What factors made/make Cleveland a prominent U.S. city?

Both historically and today. Just looking for a brief summary to understand the city better (never been there). Thanks!

2 Answers

  • 9 years ago
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    Actually, a shrewd businessman and politician named Alfred Kelley was responsible for the foundation of Cleveland's prominence. He managed to make Cleveland the northern terminus of the Ohio and Erie Canal, Ohio's great infrastructure project of the first half of the 19th century. Keep in mind that $4.5 million at that time probably had a purchasing power of at least $90 million in today's dollars and that Ohio's population and wealth was a fraction of its current level.




    Note that Cleveland's population increased from 600 in 1820 to 17,000 in 1850.


    Kelley's role in the creation of Cleveland was so central that city should have been renamed Kelley, especially as the city's "founding father" did virtually nothing, not even living in the city, to warrant the city to be named after him. Actually, IMO "Kelley" would be a much more upbeat name for a great city than Cleveland.


    As railroads connected population centers, naturally Cleveland became a key railroad junction, especially as east/west trains were forced to pass through Cleveland given the obstacle presented by Lake Erie.

    Cleveland mushroomed as a manufacturing center during the Civil War and prospered in the second half of the 19th century due to its great industrialists, such as John D. Rockefeller. Cleveland became a major steel manufacturing and oil refining center. It also was a major financial and corporate center and likely the wealthiest city in the world in the late 19th century on a per capita basis. With a population of about 1 million, it was the nation's fifth largest city in the mid-20th century. Until late in the 20th century, Cleveland also was a major corporate headquarters city.

    The wealth created by this industrial heritage turned Cleveland into one of the nation's cultural centers.

    The city's abundant supply of water likely will fuel its prosperity in future years. Its universities also will be essential to an economic renaissance.

    The Cleveland Clinic Foundation and University Hospitals together have created one of the world's great medical centers and together are Cleveland's largest private employer.

    Cleveland also has been particularly blessed with leaders with great energy and foresight. These include not only Kelley and Rockefeller, but also Tom Johnson (ranked as one of the nation's great mayors), the Vans (real estate developers and railroad barons who developed Shaker Heights and built the Terminal Tower and what is now known as Tower City), William Albert Stinchcomb (whose efforts led to the creation of the unique Cleveland Metroparks' "Emerald Necklace" and actually to excellent county park systems throughout Ohio which don't have their equals in many states), John Long Severance and George Szell who transformed the Cleveland Orchestra into one of the best in the world, and Sherman Lee (who transformed the Cleveland Museum of Art into one of the nation's best with surprisingly one of the world's great collections of Asian art).

    Even in recent decades, the remarkable inspiration and efforts of Ray Shepardson and the architectural genius of Paul Westlake amazingly led to the creation of Playhouse Square, the second largest theater complex in the U.S. after Lincoln Center. It now contains some of the best performance spaces in the nation, including the extraordinarily repurposed Hanna and Allen Theatres.






    Cleveland's future rests most of all on finding a new generation of persevering visionaries.

  • 9 years ago

    Historically, Cleveland become prominent because it's on Lake Erie and because it's on the entrance to the Cuyahoga River. It's very easy to get to by water, which use to be a huge source of transportation. It was a large import and export area. Products could be shipped throughout the Great Lakes or down the Cuyahoga River. Businesses started setting up in Cleveland to make product distributions easier. People who owned and worked in those businesses made Cleveland their home. Immigrants came to Cleveland for work and because it was easy to get to on Lake Erie. People who became tired of the city life in Cleveland moved out to the farmland (which are now Cleveland suburbs).

    Although there are still a lot of industries in Cleveland, it's not the industrial city it once was. Now the largest attraction is the medical field. Cleveland offers some of the best medical facilities in the country. Cleveland had excellent universities close by, such as Case Western and Kent State. There's also museums, historical sights, beautiful parks, and a blend of people & cultures.

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