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The Cleveland Flats - a photo essay

Updated on August 29, 2014

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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