The Changing Face of Cleveland

When Edith Delmage left her ancestral home in rural Ontario in 1905 she was anxious to start a working life in a city. So she set her sights on (wait for it) Cleveland Ohio. This wasn’t nearly as scary a prospect for a young Canadian lady as you might think. Edith had two uncles working professionally in Cleveland, and two of her older sisters were already there and gainfully employed. Cleveland was an up and coming financial and industrial center, the 6th largest city in the US. There was certainly no barrier to immigration for a well educated young lady who was willing to work in a shop, an office or a bank.

By 1910 Edith was boarding in a large duplex on East 93rd St not far from Euclid Ave where her Uncle Weston had his dental office. She would have been familiar with the building above which housed the Western Reserve Historical Society back then. By 1920 she had gotten together with her mother and sisters to live a bit further north on Birchdale Ave, and by the 1930s the family had decamped further east to the genteel suburb of Cleveland Heights.

I’d like to show a few of these locations today but unfortunately the area so familiar to Edith and her family has undergone decades of blight and decay, poverty, demographic change and crack to the point where it’s an urban prairie now. Every place they occupied is now either a vacant lot or a parking lot for an inner city mall. Even the stately homes of Edith’s uncles have gone the same way.

Certainly Edith would never settle here if she were moving to Cleveland 100 years later. It’s hard to imagine this kind and gentle 19th century lady talking about living in “C-Town” or “tha Land” as the local rappers do now. Edith’s old ‘hood is now one of the poorest and most crime ridden spots in Cleveland (or the US for that matter.)

On the other hand the long time residence of the Delmage sisters on Glenmont Road in Cleveland Heights is still standing proud:

In fact although this area has some dodgy streets it is quite an up and coming hipster place. Prices are still low but the area is gentrifying. It’s a mixed racial area that has survived and probably is going to continue to thrive and avoid the urban wasteland a bit further west on Euclid Ave.

As for the Prices and Delmages their history with Cleveland started to end in the 1940s when Uncle Weston left Lamont Street and moved to California in retirement. Edith’s nephew Don Fawcett was a Bell Telephone executive, and he took his family to LA in the mid 1950s. Edith and her sister Alice joined him in California after their sister Helen died in 1961. That was all she wrote for Cleveland after 60 years. C-Town we hardly knew ye.

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