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Lee Seville: Part 2

 This was my second and final run of the Lee Seville neighborhood.

Map: Run 1, Run 2, Run 3

Distance This Section: 14.0 miles

Distance So Far: 748.6 miles

The Myrtle-Highview Historic District is the first historic district in Ward 1 to be named to the National Register of Historic Places. The district's solid group of mid-century modern brick homes are tucked away off Lee Road, lining Myrtle Avenue and Highview Road. These homes were built by Mr. Arthur Bussey, an African American bricklayer and building contractor who moved to Cleveland from Georgia after WWI. Bussey and his wife, Emma, rented in various parts of near east side and purchased their first home on E. 88th Street in Glenville. During this time, Arthur was a housing construction labor by day and took architectural drafting classes as night. He served as general contractor in the rebuilding of Emmanuel Baptist Church after a fire destroyed it in 1939. Overcrowding in Cedar Central led many Black residents looking for home purchase in other parts of the city and Bussey took advantage of this opportunity by constructing homes in Lee Seville. In July 1947, he purchased a substantial parcel of land in the neighborhood. He even personally financed the construction of sewers for Myrtle Ave & Highview Drive where he built several dozen of his nearly 40 homes. Bussey Construction advertised their homes solely in the Call and Post, an African-American newspaper.

Several of Bussey's homes on Highview Ave.

Arthur & Emma Bussey built their home on Myrtle Ave in 1949 (above). It's emblazoned with a "B" which you can't see in the photo. Emma was president of the Lee-McCracken Community Club and they sponsored gala events at their house for several years. Arthur Bussey died in February 1972 at the age of 78. The local bricklayers union which he belonged to ran an obituary commemorating his membership. Emma remained in the home until 1977 and moved to Kollin Ave (one street to the south, see next photo).

This memorial is located on Kollin Ave near the intersection of Lee Road. My best guess is that Rosario Ayala Lopez was the mother of a woman who bought a house on this street in April 2018. Sadly, Rosario died in December 2019 but I couldn't determine if this was the exact place of her death (hence the marker). However, the house her daughter bought was built in 2005...but the house that existed that parcel before it was occupied by none other than Emma Bussey (above) who moved there after selling her and Arthur's house in 1977. Quite the coincidence when researching information about Rosario.

These townhomes on Sunny Glen Ave were built in the late 1990s and sold for approximately nearly four times the city and twice the county median home price. Nearly 25 years later, the street still thrives and the property values have held.

The Lee Heights Peace Garden (4612 Lee Road) was established in 2010 and lasted about 10 years before winding down. All that's left is the sign.

Lee Seville is full of churches. Maranatha Christian Fellowship (4930 Lee Road) might be the most...intense.

This section of Lee Seville borders Garfield Heights which was settled in 1786 and is named after Garfield Park (now a Cleveland Metroparks Reservation) which is named after former President James Garfield. The current population is 29,700. Fun fact: Garfield Heights is the hometown of James Jude Courtney who played Michael Myers in the last three installations of the Halloween movie franchise.

Cameron Gardens Apartments is a 44 unit garden-style 2 story walk-up apartment complex located on Lee Road. It was built in 1963.

The Lee Manon Townhomes are located immediately north of Cameron Garden Apartments but were built in 1939 making them some of the oldest housing units of their kind in Lee Seville.

St. Paul United Methodist Church was founded in 1921. The current church building (above) was built in the early 1970s which replaced a wood frame building that was designed by Newton A. Harris & Associates, a Youngstown and Chicago-based, black-owned architectural firm. St. Paul also housed other churches in the neighborhood until they outgrew their space and found their own.

Canaan Missionary Baptist Church was founded in 1922. This church on the corner of Ohio Ave and E. 147th was built in 1925 (although it was wood-framed initially) making it the first church in the neighborhood. In 1980, it moved into the former Clara Tagg Brewer Elementary School building on East 162nd Street (below).

