Lynnfield Road Rapid Transit Station

Opened on April 11, 1920, the Lynnfield passenger station was constructed as the final stop along the South Moreland (now Van Aken) line of the Cleveland Interurban Railroad in Shaker Village. Besides a few homes located in the vicinity along Kinsman Road and Center Road, the area was completely undeveloped. The construction of this small station in the middle of nowhere was the culmination of years of planning, land acquisition, and construction headed by Oris Paxton and Mantis James Van Sweringen to build the Cleveland Interurban Railroad - a rapid transit system that laid at the heart of their plans for the development of Shaker Village.

From the time of their initial speculation and investment in the Shaker area in 1908, The Van Sweringen brothers understood the importance of efficient and timely transportation between Cleveland and their desired upper-class enclave. Elite suburbs connected to metropolitan areas by railway were gaining popularity with people of means throughout the United States as cities grew increasingly industrialized and congested. Cleveland Heights, as well as suburbs outside of Cincinnati, Chicago, and New York City, offered examples of these successful real estate ventures. Initially, the Van Sweringens planned to extend a streetcar line to their residential community. Refused by the operators of Cleveland's streetcar franchise, the Vans began acquiring land and the right of way to provide an electric train line to the city's downtown from their suburb.

During the timely process of preparing for the transit system, the Van Sweringen brothers negotiated an interim solution for Shaker Village's lack of public transportation with the Cleveland Railroad Co. and Cleveland Heights. The Cleveland Interurban Railroad would lay tracks for a streetcar to connect Shaker Village with Cleveland Heights, which had a line running into the City of Cleveland. Opened in 1913, this Shaker Lakes Line provided access to and from the Shaker area. A trip to the city, however, would still take over an hour.

By 1916, the brothers had acquired the right of way from Shaker Village to Cleveland and construction for the Cleveland Interurban Railroad began. Delayed by World War I, the transit system would not be completed for six years. Upon its opening, transportation time from the suburb to the urban center was cut by more than half. From Moreland Circle, later known as Shaker Square, the estimated travel time to the downtown was 20 minutes. From the Lynnfield Station, the trip would take a half hour. The impact of the electric train on Shaker Village was profound and immediate. Between 1919 and 1929, the population of Shaker Heights grew from 1,700 to 15,500, property value increased from less than a million dollars to over $80 million, and nearly 3,000 new homes were constructed. The success of this rapid transit system in promoting the development of Shaker Heights would also spur the construction of Cleveland's most defining building, the Terminal Tower.

While the area surrounding the Lynnfield station would not see residential growth for well over a decade after its construction, the small passenger station at what is now 18900 Van Aken Boulevard reflects the foresight and planning of the Van Sweringen brothers in the development of one of America's most prominent and successful rail suburbs. The structure was designated a Shaker Heights Landmark on June 22, 1998.

Images

Free Parking at the Green Road Station

Free Parking at the Green Road Station

In the grip of the Great Depression, the Cleveland Interurban Railroad offered free parking at its outlying stations for the purchase of a round trip fair to the downtown terminal. Attendants at gas stations located near the parking lots agreed to keep watch over the vehicles, as the increased traffic would boost sales. Free parking continued to be used as an incentive to draw both fairs and people to these outlying areas through the next decade. Image courtesy of Shaker Heights Public Library View File Details Page

Power Lines Down, 1969

Power Lines Down, 1969

Fifteen power line poles fell due to high winds in 1969. While new poles were quickly purchased from Cleveland at $2 a piece, the rapid was closed for five days - the longest shutdown in its history. Image courtesy of Shaker Heights Public Library View File Details Page

Rapid Conductors, 1930

Rapid Conductors, 1930

Ridership of the Cleveland Interurban Railroad reached an estimated 2.7 million by the mid-1930s. Additions to the original fleet of 201 cars were made as the economic depression allowed for the purchase of affordable second-hand streetcars. While fair also increased from 10 to 15 cents, the Cleveland Interurban Railroad annually lost money during the depression era. Image Courtesy of Shaker Heights Public Library View File Details Page

Shaker Trolley, c. 1913

Shaker Trolley, c. 1913

A trolley connected Shaker with Cleveland Heights while construction of the Cleveland Interurban Railroad was being completed. Pictured above is the installation of the temporary line, looking Northwest at the corner of Shaker Boulevard and Coventry. Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Rapid Transit Accident, 1977

Rapid Transit Accident, 1977

Only one major accident has occurred in the history of the Shaker Rapid. Two cars smashed into each other at a blind curve near E. 92nd Street in 1977. Four supervisors were held responsible for the accident, which occurred in a zone of single-line operations during track maintenance. Image courtesy of Shaker Heights Public Library View File Details Page

Rapid Transit Time Table, 1929

Rapid Transit Time Table, 1929

Until 1929, the Cleveland Interurban Railrooad terminated at the Lynnfield station. That year, the line was extended east to Warrensville Center Road. The station house at Lynnfield was closed and leased to various tenants until the 1980s, at which time it was renovated and reopened to the public. It now takes 15 minutes to travel from Shaker Square to the downtown Cleveland terminal. Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Lynnfield Rapid Station

Lynnfield Rapid Station

In 1923, a shelter with living quarters on the upper floor was constructed at the Lynnfield station. The structure housed a waiting room, as well as tobacco and newspaper stands. Designed by local architect James A. Reese, the station was modeled on a Pacific Electric transit station prototype. Despite the relatively desolate surroundings at the time of its construction, the exterior was designed in order to meld with the intended residential character of the area. The stone and wood-shingled building was built at a cost of nearly $18,000. Image courtesy of Shaker Heights Public Library View File Details Page

Union Terminal Construction, c. 1928

Union Terminal Construction, c. 1928

The 1920s witnessed a frenzied wave of construction throughout Cleveland by the Van Sweringens. Extending upon their plans for the Union Terminal, the brothers led efforts to create a new transportation infrastructure for the city. An electrified railway was under construction throughout Cleveland to enable steam trains to enter the terminal; a new rapid transit line was built to near completion that extended from East Cleveland to the city's west side; and underpasses were constructed for a future subway connection in the downtown transportation hub. These projects, as well as the brothers impressive plans for the city's future, were abandoned in 1930 due to the financial strains brought on by the Great Depression. Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

New York Central Line

New York Central Line

With the Van Sweringen brothers' purchase of the Nickel Plate Railway from New York Central in 1916, the entrepreneurial pair had secured the right of way for a direct route from Shaker Village to downtown Cleveland. The purchase, however, went beyond the needs of acquiring a route for their electric train - it was the first step of the brothers' venture into the railroad business. Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

The Lynnfield Station, c. 1923 and 2007

The Lynnfield Station, c. 1923 and 2007

The Lynnfield Transit Station was one of two passenger waiting stations erected for the Rapid during the early 1920s. While the building has been modified since its construction, the original structure is primarily intact. Designated a landmark on June 22, 1998, the station is a relic of the Rapid Transit System that played such a critical role in the development and growth of Shaker Heights. Images from Wikimedia Commons View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Richard Raponi, “Lynnfield Road Rapid Transit Station,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 28, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/412.
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