My Ohio: Cleveland's University Circle neighborhood pulses with excitement
Posted August 03, 2015 in Articles
Author: Leon Bibb
I am nostalgic. Unashamedly, I admit that.
I smile when I think of days long ago when I held my parents' hands and we walked around the lagoon in front of the Cleveland Museum of Art. There was something magical in that area of the city.
It was Cleveland's University Circle.
The magic is still there, only more of it.
"Where else can you find three hospitals, three colleges or universities, and a dozen arts and cultural institutions within a square mile?" asked Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle Incorporated.
Although he asks the question, he is really making a statement.
He answers his own question: "You can't find that any other place in the world."
Ronayne is right.
He ought to know. University Circle Inc. is an umbrella organization which promotes the entire area.
When you are in the heart of the circle, in whatever direction you look, there is culture, art and a lot of promise. It has long been a vibrant area because of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Severance Hall - where the Cleveland Orchestra plays - the Natural History Museum, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland Institute of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Case Western Reserve University.
The list continues because so much education, culture and medical facilities are located in University Circle.
Cleveland Clinic holds down the western edge of the Circle, the Louis Stokes Veterans Administration Hospital is on its northern edge, and University Hospitals is in its center.
Ronayne labels the area as one of "eds, meds, and art."
Add to that a growing residential area. At the intersection of Euclid Avenue and Mayfield Road, there are signs telling you this is the "Uptown" area.
The word was used a great deal decades ago. But then when some deterioration entered the area around East 105th Street and Euclid Avenue, the word fell out of favor.
In recent decades, it has come back into the local vocabulary.
There are apartments galore in Uptown. There are also restaurants to cater to the varied tastes of the residents, many of them students who attend the educational institutions in the area.
Constantino's Supermarket is open in the Uptown area. That is proof there is a strong residential community. No one opens a place that sells food if there are no shoppers to make purchases.
When I was a kid, I grew up about 2.5 miles from University Circle.
My boyhood friends and I would regularly bicycle into the area and visit museums. My thoughts often return to those days when we learned so much about art, science and history.
As well, Sunday afternoons would find my father, mother, and sister walking through the area. We simply enjoyed the beauty of University Circle, especially around the museums.
Whenever I am back in the area, my thoughts return to those days. During the summer months, I am host of 11 straight Wade Oval Wednesday celebrations. In the events, which feature live music, movies on the lawn, and good times, thousands of people attend to the free concerts.
Everything is sponsored by University Circle Inc.
"You don't have to go to New York or off to Europe to get great arts and culture," Ronayne said.
Wade Oval Wednesdays are held on a plot of land named in memory of Jeptha Wade, one of the early 20th Century millionaire industrialists who contributed both money and land for the area to be a home for arts and culture.
In the 1880s, Case Western Reserve University and Case Institute of Technology moved into the area.
By 1900, Cleveland knew it had a gemstone, which would be called University Circle because of the two universities.
More than 135 years later, there is Wade Oval Wednesday music in the air in an area immediately bounded by the Cleveland Botanical Garden and the law library of CWRU.
Nearby are other museums. It is all in University Circle or Uptown, which is the sister to Cleveland's downtown.
Uptown is about four miles east of Cleveland's downtown area.
Euclid Avenue is the main thoroughfare through the area. Once you are in it, you will know it because it looks like nothing else.
In fact, there is no place in the world like University Circle. Not Paris, not London, not Rome.
I'll see you in University Circle. I'll probably be standing on the corner in the Uptown area just whistling a tune.