The Cleveland Flats - a photo essay

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The Cleveland Flats is an industrial, entertainment, and residential area of Cleveland, OH named for the low-lying topography along the Cuyahoga River.

This area of Cleveland has always fascinated me. The contraptions, bridges, viaducts and train tracks have their own beauty in their geometrical shapes and forms as they rise up into the sky. Most people look at this area and go ugh! but I love the streets, buildings and shapes I see and the different textures in these photos. I see a beautiful conglomeration of steel, wood, brick, mortar, and concrete. There is an arch here, a triangle there, a swerved curve over there. It is never boring to look at.

Originally this area of Cleveland was full of the steel industry and manufacturing. Boats and ships would navigate the Cuyahoga River to pick up the steel made here for delivery and distribution across the United States. The 1970s saw the decline and death of the steel industry here in Cleveland and this area fell into disrepair and abandonment.

In the decade of the 80's this part of Cleveland had a renaissance. The flats had a resurgence as an entertainment center and destination. Yes, this became my stomping ground. There were underground music venues, multiiple bars, restaurants and outdoor music venues. There was a boardwalk along the Cuyahoga River and the Nautical Queen was a river dinner boat. The warehouses and other buildings in the flats were renovated and turned into condominiums and apartments. This area peaked in the 1990s and had the highest concentration of bars in the midwest. Of course, I don't know if that is something to be proud of or not.

By the time the new millennium came, many of the bars and restaurants were closed because of fire and health code violations. There were three drownings in the Cuyahoga River in one month, and suddenly people stopped coming here.

Developer Scott Wolstein, in 2005, purchased many of the buildings with a plan to level most of the buildings and create a new neighborhood. He has plans to put in live/work spaces, shopping, grocery store, a movie theatre and a riverwalk. His plans are dragging on as there are a few property owners refusing to settle with him and sell their properties.

This area will always fascinate me and even though most of it us under construction, I can still see the beauty shining through in the strange shapes of the contraptions here that I know not what they do.


Copyright all text and photos (c) 2013 Suzannah Wolf Walker all rights reserved


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Comments 22 comments

Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 3 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for this tour. Does it feel like the industrial side of other big cities to you?


Vellur profile image

Vellur 3 years ago from Dubai

Very interesting read. Great photos and information. Voted up.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 3 years ago from South Africa

Man-made structures surely have a beauty of their own. Thanks for sharing this - the structures remind me of our own industrial areas.


Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Much of your photography skills, Suzette, could very well be pictures of downtown St. Louis, where I used to commute to work everyday. For a while, downtown STL was a ghost town, though the building where I worked is the same one constructed for the still vital commercial electrical business from nearly 90 years ago. Though the streets are heavy now with homeless traffic, downtown has a historic charm all it's own. I felt so vital working there. St. Louis had and still harbors high hopes with pricey artist's lofts fashioned from the beautiful, old industrial buildings. With the abysmal unemployment, however, there are few able to afford the rent and downtown STL sees a lot of crime, making tourism scare, too.

Great hub with magnificent photography. I love your artistic eye for the structural intricacies of the old bridges and buildings. I believe you would be a wonderful painter on canvas, too, Suzette.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Mhatter: Glad you enjoyed the 'tour.' The only other city I know about is the cannery section of Monterrey, CA. I love that area of Monterrey and have been there several times. I don't make it a habit of hanging out in industrial sections of cities. I just love Cleveland and am planning several photo essays of different parts of the city. The Flats are one of my favorites and I love the steel structures and photographing them. Thanks so much for the visit and your comments.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Vellur: Thank you so much for the visit and for your comments. Much appreciated. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Martie: Thank you so much for viewing my photos and for your comments. I'm sure the Flats do remind you of other cities. I guess these areas are similar in every city. Thanks and your comments are most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Amy: I'm so glad to have your artistic eye look at these photos and I value your opinion so much. I have never tried painting, but I did take a sketching class one time at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The instructor felt I had some talent and eye for it - she said I saw the world in geometric figures. I had to chuckle as geometry was not an easy math class for me. But, when she pointed it out, I saw what she meant. And it's true - who knew? I love the Flats area of Cleveland and these industrialized areas in all cities, especially in the north, are becoming wastelands because manufacturing and industry is no longer strong in this country. It is sad when these areas and the ones you talk about in St. Louis fall into disrepair, abandonment and neglect. The Flats used to be a thriving part of Cleveland. I hope the new developer is able to complete his plans and revives this area. I just find the steel structures so fascinating. Thanks so much for viewing my photos and for your input. It is most appreciated, Amy.


