Then and now: Superior and Lee roads

A 1909 photo of Superior and Lee roads. Photo from the Plain Dealer archives, marked with the photographer's initials, CMB, and courtesy Korbi Robers.

Shown here are 1909 and 2017 photographs of the same view in Cleveland Heights looking eastward on Superior Road toward Lee Road, with Forest View Drive coming off to the right.

Today, the intersection of Lee and Superior roads is home to a Sunoco gas station, an Uptown Mart, and the main entrance of Cain Park. Off to the right of the 2017 picture are two homes in the historic Grant Deming's Forest Hill neighborhood (not to be confused with the other nearby Forest Hill that the Rockefellers created in the 1920s and 1930s.). Grant Wilson Deming created this "first" Forest Hill neighborhood in 1909, and it was added to the National Register of Historic places in 2010, thanks to the work of local historian J. Mark Souther.

As shown in the 1909 photograph, most Heights roads at the time were still dirt and mud; later, Lee and Superior roads would be brick while most others would be macadam. In the photo, Deming and a business associate are heading westward on Superior Road in a chauffer-driven REO touring car. They were on a mission to advertise the newly laid-out Forest Hill Allotment to middle-upper class families searching for the American dream home away from the city, with "pure air and fine views." The newly built sales office can be seen behind them, on Lee Road, and a sign for the planned Forest View Drive is just outside of the photo's right frame.

House lots started at just $600. Attractive and architecturally eclectic homes were built on each lot—most of which are still standing.

Grant W. Deming was one of several brothers who developed many residential neighborhoods in Cleveland and Cleveland Heights. He planned his Forest Hill neighborhood over old farmland and meadows, and divided it into upwards of 700 lots. Within decades, the lots were filled with homes as the Heights’ population increased almost exponentially.

The outer boundaries of Deming’s Forest Hill neighborhood are roughly Lee Road, Cedar Road, Coventry Road, Euclid Heights Boulevard, Lincoln Boulevard, and Superior Road, with major inner streets Edgehill, E. Overlook, Berkshire and Yorkshire roads, and Washington Boulevard.

The allotment boasted a unique feature. In 1915, to facilitate the sale of the properties, a "dinky" street car line was built with one "Toonerville trolley" in service. Its tracks were laid along the median of Washington Boulevard, from Coventry Road to Lee Road. It was the shortest streetcar line in the Cleveland area. By 1922, declining profits and an incident in which a bunch of boys derailed it after a joy ride in the dark sealed the trolley line's fate.

In the early 1800s, the area around the Superior and Lee intersection was still untouched forest, owned by Henry Champion of Connecticut (Moses Cleaveland's brother-in-law). The land was divided up into smaller parcels and sold to pioneers who hand built cabins and shooed away wolves, bears and snakes (or added them to the stewpot).

Robert Young, an early resident and farmer, set up a water-powered sawmill in the ravine of Dugway Brook (to the left in the pictures). The stream now runs underground in pipes under Lee Road and through Cain Park. 

As the farming era progressed, families with names like Welch (farmers) and Duty (brickmakers) farmed the neighborhood. In the mid- to late-1800s, Dr. Worthy Streator owned a large section and had most of the remaining forest chopped down for sale as railroad ties. Streator turned his land near Coventry Road into meadowland and ran a celebrated stock farm with thoroughbred cattle and sheep. The Lee Road side was the farm of James Haycox, who ran a dairy and also a quarry on Dugway Brook, just east of Lee Road (now filled over, with Cain Park built on top). Part of the Haycox farm can be seen in the 1909 photo, in the distance.

Deming died in 1935, at his last home in Chagrin Falls. He is buried in an unmarked grave in Lake View Cemetery.

Korbi Roberts

Korbi Roberts is a trustee of the Cleveland Heights Historical Society and invites you to become a member or volunteer.

Read More on Heights History
Volume 10, Issue 12, Posted 10:56 AM, 11.30.2017