Filed Under Suburbs

Coventry Village

Cleveland's industry and population grew rapidly during the last quarter of the 19th Century. As a result, the city's affluent population began looking beyond the city limits for respite from the dirt and bustle of urban living. The area that is now known as Coventry Village was one of those destinations—originally developed as part of the upper-class planned community of “Euclid Heights” in the 1890s. In the 1910s, however, the bankruptcy of the Euclid Heights Realty Company forced the breakup of large properties for the elite, and led to the erection of several apartment buildings near Coventry Road. As a result, the neighborhood's population became more ethnically and economically mixed, bringing diversity and density to what originally was an exclusive enclave designed for a wealthy, Protestant, and native-born population.

The demise of the Euclid Heights Realty Company also spurred the development of a commercial district along Coventry Road in the 1920s. At the time, the intersection of Coventry and Mayfield Roads served as a key transfer point for streetcar commuters, making the stretch of Coventry between that juncture and Euclid Heights Boulevard a natural place for retail development. In 1919, The Heights Theatre, a 26,000-square-foot, 1,200-seat movie theater, opened at the corner of Euclid Heights Boulevard and Coventry Road. Food markets, drug stores, restaurants, professional offices, hardware stores, and banks also began opening in newly constructed commercial buildings along Coventry Road. The neighborhood's Jewish community, already present in the 1920s, continued to grow in the years after World War II, following the arrival of many Jews from Cleveland's Glenville and Hough neighborhoods. Their kosher meat markets, bakeries, delicatessens, and tailors shops occupied many of Coventry's retail spaces.

Coventry remained a largely Jewish community until the late 1960s, when the neighborhood became the epicenter of Cleveland's growing counterculture. University Circle redevelopment uprooted some of that population and Jews accelerated their migration eastward toward Beachwood and other suburbs. Coventry Village thus emerged as Cleveland's equivalent of Haight-Ashbury or Greenwich Village. Record stores, head shops, and restaurants catering to younger crowds soon replaced most of the Jewish-owned businesses. For a while, an uncomfortable relationship existed among new counterculture residents and visitors, remaining Jewish families residing primarily in the apartments along Hampshire, and several motorcycle gangs that staked out claims at bars such The Saloon and the C-Saw Café on the east side of Coventry. For the next three decades, Coventry sheltered both hippies-at-heart and adherents of the punk and progressive music movement before morphing yet again into the diverse district that it is today: one part offbeat destination, one part college-town hangout, and one part neighborhood meeting place.

Video

We Changed, Too David Stashower describes the changes he witnessed on Coventry Road in the decades following World War II. Source: Courtesy of City of Cleveland Heights

Audio

Coventry in the 1940s Ruth Dancyger describes the Coventry neighborhood in the 1940s Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Coffee, Chocolate and Dope Sue Koletsky talks about the various smells of Coventry Road in the 1970s Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Meat Markets & Movies Donna Spence Boswell remembers the meat and poultry markets that used to be located on Coventry Road and also recalls going to the Heights Theater. Source: Courtesy of City of Cleveland Heights
"He Saw a Dirty Hippie" Donna Spence Boswell recalls a run-in with a Cleveland Heights Police officer on Coventry Road. Source: Courtesy of City of Cleveland Heights

Images

1800 Coventry, Circa 1935 Some of the storefronts along the west side of the 1800 block of Coventry Road (between Hampshire and Lancashire) are pictured in this photograph, circa 1935. At this time, small food markets made up much of the street's commerce. Source: Cleveland Heights Historical Society Date: ca. 1935
Crossing Coventry, 1934 Schoolchildren line up to cross Coventry Road, waiting at the northeast corner of its intersection with Euclid Heights Boulevard, on October 19, 1934. Source: Cleveland Heights Historical Society Date: October 19, 1934
Central National Bank, ca. 1935 The Central National Bank building is located on the corner of Coventry and Lancashire Roads. Source: Cleveland Heights Historical Society Date: ca. 1935
Uberstine Heights Drug Co., ca. 1935 The Uberstine Drug Co. building on the southeast corner of Coventry and Mayfield Roads was built in 1926. Uberstine later became Carroll Drug and is now the site of Hunan restaurant. Due to its highly concentrated population, the Coventry neighborhood has been able to sustain a small but robust economy throughout most of its existence. Source: Cleveland Heights Historical Society Date: ca. 1935
Heights Theater, 1941 The Heights Theater opened in 1919 and contained 1200 seats. In 1964, the theater (then known as the Heights Art Theater) was the subject of the United States Supreme Court case Jacobellis V. Ohio. The case stemmed from a 1959 showing of the French film Les Amants (The Lovers), which featured a risque love scene. On the film's opening night, the Cleveland Heights Police raided the theater, seized the film, and arrested manager Nico Jacobellis, who was subsequently convicted of obscenity charges in Cuyahoga County Court. He appealed the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which overturned his conviction in 1964, ruling that the movie could not be considered obscene and was thus protected under the First Amendment. Justice Potter Stewart gave the most famous quote from the ruling. Certain that Les Amants was not pornographic, but unable (or unwilling) to define exactly what pornography was, he insisted that "I know it when I see it," which came to be an oft-repeated catchphrase.. Source: Cleveland Heights Historical Society Date: 1941
Coventry Poultry Market, 1985 The Coventry Poultry Market opened at 1825 Coventry Road during the 1940s. It was one of a number of kosher meat markets that once existed on Coventry, catering to its large Jewish population. Live chickens were housed and slaughtered on site at the market, with the slaughtering adhering to strict Jewish standards. By the time this photograph was taken, the Coventry Poultry Market was one of the last remaining reminders of the neighborhood's Jewish past. It was later torn down and is now the site of the parking garage on the east side of Coventry Road. Source: Cleveland Heights Historical Society Date: 1985
Record Revolution, 1982 Record Revolution opened at 1828 Coventry Road in 1968, signifying Coventry's continuing transformation from a largely Jewish business district into one that catered more to a younger generation of hippies and bohemians. Rock stars passing through town often stopped at Record Revolution and autographed its walls. In-store album signings and other events further solidified Record Revolution's reputation as a major part of Cleveland's rock and roll scene. Source: Cleveland Heights Historical Society Date: 1982
Coventry School, Circa 1920 This photograph, taken from atop the Heights Theater, shows Coventry School, which was constructed in 1917 and demolished in the 1970s. Looking east, this view also captures the intersection of Washington Boulevard, Coventry Road, and Euclid Heights Boulevard. Washington Boulevard's intersection with Coventry Road was later closed to traffic. This image was taken before the construction of Coventry Library, which was built in 1926 on Washington Boulevard in the open area across the street from Coventry School. Source: Cleveland Heights Historical Society Date: ca. 1920

Location

Metadata

“Coventry Village,” Cleveland Historical, accessed October 2, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/36.