Kingsbury Run refers to an area along the east side of Cleveland near Shaker Heights that stretched westward through Kinsman Avenue and down to the Cuyahoga River. It also included a natural watershed that runs through East 79th Street in Cleveland where natural creeks drain storm water into the Cuyahoga River from areas that are now known as Warrensville Heights and Maple Heights.
The name Kingsbury Run comes from James Kingsbury, the first inhabitant of Newburgh (1797) and one of the earliest settlers of the Western Reserve area. In the late 1800s, the city commissioned a new sewer tunnel system project. This was constructed to pass through the Kingsbury Run area under Kinsman Avenue.
The Kingsbury Run stretch of land separated Cleveland from Newburgh and became an area for railroad traffic. Industry boomed in this area, including the crude oil refinery belonging to John D, Rockefeller and the oil and naphtha works of William Halsey Doan. The boom years, however, were followed by a wave of poverty. During the Great Depression, the industry began to collapse and Cleveland's workforce suffered. Minorities and immigrants were among the hardest hit. The groups that were affected the worst included African Americans, particularly those from the Cedar-Central area; a Hungarian community in Kinsman to the east of Cedar-Central; Czech and Slovak neighborhoods east of downtown along the lakefront; and Polish, Czech and Irish neighborhoods along the banks of the Cuyahoga River. Many of these displaced and out of work people took up residence in abandoned plots of land and formed communities of their own that became known as shantytowns. One of these types of settlement formed in Kingsbury Run.
The impoverished population of the area continued to grow into the late 1930s. A large wave of new residents moved in from other lakefront shantytowns as these were being removed by the city. It was during this time that Kingsbury Run grew to notoriety by being thrust into the spotlight as a crime scene. Many of the victims of the still unidentified Kingsbury Run Butcher were discovered in the shantytown. Hinting at the gruesome nature of the killings, the case soon became known as the Cleveland Torso Murders.
In 1938, Cleveland safety director Eliot Ness ordered ad conducted a raid of the area that resulted in the eviction of 300 squatters as well as the burning of at least 100 shanty homes. Almost ironically, two decades later, the city set out to redevelop Kingsbury Run into a low-income housing area as part of the Garden Valley federal urban renewal project. Constructed on a slag dump donated by Republic Steel, Garden Valley was emblematic of a national tendency in the 1950s to relegate renewal housing to marginal inner-city lands.
Kingsbury Run is still remembered today, mostly for a violent period of time in Cleveland history. When city government makes reference to this area, it is mostly to note the vast sewer system that runs through it.