In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Cleveland transformed into a major industrial city, attracting a wide range of manufacturers. Although the Flats may be the first place many think of when they imagine the rise of industry in Cleveland, other industrial corridors also lined the city’s network of railroads and the lakefront. By about 1880, Cleveland’s near east side, now known as St. Clair-Superior, already had a few small iron foundries and tube works along the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad and Cleveland and Pittsburgh Railroad. Over the next three decades, almost all the land between St. Clair Avenue and the lake from East 30th to 55th Streets gradually became industrial, primarily metals and machine works, while land to the south of St. Clair became predominantly a densely settled residential area. Further east, small workers’ homes nestled in the shadows of several larger plants near the lake: Cleveland Gas light and Coke Co. (later East Ohio Gas Co.), Lake Erie Iron Co., American Steel and Wire Co., and White Motor and White Sewing Machine Co.
As in other old Cleveland neighborhoods like Detroit-Shoreway, Slavic Village, and Tremont, the future St. Clair-Superior neighborhood attracted many recent immigrants looking for a place to live close to nearby concentrations of industrial jobs. While the area had a mix of various working class immigrant groups, including Lithuanians, Poles, Italians, Germans, and Croatians, it was Slovenians that perhaps most defined the neighborhood. In the first half of the 20th century, St. Clair-Superior amassed the largest Slovenian population in the world outside Slovenia itself. As the population of Slovenians as other southern and eastern Europeans swelled, local businesses, churches, and social clubs emerged to help them assimilate to American life while also allowing them to retain their ethnic identity.
After World War II, the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood, like so many other areas of Cleveland, began to experience a drastic shift in population as returning GIs and their families, many of them joining the growing middle class, began to move to the suburbs. Not everyone left, of course, and places like St. Vitus Church and the Slovenian National Home remained essential anchors. In 1976 a new grassroots organization called the St. Clair-Superior Coalition formed, combining Near Town from East 40th to East 55th Streets and the Slovenian-Croatian settlement from East 55th to 79th Streets with the intention of helping to prevent homes and businesses from falling into blight. In 1999 the organization merged with the St. Clair Business Association to form the present-day St. Clair Superior Development Corporation (SCSDC). SCSDC gradually expanded its coverage westward to East 30th Street, encompassing the growing Asiatown. Today, there are still some local businesses, both large and small, and structures that help to showcase the diverse history of St. Clair-Superior. There also remains an effort to preserve the neighborhood’s Slovenian roots, including Kurentovanje (a Slovenian festival designed to scare away winter), which takes place every year at the Slovenian National Home and allows local vendors the ability to showcase the sights, sounds, and smells of an ethnic neighborhood that made Cleveland their home.