As you like it: History Days events are self-guided, streaming, and live for a taste of CLE's past

As the midpoint of the year approaches, it’s certainly evident that 2020 will be marked in the history books as a year to remember.


While Cleveland residents live their own current history, Canalway Partners encourages people to embark on a journey back in time to look at the city’s history and understand the cultural significance that thrives in Cleveland.


The Third Annual Cleveland History Days will take place today, Thursday, June 25 through Saturday, July 4, although most of the events occur this weekend.


Canalway Partners and Cleveland History Days have partnered to create a mix of live events (socially distanced), virtual programs, and self-guided adventures.


Participants will dive deep into various aspects of Cleveland’s development into a major American city, learning about economic impacts as well as how diverse immigrant groups have shaped the culture of the city.


Canalway Partners executive director Mera Cardenas says there is a lot to gain by taking time to understand Cleveland’s past.


Hope Stones by artist Derek Hess“I have always loved the stories that you can find in history,” says Cardenas. “In times like right now where we are dealing with a lot, we are able to look back and find stories of people that can inspire us.”


This year’s History Days has been structured quite differently than in the previous two years because of COVID-19.


Typically, events are geared toward accommodating in-person, live large groups at as many as 30 events.


This year the organizations rallied together to come up with 12 distinct experiences—offering a mix of live events, digital screenings, and self-guided tours to celebrate. Additionally, organizers this year offer flexible timeframes to allow visitors to explore different events at different times.


History Days will kick off with a Facebook livestream opening ceremony today at 12:30 p.m., broadcasting from Cozad Bates House—the only remaining pre-Civil War structure in University Circle.


Originally a commercial brick-making business, the house is rumored to have had connections to the Underground Railroad, helping escaped slaves toward their freedom throughout the mid-1800s.


Because of the historical connection paired with the recent tension of racial injustices, Cardenas says she hopes that the livestream tour will prompt more open discussions around racial division.


“When we are living in the moment, we are viewing life through our own perspective, but looking at history as a whole and the events that transpired, we are seeing life through multiple perspectives,” says Cardenas, adding that she believes this outlook on history can help people further understand the context of both past and current issues surrounding equality in the United States.


The opening livestream will feature dialogue led by Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle, Inc. and board chair of Canalway Partners, and social policy and equity expert Ronnie Dunn, as they discuss the history of the Cozad Bates House and its long-lasting cultural impact on Cleveland.


On Friday, June 26, participants will be able to take off on a Tremont walking tour of what is known as the Epicenter of Immigration—running the perimeter of Lincoln Park where the infrastructure that was built by and for immigrants coming to the city in the mid-19th and 20th centuries is displayed.


The 90-minute tours start at the Lincoln Park Gazebo and will be available from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Along the tour, local artists will be creating chalk art that is inspired by Cleveland immigration stories.

Contributing artists include Jason Baumgartner, Brian Cleveland, Melissa Griggs, Dante Rodriguez, and Debra Sue Solecki.


“I think it illustrates the rich history of people who came to Cleveland, as it is very rare to get that all in such a compact area,” Cardenas says. “Hearing stories about many different ethnic groups and seeing incredible tapestries from artists—all in just 90 minutes of walking is amazing.”


Midwest Railway Preservation SocietyEncouraging Clevelanders to embrace the series, Cardenas says she thinks this is a great opportunity for them to learn more about their city.


“This offers a lot of opportunity to broaden thoughts and think about how special it is to do a tour of historic sights and discover local authors and artists, all in your own town,” she says. “The story of history is the story of the people, and we are constantly re-writing and telling it.”


Other events during History Days include “Stories About Short Vincent and Millionaire’s Row” tonight, Thursday, June 25 at Music Box Supper Club’s Author’s Night, featuring Alan Dutka, author of “Short Vincent: The Theatrical Grill and Its Notorious Neighbors and Cleveland’s Millionaires’ Row;” a live Zoom presentation, “History on Tap: PRIDE” by the Western Reserve Historical Society on Friday, June 26; and a live tour of the Midwest Railway Preservation Society, running from Saturday, June 27 through Saturday, July 4.


For a complete listing of Cleveland History Days events, click here.

Read more articles by Andrew George.

Andrew George is a rising junior at Baldwin Wallace University, majoring in sports management with a double minor in sociology and criminal justice. In his first two years of college, he has had the opportunity to be a part of many diverse experiences that include working at the Super Bowl, co-hosting a podcast, and engaging in a trip centered around civil rights in America. At FreshWater, Andrew enjoys being a part of a team that shares intriguing developments across Cleveland.