WELCOME TO OHIO CITY
By Alena Tobin
The “City of Ohio,” originally part of Brooklyn Township in 1818, is now known as the Ohio City neighborhood on Cleveland’s near West Side. Becoming a municipality on March 3, 1836, just two days before Cleveland’s incorporation, Ohio City became part of Cleveland in 1854.
A heavy industrial area, Ohio City competed with Cleveland, despite its smaller population. The then-cities feuded over shipbuilding and tonnage from canal boats.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, Ohio City drew immigrants from Germany, Hungary and Ireland looking for employment. In the 1960s and 1970s, the African American and Latino population increased.
Today, the neighborhood, located just west of the Cuyahoga River and comprised of 339 acres, has a population of 9,000. Population demographics include 41.1 percent white, 32 percent black, 22.9 percent Hispanic, 1.3 percent Asian and 2.2 percent mixed race and other.
The neighborhood is also home to the West Side Market, a historic location that features European foods and fresh produce. Recently, the market added Sunday hours to its schedule, marking a notable change after more than 100 years.
Ohio City is also the location of the Ohio City Farm. At close to six acres it is one of the largest urban farms in the United States. The farm is a critical resource for urban farmers, providing necessary land and agricultural assistance to local growers. Farm tenants, such as Central Roots, cultivate a diverse range of fruits, vegetables and herbs, including broccoli, cabbage, melons, basil and dill. Ohio City Farm provides fresh produce to the Cleveland community and educates residents about organic farming and cultivation methods.
The broad range of races and ethnicities has created a wealth of cultural traditions and diverse perspectives in Ohio City. These varied offerings include unique restaurants, businesses and festivals.
Ohio City recently hosted Dyngus Day, a Polish tradition recognizing the end of Lent and the celebration of Easter. Dyngus Day in Ohio City seeks to celebrate Polish-American culture and polka music. The celebration includes plenty of pierogi, kielbasa and special Polish brew. Dyngus Day also features an accordion parade and the annual crowning of Miss Dyngus Day.
The West 25th Street Lofts will open in late 2016, continuing a tradition of celebrating historic Ohio City and working toward the future. The building at West 25th Street was originally conceived as a brewery and a Masonic lodge. A part of the building served as a metal works shop until 1978. The long discussed project presents an opportunity to renovate historic buildings that feature unique and memorable architecture and create living spaces for generations to come.
Ohio City continues to preserve its multicultural roots and traditions while working to expand programming and special celebrations to include events such as “Cleveland Thru the Eyes of Clevelanders,” a contest featuring the work of professional and amateur photographers, and the Ohio City Games, a family-friendly event encouraging fitness and wellness.
Near West Recreation
By Alena Tobin
Ohio City’s Near West Recreation works to provide families and kids with a positive energy outlet within the historic west side neighborhood. Residents saw new families moving into the neighborhood and wanted to create a way for parents to connect, explains Keri Palma, coordinator for Near West Recreation.
So Near West Recreation began in 2012 as a tee-ball league. However, the program has expanded to include other sports, including basketball, soccer, baseball and bowling. The center holds Family Bowling Nights for families to play together and interact with other parents and children living in the area. Playground Crawls at area parks also promote family participation, active engagement and new friendships.
Palma views the program as an important opportunity for family engagement and building connections with local residents.
“We want the league to be a fun league, but also an organization that connects people to other things,” Palma says. “We want to continue growing and connecting families to more resources in the area.”
Near West Recreation recently expanded its programming to include a Creative Writers Club, targeted at children ages 9 to 14, encouraging them to explore a variety of writing styles.
For the future, Near West Recreation plans to increase its programming and continue engaging families on the near west side of Cleveland.
Near West Family Network
By Alena Tobin
Several parents and active community members created the Near West Family Network to provide resources and community for families living on the near west side of Cleveland. The independent organization started in 2013 to continue to make the area a great place for families to live.
The creators of Near West Family Network wanted to provide programming for local families and create awareness of current resources. Many of its founders had been involved in other local groups, yet still desired an organization that connected residents to new and existing options.
Near West Family Network involves families with children through events such as community cleanups and organized playdates. Recently the organization held its fifth annual Easter Egg Hunt.
Encouraging community use of local libraries is also a priority for the Near West Family Network. The organization recently held a “Learn to Knit” program at a local library that engaged both children and adults.
Near West Family Network also fosters community through events for families without children, including an annual clothing swap.
Ann Garland, a board member of Near West Family Network, views the organization as an important presence in the Near West community.
“We try to bring to light the ‘do you know’ aspects of the city,” Garland says. “It’s part of the network trying to share that we have great resources, and you don’t need to go to the suburbs for these things.”
West Side Market
By Alena Tobin
The West Side Market in Ohio City is one of Cleveland’s best known landmarks and an important reminder of the city’s multicultural history.
In 1840, Richard Lord and Josiah Barber, two of the earliest property owners in Ohio City, who both served terms as mayor of the original city, donated land with the intention for it to become a public marketplace.
Following several additional gifts of land, the city built a single-story, wooden building at the location. However, as the neighborhood population grew, in 1908 developers began constructing a large, brick building with ample space for sellers’ stalls and stands, and a prominent clock tower.
The market, which opened on Nov. 2, 1912, marked its Centennial year four years ago. The yellow brick building still houses more than 100 vendors.
Today the West Side Market carries a wealth of food options — many of which recall Ohio City’s diverse immigrant community during the turn of the century. Mediterranean, German and Italian traditional foods, among others, can be found at the market.
The West Side Market appeals to many shoppers looking for traditional foods from their childhood.
“My parents came to Cleveland from Germany in the late 1950s,” says Suzanne Klein, a University Heights resident. “I came here with my parents because it was one of the few places we could find traditional German food.”
Among the older businesses at the West Side Market is Mediterranean Imported Food. The business has been owned and operated since 1969 by the Kantzios and Mouginanis family. The store carries a variety of olive oils, cheeses, legumes, imported teas and canned goods, and specialty dishes including halva and fig almond cake.
Another popular business is Steve’s Gyros, which often has a long line of eager customers winding around the corner of the market. The business offers large gyros with generous portions of meat to hungry patrons.
Cake Royale started in 2005 at the market, though the bakery has been in business for more than 25 years. The bakery carries a variety of colorful pastries. Customers come to Cake Royale enticed by the variety of cannoli and monk cakes prominently featured in the glass display case. The bakery provides a personal touch and sense of individuality to its pastries; they offer 12 flavors of cannoli cream from which to choose.
In addition to carrying imported foods, baked goods and traditional dishes, the market also sells fresh produce. Vendors offer fruits and vegetables in a separate structure next to the main building. Traditional cries from vendors, eager to promote and sell their produce, entice shoppers to their stands.
The market also features the West Side Market Café, which serves breakfast and lunch made from ingredients often found at the market. “I like eating here because it’s comfort food and it’s convenient,” Jason Wisnewski, a Cleveland resident, said. “It’s great coming here after I shop.”
Breakfast food is especially popular at the café, particularly the sausage and gravy and the Eggs Benedict.
Recently the West Side Market made history when it began opening on Sundays, the first time the market has done so since it opened more than 100 years ago.