Teaching Cleveland

Lesson 44

Handout 1 - History of the Flats

The Cuyahoga River travels 100 miles, twisting and turning through Geauga, Portage, Summit and Cuyahoga counties before it ends at Lake Erie. The river was named after the Mohawk Indian word "Cahagaga" meaning, "crooked river."

Flats Oxbow Association is named for the oxbow shape of the river. An oxbow is the wooden yoke on an ox.

Why are the Flats called the Flats? The Flats is the flat land on both banks of the Cuyahoga River.

In 1797, the Lorenzo Carter family became the first permanent settlers on the river.

Many major companies and wealthy families in Cleveland had their early beginnings in the Flats; John D. Rockefeller, Sherwin Williams, Austin Powder, White Sewing Machine, and Beeman's gum.

The west side of the river was known as Ohio City. The rivalry between Cleveland on the east bank of the Cuyahoga and Ohio City of the west bank erupted in the mid-1830s. This is referred to as the "Bridge War." The west side of the river became a part of Cleveland in 1854.

The Center Street Bridge, built in 1901, is the only remaining swing bridge on the river.

Since 1902, over 5,000,000 bushels of wheat a year come from fields across the United States to Cereal Food Processors in the Flats to be turned into flour. The processed flour is then shipped locally and to various states.

In 1915 the Detroit-Superior Bridge (Veterans Memorial Bridge) was started. There was a need for a bridge that vessels could pass underneath, without opening and closing the bridge. The bridge opened in 1918 and was the largest double-decked concrete bridge in the world. Streetcars traveled across the bridge on the second deck. The bridge is now on the Register of Historic Places.

In 1932 the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge (Hope Memorial Bridge) was opened. The bridge is unique with stone carvings at each end representing symbols of transportation.

Ground was broken in 1938 for the Main Avenue Bridge, a bridge that did not go through downtown.

The Powerhouse in the Flats was built by Marcus Hanna to supply electricity for streetcars. Cleveland's last streetcar run was made on January 23, 1954. After seeing the Powerhouse in ruins, it is now seen as a vibrant entertainment complex.

International Salt Co. (now AKZO Nobel Salt, Inc.) started business in the Flats in 1961. Tons of rock salt are brought out of the salt mines located under Lake Erie. There's enough salt from these salt deposits to last the next 100 years.


1995 Guide to the Flats, The Flats Oxbow Association, 1283 Riverbed Street, Cleveland, Ohio. 44113. (216) 566-1046


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