Samuel White's Roadside Inn

It's 1840 and you're traveling from Detroit to Buffalo on business. The fastest route would be by boat, straight across Lake Erie from west to east, but it's November and this shallowest of the Great Lakes is notoriously treacherous this time of the year. So you've wisely elected to take the post road that runs through the city of Cleveland, that fast-growing little commercial center about halfway along your route. You had planned to spend the night just east of Cleveland at Dunham Tavern, on the Buffalo Road, but an early winter snowstorm has kicked up and you need to find shelter quickly. Just a mile or so west of Ohio City, the other fast-growing city on the Cuyahoga River, you spot an Inn on the Detroit Road that looks inviting. The proprietor, Samuel White, welcomes you in out of the cold into a large room with a roaring fire. His son Roderick takes care of your tired and cold horse, shivering outside in the cold.

Today, most Clevelanders could identify most of the places mentioned in this imagined 1840 trip. They would know, of course, the cities of Detroit and Buffalo, if for no other reason, because they are NFL rivals of the Browns. And they would recognize Ohio City, now a trendy neighborhood on Cleveland's near west side. And many would have even heard of Dunham Tavern, said to be the oldest standing building in Cleveland and now a museum which teaches adults and children what early nineteenth-century travel was like in the Midwest.

But few, if any, in Cleveland could tell you anything about Samuel White's Roadside Inn. It is not a landmark; it is not on the National Register of Historic Places; and, yet, just like Dunham Tavern it was an important stop for travelers in the early nineteenth century. And, more importantly, it is still standing, at 9400 Detroit Avenue, in the west side's Cudell/Edgewater neighborhood. And the number of Clevelanders that could tell you that is a very small number indeed.

White, a native of Vermont who came to Cleveland as a young boy in 1804, built his Roadside Inn on Detroit Road in about 1828, when the area was part of Brooklyn Township. The Inn operated for the next two decades until 1845 when, as a result of accumulating debt, White was forced to sell it. In 1866, the Inn, which had likely closed by this time, was purchased by Samuel Ware. A farmer who had emigrated to the Cleveland area from Philadelphia, Ware used the Inn as his personal residence, but it soon became better known as the home of his son Liberty H. Ware, a lawyer and yachtsman, who during the last three decades of the nineteenth century held a variety of public offices in the Village of West Cleveland, including two terms as its mayor and several years as its justice of the peace.

During this period, the Roadside Inn-turned-residence also served as Liberty Ware's law office and, when he became justice of the peace in 1892, he used that office as his courtroom. Liberty was by all accounts one of the most colorful figures in this era of Cleveland's history and, when he was holding court, newspaper reporters flocked to his home to hear and report on the witticisms uttered by "Squire Ware." Liberty, not to be confused with his son Liberty B., died in 1910, but the house remained in the Ware family for another 50-plus years. The house underwent a substantial renovation in the period 1913-1915, which included removal of the east wing, moving the house to a new location on the lot, and adding a layer of dark brick veneer to the exterior walls. In 1969, the house was sold to the Islamic Center of Cleveland, which uses the historic building today as a house of worship and a cultural and educational center.

