photo of the Cleveland skyline with lights reflecting off the water

5 things to know about… Cleveland history

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the source of Cleveland’s spelling.

Our hometown’s history has been interesting from the start—right down to its name.

General Moses Cleaveland arrived in the area—then part of the Connecticut Western Reserve—July 22, 1796, to survey the land. The city was named for him, but the Cleveland Advertiser, an early newspaper, used today’s spelling from its first edition in 1831.

To honor Cleaveland’s 1796 arrival, and, as such, the city’s official 222nd birthday, we asked Case Western Reserve University’s resident expert, Professor John Grabowski, what five facts the community should know about our home.

Want to get in on the Founder’s Day festivities? Head over to Wade Oval today (July 20) from noon to 2 p.m. for an event featuring a bubble show, solar car races, rides on the Euclid Beach Boys Rocket Ship Car and more.

Learn more on the University Circle Founder’s Day event page.

Grabowski, the Krieger-Mueller Joint Professor in History, is immersed in Cleveland history, both as a faculty member and as the historian and senior vice president for research and publications and the Western Reserve Historical Society. He also is the editor of the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History (, which has thousands of entries on varying aspects of the city’s past, from influential people to key organizations.

Additionally, Grabowski has authored a handful of books about the city, including Cleveland A to Z: Historical Essentials for Newcomers and Residents in Northeastern Ohio.

Do you think you know all there is to know about our city? Check out what Grabowski shared with us in advance of Cleveland’s Founder’s Day.

1. Cleveland has a rich radical political history that is often ignored.

There was a strong socialist movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Charles Ruthenberg, a repeat socialist candidate for the mayor’s office, eventually became executive secretary of the Communist Party of America. He is buried with the Kremlin walls.

2. The Terminal Tower was, until 1964, the tallest building outside of New York City.

The construction of the Cleveland Union Terminal complex in the 1920s was an immense undertaking, very much on the scale of what would happen at Rockefeller Center in New York City the following decade.

3. When traveling along the Ohio & Erie Canal towpath trail, you are paralleling what was once part of a major global water transportation system.

While the canal connected Lake Erie with the Ohio River, it was actually part of a system of canals, rivers and the ocean that linked Europe with the Gulf of Mexico.

4. Myron T. Herrick of Cleveland twice (1912-1914 and 1921-1929) served as ambassador to France.

At the end of his first tenure, Herrick helped evacuate Americans at the beginning of World War I. During his second tenure, he hosted Charles Lindbergh after his pioneer solo transatlantic flight. Rue Myron Herrick in Paris is named in his honor.

5. Moses Cleaveland, the namesake of the city, never really lived here.

He spent most of the summer and early fall of 1796 overseeing the survey of the Western Reserve and then returned to Connecticut. He is buried in Canterbury, Connecticut.