History of Coventry Village
The Coventry Village Business District has been the home to the well-to-do, Jewish and Russian immigrants, hippies, college students and non-conformists throughout most of its rich history. Developed between 1919 and 1922, the district extends from Mayfield Road to Euclid Heights Boulevard.
It Began with a Theater:
In 1919, the Heights Theatre, a 26,000 square foot, 1200 seat movie theater was one of the first commercial structures to be constructed within the Euclid Heights Allotment. The brick structure, designed by Cleveland architect Albert F. Janowitz, boasted a grand marquee marked with the beginning of what would become the first commercial district in Cleveland Heights.
Soon after the construction of the theater, businesses realized the need for a commercial center in this growing community and located along Coventry Road. In 1922, the district consisted of retail stores, automobile garages, a bank, restaurants and a dentist’s office. In September of that year, the city began the improvement of Coventry Road along this busy district.
Meeting the Needs of the Neighborhood:
Coventry served it population, catering to different groups overtime. In the 1920s and 1930s, businesses included those targeting specific services including automobile, banking and dining. In the 1940s and 1950s, the business district catered to the immigrant Jewish community who frequented delicatessens and tailor shops. In the 1960s, Coventry became the home for the hippie generation. In the fall of 1967, local merchants began to cater to this population bringing this counterculture to Cleveland Heights.
During the decades of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, the Coventry area remained a place for "1960s throwbacks" as well as those who followed the musical trends of punk, progressive and alternative bands. Both the residents of the area as well as the merchants and restaurateurs remained relatively the same as the 1960s. THe 1990s saw a rebirth of the area as a place for upscale and unique restaurants intermingled with service merchants and unique shops carrying one-of-a-kind items.
From the 1970s through the 1990s, Coventry experienced architectural change, although typically not by choice. Two fires in 1978, another in 1988 and yet another in 1991 resulted in either the rebuilding or renovation of numerous buildings. In 1994 a simple one-story brick commercial structure was demolished to make way for a parking garage.
With the new millennium, Coventry focused its efforts on a facelift, designed to further emphasize the district’s commitment to the arts while retaining the integrity of the small restaurant, shop and store owners.
Kara Hamley O’Donnell is Historic Preservation Planner for the City of Cleveland Heights. The history portion of this article was excerpted from her Master’s Thesis, "Cleveland’s Park Allotment: Euclid Heights, Cleveland Heights, OH, and its Designer, Earnest W. Bowditch," Cornell University, 1996.
The historical photos for this excerpt were provided by The City of Cleveland Heights.
Local History Links
If you’re interested in the history of Cleveland Heights or Greater Cleveland, you may also be interested in:
- Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
- The Cleveland Memory Project
- The Western Reserve Historical Society