History of the West Park
Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Go to History Page Go to Main Page
Meet the REAL Founder of West Park!
By Gary Swilik
Many know the story of old West Park. Early settler Benjamin West bought a 600 acre farm in Rockport Township, reserving 25 acres as his "front yard." He added an artificial lake, complete with row boats, forming a park-like wooded preserve at present Lorain Avenue and West 138th Street. "West Park," as it came to be called, provided the name for the short-lived city that grew up in the area. West Park was annexed by the City of Cleveland in 1923.
All accurate except for one important detail. A careful check of historical records reveals West Park's actual namesake was not Benjamin but John M. West! The many sources that list Benjamin as founder of West Park are wrong!
John M. West was born in 1811 in county Leitrim, Ireland. He emigrated to America with his parents in 1826 where the outdoor life held more appeal for him. The land he bought and farmed ran along the south side of Lorain Avenue, roughly from present West 137th to West 143rd Street. The red brick home he built in 1842 still stands in that area today. John M. West, and his wife, Frances, had eight children in that house, raising six of them to adulthood.
John passed away on his farm in 1890. "Fannie" followed him in 1902. Ironically the man who put the "West" in West park is not buried in the community he founded. He's not even buried on the west side! His weathered but still legible gravestone stands in East Cleveland Cemetery.
How did Mr. West end up so far east? John's parents were early settlers in Euclid Township and had purchased lots in the then prestigious East Cleveland Cemetery. Apparently he simply chose to be buried in the available space beside his parents.
So who the heck is Benjamin West? Census records, biographies, obituaries and burial records fail to place such a person in our area's past . Apparently a newspaper writer in 1958 made an error and it's been repeated ever since. So step aside Benjamin, it's time for old John M. West to get some credit.
The above appears with the permission of Gary Swilik of West Park.
Also read The
Problematical &, Probably, Non-existent Benjamin West
Email The West Park History website
Updated 7 August 2013