The present neighborhood of Corlett was originally part of Newburgh and Warrensville Townships. The Newburgh portion of the neighborhood (the area west of East 140th Street) was incorporated as the Village of Corlett before being annexed to the City of Cleveland in 1909. The remainder of today's Corlett became part of the City when East View Village was annexed in 1917.

Development in Corlett focused around the intersection of East 131st and Miles, at the crossing of the Erie Railroad. Most of the current building of the Erie Railroad. Most of the current buildings along East 131st Street date from the 1920's when the neighborhood experienced its most rapid development. Population in Corlett jumped from only 1,200 in 1920 to 20,000 in 1930.

Among the more historically significant buildings in the East 131st Street area are the Boys' Club at East 131st and McLeer, built in 1926 as the Sokol Tyrs Hall (a recreational and educational society for Czech immigrants) and the Corlett School, built in 1915 at East 131st and Corlett. The school and neighborhood may have been named after early Irish settlers Eliza and Harriet Corlett, both principals in the Cleveland Public Schools in the 1890's.

A dramatic change in the racial makeup of the neighborhood occurred in the 1960's, with the non-white population increasing from 8.4% of the population in 1960 to 84.1% in 1970. In recent decades, an aging housing stock and declining employment in the steel industry began taking its toll on the Corlett neighborhood. The exodus of many middle-income families resulted in reduced population and income levels and contributed to the decline of several neighborhood shopping districts.

In the early 1990's, the development of a new shopping plaza at East 131st and Miles and the new construction of new single-family and townhouse units between Harvard and Miles Avenue, near Martin Luther King Boulevard, have brightened prospects for the area's future.