By Anne Trubek
My favorite corner in Cleveland is the intersection of Literary and Professor streets. I like it because, well, I am a literary professor. And because the street names trace an otherwise lost history.
There is no college here — no literature being professed. But there was once, briefly. Cleveland University was founded here in 1851 by Asa Mahan. Mahan had been president of Oberlin College, but he got into a fight with the faculty, packed up his toys and left. He went to Tremont, 30ish miles away, a neighborhood in the (then independent) city of Ohio City. There, Mahan hired new faculty and created a new college that would rival Oberlin. It was an impulsive, grand experiment.
But Mahan fought with his new faculty, too. And Cleveland University folded two years later, having only graduated eleven students.
Now, I understand fights with faculty, and crazy new ventures: the pile of associations I have with this corner are many. And the corner has remained interesting, both in and of itself and to me personally, since the antebellum period.
Tremont was once part of Ohio City — a civic entity with its own flag and everything — until Ohio City and Cleveland briefly went to war. Cleveland won; Tremont was colonized. In the 20th century Tremont was an enclave for Ukranian immigrants, a bedroom community for steel workers at the nearby mills and then, after the mills started closing and population declined, an early site of “gentrification” as “urban pioneers” moved in. Cleveland’s most celebrated celebrity chef, Michael Symon, opened his first restaurant, Lola, on this corner in 1997 when, according to Wikipedia, “hipsters” starting move to the neighborhood that today is inevitably tagged “trendy.” (Forgive the excessive use of quotations; the recent history of the corner of Literary and Professor is full of trigger phrases.)
So this intersection: it makes me laugh, want to read up on local history and people-watch all at once.
Honing in on just one corner of a place — or one block, or one bend in the river — is a wonderful way to see the general in the specific, and to remember the particularities of place. We would love to hear your thoughts about your favorite corner (or block or bend). So we are launching a new feature, “Readers’ Corner.” Send us a snapshot and up to 250 words about one specific place in the Rust Belt that is meaningful — or funny, or curious — to you. Email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will publish our favorites (giving extra attention to entries that come from our members, whose support enables us to publish new features like this), and send the winners a t-shirt. And as we do so we will create a new map of the Rust Belt, one full of history and memory and the peculiarities of the place we call home.
Anne Trubek is the Founder & Publisher of Belt