Friendly Inn

The Friendly Inn Social Settlement was founded in 1874 to provide a liquor-free gathering place for the residents of poor neighborhoods. Originally called the "Temperance Coffee House and Lunchroom," it eventually evolved into one of the city's first settlement houses. The charitable work of members of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) resulted in the establishment of multiple locations of the Friendly Inn within Cleveland at 634 St. Clair Street, 34 River (W. 11th) Street, and 71 Central Place. These affluent women reportedly left their coachmen and drivers, setting out on their own to mingle with the poor, pass out food, and read passages from the Bible. Groups like the WCTU would eventually become the spokespersons for the Prohibition era.

An article from the Cleveland Press states that the Friendly Inn was originally a place of boredom, but was transformed into a facility that was comfortable, well lit, and sanitary. The settlement houses encouraged those who spent time there to read and learn other skills.

Through donations from John D. Rockefeller and Stephen V. Harkness, one of the founders of Standard Oil Company, the Friendly Inn was able to consolidate its locations in 1888 into a three-story building called the Central Friendly Inn, located at 522 Central Avenue at the corner of Broadway. However, in 1894 the organization was facing a financial crisis. Administrators of the social settlement engineered a plan to raise the necessary funds to provide its services to the poor — the creation of the Woman's Edition of the Plain Dealer. Through negotiations with the managing editor, 200 women contributed to the process of writing and distributing the first edition of the fundraising newspaper on January 24, 1895.

In contrast to many other settlement houses in Cleveland and the United States, the Friendly Inn refrained from practices of segregation and kept its doors open to African Americans. The Friendly Inn was the first settlement house in Cleveland to operate with an interracial staff and by 1942 the organization was celebrating "Negro Health Week." Between 1950 to 1970 the demographics of the neighborhood in which the Friendly Inn operated switched from a primarily European immigrant to a predominantly African American population. In response to this change, the Friendly Inn created programs that specifically addressed issues faced by African Americans. The Inn provided employment training, housing assistance and hosted G.E.D classes to combat the increased rates of high school dropouts.

Currently, the Friendly Inn has included programs that focus on the role of the family by providing family camping trips and promoting the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. In recent decades the Friendly Inn began to consolidate its branches, and in 2003 the organization moved into a 41,000-square-foot building located on 2386 Unwin Road.


Woodland Avenue Location, 1934
Woodland Avenue Location, 1934 Originally, the Friendly Inn on 3754 Woodland Avenue offered little more than reading rooms. By the 1930s, however, it had expanded to offer far more services and programs. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Woman's Christian Temperance Movement
Woman's Christian Temperance Movement Women's groups like the Woman's Christian Temperance Movement had a great influence on the establishment and direction on settlement houses in Cleveland. Although most of the members were from the middle to upper classes and obtained their education from colleges and universities, they believed they had a moral obligation to reform social welfare. Source: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Friendly Inn Interior, 1876
Friendly Inn Interior, 1876 From its infant years, the Friendly Inn Social Settlement was designed to foster learning and tranquility for the less privileged members of Cleveland's communities. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Central Friendly Inn
Central Friendly Inn The Central Friendly Inn was the consolidated home of the settlement that opened at 522 Central Avenue (corner of Broadway) in 1888. The settlement's superintendent Emily C. Worthington, pictured in the photo inset. According to an account in the Cleveland World's centennial history of the city in 1896, Worthington had "achieved phenomenal success as a teacher and disciplinarian" and that all with whom she worked bore "the permanent impress of her serene and unwavering Christian character." Source: "The World's" History of Cleveland; Commemorating the City's Centennial Anniversary. Cleveland: The Cleveland World, 1896. p. 198. Date: 1896
Head-Start Programs
Head-Start Programs From its beginnings, the Friendly Inn was a place for leisure and social interaction. While this did not change, the settlement house did expand and add other programs that focused on the arts and education. By the 1960s, the organization had established a Head-Start Program in what became a predominately African-American community in Cleveland. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Social Occasions
Social Occasions In addition to the learning and social advancement programs, the Friendly Inn was also a place in which Cleveland communities could hold social gatherings. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Reaching Out
Reaching Out The Friendly Inn adapted to the concerns of the members of the community and became a place where youths and young adults went for recreation and mentoring. This particular settlement house reached out to the community in numerous ways, using both traditional and informal methods. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Black Solidarity Day
Black Solidarity Day Although the Friendly Inn was originally created for European immigrants, by the 1970s the demographic of the community became predominantly African American. In 1970, Black Solidarity Day was promoted at the Friendly Inn to promote unification within the African-American community. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections


2386 Unwin Rd, Cleveland, OH 44104


Sule Holder, “Friendly Inn,” Cleveland Historical, accessed April 13, 2024,