And this is the Canaan Missionary Church today. As mentioned above, it occupies a former elementary school which was built in 1955 and closed in 1979. Here's a 1969 photo of children heading home in joy from a day of class.

Ramah Jr. Academy began in 1925 with classes being held inside the Cedar Ave. SDA Church on E.71st Street. In 1951, the church and the school moved to 737 E. 105th Street in Glenville. It moved to this location on Lee Road in 1957. It is affiliated with the Seventh-Day Adventist church which is across the street. Interestingly, the school is one of the 4,380 schools, colleges and universities operated by the Seventh-day Adventist organization, which has the largest world-wide Protestant school system.

This house at 4666 E. 162nd Street is the former home of Leslie Ephraim, a schoolteacher from Camden, Alabama turned Cleveland homebuilder. Ephraim joined three other black Southern migrants including bricklayers Tillman Carr and James Dillard in founding the Carr & Dillard Construction Co. (later Lee Road Builders) in April 1952. This was the first house that the partners built (in 1949) together, before formally incorporating. The company went on to successfully build approximately 80 homes for African American families, and changed its name to Southeast Builders, Inc. before it ran into financial trouble, ceasing operations in May 1955.

And this home at 16202 Bryce Ave is the first house built for sale to the public by the Carr & Dillard Construction Co., soon after its formation in April 1952.

Founded in 1957, Lee Heights Community Church was established as an interracial, interdenominational church through the Mennonite General Mission Board and Charities. It was one of the original 13 Black Mennonite congregations, and is perhaps one of the very few Mennonite churches in the U.S. that has had a racial consciousness to it since its very beginning. 

Some Halloween holdover humor on Bryce Ave.

Bryce Ave also has a robust street canopy which is far superior to many other streets in Lee-Seville.

The Cleveland Industrial Park on Johnson Parkway houses at least 14 semi-industrial companies on 114 acres of land. However, it was originally the site of the Seville Homes. Built 1944 as "temporary war housing" by the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Agency for African American foundry workers migrating from the South despite opposition by white residents in the surrounding area. It was converted to veterans' housing after the war (with around 10 percent white occupancy). It comprised around 2,000 residents in more than 100 low-rise buildings. The structures remained until 1958. Here are photos of what the development used to look like. In 1968, then-mayor Carl Stokes proposed a scatter-site public housing development project for this location. Residents - many of them Black - protested vehemently and killed the project, resulting in Stokes famously declaring the area full of "black bigots". Ouch.

Land use (zoning) has been major historical issue in Lee Seville. As African-Americans began building more of their own housing in the neighborhood during the mid-20th Century, white residents started to panic. In 1951, those same white residents changed their position on industrial zoning in the neighborhood and permitted the construction of this factory on the corner of Lee & Seville Roads. The underlying motive was to "cordon off" the historic Lee-Seville black enclave, with the side effect that FHA guarantees would be denied on the new homes some African American families were building on the surrounding streets. Despite a citywide NAACP campaign that collected 20,000 signatures opposing the plan, the City issued the company a building permit and Mayor Charles Burke declined to veto the zoning change. Adding insult to injury, the company backed out of a promise to hire Black workers. Today it's largely a storage facility with a mix of random, small business uses.

Original brick-paved surface of E. 158th Street, built near the turn of the 20th century and one of the oldest streets in Lee Seville.

This house on Alonzo Ave has seen better days since it was first built in 1924. 

The Miles Island Community Garden was built in 2010 but only lasted about 5 years until it faded away. I assume the name "Island" is due to the fact that the area is located in secluded part of Lee Seville where only a handful streets exist tucked away between the industrial park and the train tracks.

Railroad right of way planters, a first in my running journey.

Lee-Seville was once a part of Warrensville Township. In 1920, Black businessman Herbert S. Chauncey purchased 100 lots near what is now the intersection of Lee and Seville roads. The settlement was called Bella Villa (referred to as the Village by locals). This is Lawndale Ave in Bella Villa today. Until the 1950s, it was not paved, had no sanitation and limited mail delivery yet few homes needed repair and most were owned. Here's what the street looked in 1932.

