Filed Under Education

Collinwood High School

A Neighborhood and Its Schools

Cleveland, Ohio's northeast corner grew from a railroad stop in the mid 1800's to a vibrant community by the turn of the century. Few people resided in the area until the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad developed a line to Painesville and Ashtabula and placed stop number 11 in “Frogsville,” a swampy area about ten miles northeast of the mouth of the Cuyahoga River along the Lake Erie shoreline.  bounded by Collamer Village to the south and Nottingham Village to the east. By 1863 twenty families lived in the area. The railroad ‘stop’ grew from a place to switch engines to enter the central city to a multi-purpose maintenance and railroad switching operation. The railroad expansion in the area brought more population and by 1876, the railroad’s well regarded chief engineer, John Collins gave his name to the settlement. By 1899 the Directory of Collinwood listed its population at 3,237 residents. 

At the turn of the twentieth century the community was responding to a growing need for schools. Originally a one room building on Collamer Avenue (now East 152 Street) and Waterloo Road served the neighborhood children. By 1864, a second red brick school was added serving all grades until 1889. That year, Clark School was built at Saint Clair Avenue and Clark Street (East 147 Street) to accommodate the growing student population. In 1892, Clark High School graduated its first class – one senior.  Meanwhile, Frank P. Whitney, a recent Oberlin College graduate, was hired as principal for 90 students at Clark. Frank grew up on a farm in Huron, Ohio, and spent two years teaching in the rural village of Wakeman. Following his first year at Collinwood, he rode his bicycle to New York City, boarded a steamer for England and explored English schools via bicycle for the summer. Upon his return he was appointed to lead Collinwood's schools as superintendent where he began to install programs inspired by his visit to English schools.

During this same period, Cleveland experienced its initial wave of central and southern European immigrants arriving to work, live, and settle in ethnic enclaves throughout the city. Collinwood also experienced this phenomenon. The railroad line bisected the village and provided a valuable resource for factory development and transportation access. Areas north and south of the ‘tracks’ afforded plenty of land to develop residential housing for the immigrant workers. Manufacturers sought inexpensive land adjacent to the rail lines and attracted the needed human resources, first from Cleveland to the west, and later more European immigrants into the developing neighborhood. The abundant construction and factory-style work suited the people who populated the region. The neighborhood mix of residential and industrial space defined the community’s character, it blended the immigrant workforce with the manufacturing boom. Several large corporations established factories to support Cleveland’s manufacturing leadership that emerged during the end of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. 

Meanwhile, more students demanded more space. In 1907, South High School was dedicated on the site where Collinwood High School now stands. During that year, a tragic fire at Lakeview School took the lives of 172 students and two teachers. Cleveland annexed Collinwood Village and its schools were added to the Cleveland Public Schools in 1910. Mr. Whitney joined the school district as principal (West Tech), supervisor, and assistant superintendent before returning to his Collinwood 'home' in 1926 as principal of the newly built Collinwood High School. During its first year, enrollment reached 3,488 students, Ohio’s largest school at the time. In less than thirty years, the school enrollment alone exceeded the neighborhood's entire resident population.

The neighborhood reached its highest population census between 1930 and 1960. Whitney's influence continued with his leadership through 1941 as the high school thrived with high enrollments, dedicated faculty, and nationally recognized programs featuring health, citizenship, and character education and student guidance. 'Railroader' football teams of the 1940s and Lady Railroader track teams of a more recent era, excelled on the track and in the classroom. Honors academics joined numerous extra curricular programs to provide students with Cleveland’s best educational opportunities throughout the new century.

Collinwood continued to reflect developments of the larger Cleveland community. By the 1960s and 1970s, racial strife at the high school reflected community tensions. Its mix of people, manufacturing employers, schools, and social climate reflected the rise and fall story of the ‘rust belt’ urban center and its school challenges.

Audio

Collinwood among Ohio's largest high schools. The Collinwood neighborhood achieved peak population during the mid twentieth century. Mr. Lesko comments on the enrollment at the high school. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection Creator: James Lanese
Collinwood High School Programs, 1950s-60s Mr. Joseph Lesko, teacher, coach, and administrator at Collinwood describes the academic programs available at the school. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection Creator: James Lanese
Opportunities were abundant at Collinwood. Ms. Carmella Napoleon, a graduate of Collinwood High School, describes the variety of acacemic opportunities available at the school when she attended. Source: Collinwood High School Oral History Project. Date: October, 2013
"I was prepared for engineering school." Ms. Carmella Napoleon recalls her favorite classes at Collinwood. Her preparation in science and mathematics served her well as an engineering student at Case Western Reserve University. Source: Collinwood High School Oral History Project. Date: October, 2013
"My favorite teacher." Lawrence Mahone, an alumnus of and teacher at Collinwood High School, recalls his experience with a memorable teacher that he still sees at school. Source: Collinwood High School Oral History Project. Date: October, 2013
"My favorite place to be." Lawrence Mahone recalls his experience at school at Collinwood. After school social groups were friendly gatherings, an extension of the school day. Source: Collinwood High School Oral History Project. Date: October, 2013

Images

Clark School Two earlier school buildings preceded the construction of Clark School in 1889 at the corner of Clark (East 147 Street) and Saint Clair Avenue. The building served students of all grades. Source: Cleveland Memory, Postcard Collection. Date: 1908
"South High School", Collinwood South High School was built in 1906 on the site of the Current Collinwood High School at Saint Clair Avenue, East 152 Street, and Ivanhoe Avenue. Source: Cleveland Memory, Postcards of Cleveland.
clevelandmemory.org
Date: March, 1912
Collinwood's South High School at Five Points This 1921 platt shows Collinwood's "Five Points", the intersection of East 152nd Street with Saint Clair Avenue and Ivanhoe Avenue. The site originally was home to South High School until 1926 when the current Collinwood High School was built on the site. Source: Cleveland Public Library Map Collection Creator: G.M. Hopkins Plat Maps Date: 1921
Collinwood High School, 1924 The current Collinwood High School was constructed in 1922-23 and opened to students in 1924. It is located at the corner of Saint Clair, Ivanhoe Avenues and East 152 Street referred to as Five Points. Source: The Cleveland Press Collection, Special Collections, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University. Date: 1926
Collinwood Railroaders, 1949 Collinwood sports teams competed in Cleveland's Senate Athletic League. Here, members of the 1949 football team were featured in the Cleveland Press Sports page. Source: The Cleveland Press Collection, Special Collections, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University Date: December 3, 1949
Chess Club, 1964 Collinwood High School provided many extra curricular activvvities for students, Members of teh Chess Club keep in practice. Source: The Cleveland Press Collection, Special Collections, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University. Date: April 1, 1964
Collinwood Basketball Team, 1926 Collinwood sports teams provided strong competition in teh city's Senate Athletic League. In1926, the basketball team won the championship. Source: The Cleveland Press Collection, Special Collections, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University. Date: March 22, 1926

Location

15210 St Clair Ave, Cleveland, OH 44110

Metadata

James Lanese, “Collinwood High School,” Cleveland Historical, accessed November 29, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/695.