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 1960s 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

Audio

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

Images

University Circle, 1929 University Circle was named after the streetcar turnaround at Euclid Avenue and East 107th Street seen here. Source: Cleveland Public Library Date: 1929
Wade Park Lagoon, ca. 1915 In its early years, Wade Park, on land gifted by Western Union founder Jeptha Wade, formed a focal point not only for educational and cultural institutions but also for the prestigious garden suburban allotment of Wade Park. In the 1920s, the Garden Center of Cleveland commissioned the Olmsted Bros. firm to design the Fine Arts Garden around the lagoon as a "front yard" for the art museum. Source: Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. Date: 1915
Children's Hospital, ca. 1920 Children's Hospital was one of several hospitals that joined the University Hospitals of Cleveland healthcare system in 1925. Source: Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. Date: 1920
Aerial View, ca. 1920s In this aerial postcard view, facing south, the Cleveland Museum of Art stands in the foreground. University Hospitals' campus stands at center in the background. Source: Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Euclid Avenue, 1954 This image shows the remains of the Euclid Avenue streetcar line that once connected University Circle to downtown Cleveland and the city's eastern suburbs. The city would later fill the median space with planters containing trees, flowers and shrubbery. Source: Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. Date: 1954
Motel Postcard, ca. 1960 University Center Motel once stood where Cleveland Clinic's reflecting pool now stands. Although the motel was located west of University Circle, like other Cleveland institutions it recognized the draw of University Circle for prospective visitors. This postcard highlights a few points of interest for tourists and other visitors. Source: Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. Date: 1960
d. a. levy at Wade Park Poet d. a. Levy (in sunglasses) stands alongside Wade Park Lagoon. Source: Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
The Coffeehouse, 1968 The Coffeehouse, a popular 1960s hangout at Euclid Avenue and East 115th Street, hosted blues bands and poetry readings by d. a. levy and other poets. The Coffeehouse and other music venues such as Adele's Lounge (immediately to its east), La Cave, and the Jazz Temple, flung college students into contact with people from all around the city. Concerns ranging from rowdiness to interracial dating to racially motivated bombings combined with an general anti-urban bent to make institutional leaders seek redevelopment along decidedly suburban lines. Today the Coffeehouse is a parking lot in the shadow of "Uptown," a stainless-steel-faced, multistory, mixed-use complex. Source: Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. Date: 1968

Location

Metadata

“University Circle,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 29, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/30.