History of the West Park
Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
The "West" in the name West Park does not refer to the fact that the West Park neighborhood lies on the western edge of the city of Cleveland. "West" refers to an individual and "Park" refers to an actual park area that once existed.
The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History reports that "...West Park was named for Benjamin West, an early settler." An article that appeared in the Plain Dealer in 1958 also stated that West Park was named for Benjamin West. This has been the accepted origin for several decades and repeatedly reported in various publications. However, there is a problem with this. There seems to have been no Benjamin West in the West Park area.. Not only that, it does not correspond with a long existing explanation of the origin. John M. West (the property was labeled "J. W. West" on the 1874 map indicating that his son then owned it) owned several plots of land in the area around the present intersection of Lorain Avenue and West 140th Street. (See an 1874 map that shows the J. M. West home, a small orange square about "J. W. West" near the upper right corner. Detail above. See also an 1889 map.) A large section on the southeast corner of that section was where Mr. West had a red brick home that still stands although now surrounded by houses, that was some distance from Lorain Street. He installed a lake and picnic facilities that were used by neighborhood residents. The residents began calling it "West's Park" which was eventually altered to "West Park." That name was soon being applied the entire area. The Lakewood Story by Margaret Manor Butler with a foreword by John Lewis Shissler, published in New York by Stratford House, contains a similar account of John West and the name West Park.
Land records have been checked by Gary Swilik with no Benjamin West being located. Census records for the area do not record a Benjamin West. John M. West appears to have been the most prominent person carrying the West name. This supports the story that "West Park" most likely originated from the name "West's Park" that was built and owned by John M. West.
The only conclusion possible without some concrete evidence indicating otherwise is that there was no BENJAMIN WEST. There was a JOHN M. WEST.
Ultimately, the neighborhood was not directly named for an individual but for the park that he had created on his property.
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Updated 7 August 2013