Twenty years ago when I became a property owner in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood, I thought it would be a short-lived stay…maybe a few years until I could talk my new husband into moving to a more established neighborhood. Back in 1999, Tremont was a little rough around the edges for a girl who grew up in the suburbs. Most of my friends had ventured to Tremont to dine at the recently opened Lola, Michael and Liz Symon’s first restaurant (the original location), but that was the extent of it. Other than a few urban pioneers who had begun buying homes for what you’d pay for a used car today, Tremont was a working class neighborhood with I-90 running through the middle of it. I didn’t see the charm. Then, something happened…
As we slowly began rehabbing our century home just a block from Lincoln Park, I started to see the beauty of living in a 150 year-old neighborhood with character and authenticity. One local publication called Tremont “arguably the most Clevelandy of the Cleveland neighborhoods.” I understood what that meant: diversity of every kind, the grittiness of living in the city alongside the sparkle of some of the newer developments, walkability, cottage-style houses, friendly neighbors, and everyone seemed to belong to a block club to ensure their voices were heard. I went from a reluctant resident of Tremont to one of its most ardent ambassadors. And now it’s my pick for one of my favorite parts of Cleveland in honor of EA’s 40th anniversary, and our 40th place to wrap up our series.
When I first arrived in Tremont, there was an art gallery on my street named “Eddie Moved,” called as such because so many people knocked on the door looking for the former resident – a drug dealer named Eddie – that the gallery owner wanted to make it really clear that he didn’t live there anymore. That space has been home to a string of interesting restaurants, including today’s occupant, Corner 11, a Hawaiian poke shop which makes amazing affordable meals just two blocks from my house.
In 2001, inspired by the sense of civic engagement that was expected of those who were in the charter class of Cleveland Bridge Builders, my husband and I started the Tremont Trek Home Tour (along with the Tremont West Development Corporation’s Walter Wright). We started it partly to get to know our neighbors, but mostly to help raise money for TWDC and awareness of the great restaurants and housing stock in the neighborhood. This annual mid-June progressive dinner party/house tour is really what cemented me to the neighborhood.
The micro-grants that Tremont Trek gives out each year (generally $500-$5,000) go to the people and projects making Tremont more vibrant. I can’t walk a block without seeing something that the Trek helped support. Some of these projects have been the rainbow flags around Lincoln Park proclaiming that we embrace diversity and the new urban playground, Tremont Sideyard, with a ribbon cutting dedication ceremony planned for spring 2020. There’s also a bench/planter on the busy corner of Professor Avenue that the neighbors all pitched in to design the ceramic tiles (helped by Tremont artist Angelica Pozo) and Arts in August, where performing arts troupes provide free shows every weekend in August at Lincoln Park. The sense of belonging and pride I get living in a neighborhood I helped create is powerful.
I met my late husband at Fat Cats. (Eating dinner at the bar and talking to neighbors is still one of my favorite things to do.) I walk to Indians games and the West Side Market from my house, and an Uber ride into downtown is $10 or less. This time of year when I hear a car idling a bit too long outside of my house, I bring a Tremont map outside to the driver’s window and direct them to the Christmas Story House which is on my street, but on the other side of I-490 and is a bit confusing for tourists to find. And, every wedding party in Cleveland seems to stop to take photos with the script Cleveland sign that overlooks the city skyline on Abbey Avenue.
I love walking on the Towpath Trail which runs right alongside the Cuyahoga River and overlooks the city skyline. On my morning walks I see 600′ ore boats heading out to Lake Erie filled with coal, salt, sand, slag. Right alongside these monster boats are the delicate sculls with the rowers getting in their daily work out.
We have an independent bookstore (Visible Voice), boutique shops (Banyan Tree and Evie Lou), and great beer and shot joints (Rowley Inn, Hotz, and Duck Island Club). They’re on the same blocks as high-end restaurants and bars (Spotted Owl, Dante, Fahrenheit, and Parallax) and neighborhood gathering spots (Prosperity Social Club, The South Side, and Literary Tavern). Plus, we arguably have the most well-known pierogi place in Northeast Ohio: Sokolowski’s University Inn. A classic Tremont story is when Grumpy’s original location had a fire that gutted the building, all the other chefs in Tremont threw a fundraiser to re-open the restaurant. Where else would you ever hear of a story like that in this competitive restaurant world?
When I get home on Friday nights, I don’t have to pull my car out of the garage until Monday morning! It makes me immensely happy to see the trend of people willing to give city living a chance. The city of Cleveland is now in the top five neighborhoods that the transplants EA works with choose as a new home.
Cleveland has so many cool urban pockets, this just happens to be my long-time favorite one.
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