Annexed to Cleveland in 1873, the Kinsman area developed primarily in response the establishment of a freight rail line connecting Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Land along East 79th Street, south of Woodland Avenue, became the site of numerous factories associated with the metals industry. Foremost among these was the Van Dorn Company, which was established on East 79th Street in 1878 as the Cleveland Wrought Iron Fence Company.

Extension of streetcar lines along Kinsman Road and Woodland Avenue in the 1860's and 1870's combined with the local manufacturing activity to spur development of modest houses for the area's factory workers. This early development, occuring well before establishment of the City's first zoning code in 1929, resulted in many incompatible juxtapositions of industry and housing. By 1920, the area had reached its peak population of 26,600. In the decades following World War II, housing deterioration and the development of outlying neighborhoods, free of industrial intrusions, acted to drain population from the Kinsman area.

As an attempt to revive the neighborhood, the Garden Valley Estates were developed as part of the first Urban Renewal projects in the state of Ohio. The 130-acre, 650-unit housing development was first constructed in 1959 with incremental additions following in 1961, 1965 and 1971. Other elements of the Urban Renewal Project included removal of commercial stores from Kinsman Avenue, renovation of private homes on a number of streets and the filling of Kingsbury Run Valley for playfileds, two elementary schools and a community center. These efforts, however, were not sufficient to stem the neighborhood's continuing decline.

Between 1960 and 1990, the area's population fell from over 20,000 to approximately 7,500. The proportion of African-American residents rose from 53% in 1950 to 97% in 1980. The neighborhood has one of the lowest average household incomes in the City. Widespread deterioration, demolition and illegal dumping caused the area bounded by Kinsman Road, Woodhill Road and Woodland Avenue to become known as the "Forgotten Triangle."