|Streetcar Transportation in Lakewood|
In 1893, Cleveland streetcar lines consolidated into two major companies. One, the Cleveland City Railway, provided service to the west side. This company merged with its competitor, the Cleveland Electric Railway Company, in 1903, forming a monopoly. In 1910, the company settled a protracted legal conflict with the City of Cleveland and became known as the Cleveland Railway Company, with streetcar operations under City of Cleveland supervision. In 1942, the City of Cleveland purchased the Cleveland Railway Company for $17.5 million and changed the name to the Cleveland Transit System (CTS).
Detroit Avenue Line
On Detroit Avenue, the line reached west only to West 117th Street for a number of years. On September 23, 1893, service began on Detroit Avenue in Lakewood to Rocky River.
Clifton Boulevard Line
By 1902, the Clifton Boulevard streetcar line began service. Unlike the Detroit and Madison lines, the Clifton line was located in the tree lawns (now the curb lanes of pavement). Until 1938, the same tracks also carried interurban service west as far as Toledo.
Madison Avenue Line
Although the Madison Avenue line reached West 117th Street by 1898, service into Lakewood did not begin until 1917. On January 1 of that year, service commenced as far west as Belle Avenue. On September 16, 1917, service was extended to Riverside Drive. On June 25, 1920, service was cut back to a wye on the north side of Madison at Spring Garden Avenue, due to the increasing danger of streetcars turning around in Riverside Drive.
Influence on Lakewood
The completion of these streetcar lines profoundly affected Lakewood’s growth. The population jumped from under 500 persons in 1890 to over 15,000 in 1910, and reached 70,000 in 1930. The streetcar also became an essential means of daily transportation. In 1918, the Madison line carried 14 million riders. In 1920, at its peak, the Detroit line from Sloane Avenue to Public Square carried 19 million riders. Buses replaced streetcar service in the late 1940's and early 1950's throughout Greater Cleveland, including the Lakewood lines: Clifton Boulevard (1947), Detroit Avenue (1951), and Madison Avenue (1954).
The appearance of Lakewood was also influenced by the streetcars and has changed little since their introduction a century ago. Clifton, Detroit, and Madison Avenues evolved as prominent locations for businesses and homes. The numerous intersecting side streets of houses, forming an overall grid pattern in the city, provided easy walking access for residents to the streetcars. Today, the historical and architectural significance of Lakewood remains rooted in its “streetcar suburb” origin.
Streetcar facilities in Lakewood
The streetcar facilities in Lakewood were built between the 1890's and 1920's. The only remaining symbol of the system is the Coutant Avenue Manual Substation.
West 117th Street at Madison Avenue
The car barns were probably built around the time streetcar service reached West 117th Street in the late 1890's. The car barns were demolished by 1956, and later replaced by commercial development.
The car barns were located in western Lakewood where Detroit Avenue makes a sharp turn. The barns were probably built around the time streetcar service was extended through Lakewood in the early 1890's. The car barns were demolished no later than about 1960 and replaced by the existing apartment complex.
The substation was built in 1912, immediately west of the West 117th Street car barns, on the west side of Coutant Avenue. The building is currently owned by the Lakewood Board of Education.
The substation was built in 1924, just north of the current Lakewood Board of Education offices. It was demolished some time before the mid-1970's.
Spring Garden Wye
This turnaround for the Madison Avenue streetcars at the northwest corner of Spring Garden Avenue was built in 1920. It is still used today as a turnaround for the Madison Avenue buses.
Substations in the Cleveland Railway Company System
The Coutant Avenue building is part of a system of manual substations built by the Cleveland Railway Company. The company purchased alternating current electricity from the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, and the substation’s electrical systems converted the alternating current electricity to the 600 volt direct current used by the transit system. Sixteen such substations were built by the Cleveland Railway Company between 1912 and 1934, including thirteen in Cleveland, two in Lakewood, and one in East Cleveland. The Coutant substation, placed into service in 1912, was the third built.
Of the sixteen original substations, six have been demolished, three are abandoned, and four are used for industrial or warehouse purposes. The other three substations, all in Cleveland, have been adaptively reused. The substation at 1450 West 29th Street is a sculptor’s studio. The substation at 9900 St. Clair Avenue is the long-time home of the Evening Star Missionary Baptist Church. The substation at 13010 Larchmere Avenue has housed a contemporary art gallery, Sylvia Ullman’s American Crafts Gallery, for many years.
The Cleveland Railway: Its Operation and Maintenance. Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, Special Publication 1703, October 1924.
The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. edited by David D. Van Tassel and John Grabowski, 1987.
Hopkins Plat Books. 1914 (volume 3), 1927 (volume 6), and 1956 (volume 5).
Lakewood: The First 100 Years. James and Susan Borchert, 1989.
Ohio Trolleys. Kenneth Morse, 1960.
Trolley Trails Through Greater Cleveland Northern Ohio. Volume 3, Harry Christiansen.
The Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board was established to serve in an advisory capacity for the purpose of educating, informing and making recommendations to City officials, departments, boards and commissions, and the community on matters relating to historic preservation
The Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board may be contacted through the City of Lakewood Department of Planning and Development (216/529-6630). Information in this publication may be reprinted. Please credit the Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board, Lakewood, Ohio.