Raymond L. Pianka Memorial Walk

Raymond L. Pianka (1951-2017) was the first Executive Director of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO), Cleveland Ward 17 Councilman from 1986 to 1995, and then, from 1996 until his death in 2017, Cleveland's Housing Court Judge.

A life-long resident of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, Ray had a profound love for the place where he grew up as a child and lived as an adult.

He was proud of the neighborhood's history and shared it with many people in

many ways, including leading local history tours like this one.

Ray's knowledge of his neighborhood was truly amazing, second to no one's.

He knew all the neighborhood legends and stories, and his knowledge of local history

made him a walking encyclopedia.

This tour highlights some of the historic places in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood that

Ray Pianka knew and loved best.

Some of the tour stops are points of interest in part because they are places that fostered his early love of history.

Bethany Presbyterian (Stop 1), built in 1895, was where, while growing up on West Clinton Avenue, he worshiped with his family.

Waverly Elementary School (Stop 2), built in 1884 (and razed in 1979), was where he attended grade school.

Nearby Fir Street Cemetery (Stop 3), which he explored as a boy and helped restore as an adult, had been a burying ground for Polish and Hungarian Jews since the time of the Civil War.

And West High School (Stop 4), which Ray attended from 1965 to 1969, was the oldest high school on Cleveland's west side, founded in 1855.

Other tour stops highlight Ray Pianka's and others' efforts at preserving some of the historic buildings in the neighborhood.

The Oliver Alger House (Stop 6) is one.

So are Cogswell Hall (Stop 5), the Louis Patrick Smith (House Stop 9) and the House that Brass Built (Stop 10).

And, of course, so are Gordon Square Arcade (Stop 13) and the Capitol Theatre (Stop 14).

And then there are the stories, neighborhood stories that Ray Pianka reveled in telling.

He believed that recovering and retelling these stories connected residents of Detroit Shoreway to their past, and helped to give them a greater stake in their neighborhood's future.

Stories like the Cleveland Circulation War (Stop 7), Kilbane Town (Stop 8), and the McCart Street Gang (Stop 12).

And, of course, no tour of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood would be complete without Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church (Stop 11), a neighborhood anchor and an early partner in Ray Pianka's life-long work here, and historic St. Helena Byzantine Catholic Church (Stop 15).

These two churches were founded by two important ethnic groups--Italians and Romanians--who settled in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood in the early twentieth century.

We hope you enjoy the Raymond L. Pianka Memorial Walk Tour.

After Cleveland annexed Ohio City in 1854, educators on the city's new west side who wanted their own high school on their side of the Cuyahoga River struggled to find a way around a problematic state law that permitted only one public high school to exist in Cleveland. A. G. Hopkinson, principal of a grade school for advanced students in the former Ohio City, found the solution.
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The Oliver Alger House was built by one of the village of West Cleveland's most popular mayors. A successful commission agent in Cleveland before becoming a gentleman farmer, Oliver Alger served as mayor of West Cleveland for six years--longer than any other mayor of the village which was…
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On November 21, 1914, Thomas Gibbons, a switchman employed by the B&O Railroad, was shot dead near the intersection of West 75th Street and Detroit Avenue on Cleveland's West Side. It was the culmination of a more than one year-long circulation war between two of the city's leading newspapers that had now suddenly turned deadly. Was Gibbons an innocent bystander or did he get…
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The Cleveland Leader dubbed the west side neighborhood near Herman Avenue and West 74th Street "Kilbane Town," in honor of world featherweight boxing champion Johnny Kilbane. In March 1912, Kilbane Town was the end point of one of the longest and largest St. Patrick's Day parades in…
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The house at 7200 Detroit Avenue,which today is the Craciun-Berry Funeral Home, had an unusual beginning and an unusual end for the family which first owned and occupied it. Legend has it that, in 1888, the house was given as a wedding present to Louis Patrick Smith and his bride Margaret Farnan…
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Upon entering Cleveland's west side "Little Italy", one is instantly met with a display of Italian colors on benches, fire hydrants, sidewalks, and telephone poles. Best known for its street processionals and annual church festival, this small Italian neighborhood dates back to the…
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The Gordon Square Arcade opened to the public on April 8, 1921. The unique and massive structure quickly became the centerpiece of the Gordon Square commercial district, and a source of pride for the surrounding neighborhood. The monumental building was not only constructed to meet the needs of the…
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On April 8, 1921, the Capitol Theatre opened its doors to the public at the dedication of the Gordon Square Arcade and Community Building. Developed by the West Side Amusement Co. and Canadian motion picture theater promoters Jule and J.J. Allen, the theater began as a vaudeville and silent film…
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Located on West 65th Street near Detroit Avenue, St. Helena Romanian Catholic Church marks the site of Cleveland's largest Romanian enclave during the early 20th century. St. Helena's was built under the guidance of Father Epaminonda S. Lucaci, the first Romanian priest to serve in the…
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