Teaching Cleveland
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Middle School Edition: 6-8

Lesson 46

Neighborhoods and Land Use in the 1940s


Students will review neighborhood issues from the 1940s including the definition of a neighborhood and the ideal design of a neighborhood unit developed by a Cleveland community organization in 1943. Students will review their own neighborhood today and redesign them to include a safe playground, and then design the playground.



blighted, slum, zoning


  1. What were important issues facing neighborhoods in Cleveland during the 1940s?
  2. What was the definition of neighborhood in the 1940s? Is it the same or different today?
  3. What was considered a desirable use of land in neighborhoods?


  1. Share with students the data from the Fact Sheet on the 1934 study of a slum area in Cleveland. Then have students read "The Neighborhood Unit" (Handout 1) and discuss the reading.

    • How does the reading suggest you look at your home? (as one of many that make up your neighborhood )
    • How should you live in your neighborhood? (take an active interest in your community and live as a neighbor among neighbors)
    • What do children need as part of their "home?" (schools, playgrounds, churches, social centers)
    • What is a neighborhood unit? (a community of homes bound by common interests)
    • What determines the size of a neighborhood? (the community feeling of its residents and physical boundaries)
    • What does the neighborhood community depend on the city government to provide? (fire and police protection, public services)
    • What is included in the ideally planned neighborhood unit? (1 & 2 family homes, apartments, local stores, commercial buildings, parks and playgrounds)

  2. Review the Handout # 2. Present Land Use. Review the bottom diagram of "Present Zoning." How would you describe the present zoning? What is the majority of the area zoned for? How does it compare with the plan for neighborhood units?

    Now review the diagram for "Present Land Use." Compare this diagram with the diagram for "Present Zoning." What are some of the differences? How does it compare to the plan for neighborhood units? What might explain the differences between the present zoning and present land use? (buildings, etc. may have been there before the zoning changes; owners may have received zoning variances)

    Compare the "Present Land Use" diagram with the diagram of the "Ideally Planned Neighborhood Unit" from Handout 1. How are they the same? Different?

    After reviewing and discussing the diagrams, what do you think were important issues citizens of Cleveland's neighborhoods had to deal with in the 1940s? (zoning, combination of business, commercial and family housing; vacant lots; inclusion of land for public use; recreation facilities for children; street and traffic patterns) How different or similar are the "neighborhood unit" issues today?

  3. Handout 3. Odd Shaped Lots Made Useful shows an example of how a neighborhood community could include a playground in its design. What did they do to accomplish this? Besides the development of the playground area, how do these changes affect the neighborhood community?

  4. Ask students to picture their neighborhood. If you were asked to design a playground for your community, where would you locate it and what would you include in your playground design? Have students draw a rough map of their neighborhood and include the changes they would make to develop a playground. Then have them draw their designs of their "ideal" playground.

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