries that were under the threat of war. Many in Europe were on the move, including Ireland’s neighbors. 

Ward 25 did have a higher percentage of native Clevelanders than Wards 24 and 27. 14,326 inhabitants were born in Ohio, and 98% of those were born in Cleveland. The City was still attracting large numbers of domestic migrants from Pennsylvania, 1,516, and New York State, 796. 

The 25th Ward had comparatively more American born living in its borders than its neighboring wards.  It had a larger African American population as well. 

91 people migrated to Cleveland’s 25th Ward from Alabama: 59 African Americans, 28 European Americans and four Chinese.  116 people from Georgia: 78 African Americans, 34 European Americans and four Chinese.  Domestic migration of various population groups indicates the attractiveness of Cleveland. 

Educational diversity is also shown in the census data.  Alabama migrants included 12 people with some college, 6 African American and 6 European American.  10% of German immigrants had some college and 6 of the native born Irish had some college.

Cultural Loci
There was cultural location affinity of the Italians on south Lakeview Road, the Jewish on 105th and the Irish near St. Aloysius, albeit not as much of an enclave. It is best to understand cultural population in pockets. African Americans tended to live in a series of adjunct houses, owned and rented. That is similar to the Irish and other ethnic groups, numerically proportional to the totality of each group. 

The 25th Ward’s census data indicates that many were attracted to the location and opportunities available in proximity to the ward and in Cleveland as a whole.  The City’s population was growing and there was a financial commitment to improving the physical and functional aspects of city life. Those endeavors would change the city in the next decade and continues to influence how the Cleveland area interacts with each other and the rest of the world. 

*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 founder of Bluestone Hibernian Charities.  Francis is a past president of the Irish American Club East Side.  He is the founder and past president of the Bluestone Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. 

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