Annexed by the City of Cleveland in 1910, the Collinwood neighborhood began as a village within Euclid Township. Today, this neighborhood of roughly 34,000 residents, arrayed along the eastern fringe of Cleveland is considered by many locals to be, in fact, two distinct neighborhoods. Those two neighborhoods are split by the centrally located railyards of CSX (formerly those of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway).
The north section of Collinwood ranges all the way from the railyards to the shore of Lake Erie, and embraces roughly 50 blocks of residential development from west to east. Increasing the density of the neighborhood’s residential areas are neatly tended rows of distinctive duplex houses, as depicted above. The south section of Collinwood, which includes much of the community’s industrial land as well as its primary commercial core, stretches from the south flank of the railyards to St. Clair and Woodworth Avenues.
Collinwood was notorious for a disastrous school fire that occurred just two years before the region’s annexation by Cleveland. Along with to two teachers and one rescuer, 172 schoolchildren died attempting to escape the fire, most crushed or suffocated in their panic to flee. The media attention drawn by the fire, the horrific deaths and the subsequent mass burial of unidentifiable remains in Cleveland’s Lakeview Cemetery urged many municipalities across the nation to heighten their enforcement of building codes and school inspection procedures.
The bisecting railyards brought prosperity to Collinwood for most of the early 20th Century. Heavy industry followed the rail lines, and General Motors’ Fisher Body Plant and the Pitney Glass Works of General Electric employed thousands of Collinwood residents. Throughout the 1920s through 1940s, many Southern Appalachians migrated to Cleveland in search of work, joined by increasing numbers of immigrants from Eastern Europe. Soon a thriving Slovenian community was entrenched, and, later, many Italians continued to shift ever eastward from Cleveland’s Central district. By the 1960s, African Americans had joined the tide of new residents and workers. By then, the railyards had also been flanked by the extension of Interstate 90 and State Route 2, making the partition of North Collinwood from South Collinwood even more pronounced.
Collinwood also became home to the ‘Cleveland Mafia’, and its local luminaries, Shondor Birns and Danny Greene, both of whom were to eventual fall to car bombs planted during internecine warfare. Over the subsequent forty years, Federal investigators have banished organized crime from the community.
Today, Collinwood is being recast as an attractive environment for locals, entrepreneurs and artists seeking lower cost housing in relatively close proximity to Cleveland’s central core. North Collinwood offers a very pleasant residential character, and is punctuated by Beachland Park, East Shore Park, and Wildwood Park and Marina. Clusters of galleries and bistros have developed to serve a vibrant local population. Recent development in North Collinwood saw the conversion of a former big-box store on Lake Shore Boulevard into an environmentally sensitive community center. Portions of the formerly thriving railyards have since given over to infill industrial and commercial uses. South Collinwood is home to the ‘Railroaders’ of Collinwood High School, and has, at ‘Five Points’ — the intersection of East 152nd Street, Ivanhoe Avenue and St. Clair Avenue — the community’s central business district, served by local transit. Among areas of western South Collinwood long occupied by transplants from Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee, one can still sample great Southern food to the accompaniment of country music.
Famous sons of Collinwood include former Cleveland Mayor, Ohio Governor, and United States Senator George Voinovich, and Frankie Yankovic, the Slovenian ‘Polka King’.