From Millionaire's Row to Riots: A Comprehensive History of Cleveland's Hough Neighborhood

8000 BCE. Humans and mammoths co-exist in Northeast Ohio until we hunt them into extinction.  Hough probably not settled due to bugs.

1200 AD. Native peoples begin settling into villages in river valleys.

1500 AD. Mound builders start to disappear.

1600s. Iroquois take over Ohio in a bloody war with various tribes.

1700s. Iroquois move east to fight the French and English. Wyandot move into region (most artifacts near Sandusky). They were known for their “rough hair”  (read: mohawks—my husband is a descendant.)

1799. Doan family builds tavern at E. 107th & Euclid Avenue in East Cleveland township.

1854. Area settled as a farm by Oliver and Eliza Hough.

1860s. Oliver and Eliza die, and their land is divided into parcels.

League Park railway car

1872. Hough incorporated into Cleveland, which doubled in size in 10 years.  Millionaire’s Row built on Euclid Avenue.

1890s. Two electric streetcars run down Hough & Euclid Avenues.  League Park built at E. 66th and Lexington as home of the Cleveland Spiders (now the Cleveland Indians). Eliza Bryant built the first “Retirement home for Colored Persons,” later moved into Hough. Area filled with single family homes and exclusive schools like Beaumont School for Girls, University School, Notre Dame Academy, and East High School.  Houses of worship built include St. Agnes Parish and Congregational Church.

University School (Cleveland Memory Project)

1900s. Hough Bakeries founded at 8703 Hough Avenue and Rainey Institute on E. 55th.

1920s. Apartment buildings constructed as wealthy residents migrate to the Heights to avoid air pollution from their own factories.  Millionaires destroy their homes before moving out.

1930s. Hough fills with middle class immigrants and laborers.  Homes take in boarders or split into multi-family dwellings.

1950s. Urban renewal and highway development force African-Americans from Central into Hough, increasing from 14% to 75% of its population.  Realtors threaten reduced home values; Polish, Irish, and Spanish-speaking immigrants move out.

1960s. Mounting racial tension caused by deteriorating and overcrowded housing owned by whites and occupied by blacks. (Tip: Don’t be a slumlord).

July 18-23, 1966. Hough Riots cause massive property damage and four deaths until the National Guard takes over. A grand jury ruled that the Communist Party organized the uprising.

1970s. Middle class families flee the neighborhood while activists work hard to rebuild with little outside support. Religious communities collaborate to provide food and other social service programs. Nonprofits like Hough Multipurpose Center, Fatima Family Center, Famicos Foundation, and Hough Salvation Army are formed.

Reverend Jesse Jackson at East High

1976. Jesse Jackson speaks at dedication of new East High School building.

1985. Lexington Village opens, signaling a new era of residential development.  Crack and AIDS weaken the community.

1990s & 2000s. Population continues to decline while large number of new, single family homes and townhouses are built.  Church Square Shopping Plaza built and visited by President Clinton.

2010-2012. Euclid Avenue significantly rebuilt with Health Line bus connecting Downtown to University Circle. Deteriorating schools replaced with new buildings. Funds dedicated to maintain and restore portions of historic League Park.

If you’re looking for an even shorter (and slightly inaccurate) history of Hough, check out The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

A huge thanks to Christopher Busta-Peck, Founding Editor of Cleveland Area History for fact-checking my dates against the primary records.

And here we are. Learning the history of the neighborhood helped me appreciate Hough as a community that has pulled itself up by its own bootstraps. It also taught me never to be a slumlord. What are your lessons from Hough’s history?

This is part of a series on being a white person living in Cleveland’s African-American Hough neighborhood. You can see the first posts here and here, plus Mansfield Frazier’s response.  Next up: things black people say to white people.

Meagen Farrell is an educational consultant, adventurous mother of two, and proud resident of the Hough neighborhood. You can connect with her via blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

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