Filed Under Suburbs

Bratenahl

Surrounded on three sides by the city of Cleveland, and bordered on the fourth side by Lake Erie, Bratenahl has remained to this day a secluded village. The village began as farmland in the early nineteenth century, owned by its namesake, Charles Bratenahl. Before becoming Bratenahl, the village was part of Glenville, the "village of glens." Around the turn of the twentieth century, wealthy industrialists began to buy property for their homes here. Looking to escape the problems of the city that were creeping towards Millionaires' Row, these men chose beautiful lakefront properties on which to build their great estates.

Conflict arose when those who lived in the southern end of Glenville, the renters, wanted to be annexed to the city of Cleveland. The millionaires of the north had moved to Glenville to escape the city. After a prolonged conflict, the annexation was voted out. But the inhabitants of northern Glenville took no chances. They seceded from Glenville in 1904 to form the village of Bratenahl. Glenville was eventually annexed to Cleveland, but without its former northern section.

What began as a class difference evolved into a racial divide during the 1950s and 1960s. Black populations were migrating out from the city, and white populations fled even further out to the suburbs. The Memorial Shoreway, whose East 72nd to East 140th Street segment was completed in 1941, eventually constituted a racial barrier between Bratenahl and the increasingly black communities to the south. In the late 1960s, the effort to desegregate schools became more widespread across the nation and did not pass by Cleveland. The State of Ohio ordered Bratenahl School District, which included only kindergarten through eighth grade, to merge with the Cleveland public schools because it did not have a high school. This was all part of the growing desegregation process. Bratenahl fought for twelve years to keep its district. Appeals went back and forth between Bratenahl and the State of Ohio. Finally, in 1980, Bratenahl lost its battle and merged officially with Cleveland public schools.

Bratenahl has been the seat of an odd sort of paradox. The millionaires that lived there continued to be involved in the city of Cleveland, and yet chose to live apart from all of its problems in the seclusion of a neighborhood they formed themselves. The racial barrier of the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway (Interstate 90) still remains in place today, separating the upscale village of Bratenahl from the impoverished, predominantly black Glenville neighborhood. Bratenahl has remained separate from the city, and yet contributes to the racial divides still present in Cleveland.

Images

Bratenahl High School In a desperate attempt to retain a separate school district from that of Cleveland, Bratenahl opened its own high school. Before July 1968, a high school had to have a minimum of 240 students. That standard changed to require a school to offer a minimum number of credit hours rather than the pupil stipulation. Bratenahl opened a high school with only 70 pupils but enough credit hours to offer. This did not safeguard the district's fate, however. Instead, the battle had only just begun. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Bratenahl School, 1953 The original Bratenahl School educated children from kindergarten through eighth grade. Most students then went on to private schools. Because the district did not have a high school, in 1968 the State of Ohio ordered it to merge with the Cleveland Municipal School District. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Bratenahl Village Council Meeting, 1960 This photo of a Bratenahl Village Council meeting in 1960 illustrates a practice which has been in place since the forming of Bratenahl in 1904. The village, formerly a part of Glenville, narrowly avoided annexation to Cleveland. Though surrounded on all sides by neighborhoods under Cleveland's administration, Bratenahl remains governed by its residents to this day. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Lakeshore Boulevard, 1938 Bratenahl has remained a secluded neighborhood. Its natural beauty has been preserved throughout the years as the village has fought to remain apart from the city. This is a view of Lake Shore Boulevard, the main road through Bratenahl, in 1938. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Samuel Mather's Shoreby Estate This Tudor-influenced mansion is just one of many that were built by wealthy Cleveland industrialists. Called Shoreby, it was commissioned by Samuel Mather. Mather was one of the residents who was instrumental in the process of seceding from Glenville in 1904 to form the village of Bratenahl. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
James Fitch, Esq.'s Brookwood Estate in Glenville, 1874 Bratenahl in its early days was farmland along the lake. In this engraving of a Glenville farm from 1874, a railroad cuts across the scene in the background. This railroad, which began simply as transportation, would later become a barrier once Glenville split at the turn of the 20th century. The land along the lake would be Bratenahl, and the land behind the railroad, Glenville. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
New York Central Railroad This photo was taken from the Bratenahl side of the tracks. What began as a swath of land which divided northern and southern Glenville became a railroad, ultimately dividing Bratenahl from industrial Cleveland. The Shoreway (I-90) came next as a physical and psychological barrier, dividing the mostly white upper class of Bratenahl from the mostly black working class of Glenville. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Bratenahl School Board This photo shows the Bratenahl School Board during its fight to retain the Bratenahl school district. Because the district had already promised to merge with Cleveland schools, the formation of the Bratenahl High School made no difference to the state. Bratenahl was still required to merge. So Bratenahl took the state to court and won. The state then appealed the case, and Bratenahl lost. This battle of appeals by the village and the state continued for twelve years, ending with the final defeat of Bratenahl in 1980. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.

Location

Metadata

Kelsey Smith, “Bratenahl,” Cleveland Historical, accessed October 4, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/358.