Faces of Fairfax, a place with rich history and a hopeful future

Fairfax has a deep history of resiliency, optimism, and love. Home to Cleveland icons such as Langston Hughes, Ruby Dee, and Stanley Tolliver Sr., the neighborhood was—and continues to be—a center for black excellence.
“My dad loved Fairfax and was adamant about supporting businesses in the community. He would be very happy about the black-owned businesses opening in Fairfax, especially Angie’s Soul [Cafe],” says Sherrie Tolliver, Stanley Tolliver Sr.’s daughter.
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., left, with Stanley Tolliver Sr.Stanley Tolliver Sr. was a civil rights activist, attorney, Cleveland school board president, and radio talk show host who lived and worked in Fairfax. His law office was on East 87th Street. His love for people is evident and embodied in his life’s work, from fighting alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to successfully advocating for nurseries in Cleveland high schools for teenage moms.

Sherrie Tolliver recounted how her dad would host work meetings at the Carnegie Hotel in Fairfax, while other lawyers held their lunch meetings in popular downtown restaurants. “He would always say, ‘I’m going to my community to support my businesses’,” says Sherrie Tolliver.

Stanley Tolliver Sr., who died in 2011 at 85, will be inducted posthumously into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame on Thursday, Oct. 10. His legacy lives on through his family and those with a passion for building up Fairfax. One of the latter is Chase Holmes.

Living in a community where you can work, play, and live is a dream desired by most. Holmes fulfilled that dream when he purchased a house in Fairfax, where he works as a program manager at the Cleveland Clinic’s Langston Hughes Center. “I enjoy the convenience of working and living in the same neighborhood,” Holmes says.

As new commercial and residential developments emerge, Holmes is optimistic about his neighborhood. “There is a different vibe in various parts of Fairfax, from faith-based institutions to the Cleveland Clinic,” he says. “I expect to see more young professionals moving in as it provides the opportunity for home ownership close to work. The addition of new retail around East 105th adds a mix [of] new of conveniences and dining options in the area.”

Bessie HarrisBessie Harris, who has lived in Fairfax for more than 50 years and raised three daughters in the neighborhood, also sees a bright future. She is proud to call Fairfax home and has experienced firsthand the impact of Cleveland Clinic’s investment in the community. “Fairfax is doing pretty good. They’re trying to do as much as they can, and the help from Cleveland Clinic goes a long way,” she says.

One of her fondest memories is the help she received with her yard from Cleveland Clinic last summer.  

With the addition of Innovation Square, a 500-unit mixed-income housing structure, she too believes it will bring in families, which excites her since most of her neighbors have passed on. “I like the families moving in, and I always help where I can. Young parents need guidance,” Harris says.

A community is only as good as the people who call it home. While Fairfax is rich in historical and sacred landmarks, its greatest assets are the people who reside there.

This article is part of our On the Ground - Fairfax community reporting project in partnership with Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation, Cleveland Clinic, PNC Bank, Greater Cleveland Partnership, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, and Cleveland Development Advisors. Read the rest of our coverage here.