Whatever happened to Lorain Street?
By Gary Swilik
You may be thinking “Hey, it’s Lorain Avenue, not Street!” Certainly most folks call it Lorain Avenue and are not wrong to do so. “We moved to West Park in 1957,” says Sandi Lilly, “and have never known it as anything but Lorain Avenue.” Others see it differently.
“When we were kids in the 1940s and 50s, we always called it Lorain Street,” is the friendly retort from local historian and author Peggy Calvey Patton. “Avenue sounded bland but Lorain Street had an edginess to it. Like something was always going on there, which it was.” The author agrees with Peggy and distinctly remembers being warned by his grandmother to be careful on “busy Lorain Street.”
West Park, as most know, was an independent city before being annexed to Cleveland in 1923. From about 1893 to 1922 our main thoroughfare was officially listed as “Lorain Street” on many maps, atlases, and documents.
West Parkers clearly preferred “Lorain Street” as reflected in the names of local businesses such as the old Lorain Street House (a tavern which stood near the present YMCA) and the Lorain Street Lumber Company near West 143rd.
There was confusion over the name even in the early 1900s. West Park City Council often referred to Lorain as both Street and Avenue within the same document! When West Park became part of Cleveland in 1923, maps were changed to comply with Cleveland’s official street-naming system. Roads running east-west are called “avenues.”
Tradition, however, dies hard. For decades many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of early West Park residents continued to call it Lorain Street. Some still do! Like it or not, the legal name within the boundaries of Cleveland is “Lorain Avenue.”