Friday, August 10, 2012

Brooklyn Centre Bi-Centennial

This year marks two-hundred years, 1812 – 2012, since the arrival of the first American settlers on the western bank of the Cuyahoga River, in the neighborhood that we now know as Brooklyn Centre.

The Community is commemorating its Bicentennial with exciting activities designed to bring neighbors together through celebratory events (see “What’s Happening,” on page 2), and to educate and encourage local residents and businesses to make physical improvements throughout the neighborhood.

The Bicentennial started on Memorial Day, with a ceremony at the Brooklyn Centre Burying Grounds, located at 2300 Garden Avenue, behind Aldi’s. The Brooklyn Centre Burying Ground’s first interment was in 1823, and the cemetery was deeded with the name Brooklyn Centre when it was founded in 1835. Memorial Day ceremonies have taken place here for the past 33 years. This historic cemetery is the final resting place for many of the neighborhood’s founding families as well as veterans of every major U.S. war. 

UPDATED - 8/13/2015: 
See below for an inclusion of the Brooklyn Historic District and Home Tour Brochures.

Pioneer Life in Brooklyn Township

In May of 1812, Brooklyn Centre’s founder James Fish arrived with his family to settle at what is now the northwest corner of Pearl Road and Mapledale Avenue, in what was to become Brooklyn Township. This was the first American settlement west of the Cuyahoga River in what would become Cuyahoga County.

Brooklyn Township was born out of the Connecticut Western Reserve.  In 1795, land claims were sold from the state of Connecticut to the Connecticut Land Company for $1.2 million.  In 1796, the Land Company sent a team of surveyors, led by Moses Cleaveland, to the Western Reserve to divide the land into 25-mile square townships.

However, settlement of the area was not possible until several U.S. treaties with Native American tribes and frontiersmen were signed.  For the ten year period between 1795 and 1805, the Cuyahoga River was actually the western border of the United States. It was not until the Treaty of Fort Industry was signed in 1805 that land west of the Cuyahoga River was opened for settlement.

James Fish, with his family and two other families, left Groton, Connecticut in 1811. They traveled by oxen team and lumber wagon and arrived in the area of Newburg early in the autumn of 1811. In spring of 1812, James crossed the river and constructed a log house.  In May, he brought his family to their new home. 

By 1818, over 200 people were living in the area surrounding what is now known as the Brooklyn Centre neighborhood.  The process of clearing the forest and developing a village progressed, and the area from the Big Creek to Scranton Road became the center of Brooklyn Township. On June 1, 1818, Brooklyn Township was formally organized. The village of Brooklyn served as the center of the township until the early 1830s. Through the late 1830s, the neighborhood was known as Brooklyn Centre, and was where the region’s settlers came to vote, attend church, and purchase goods. 

From Annexation to the Twentieth Century

From the 1830s until its annexation to Cleveland in 1867, Brooklyn Centre was a fashionable suburb between the forests, farmlands and small towns to the South and the growing city of Cleveland to the north.  This period was also marked by a great immigration from Europe that brought Germans, Irish and others to America. Brooklyn Village boasted highly skilled tanners, shoemakers and other tradesmen and service providers, so that the shops on what is now Pearl Road met all of the village’s needs.

From the 1900s through the end of World War II, Brooklyn Centre served as a refuge from Cleveland’s bustling city center and the more heavily industrialized Cuyahoga River valley. In the early 1960s Interstate Route 71 was built after the passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956. The freeway displaced many families and hastened changes in how and where the residents of the neighborhood conducted their business and did their shopping. 

Recent interest in protecting and revitalizing Brooklyn Center began in the 1940s and extended into the 1980s. The Southwest Citizens Area Council was formed in 1946. Brooklyn Center Community Association, formerly known as Archwood Denison Concerned Citizens, was founded in 1978, as was the Brooklyn Centre Historical Society. In 1981, the Crossroads Development Corporation was formed. The city recognized the historic importance and architectural significance of the neighborhood with the creation of the Brooklyn Centre Historic District in 1984.

This vital neighborhood continues its legacy of transition and activism with the formation of the Friends of Big Creek in 2005, the Brooklyn Centre Naturalists in 2007, and the designation of the new Jones Home National Historic District earlier this year. Activities planned to celebrate the Bicentennial this August will further highlight the neighborhood’s rich history.  
For more information and details about the events planned for the Bicentennial, go to and

Compiled by Darren Hamm and Brian Cummins

The following documents can be viewed as larger images or they can be downloaded as PDF documents.