Greek Town, Ohio
Greek Town was an ethnic neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio from the late nineteenth century to the mid twentieth century. It was located on the eastside of Cleveland. East 9th Street, Ontario Street, and Bolivar Road bordered the neighborhood.
The region that included Greek Town was settled by whites in the late 1700s. Initially, most residents earned their living through farming, helping construct Cleveland's various buildings, or working on the Ohio and Erie Canal. As Cleveland emerged as a major industrial center following the American Civil War, many of Greek Town's residents found employment in Cleveland's factories.
Between 1880 and 1920, nearly five thousand Greek immigrants came to Cleveland, seeking to improve their livelihood. Unfortunately, due to the ethnocentric views of many other Cleveland residents, the Greek migrants faced discrimination. Most of the Greeks first settled in what would become known as Greek Town. Here, most of the immigrants found low-paying jobs in factories, as day laborers, or as waiters, waitresses, and cooks in restaurants. More successful immigrants established businesses that supplied their fellow migrants with traditional Greek products or began their own clothing, florist, restaurant, or shoeshine companies.
In Greek Town, Greek culture flourished. The Greeks were determined to maintain their traditional heritage and beliefs. More successful Greek immigrants established coffeehouses, which became important social centers in the community. During the 1930s, a Greek-language newspaper, Mentor, flourished in the neighborhood. In 1910, Greek Town's residents established the first Greek Orthodox congregation in Cleveland. This group would eventually become the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. Greek immigrants also started at least two schools, the Greek American Progressive Association School and the Annunciation Church School, in Greek Town to educate Greek youth in the language and customs of their homeland. Typically, these schools held classes on weekends or in the afternoons after Cleveland's public schools had dismissed for the day.
During World War II, Greek Town residents rallied behind the United States. The bravery of Greek-American soldiers caused other Americans finally to accept the Greek immigrants. As other Ohioans became more tolerant of the Greeks, many Greek communities, including Greek Town, began to disintegrate. Many Greeks moved into other communities, while non-Greeks began to infiltrate the traditionally Greek neighborhoods.
- Van Tassel, David D., and John J. Grabowski, eds. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.