Cleveland Heights Cinder Path, Oakwood Drive earn historic recognition

Two historic Cleveland Heights sites were celebrated with official markers earlier this month—officially recognizing their historic status in the city­—the Oakwood Drive Historic District and the Bradford Cinder Path.

“Both illustrate the appreciation that Cleveland Heights residents have for their shared past,” says Marian Morton, a Cleveland Heights resident who worked on getting the recognitions, professor emeritus of history at John Carroll University, and author of five books on Cleveland Heights, including “Cleveland Heights: The Making of an Urban Suburb.”

Oakwood Drive Historic District

On Wednesday, Aug. 9, the Cleveland Heights Historical Society, officials with the Cleveland Heights Landmarks Commission, and residents dedicated the Historic Marker that establishes the Oakwood Drive Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the 16th Cleveland Heights Historic District to be placed on the National Register.

Oakwood Club 1920sOakwood Club 1920sOakwood Drive, one of the oldest residential streets in Cleveland Heights east of South Taylor, is a dead-end road that starts at Warrenville Center Road near the East Cleveland and South Euclid borders. The 15 homes on the drive were built in 1916 for members of the new Oakwood Country Club, the first Jewish country club in Greater Cleveland.

The homes were built between 1918 and 1959 and were designed by esteemed architecture firm Howell & Thomas, and Cleveland architects such as John Sherwood Kelly, Charles R. Greco, and Willard Hirsh, among other national architects.

The homes were all designed in Colonial Revival or French Revival styles to create a cohesive and bucolic residential neighborhood buffered by the Oakwood Club golf course.

The Oakwood Drive Historic District was added to the National Register in 2021, but the marker was erected and dedicated this week.

The Oakwood Club itself was incorporated in July 1905 by five successful Cleveland area businessmen and philanthropists, Edward M. Baker, Morris Black, Hascal Land, Leopold J. Wolf, and Maurice J. Mandelbaum.

Golf course designers Donald Ross and Tom Bendelow are both credited with designing the course, with the first nine holes opening in September 1906 and the full 18-hole course completed in 1915.

Ross also designed the course at the former Acacia Country Club (now the Cleveland Metroparks Acacia Reservation) in Lyndhurst.

The Oakland Club thrived for more than 100 years in its Cleveland Heights location on Warrensville Center Road. It merged with Excelsior Club, a social club, in 1931 to boost membership and within five years expanded the clubhouse, added squash courts, bowling alleys, and an outdoor pool.

Declining membership in the mid-1990s prompted club officials to consider a move, but by 2010 membership had declined to only 350 members. The Oakwood Club merged with Mayfield Sand Ridge Club in South Euclid and sold the Cleveland Heights property to a developer. The Hebrew Academy of Cleveland bought the Oakwood clubhouse in 2016

Bradford Cinder Path

On Friday, Aug. 11, the Bradford Road Cinder Path marker was dedicated at the end of the path at Canterbury Road, recognizing it as a Cleveland Heights Landmark.

Bradford Road runs from Lee Road to South Taylor Road, then is interrupted on the east side of South Taylor. The one-third mile long Cinder Path then begins and runs through the Royal Heights neighborhood—Queenston, Kingston, Princeton, and Canterbury Roads—and ends at Canterbury Road, just south of Canterbury Elementary School. Bradford Road then picks up again until it dead ends at Edgerton Road in University Heights.

The city bought properties from 1922 to 1925 where the cinder path exists today, originally to build a road that was scheduled to be paved and curbed in 1925.

However, residents objected to the road, and speculation is that the land had already become a pedestrian route. By 1933, when the Canterbury School was built, the pedestrian path had already been dubbed the “cinder path.”

The Bradford Cinder Path extends across four blocks from South Taylor Road to Canterbury RoadThe Bradford Cinder Path extends across four blocks from South Taylor Road to Canterbury RoadEfforts to pave the stretch and make it a road came up again in 1936 but were again thwarted by residents, even though governmental Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds were available.

The pedestrian Cinder Path eventually was paved, possibly with WPA money, in 1938. There are 14 stone columns that mark the entrances to the path at Queenston, Kingston, Princeton, and Canterbury.

“The Cinder Path, a very unusual Cleveland Heights Landmark in that it is not an actual structure of architectural merit or history, but it represents a public space always totally open to everyone—used more by children, perhaps, than any others,” says Ken Goldberg, president of the Cleveland Heights Historical Society. “With recent upgrading and beautification, the Path is now receiving the recognition it has always deserved—an actual pedestrian shortcut created to aid the locals in being able to cut across extremely long blocks. It certainly adds something regionally distinctive to the Royalty Streets neighborhood and Cleveland Heights in general.”

Today, the Bradford Road Cinder Path remains an active route for area children traveling to and from school, residents using a scenic shortcut to get to Lee Road, or for walking dogs. A community garden graces a portion of the path, and volunteers have painstakingly landscaped, cleaned, and provided upkeep for this not-so-secret historic path.

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Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.