History of the Lorain Station Historic District
The history of the Lorain Station Historic District begins in the 1890's when horse-drawn trolleys and then electric street cars were the dominant form of urban mass transit. Narrow corridors radiating from Downtown Cleveland were established along many major roads throughout the city, with commercial and industrial development occurring along these routes.
At the intersection of Lorain Avenue and West 98th Street on Cleveland's West Side, entrepreneurs built the Woodland Avenue & West Side Railway Streetcar Station. The Woodland Avenue & West Side Railway Company was the first in Cleveland to provide a cross-town service between the East and West Sides.
Between 1889 and 1920, the area adjacent to the station was the site of burgeoning commercial development. Restaurants, shops, tenements, and rooming houses all arose to serve motormen and conductors, mechanics, clerks, and other personnel of the company as well as those patrons of the railway. Because of the close proximity of shops and other amenities as well as accessibility to transit lines traveling to all parts of Northeast Ohio, adjacent areas both north and south of the Lorain Avenue corridor saw rapid residential development. Also, local business, including area markets and dairies, received supply deliveries with relative ease from railway lines stopping at the station.
Later, the Lorain Station area became a major stop for Northeast Ohio's most prominent railways, the interurbans. The Cleveland & Southwestern Railway, which entered Cleveland from Berea, also connected to lines from Columbus and Mansfield.
The service ended approximately two decades later when the West and East Side lines were fragmented. Unfortunately, the service ceased in 1952, and Woodland Avenue & West Side Railway facility was razed seven years later.
The Cleveland City Directory indicates the nature of business that had been conducted following World War II. Record illustrates that nine butchers, five grocery stores and pharmacies, six produce stands, thirteen restaurants, three bars, four bakeries, three banks, four clothing stores, six shoe stores, five barbers, three dry goods stores, six confectioners, six beauty salons, and numerous other businesses were located in the District at that time.
In the 1970's and 1980's, the viability of the district was threatened. With the construction of Interstate 90 came the destruction of buildings and clearing of parcels for the highway's right-of-way. Also, fire destroyed several of the structures in the District, resulting in significant damage, and in some cases, causing some to be lost in their entirety. During this time, the greatest number of vacancies was reported, with nearly two dozen storefronts recorded as being empty.
More recently, a heightened attention has been afforded to the revitalization of the Lorain Station Historic District. More than $5 million of public and private funds have been invested to upgrade properties. In 1994, the Lorain Station Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The City of Cleveland also recognized the historic character of the District in 1998, declaring it as a local landmark.
Additionally, the district was selected to be a participant in the Re-$tore Cleveland program in2003,which is a comprehensive retail/commercial revitalization program incorporating the philosophy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street Program with local market realities.
At least seventeen historic structures in the district have been restored to their historic state through the City of Cleveland and Cudell Improvement, Inc.'s Storefront Renovation, which provides financial assistance to commercial property owners comprehensively rehabilitating the exteriors of their buildings.
To read more about the revitalization of the Lorain Station Historic District, please click here.