Which side are you from? Like all cities, Cleveland has “sides.” EA Guide Brad Withers breaks down the history of Cleveland’s East and West Sides. It’s not about a rivalry; it’s about our heritage. The history of the “sides” showcases the ethnic and cultural diversity that shaped our city, made it great back then, and make it great today!
“Which side of Cleveland?” Have you ever been asked this as a response to being asked where you are from and responding Cleveland? It’s in our cultural DNA. But why?
You are not actually being asked where you live. The origins come from where different cultures settled in Cleveland. What is being asked is, “what is your background? Your ancestry?”
At one time, over 60 different language newspapers were published here. We absorbed people from other lands for over 100 years. Drive through Tremont and look carefully in the back yards of the homes. There’s no grass, it’s another house. People would build their house, then another for additional family members settling in Cleveland.
We are a city of ethnic pockets. Many of these areas retain some of their history and institutions. Today, these communities have harmoniously stirred in all different people.
Cleveland’s Polish immigrants founded Slavic Village in the mid-19th century as they came to work in the rolling steel and woolen mills along the Cuyahoga. Polish is still spoken today, and many people visit for the pierogis, May Day Parade, and St. Stanislaus Polish Festival.
AsiaTown began to develop in the 1890’s when Chinese immigrants came here as railroad workers. Today, it is a thriving dining district with more than three dozen restaurants, markets, and shops. It runs from E. 18th to E. 40th Streets and from St. Clair to Perkins Avenues.
Little Italy, along the main strip of Mayfield Road, formed as stone masons were brought over to work at Lakeview Cemetery. Today, it is full of Italian cafes, bakeries, pizzerias, and more. In a general sense, many Italians have continued out Mayfield Road on the East Side.
Many Irish settled on the West Side in the Irishtown Bend area from W. 25th Street, north of Detroit Road. They came in the 1830’s to work on the canal and railways. Today, the Irishtown Bend is transforming through an imaginative project.
At one point, many of the curves along the Cuyahoga had people from different regions in its bends. Thus, the East-West question. It wasn’t about the side as much as where did your family originate.
So, there is no “best side.” Both the East and West Sides of Cleveland offer a variety of cultures, ethnicities, cuisines, heritages, and ideas. According to the 2010 United States Census, those who live in the eight-county region surrounding Cleveland and Akron originate from at least 125 distinct cultures. Cleveland was formed and shaped by: Poles, Italians, Irish, Germans, Slovenes, Chinese, Czechs, Ukrainians, Hungarians, African Americans, Koreans, Croatians, Greeks, Lithuanians, Puerto Ricans, Vietnamese, Arab-Americans, and more. Variety is the spice of life.
Interested in more information about Cleveland’s cultural diversity?
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