This is Florida Ave in the Village, which now features a dozen or so "new" homes that were built between the mid-90s and early 2000s.

There are many churches in the Village. This is New Home Missionary Baptist Church on Sunview Ave. It was built in 1955. Their motto is pretty straightforward: "We are an old school bible believing Baptist Church".

The Original Church Of God on Lincoln Ave (formerly Cleveland Street) was built in 1930. The congregation was formed in 1946.

But for the sign out front, Pilgrim Community Church of God could almost be mistaken as a residential home on Ohio Ave. The structure was built in 1962 and still maintains a small congregation (with its own YouTube channel).

Ebenezer Assembly started as New Zion Church near E. 40th in Cleveland (est. 1921). They built a second church on Florida Ave (above) in 1961 but a tornado completely destroyed it in 1966. One year later, this new church was built. The congregation also switched its named to Ebenezer and it still going very strong today.

This church on Naples Ave was built in 1940 and is reminiscent of the "praise house" style of small churches in the south, especially Georgia and Alabama where many African American migrants came to Cleveland after 1915.The building is now home to an independent chapter of the Church of God & Saints which describes itself as "the oldest African-American congregation in the United States that adheres to the tenets of Judaism."

Back in the day when the Seville Homes development was still in tack, the Village had its own shops and hangouts. This is one of the last standing buildings from that era. It was the home of Oliver Elie's Deli, a longtime family-owned business. Elie was also an accomplished hunter and fisherman, founding a "Sportsmen's Club" that met next door.

This one is a real tragedy. This home is the former home Arthur R. Johnson, mayor of Miles Heights (the name of the area before Cleveland annexed it in 1932). Johnson was one of the first African American mayors in Ohio and the first in Cuyahoga County. He was born in Jamaica in 1892 and moved to Cleveland in 1913. A park (below) and the Johnson Parkway is named after him. This home is also a designated landmark by the City of Cleveland but it has sat vacant for years and is in terrible condition. In doing the research for this post, I learned that the home recently when to state auction...but was not sold. This means its possible for the Cuyahoga County Land Bank to take possession. Typically they look for an end user who can rehabilitate it. So, I reached out to the Cleveland Restoration Society who said they were aware the home had been vacant but did not know it recently went to auction. They also stated they didn't have the funds to rehabilitate it but would do some outreach. If the county land bank, a developer or an organization are not willing to take on the rehab, another one of Cleveland's landmarks will soon end up in a landfill.

Arthur R. Johnston Park sits at the end of E. 147th, two parcels away from Johnston's decaying home. It was established in 1967 and features a playground, swing sets and seating areas.

Olive D. Bailey "Lady D" . She was a member of the Eastern Star Chapter Alpha 809, Black PAC, State Representative for American March Association, Ward 1 Democratic Club, Executive Committee for Cuyahoga County Democratic Party and was founder of "Lady D" Drill Team. She passed away on September 13, 2020 and a portion of Florida Ave was honorarily named after her in 2022.

4496 Corner Store is located near the intersection of E. 143rd & Christine Ave. It's really the only store like it for a large portion of Lee Seville.

Probably the house with the most charm on my third run. It's located near the intersection of Maplerow Ave & E. 141st.

This home on E. 141st was built in 1924 and is one of more historic looking homes in all of Lee Seville. There's actually also a wood-framed gem right next door built in 1916.

Not every day you see one like this just sitting in a side lot.

A little bit of war and peace on E. 139th Street.


Note: Shout out to Dr. Todd Michney and the Cleveland Restoration Society for much of the information about Lee Harvard & Lee Seville. If interested, you can dive deeper by reading: The Making Of Cleveland's Black Suburb in the City: Lee-Seville & Lee-Harvard.