The Landscape of Tremont

Topography—both natural and man-made—is an integral part of Tremont’s history. The neighborhood’s most notable feature, for example, is its location at the top of a bluff. Before construction of the Central Viaduct in 1887, Tremont residents could not walk north or east without navigating the precarious and confusing Flats. Ironically, this terrestrial peculiarity contributed simultaneously to the area’s isolation (hard to reach) and to its residential popularity (close proximity to the many steel mills, factories, warehouses and river-shipping interests that populated the Flats). Earlier in the 19th Century, moreover, it was Tremont’s elevation—sweeping views of the Cuyahoga River and cool breezes from Lake Erie—that attracted wealthy settlers. This began to change, however, as the Cuyahoga River Valley grew more and more industrialized. Soon, the air in Tremont no longer seemed so fresh and the views became more smoky than scenic.

But as wealthy citizens moved out of the neighborhood, families whose men worked in the valley increasingly took their place. Accessibility also increased when the Central Viaduct was constructed. Initially, the Viaduct consisted of two bridges: The first structure connected what is now West 14th Street to what is now Carnegie Avenue. Deemed unsafe, the bridge was torn down in the early 1940s. The Viaduct’s path is more or less replicated by Interstate 90. The second structure, known today as the Abbey Avenue Bridge continues to link Tremont with Ohio City.

In 1912, Tremont residents received another ingress/egress opportunity when the Clark Avenue Bridge was constructed. This span (totaling 6,687 feet) consisted of three sections: The first comprised a series of trusses over the B&O railroad tracks adjacent to Quigley Road. The bridge’s west end connected to West 3rd Street and provided safe access to the Jones & Laughlin Steel plant. A third (east) section, which included the river span, extended from Pershing Avenue to West Third Street. The Clark Avenue Bridge was demolished in 1980. Its giant supports can still be seen at the base of Clark Avenue where it meets Quigley Road.

A third topographic change occurred during construction of the Cleveland Union Terminal complex (completed in 1927). Before that time, the Duck Island (west Tremont) area was tied into the street grid to Ohio City. Freeman and Willey Avenues (which now terminate on the west at Columbus Road) continued all the way to West 25th Street, as did a no-longer-extant street called Eureka Court. To create a rail path (now the RTA Red Line), all structures between the west side of Columbus Road and the east side of Gehring Street were razed. The area then was excavated downward some 30 feet to create the channel where the tracks run today. The only bridge subsequently erected to cross this divide was on Abbey Avenue, so the new excavation effectively increased Tremont’s isolation.

In the decades following World War II, many Tremont residents left the neighborhood for the suburbs. Multiple factories in the valley closed and many of the descendants of Tremont's original working-class residents grew prosperous enough to leave. A freeway construction boom exacerbated that exodus by making it easier to reach the suburbs. Interstate 71 (the Medina Freeway) created a wedge between West 14th Street and Scranton Road, while Interstate 490 (the Clark Freeway) subdivided Clark Fields on Tremont’s eastern border. A roundabout at the south end of West 14th Street—where it now meets Interstate 71 and the Jennings Freeway (Route 176) also truncated the south end of Tremont. Prior to the construction of these highways, drivers had easier street-based access to Cleveland City Hospital (now Metro Health) via Jennings Avenue and to Scranton Road via now-truncated streets such as Clover, Corning and Brainard Avenues.

Tremont’s revitalization began in the late 1970s with the organization of Tremont West Development Corporation. Urban pioneers, restaurants and art galleries arrived in the 1980s and accelerated in the 1990s. That transformation continues to this day, although Tremont’s strange geography and asymmetric street grid still confound thousands of visitors. Moreover, the myriad freeway under- and overpasses give Tremont an oddly segmented feel: diverse neighborhoods with widely varying financial, industrial and terrestrial personalities. It’s all part of the strange charm that (literally and figuratively) sets Tremont apart.

Images

St. Olga Ave., 1965

St. Olga Ave., 1965

This photograph taken on St. Olga Avenue in 1965 shows the decline in elevation between the heights of Tremont and the Cuyahoga valley below. The part of the street seen here was later demolished to create the Clark Freeway. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Looking South from Abbey Avenue Viaduct

Looking South from Abbey Avenue Viaduct

Panorama view looking west along the Nickel Plate Railroad from a point south of the Abbey Avenue Viaduct near Scranton Road. | Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections View File Details Page

View from Clark Ave. Bridge, 1926

View from Clark Ave. Bridge, 1926

Ora Coltman painted this view of Tremont from the Clark Avenue Bridge in 1926. Coltman designed the Cleveland Public Library's Jefferson branch, at which this painting hangs. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Railroad Excavation, 1925

Railroad Excavation, 1925

Excavation of the rail track channel between Columbus Road and Gehring Street, 1925. To construct the chasm and tracks, all structures between the west side of Columbus Road and the east side of Gehring Street were razed. | Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Clark Freeway Route

Clark Freeway Route

The Cleveland Press published this image in the late 1960s to show the projected path of the Clark Freeway (I-490) in Tremont. Here, the freeway's effects on the southeast corner of Tremont are shown. The long, flat roofed structures are the Valleyview Homes public housing project. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Freeway Forum, 1961

Freeway Forum, 1961

The path of the Medina Freeway (I-71) is explained at Merrick House by Richard J. Barnick (left), State Highway Department Engineer. Looking on are Mrs. Gordon Rawlinson of 1520 Holmden Avenue, a lifelong Tremont resident with a home in the freeway's path, and Henry J. Stachura of 850 Starkweather Avenue. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Relocation Office, 1964

Relocation Office, 1964

The sign on the left window reads: "State of Ohio Dept. of Highways Relocation Advisory Assistance Service." The other sign reads: "Relocation Assistance for Medina Freeway." The construction of the Medina Freeway (I-71) led to the destruction of many homes in Tremont. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Clark Avenue Bridge, 1978

Clark Avenue Bridge, 1978

Cars heading east over the Flats via the Clark Avenue Bridge, 1978. The church spire visible in the background is Saint Michael Archangel at the corner of Clark Avenue and Scranton Road. | Creator: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections View File Details Page

View Behind Theodosius, 2009

View Behind Theodosius, 2009

This 2009 photograph shows the view from behind St. Theodosius Cathedral in Tremont. From this high vantage point, one can see I-490 (the Clark Freeway) and some of the industry along the Cuyahoga River. I-490 was completed in 1990 and runs east/west through Tremont. Image courtesy of the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities View File Details Page

Audio

Torn Fabric

Dr. John Grabowski, Krieger-Mueller Associate Professor in Applied History at Case Western Reserve University and Director of Research at The Western Reserve Historical Society, discusses the effects that the construction of the Medina Freeway had on the Tremont neighborhood. View File Details Page

Behind St. Theodosius

Dr. John Grabowski, Krieger-Mueller Associate Professor in Applied History at Case Western Reserve University and Director of Research at The Western Reserve Historical Society, describes the area behind St. Theodosius. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Michael Rotman and Chris Roy, “The Landscape of Tremont,” Cleveland Historical, accessed April 23, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/102.
comments powered by Disqus

Share this Story