sleepylog profile image

sleepylog 3 years ago from Australia

Oh my God! Did they steal the Sydney Harbour bridge?? In the third and fifth photo I see what looks like Sydney's Harbour bridge, lol.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

sleepylog: Oh no! We didn't steal it. Knowing Cleveland we probably copied it! lol That is so funny. I have never been to Sydney so I haven't seen the bridge. I hope we gave you guys credit for it thought. lol Thanks so much for your visit. Now I know what the Sydney Harbour bridge looks like.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

sleepylog: I think that bridge is the Detroit Bridge if I remember the name correctly. Anyway it is the bridge I take to go to the West Sided Market which is an experience all its own. I hope to do a photo essay on the market soon. At least if we are going to copy a bridge we picked a great city and country to copy it from lol.


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal

You write about the place that does not exist in my Asian psyche. This virtual tour was a wonderful experience.

PS: Thanks for reading and commenting my article on Photoshop and Gimp


sleepylog profile image

sleepylog 3 years ago from Australia

You should do an essay about the bridge too, it would be interesting to find out its history and why it and the Sydney Harbour bridge look so much alike... maybe they're sister cities or something like that.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Vinaya: I'm glad you got to see a little of America that does not exist in Asia. Your hubs on Nepal and Asia affect me the same way. It is fun to share our countries with one another here on HP. It opens up dialogue and understand of each others countries. The photoshop article was so interesting. You really looked into both programs and gave some great examples. I haven't bought Photoshop because it is so expensive. I really should learn how to use Gimp much better. I've tried some things on it, but I really should become more proficient and towards mastering it. Thanks so much for your visit. I always enjoy your hubs so much.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

sleepylog: Yes, thank you for your great suggestion. I probably should do a hub about the bridge since I don't know that much about it. It is interesting that it looks so similar to the Sydney Harbor bridge in your own country. Thanks so much for your input - I appreciate it!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Great pictures and information, Suzette. I love the history of industrialized areas like this one, and I love watching the renovations being made as it is transformed into a useful piece of property once again. This is photo journalism at its finest!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Bill: I'm so glad you enjoyed my photos. They were fun to take. I love this area of town - I'm so glad you appreciate it too. Thanks for your visit and your comments. They are always appreciated.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 3 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up and awesome. Thanks for the tour. Fantastic pics.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thanks so much Gypsy. Again, it is hard to take a bad photo here. Everything is so interesting and placed so interestingly. I'm glad you enjoyed viewing these!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thanks so much Gypsy. Again, it is hard to take a bad photo here. Everything is so interesting and placed so interestingly. I'm glad you enjoyed viewing these!


ladyguitarpicker profile image

ladyguitarpicker 2 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

Nice hub and enjoyed the tour. It is sick what happened to so many cities because of high unemployment.When we had the steel industry all the cities were doing great.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

ladyguitarpicker: Thank you so much and I am glad you enjoyed this. Yes, this area of Cleveland is making a come-back which I am so happy about. I am glad it is being refurbished rather than torn down. We need to keep these areas of cities a vibrant reminder of what is good in our cities. It is a shame the steel industry vanished from cities like Cleveland and Pittsburgh as it was a great industry to have. Thanks so much for your comments. Most appreciated.

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