Fairfax neighborhood's namesake, Florence Bundy Fairfax, was a decorated civil servant with a remarkable story. Born in Cleveland on Christmas Eve in 1907, Florence Bundy spent her teenage years living on the Kenyon V. Painter estate in Cleveland Heights, where her parents worked as house servants. After graduating from Cleveland Heights High School in 1924, she earned her degree in Chemistry from Mather College for Women at Western Reserve University in 1929. In 1953, while on a vacation to the summer resort of Idlewild, she narrowly survived an automobile accident that killed her husband, Lawrence Fairfax, on a Michigan highway. But the Fairfax name would soon be immortalized through the continued selfless work of Mrs. Fairfax.
Her passion for youth recreation developed during her college years. While a student at Mather, she excelled as a swimmer, and due to her passion and proficiency for the sport she was hired by the Department of Recreation in Cleveland to teach swimming classes following her graduation. During her tenure in the Department of Recreation, Fairfax was appointed the first African American Supervisor of Summer Playgrounds and, later, Recreation Supervisor and Recreation Superintendent. Recognizing her impact on and dedication to the Department of Recreation, particularly in the Cedar-Central neighborhood, when the city decided to erect a recreation center on East 82nd Street in 1957, Fairfax was the person for whom the structure was named when it opened two years later.
Shortly after the new recreation center was completed in 1959 and named for Mrs. Fairfax, the area bounded by Euclid Avenue and Woodland Avenue north to south and East 105th Street and East 71st Street east to west came to be designated as the Fairfax neighborhood, replacing earlier names such as East End, East Central, and "Green Pastures." That same year a cleanup project was started in an attempt to further boost the neighborhood with bases of operation located at the recreation center itself and the Karamu House. For the next twenty years, similar community cleanup initiatives persisted, largely under the direction of the Fairfax Foundation, an organization established with the goal of continuing community revitalization, and in 1971 the Fairfax Security Patrol was established. A unique program funded by members of the community, the Fairfax Security Patrol employed eleven off-duty Cleveland police officers to patrol the neighborhood in an effort to curb criminal activity in the area.
Complementing these community-led initiatives, area churches like Antioch Baptist and St. James A.M.E. contributed to the preservation of the community by providing support systems and social venues for area residents along with buying up property in the neighborhood to prevent undesirable businesses from entering and exploiting the area. Adding to these efforts, in 1992 the Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation was established, which still holds as its mission the improvement of the Fairfax neighborhood through comprehensive community development.
While the menace of urban decay has continually posed a serious threat to the Fairfax neighborhood and its residents, the efforts of area institutions, individuals like Florence Bundy Fairfax, and the community at large helped prevented this historically significant neighborhood from succumbing to the wrecking ball of urban renewal, a trend that claimed tremendous amounts of urban space across the United States during the twentieth century.