Images

A Remnant of Cleveland's Past The house located at 9400 Detroit Avenue, on the west side of Cleveland, has a storied history. While it currently serves as a house of worship and cultural and educational center for the Islamic Center of Cleveland, the house originally served as an Inn for travelers in the early nineteenth century who were taking the post road that ran from Detroit, through Cleveland, all the way to Buffalo, New York. Later, for more than 100 years, it served as the residence of three generations of the Ware family, including West Cleveland's colorful mayor and justice of the peace, Liberty H. Ware. Creator: Jim Dubelko
Liberty H. Ware's Home This section of the 1881 Plat Map of West Cleveland shows the Detroit Street location of the Samuel White Roadside Inn (circled), which by this date was now the residence of Liberty H. Ware. In this year, Ware was completing his first term as Mayor of West Cleveland. The village's town hall was also located on Detroit Street, just about a quarter mile east of Liberty's house. Image courtesy of Cleveland Public Library, Digital Map Collection
A View near the Turn of the Century This photograph of the former Samuel White Roadside Inn was taken in 1897 when the building was serving as the home and offices of Liberty Ware. The well-dressed elderly man standing in the front yard may well be Liberty himself. Note that the exterior walls of the house are wood boards painted white. In 1913-1915, during a substantial renovation of the house, a layer of dark brick veneer was added to the exterior walls. Other changes included removing the house's east wing and moving the house to a new location on the lot. The building to the left of the Ware residence, which was a grocery in 1897, is long gone. Source: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Gallery
Close to Ware Street In 1906, the City of Cleveland approved a comprehensive re-naming of its streets. Among those renamed was Ware Street (as identified on this 1903 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map) which became West 95th Street. The Inn which the father of Liberty Ware purchased in 1866 sat upon a narrow parcel of land containing more than 30 acres that extended all the way from Detroit Street (now "Avenue") north to Lake Erie. Part of Edgewater Park includes land donated from this lot by the Ware family. Liberty Ware's home, which still had its east and west wings at the time this map was drawn, is circled in red. Image courtesy of Cleveland Public Library, Digital Map Collection
Lawyer, Yachtsman and . . . Phrenologist Thus far, Cleveland Historical has not uncovered any painting or sketch of Samuel White, who died in 1848, and the above sketchy photo of Liberty H. Ware (1844-1910) sitting in his home office in 1903 is the best one of him that we were able to find. A grandson and son of sailors, Liberty chaired the organizational meeting of the Lakewood Yacht Club in January 1900. He was also a lawyer and politician, and, at least according to this article, he also dabbled in phrenology, a pseudoscience about the human brain and character that was still popular in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century when Liberty was a young man. Liberty was also an amateur poet, a witty conversationalist, and a man who enjoyed a good prank as much as the next guy. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Don't Be Like Those McCart Street Boys In April 1892, the Cleveland Leader published several articles about some minor criminal activity engaged in by a group of boys who were the sons of some of West Cleveland's most prominent citizens. Squire Liberty Ware, serving as justice of peace, used the occasion not only to warn these boys not to follow the path of those boys who lived on McCart Street (see Cleveland Historical article on the McCart Street Gang), but also composed a poem for the occasion. Part of the poem can be read in this clipping from the April 24, 1892 edition of the Leader. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University, Michael Scwartz Library, Special Collections
Some Evidence of Age This portion of the 1936 County tax appraisal card for the house at 9400 Detroit Avenue reveals that the members of the Ware family then occupying the house which had been in their family since 1866, believed that it had been built in 1825. This is possible, although Samuel White who operated the Roadside Inn in the early nineteenth century, did not purchase the property upon which the house sits until 1827. In an interview he gave to the Leader in 1903, Liberty Ware said the house was built in 1828. The house did not appear as a separate item on the County tax duplicate until 1836. Image courtesy of Cuyahoga County Archives
A School Reunion for Liberty B. Ware On March 7, 1946, alumni of Cherry School, the first public elementary school in the suburb of West Cleveland, met for a reunion. Helping to organize the event (and shown second from the left in the photo above) was Liberty B. Ware, son of Liberty H. Ware. Like his father, he was a lawyer, and like his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father a sailor too. He was a charter member of the Cleveland Yachting Club. He was born in the house at 9400 Detroit Road in 1880 and lived there until his death in 1952. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Last Years Serving the Ware Family This 1964 county tax appraisal photo shows the house at 9400 Detroit Avenue as it appeared that year. Note that the less mature front yard trees then largely shielded the house from nearby street traffic. Purchased by Samuel Ware, a farmer and sailor from Philadelphia, in 1866, the house served three generations of the Ware family. In 1966, Samuel Ware's last living descendant, his granddaughter Frances, sold the house and moved to Lakewood. Image courtesy of the Cuyahoga County Archives

Location

9400 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102

Metadata

Jim Dubelko, “Samuel White's Roadside Inn,” Cleveland Historical, accessed May 26, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/648.