In many neighborhoods, fences separate residents. In Tremont, a fence is bringing them closer together— all in the name of neighborhood history.
Unveiled in July, the outdoor Art + History Museum showcases more than 40 historic images of Tremont, from old postcards to digitized paintings. The only museum of its kind in Cleveland, the permanent display is situated along a 60-foot fence at the southeast corner of College and Professor avenues.
According to lead museum volunteer Chris Roy, the collection was inspired by his longtime work as a volunteer in the Center for Public History and Digital Humanities at Cleveland State University, as well as similar work he’s done at Case Western Reserve University.
“I’ve come across a lot of historic photography, including a book that was published in the 1870s called the "Atlas of Cuyahoga County," which included beautiful line drawings of the Cleveland area,” says Roy. “I started thinking that there must be an awful lot of older historic images that hardly anyone would ever get the chance to see unless they were in the position I’m in.”
With the aim of affording access to those historical gems, Roy put the wheels in motion for the museum about two years ago—inspired by a dozen postcards depicting Tremont that he’d uncovered while reviewing late CSU professor Walter Leedy’s collection (which is estimated to include 8,000 postcards total).
Postcard of Tremont SchoolSome of Roy’s favorite postcards on display depict seminal parts of Tremont history, such as Camp Cleveland (which served as a Civil War training camp in the 1860s) and the original Tremont School (which was torn down in the early 1900s). Collages, line art, and digitized watercolor and oil paintings round out the collection.
According to Roy, the fence is about 80% covered so far, but the collection will soon be complete, thanks to a recent grant from the Tremont Trek. The grant will enable the addition of 12 new works under the banner “Contemporary Views of Tremont,” all of which will be plein air (or “painted outdoors”) Tremont street scenes by modern artists.
Roy says all featured works are printed on weatherproof and graffiti-proof laminate to ensure longevity and protect their integrity, and he’s amazed by how well they’re holding up so far.
“The advances that technology has made in digitizing and weatherproofing various images is incredible,” says Roy, who is both a Tremont resident and Tremont West Development Corporation board member. “What wasn’t possible 10 years ago is now not a problem. I wouldn’t be surprised if more outdoor museums pop up in coming years, because it’s more feasible than it ever was.”
And leave it to Tremont to spark the trend.