WALKING AND PONDERING PRESERVATION IN CLEVELAND’S NOTTINGHAM NEIGHBORHOOD

By Gail, Graduate Student, Historic Preservation

Nottingham United Methodist Church is at the heart of this Cleveland-area neighborhood. It's many additionsrecall the expansion of the population in the 19th and early 20th centuries even as conditions in the surrounding neighborhood suggest population loss and significant cultural change in its recent history.

Nottingham United Methodist Church is at the heart of this Cleveland-area neighborhood. It’s many additionsrecall the expansion of the population in the 19th and early 20th centuries even as conditions in the surrounding neighborhood suggest population loss and significant cultural change in its recent history.

Often when we think of historic preservation what comes to mind are beautifully preserved house museums or quaint villages where every building around a central square is on the National Register [of Historic Places].  However, a field study trip to Cleveland’s Nottingham neighborhood, one of its oldest, opened a window to a very different way of thinking about the preservation of our built environment.

Nottingham, located between Lake Shore Boulevard and Euclid Avenue west from E. 200th Street, is recognized as a distinct historic place – there are signs posted that read “Welcome to Nottingham” – but much of it is not a place of preserved structures, historical markers or upscale businesses.  Rather, it is a mosaic of nineteenth and early twentieth-century houses and small buildings in various states of use or abandon, some well- maintained, some in disrepair.

There are old brick streets and asphalt. There are quiet corners with large trees and the noise of St Clair Avenue.  There are remnants of its railroad-connected history for those who are interested and know where to look.

An early community school, built in brick that suggests a level of socio-economic prosperity in the neighborhood, has been adapted into a commercial structure but has lost some of its architectural integrity in the transition.

An early community school, built in brick that suggests a level of socio-economic prosperity in the neighborhood, has been adapted into a commercial structure but has lost some of its architectural integrity in the transition.

For others, it is a place to just survive day-to-day – the neighborhood does not exhibit wealth. Nottingham is layers of history and interconnected, mostly untold stories.

Walking Nottingham I wonder about how to preserve and tell the stories anywhere of those who are usually not remembered because they do not control the wealth or the dominant narratives – how to preserve their stories without changing them into something to be co-opted by those in control.

 

About Bari Oyler Stith, Ph.D.

Director, Historic Preservation Program, Ursuline College

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