Raymond L. Pianka Memorial Walk

Raymond L. Pianka (1951-2017) was the first Executive Director of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO), Cleveland Ward 17 Councilman from 1986 to 1995, and then, from 1996 until his death in 2017, Cleveland's Housing Court Judge. A life-long resident of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, Ray had a profound love for the place where he grew up as a child and lived as an adult. He was proud of the neighborhood's history and shared it with many people in many ways, including leading local history tours like this one. Ray's knowledge of his neighborhood was truly amazing, second to no one's. He knew all the neighborhood legends and stories, and his knowledge of local history made him a walking encyclopedia.

This tour highlights some of the historic places in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood that Ray Pianka knew and loved best. Some of the tour stops are points of interest in part because they are places that fostered his early love of history. Bethany Presbyterian (Stop 1), built in 1895, was where, while growing up on West Clinton Avenue, he worshiped with his family. Waverly Elementary School (Stop 2), built in 1884 (and razed in 1979), was where he attended grade school. Nearby Fir Street Cemetery (Stop 3), which he explored as a boy and helped restore as an adult, had been a burying ground for Polish and Hungarian Jews since the time of the Civil War. And West High School (Stop 4), which Ray attended from 1965 to 1969, was the oldest high school on Cleveland's west side, founded in 1855.

Other tour stops highlight Ray Pianka's and others' efforts at preserving some of the historic buildings in the neighborhood. The Oliver Alger House (Stop 6) is one. So are Cogswell Hall (Stop 5), the Louis Patrick Smith (House Stop 9) and the House that Brass Built (Stop 10). And, of course, so are Gordon Square Arcade (Stop 13) and the Capitol Theatre (Stop 14).

And then there are the stories, neighborhood stories that Ray Pianka reveled in telling. He believed that recovering and retelling these stories connected residents of Detroit Shoreway to their past, and helped to give them a greater stake in their neighborhood's future. Stories like the Cleveland Circulation War (Stop 7), Kilbane Town (Stop 8), and the McCart Street Gang (Stop 12).

And, of course, no tour of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood would be complete without Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church (Stop 11), a neighborhood anchor and an early partner in Ray Pianka's life-long work here, and historic St. Helena Byzantine Catholic Church (Stop 15). These two churches were founded by two important ethnic groups--Italians and Romanians--who settled in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood in the early twentieth century.

We hope you enjoy the Raymond L. Pianka Memorial Walk Tour.

Bethany Presbyterian Church

The small stone church on the southeast corner of West Clinton Avenue and West 65th Street, almost shrouded with trees, is Bethany Presbyterian Church. It was originally a west side Sunday school mission of the Old Stone Church that evolved into a…

Waverly Elementary School

The year 1884 was a good one for J. H. Schneider and the residents of the Tenth Ward, an area of the west side which today comprises much of the southeastern part of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. That year, Schneider, the Cleveland Board of…

Fir Street Cemetery

When James and Fannie Horwitz experienced the unspeakable heartbreak of losing a child--their 2-year-old son Aaron in January 1865, they undoubtedly found some consolation in burying him in the new Jewish cemetery out in the countryside, west of the…

West High

There was a time when there were no public high schools west of the Allegheny Mountains. When children living in the Midwest could only obtain a college preparatory education by attending private academies, the tuition for which only wealthy parents…

Cogswell Hall

In Benjamin S. Cogswell's 1908 obituary, the Cleveland Plain Dealer noted that, following his election in 1875 as Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts, his wife "began one of the most vigorous liquor campaigns ever seen in this county. It…

Oliver Alger House

The Oliver Alger House was built by one of the village of West Cleveland's most popular mayors. A successful commission agent in Cleveland before becoming a gentleman farmer, Oliver Alger served as mayor of West Cleveland for six years--longer…

The Cleveland Circulation War

In a business where circulation numbers have historically counted for nearly everything, there was probably never any love lost between the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Leader. The Plain Dealer--a partisan Democrat paper, was founded in…

Kilbane Town

The Cleveland Leader dubbed the west side neighborhood near Herman Avenue and West 74th Street "Kilbane Town," in honor of world featherweight boxing champion Johnny Kilbane. In March 1912, Kilbane Town was the end point of one of the…

Louis Patrick Smith House

The house at 7200 Detroit Avenue,which today is the Craciun-Berry Funeral Home, had an unusual beginning and an unusual end for the family which first owned and occupied it. Legend has it that, in 1888, the house was given as a wedding present to…

The House that Brass Built

The yellow pastel colored, Italianate style house on the corner of W. 73rd Street and Herman Avenue, which in recent years has been restored to its nineteenth century grandeur, was built by a member of the family that pioneered Cleveland's brass…

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (West)

Upon entering Cleveland's west side "Little Italy", one is instantly met with a display of Italian colors on benches, fire hydrants, sidewalks, and telephone poles. Best known for its street processionals and annual church festival,…

The McCart Street Gang

Many Cleveland moviegoers have seen Martin Scorsese's 2002 film "Gangs of New York," a story about the vicious street gangs that populated New York's notorious Five Points District around the time of the U.S. Civil War. Few…

Gordon Square Arcade

The Gordon Square Arcade opened to the public on April 8, 1921. The unique and massive structure quickly became the centerpiece of the Gordon Square commercial district, and a source of pride for the surrounding neighborhood. The monumental building…

Capitol Theatre

On April 8, 1921, the Capitol Theatre opened its doors to the public at the dedication of the Gordon Square Arcade and Community Building. Developed by the West Side Amusement Co. and Canadian motion picture theater promoters Jule and J.J. Allen, the…

St. Helena Romanian Byzantine Catholic Church

Located on West 65th Street near Detroit Avenue, St. Helena Romanian Catholic Church marks the site of Cleveland's largest Romanian enclave during the early 20th century. St. Helena's was built under the guidance of Father Epaminonda S.…