Shaker Boulevard: Cleveland, Shaker Heights, and Beachwood, Ohio
Early 20th century mansions, transit service to downtown Cleveland that dates back more than 100 years, acres of parkland, and a tree-lined median make Shaker Boulevard a street that combines the historic with the modern. Anchoring the boulevard toward the west is Shaker Square, a charming, octagonal-shaped commercial district within the Cleveland city limits. Intersecting Shaker Boulevard at North Moreland Boulevard, it was developed in 1927 by real estate and railroad magnates O.P. and M.J. Van Sweringen as a gateway to their new Shaker Heights suburb.
Six and three-quarter miles between Woodhill Road in Cleveland and I-271 in Beachwood.
The new boulevard extended four miles through Shaker Heights, which the Van Sweringens and the F.A. Pease Engineering Company planned and designed according to city beautiful principles. Homes throughout the community followed the 1925 Shaker Village Standards, which specified allowable building materials, construction details, and three architectural styles: English, French, and Colonial.
To attract wealthy Clevelanders, the Van Sweringens acquired the right-of-way from the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad in order to provide efficient rail service to downtown Cleveland. They replaced the existing Cleveland Interurban trolley line in 1920 with their faster Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, which they ran along the unobstructed median.
Now used by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's light rail trains, the median was kept intact largely because of resident opposition to high-rise buildings and other proposed development in the right-of-way. With its 14 transit stops, numerous churches and schools, multiple parks, and miles of trails, Shaker Boulevard remains proof of planning's lasting value.
Defining Characteristics, Features
- Brothers Oris Paxton and Mantis James Van Sweringen purchase 1,366 acres in 1905 previously owned by North Union Shakers; turns into Ohio's first and one of nation's earliest garden cities
- Harry Gallimore, chief engineer of F. A. Pease Engineering Company, designed Shaker Boulevard as well as the adjacent roads and neighborhoods
- Religious, educational, and recreational institutions interested in the area were given free land as enticement, resulting in numerous churches and schools along the boulevard
- Major north-south thoroughfares intersecting Shaker Boulevard spaced one-half mile apart in Shaker Heights to minimize traffic congestion
- Light rail extends four miles with 12 stops along Shaker Boulevard between Shaker Square and Green Road; since 1975, Greater Cleveland Rapid Transit Authority has renovated line twice
- Shaker Square, octagonal-shaped shopping and office plaza, first developed 1927, renovated beginning 2000; now regional destination for fine dining, specialty shopping, farmers market
- Former St. Luke's hospital and medical offices, developed 1927 near East 116th Street and closed 1999; now senior citizen apartments and educational campus with new public school, library
Resident Advocacy, Planning Milestones
- Cuyahoga County proposes the Clark-Lee Freeway (1963), cutting through Shaker Boulevard at Lee Road and continuing north parallel to boulevard's entire length
- The Nature Center, an educational association located at Shaker Lake, formed 1966 by local women who successfully opposed and defeated the Clark-Lee freeway proposal; destruction of Shaker Boulevard homes and natural beauty cited as chief concerns of freeway's construction
- High-rise apartment building proposed over the Belvoir Road light rail stop (1973); residents successfully defeat proposal, argue apartments not appropriate or possible to build
- Shaker Heights City Planning Commission proposes a low-density townhouse development within the median from Warrensville Center Road to Belvoir Road (1978)
- After five years, residents defeat townhouse proposal (1983), showing development would negatively impact Shaker Boulevard and lead to subsequent median development
- The Shaker Village Historic District, which includes four miles of Shaker Boulevard, added to the National Register of Historic Places (1984)
- Today all construction along Shaker Boulevard reviewed by the Shaker Heights Architectural Board of Review or Landmarks Commission
- Recreation & Leisure Framework Plan (2005) results in a 1.5-mile, handicap accessible, paved trail with benches, mileage markers between Warrensville Center Road and Sulgrave Road
- Shaker Heights began five-year effort in 2007 to replace 1,804 ash trees vulnerable to deadly Emerald ash borer infestation
- Shaker Lakes Park located between North and South Park Boulevards; contains trails nearly a mile long that weave through land once used by the North Union Shakers as a sawmill
- Ninety-acre Beachwood City Park extends along a mile of the Shaker Boulevard median; park is a favorite of residents who walk, bike, enjoy the wildlife
- The 100-member Shaker Cycling group meets four times a week at Courtland Boulevard for a ride along Shaker Boulevard to the Chagrin River Valley
- The median east of Warrensville Center Road is location of Shaker Heights July 4th fireworks, drawing families year after year to their front lawns for evening celebration