How The West Was Lost
It took nearly four years for all the western streets Shaker Heights left behind to be annexed to Cleveland

Most voters who signed the June 1911 petition that took Shaker Village out of Cleveland Heights owned small homes on its western streets. We believe they saw it a way to have their streets in Cleveland so their children could attend the best schools.

In July 1911 voters in area GG began to work on being annexed to Cleveland. Voters in area MM thought differently. We will suggest possible motivations later on this page. It was not until February 1915 that they became part of Cleveland.

The southern border of Cleveland Heights is in the ravine between North and South Park and includes the north side of the Shaker Lakes. In 1911 Cleveland was north and west of GG. Newburg City was south of GG and MM and extended past what today is Shaker Square to about East 140th, still today's Cleveland Shaker border. Source: photo of part of an annexation map in the Cleveland City Council Archives, by webkeeper Arnold Berger

GG and MM in the map above were the western part of Shaker Village not included when in October 1911 it voted to become Shaker Heights Village. Annexation happened in two steps.

Area GG's annexation began in August 1911 and was completed March 2, 1912. Area MM's annexation began in June 1913 and was completed March 2, 1915.
 The owners of these homes signed the 1911 petition

Recent photos of two 1910 vintage homes on Mt. Overlook, on what was then the Cleveland side of East Blvd. Left: one family, 2 bedrooms. Right: side-by-side two family, total 4 bedrooms.
Started August, 1911  
 Approved by Cleveland, then the county March 2, 1912  

In August 1911, two months before Shaker Village voted to leave its western part behind as it created Shaker Heights Village, voters in the streets closest to Cleveland signed a petition to annex to the city. It moved ahead as shown below:

  August 28, 1911 - First reading
  September 22, 1911 - Approved
  September 25, 1911 - First notice
  October 19, 1911 - Sets hearing date
  December 20, 1911 - Postpones
  March 2, 1912 - Approves

No copy of area GG's 1911 petition to Cleveland is available.

Why did the County Commissioners need five months to approve this annexation to Cleveland?

This petition did not speak for the entire area, east to the border of Shaker Heights. Voters in the streets near Shaker Heights did not want to be in the city. A document -- possibly overlooked in local histories because it was not acted on -- shows that clearly. More on that document, a petition to the County Commissioners filed in September 1912, follows.

Started September 11, 1912
 No results 
After March 2, 1912, with area GG in Cleveland, area MM was contiguous to the city and could ask to be annexed. It did not. When County Archivist Dr. Judy Cetina showed me a petition from MM voters, I saw their determination not to be in Cleveland.

Dated September 11, 1912 and signed by 21 voters, a few with addresses east of East 127th, it was a request to be detached from Shaker Village and to become Woodland Township.

As the commissioners wrote in their resolutions that established them, townships should not be too small. Villages with thousands of residents such as Glenville and Newburgh City, south of MM, were joining Cleveland, with its more than a half-million residents.

The commissioners were not going to create a new small village next to the city. They did not act on area MM's petition, part of which is shown below.

Why did voters in area MM ask for detachment?
MM's voters did not want to be part of Cleveland, or to say it differently, they wanted to live in a suburb. Yet voters in area GG, west of East Blvd. had asked to be annexed to Cleveland soon after they became residents of Shaker Village. What would account for the very different views of the MM voters, who lived east of East Blvd. and along Fairmount Road?

Our pages have copies of the 1910 census forms for the village. Because the census enumerator walked the streets visiting each residence, the forms were in nearly perfect west-to-east order. Forms 1, 2 and 4 were for area GG, 5 and 6 were for area MM.

For all male heads of household we made this tally: Was he born in the United States or some other  English-speaking country?  The results, shown in the table below, reveal a striking difference between those living on opposite sides of East Blvd - between GG and MM voters. That wide boulevard was a cultural divide.


Male head of household born
in English-speaking country

GG 1, 2, 4 19% 81%
MM 5, 6 96%  4%
The homeowners in area MM were in the "heights". They could look down the hill at a crowded city covered with a carbon haze, with its large and fast-growing immigrant population and so many school children from homes where a language other than English was spoken. MM voters may have seen themselves as settled, successful and suburban, wanting their sons and daughters to go to a school with children from homes like theirs.
As for schools, there was good news. In place of three rooms in the Van Sweringen office at Lee Road and Shaker. Shaker Heights would soon have a new, larger school, nearly a half mile closer.

Plain Dealer July 3, 1912
Boulevard Elementary opened in 1914.

By becoming independent, could they send their children there? MM's voters may not have expected the county to grant their petition but they weren't ready to lose their suburban status.
Started September 11, 1912 
 City approved  September 8, 1913   County approved March 2, 1915
In June 1913 voters in area MM knew their plea to the county had failed. Their western neighbors in GG were now in the city, as were their neighbors on the south side of Woodland Avenue, for Newburg City had also become part of Cleveland.

They did what they did not want to do two years earlier. Their annexation petition had 30 signers, all living in area MM. (The 1912 request to be a separate township had fewer than 20 signers who lived in the area.) Here is part of the petition.

Here is a summary of the annexation's progress.

  July 23, 1913 - First reading
  September 8, 1913 - Approved
  February 10, 1915 - Assumes MM's debt
  March 2, 1915 - Approves

A visit to the Cuyahoga County Archives in its new home on Perkins at East 40th and the help of County Archivist Dr. Judy Cetina found documents dealing with issues such as bond indebtedness and assessments had to be computed and payments made or promised. That seems to be only a partial explanation of an unduly long process.


Thanks to the archives of Cuyahoga County and the Cleveland City Council for these pdf documents


As of 6/27/2018

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