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Cleveland's Body Block was completed in 1893 during an era of robust growth and urbanization within the Goodrich-Kirtland Park neighborhood. Once a rural community, this part of the city was annexed by Cleveland in 1850. With stores and apartments, Body Bock catered to middle-class residents. However, by 1910 and throughout the bulk of the twentieth century, the area grew more commercial. During these years, the resident population declined and single-family homes and apartments were either vacated or demolished. By the 1980s, crime and neglect dominated the neighborhood story. In the 1990s, however, the renovation of the Body Block and many surrounding structures served as a catalyst to once again promote this area as a residential zone making this building and the surrounding area appealing to retailers and new residents once again.

Body Block (Modern: Smartland Body Block Arcade)

Body Block (Modern: Smartland Body Block Arcade)

Construction of the Body Block (also known as the Charles Body Block and Old Smith Arcade) occurred between 1892 and 1893 for Charles Body, a local wallpaper store owner. The brick, Queen Anne block building is believed to have been designed by the well-known local architect, George H. Smith. The Body Block symbolizes the rapid transformation of Goodrich-Kirtland Park from a rural region when Cleveland annexed it in 1850 to a bustling urban area by 1890. The building emerged during the area's most robust growth during the 1870s and 1880s. Although the neighborhood suffered population loss and perpetual change for much of the twentieth century, the building avoided demolition, unlike many of Body Block's neighbors. After a 1990s renovation, and another sale in 2017, the building continues to function today as it did when it first opened in 1893. 

Standing three-stories tall and spanning 220 feet by 60 feet, Body Block catered to the middle class. The structure had enough space to support ten retail stores on the bottom floor, while the two upper floors consisted of forty-four apartments. The building also includes an arcade that runs through the middle of the building, with a skylight above. Chemicals used by a pharmacy on the ground floor of Body Block ignited in January 1897 and severely damaged the building, but no injuries resulted from the fire.

By 1910, increased commercial construction and industrialization displace many of the Goodrich-Kirtland Park residents. During the 1910-1920 period, many immigrants -- notably Germans, Irish and Eastern Europeans -- slowly moved to the neighborhood, often buying homes vacated by former middle-class residents. In 1914, the Goodrich-Gannett settlement house opened its doors, a growing trend in cities fashioned by people such as Jame Addams and other progressives. Goodrich organized street associations and clubs, helped maintain sanitation programs, offered classes and workshops (English, arts, cooking, sewing, and job skills). By 1920, increased commercial construction led to a loss of a significant number of homes in the area by 1920. During the 1920s (the Prohibition), criminals often fled to the neighborhood (and Body Block) to evade arrest, giving that section of Cleveland a reputation as a haven for crime and making the area less appealing to the middle class. 

Population losses that began at the turn of the century continued throughout the century. Residents in the area fell from 70,000 in 1900 to barely more than 13,000 by the 1980s. Indeed, the city demolished many homes that remained in the neighborhood by the 1980s. Nevertheless, Body Block survived. In 1991, the Nouvelle Espoir Development Corp financed and spearheaded a major renovation of Body Block that resulted in a modern set retail spaces on the lowest floor and 49 one- and two-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors; the building functioned again as it had during the 1880s.

Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. "Goodland-Kirtland Park" Case Western Reserve University. Accessed July 13, 2020. 

Rose, William Ganson. Cleveland: The Making of a City. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1990.

Warf, Barney, and Brian Holly. "The Rise and Fall and Rise of Cleveland." The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 551 (1997): 208-21. Accessed May 26, 2020.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

By Tim Evanson from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, USA - Body Block 06 - Payne Avenue - Cleveland, CC BY-SA 2.0,