University Circle

Parklike University Circle is the cultural, medical, and educational center of Cleveland's east side. Named after a streetcar turnaround on Euclid Avenue just east of East 107th Street, University Circle attracted Western Reserve University from Hudson, Ohio in the 1880s. The university was soon joined by a number of other major institutions such as the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Institutes of Art and Music. By the early 1900s, many of the wealthy benefactors of University Circle moved to the surrounding Wade Park neighborhood.

The area began to experience slow decline after World War II in the face of suburbanization. Following a gift from Elizabeth Ring Mather, who consulted with famed New York planner Robert Moses, University Circle institutions rededicated themselves to remaining in place rather than fleeing to the suburbs and commissioned a master plan in 1957 to guide the orderly development of the Circle. Although not all features of the plan were adopted (notably a controversial multilane loop road that drew student protests in the 1960s), University Circle Development Foundation (UCDF) formed in response to the plan's call to create an entity that could coordinate future institutional needs. As the Hough Riots and Glenville Shootout broke out in the second half of the '60s in the neighborhoods to the north and west, UCDF and its member institutions finally grasped the depth of resentment felt by neighbors who saw the Circle as an insular and exclusive island controlled by affluent suburbanites. By 1970, UCDF reorganized itself as University Circle Inc. (UCI) and attempted to recast the district's image.

Ironically, in recent years, UCI has labored to undo decades of attempts to erase the Circle's urban setting by doing what would have been unthinkable in the 1950s-60s--building "Uptown," a second downtown of sorts, along Euclid Avenue. Yet, the mix of carefully selected businesses in some ways shares more in common with suburbia than with onetime college hangouts like Adele's and the Jazz Temple, whose independence and, sometimes, disorder were, like the riots, uneasy reminders of the Circle's place in the city.

Video

Wade Oval, Severance Hall and the Cleveland Museum of Art
Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle Inc., explains why Severance Hall and the Cleveland Museum of Art are two of his favorite buildings in Cleveland. ~ Source: CSU Center for Public History + Digital Humanities
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Images

Audio

A Trolley Ride To The Circle
Chris Ronayne puts University Circle within its historic context
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A 21st-Century Renaissance
Chris Ronayne describes the importance of University Circle
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Fishing, Boating And Ice Skating
Artist Joseph O'Sickey recalls the many recreational activities at Rockefeller Park and Wade Lagoon
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The Best Thing About Cleveland
Architect William Blunden on the uniqueness of University Circle
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