Dugway Brook

Dugway Brook, one of several bluestone streams that flow into Lake Erie, is largely invisible today. Generations ago, Dugway's serpentine branches were covered up by streets, parking lots, and parks. Almost 50 percent of the watershed flows through Cleveland Heights, but all that is visible within the community are a 300-yard stretch bordering Euclid Heights Boulevard just east of Coventry School, a deep ravine in Forest Hill Park, and a secluded spit inside Lake View Cemetery. Altogether, nearly 95 percent of Dugway is culverted.

Dugway’s two main branches begin in University Heights and cut through Cleveland Heights before they merge as a single outlet in Bratenahl. Dugway’s east branch can be seen not far from Cedar Road near its intersection with Washington Boulevard. That branch then goes underground, flowing through Cain and Cumberland Parks before emerging briefly in Forest Hill Park. Much of Dugway’s west branch runs through a giant culvert under Meadowbrook Boulevard. This branch cuts an underground swath through Cleveland Heights before reappearing briefly in Lake View Cemetery.

Bluestone brooks were so named for the presence of bluish sandstone deposits along their banks. To the east of Dugway, the most visible example is Euclid Creek, the site of a large quarry whose sandstone was used to build everything from building faces and sidewalks to cemetery markers and mausoleums. In the 1930s, legions of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) employees extracted untold tons of Euclid Creek sandstone.

Along Dugway Brook's scenic courses, visionaries chased dreams. In the 19th century John Peter Preyer carved orchards, vineyards, and cider and grist mills from the Dugway valley in the vicinity of what is now Cumberland Park. Although Preyer's Lake View Wine Farm gave way to early suburban residential development soon after the turn of the 20th century, Preyer's homestead on Superior Road, made of one-and-a-half-foot-thick, locally quarried stone walls, survives as the oldest house in Cleveland Heights and among the oldest in the former Western Reserve of Connecticut (as Northeast Ohio was known into the early 19th century).

Others who developed the Dugway Brook watershed included Orville A. Dean, who built a successful dairy business just northeast of the Preyer farm; John D. Rockefeller, whose Forest Hill summer estate straddled the east branch of the brook; architect Eric Mendelsohn, who designed the domed Park Synagogue on a site straddling a small tributary of the east branch; and Frank Cain, Cleveland Heights mayor who, in the 1930s, used WPA funding to culvert Dugway through Cain Park and spearhead development of an amphitheater.

East siders mostly forgot about the brook amid relentless suburban expansion. Cleveland Heights, 60,000 strong by 1960, was a mosaic of suburban neighborhoods and business districts. Heights High teens joined many others in the humming Cedar-Lee and Coventry areas. In both places the only evidence of Dugway Brook's branches was often the sound of rushing water heard through covered manholes in the streets. A two-mile greenbelt of parks (Cain, Cumberland, and Forest Hill) transformed Dugway’s east branch into ball fields, playgrounds, and other recreational facilities.

By the 1960s and '70s, devastating floods in low-lying University Circle prompted new concerns about Dugway (and its neighbor to the south and west, Doan Brook). This led to the construction in Lake View Cemetery of what was the largest poured-concrete dam east of the Mississippi River up to its time. Completed in 1978 as the first project of the newly created Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, the dam stands 90 feet high and spans some 500 feet. Today Dugway Brook suffers from years of neglect and pollution during storms. Many have begun to seek ways to resurrect this fragile yet important natural resource.