Filed Under Education

Waverly Elementary School

The Original Site of the Historic West Side Grade School

The year 1884 was a good one for J. H. Schneider and the residents of the Tenth Ward, an area of the west side which today comprises much of the southeastern part of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. That year, Schneider, the Cleveland Board of Education member elected from the Tenth Ward, not only saw the successful completion of the building of the new West High School in his ward at the corner of Bridge and Randall Streets, but also that of the new elementary school on Waverly Avenue (today, West 58th Street), between Fir and Bayne (now Wakefield) Streets. It was the first public elementary school built in the Tenth Ward, and became the neighborhood school for many students who formerly had to leave the ward to attend Detroit School in the Eighth Ward on what is today the corner of Detroit Avenue and West 49th Street.

The new school building, named "Waverly" after the street on which it was built, was designed by John Eisenmann, architect for the Cleveland Board of Education from 1883-1889. He is also notable as the man who designed The Arcade in downtown Cleveland. His Waverly School building was two stories in height. It had an exterior facade of red brick. There were 12 classrooms in the building, which included a basement which doubled as a playground when bad weather prevented the school children from going outside. Girls played on one side of the basement; boys on the other.

Over the years, many west side children attended Waverly including Cleveland Housing Court Judge Raymond L. Pianka, who attended the K-6 school from 1956 to 1963. By the time he went to school there, the fortunes of the neighborhood had begun to decline as Cleveland experienced the devastating economic adjustments of deindustrialization in the second half of the twentieth century. Ray went to school with many children who lived in poverty or near poverty. In a 2005 interview, Judge Pianka related a story which graphically illustrated the point. As he told it, on one occasion local health officials came to Waverly Elementary and talked to his class about the importance of brushing their teeth. One official asked how many kids had toothbrushes. About one-half the class raised their hands. Then the official asked, how many kids had their OWN toothbrush. Only about ten-percent raised their hands.

By the time that Ray Pianka attended Waverly, additions had already been constructed onto the north and south sides of original building, the first (on the north side) by 1912, and the second larger addition (on the south side) by 1932. So when Ray attended the school, it was considerably larger than the original 12-room structure. Nevertheless, though larger, it was also a very old school building. In 1979, it was torn down and a new Waverly Elementary School built on West 54th Street, between Franklin Boulevard and Bridge Avenue. There was some irony in this relocation of the school given the fact that it had been named for the street upon which its first building was erected.

In 2015, the Cleveland Board of Education announced plans to demolish Waverly Elementary School on West 54th Street and replace it with a new building to be constructed on the same site, but with an address on West 57th Street. Construction was completed in 2019. On August 8 of that year, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the new building, marking the opening of the third Waverly Elementary School in Cleveland's history.


Waverly Elementary School A postcard view of the first Waverly Elementary school building taken in circa 1889, just five years after it was built. This school was located on the east side of Waverly (West 58th) Street., just south of Fir Avenue. It was razed in 1979. A small apartment complex now sits on the site. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
New School Inspected This article which appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on February 4, 1884, describes the new Waverly School building. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Detroit School Before Waverly School was built in 1884, students living in the tenth ward had to leave their neighborhood to attend Detroit School on the corner of Detroit and what is today West 49th Street. The Detroit School building was erected in 1870. By the time this photograph had been taken in 1940, Detroit School had closed and the building was now being used as Jane Addams School, an industrial school for girls. Source: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Gallery
1898 Map showing School This part of the 1898 Cleveland Atlas shows the footprint of Waverly School on Waverly Avenue (West 58th Street). In this year an addition had been added onto the north side (Lot 48) of the original building. Note the close proximity of the school to the Fir Street Cemetery--referred to on the map as "Ansheemeth Cemetery-- a place that helped to grow a young Ray Pianka's interest in and love of Cleveland history. Source: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Map Collection
Second Addition to School In 1936, as Cleveland's west side school population continued to grow, a second addition was constructed onto the original Waverly school building--this time to the south side. This photo, which was taken on June 16, 1936, shows that on that date the new addition was not yet completed Source: Cleveland Public Library, Photograph Collection
The Second Waverly Elementary 1976 Architect's sketch of the proposed new school on West 54th Street. Construction of the new school building, which had 31 classrooms, was completed in 1978. Classes began there in the Fall of that year. In 2017, this building is being razed and replaced by the third Cleveland school building to be named "Waverly." Source: Cleveland Public Library, Photograph Collection
The Beginning of the End In the summer of 1978, the Cleveland Board of Education closed Waverly Elementary School on West 58th Street and moved into the new school building on West 54th Street. During that summer, several fires were set at the old school, including the one which was described in this article appearing in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on September 18, 1978. The building was finally torn down in 1979. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections



Jim Dubelko, “Waverly Elementary School,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 15, 2022,