Blast from the past: Historic street signs go up in Forest Hill neighborhood

The Forest Hill neighborhood is a unique reminder of Cleveland’s booming industrial history of oil tycoons and the wealthy who lived along Euclid Avenue’s Millionaire’s Row at the turn of the 20th century.

The hundreds of acres spanning East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights once served as John D. Rockefeller’s summer estate and were partially developed by his son in the 1920s into upscale residential properties.

Today, some residents and organizations are attempting to go back in time in the East Cleveland portion of Forest Hill, taking it back to its original grandeur.

The East Cleveland Forest Hill Neighborhood Association is responsible for the installation of several historic replicas of the street signs along Mount Vernon Boulevard in the Forest Hill neighborhood.A group of residents who have formed the nonprofit East Cleveland Forest Hill Neighborhood Association are giving a nod to history and working to clean up and make their part of Forest Hill a city gem once again.

The group is responsible for the installation of several historic replicas of street signs along Mount Vernon Boulevard, with plans to eventually replace all the street signs in the East Cleveland portion of Forest Hill.

“Simply put, we wanted to turn around East Cleveland Forest Hill,” says Frank Ricchi, the group's president. “[We want to] bring it back to life, recapture some of the past glory and build on it.”

The idea for the historic signs started percolating in 2017 with the Forest Hill Historic Preservation Society, says Ricchi, and the East Cleveland Forest Hill Neighborhood Association partnered with Northcoast Signworks to produce and install prototypes at Mount Vernon and Cleviden Roads in 2018.

 

“We wanted to do something that would significantly enhance the neighborhood esthetic and be a steppingstone to further development,” he says.

The signs are historically accurate—replicating the original 1920s design with a similar font in white block lettering on a brown background, and a dove perched on top of the post.
 

“Our plan was and is to recapture the historic personality of Forest Hill,” Ricchi says. “We wanted to present it in a visually authentic way. The historic street sign project would impact every intersection.”

 

The group kept the idea brewing until 2019 when it launched an ioby campaign for the signs. The campaign successfully raised $1,962. Paired with donations from residents, the group raised about $3,500—enough to cover the first phase of the project, which installed signs at five locations along Mt. Vernon Road.

“The plan is to complete the entire East Cleveland Forest Hill neighborhood this year—about 25 intersections in total,” Ricchi says.

The next phase of the project includes investment in and development of Forest Hill Park; a tree planting program throughout the neighborhood and park; and repaving, street lighting and landscaping of Forest Hill Boulevard and Lee Boulevard.

On the ioby fundraising site, the organizers declare their love for their neighborhood and their dedication to returning the area to the Rockefeller haven it was in the 1920s.

“Through many ups and downs over the years, we retain our vibrant character, spectacular architecture, and historical significance, along with our energetic and dedicated residents who want to present and proclaim Forest Hill as a truly unique part of both Cleveland's history and its charming neighborhood destinations,” the group writes. “Our Historic Sign Project is more than an effort to embellish our neighborhood. It stands for the pride of the people who live here, and our neighbor-by-neighbor effort to promote East Cleveland Forest Hill as a unique welcoming place to visit, or call home.”

Read more articles by 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.
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