Ghosts Houses of Cleveland

PHOTOGRAPHS BY CLEVELAND BORN AND RAISED, LOS ANGELES BASED ARTIST AND WRITER VINCENT JOHNSON.

WHEN I WAS A CHILD IN THE EARLY 1960’S. EVERY DAY ON THE RADIO I WOULD HEAR: THE GREATEST LOCATION IN THE NATION, AS CLEVELAND CALLS ITSELF.

WHAT I DID NOT KNOW WAS THAT CLEVELAND, PITTSBURGH, DETROIT, CHICAGO, WERE LARGELY BUILT TO BE THE AMERICAN EARLY 20TH CENTURY VERSIONS OF INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION ENGLAND. THE MIDWEST WAS MANCHESTER, BIRMINGHAM AND LIVERPOOL.

PEOPLE USED TO CATCH FISH AT LAKE ERIE AND SELL THEM TO OTHER PEOPLE TO MAKE A FEW DOLLARS. CLEVELAND ACTUALLY HAD A REAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE GREAT LAKES. WE SOMETIMES WENT WALKING ON THE FROZEN POND OF THE CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART.

AS TEENAGERS, WHEN BORED WE WOULD WALK ALL THE WAY FROM FIVE-POINTS IN COLLINWOOD, TO DOWNTOWN AND LOOK AT THE MILITARY MONUMENTS IN PUBLIC SQUARE. THE CITY WAS NOT LIVELY IN ANY PART OF DOWNTOWN THEN. THERE WAS PROSTITUTION ON PROSPECT AVENUE, NEAR WHERE A GORGEOUS REMNANT OF ROW HOUSES STOOD AND ARE NO MORE.

DURING THE EARLY 1960’S, DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND WAS AMAZING WITH ITS CHRISTMAS LIGHTS AND WINDOW DISPLAYS. ALSO WHAT WAS GREAT FUN WAS WATCHING GHOULARDI AND ALSO HOULIHAN AND BIG CHUCK ON TELEVISION, AND THEIR COMIC ANTICS BEFORE SCREENING BAD HORROR FILMS THAT WERE SO MUCH FUN TO WATCH AS CHILDREN.

THERE USED TO BE THIS AMAZING ARCADE PLACE DOWNTOWN THAT HAD STRANGE AND IMPOSSIBLE TAXIDERMIED ANIMALS. THE CINCINATTI ROYALS BASKETBALL TEAM, FEATURING OSCAR ROBERTSON, PLAYED OCASSIONALLY IN DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND. ANOTHER FOND MEMORY I HAVE OF CLEVELAND IS THAT CONCORD GRAPES GREW ACROSS EVERYONE’S BACKYARD FENCE, AND THERE WERE APPLE AND PEAR TREES, CHERRY AND NUT TREES ALONG LAKEVIEW ROAD ON THE PROPERTY OF THE PRIVATE RESIDENCES.

THE CLEVELAND RIOTS DESTROYED AN ENTIRE AREA OF GLENVILLE. WE WATCHED FROM OUR APARTMENT FRONT WINDOW AS TANKS AND ARMED NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS ENTERED OUR NEIGHBORHOOD. A GAS STATION ACROSS THE STREET EXPLODED. WE HID IN THE BACK ROOM UNTIL MORNING. THERE WERE PEOPLE LOOTING THE STORES. GUNFIRE WAS HEARD. IN THE MORNING PART OF GLENVILLE WAS GONE. YET AS BAD AS IT LOOKED, IT NEVER LOOKED AS DEVASTATED AS CLEVELAND’S EAST SIDE LOOKS TODAY.

YET THERE IS GREAT HOPE BECAUSE OF THE TWO STELLAR HOSPITALS IN CLEVELAND, THAT ARE CAUSING HUGE CHANGES IN THE AREA SURROUNDING CASE WESTERN RESERVE AND UNIVERSITY CIRCLE, CLEVELAND’S STELLAR ARTS DISTRICT.

I TOOK These photographs during the beginning of summer of 2013. It is where I was born, enjoyed so much fun with my family and went to school. It was strange being there this time, as so much of the East Side of Cleveland has been destroyed. Yet there are many signs of new life in the middle of this part of town, as one sees near the hospital district hundreds of brand new homes not far from empty lots. I learned that The Lake Effect did do much greater damage to Cleveland’s East Side while the West Side was protected from the worst of the weather system. Yet still it is strange to see how the West Side is basically intact from the point of its architectural integrity, including apartment buildings and an amazing array of home styles that also can be found on Cleveland’s East Side, but often in a state of complete distress or devastation. My taking these photographs is a way for me to grasp that so many decades have passed since the 1960’s, and the world I knew as a child has nearly vanished.

My fascination with Cleveland’s myriad of vernacular architectural private properties is also a strong element in my wish to document Cleveland. One thing that struck me when taking pictures there in June was how as a car driving adult touring Cleveland, I was seeing so much more of the city than I ever had as a child. I remembered the countless A-frame and Two-flat houses, but had never seen the gigantic boarding houses, and had mostly not seen most of the row house styles. I do distinctly recall there being an awesome row house block on Prospect avenue, which I did not see on my trip but would like to find.

Vincent Johnson

Los Angeles

Cleveland House Destroyed - Pastoral Landscape

Cleveland House Destroyed - Pastoral Landscape

Cleveland Ice House

Cleveland Ice House

Cleveland House Destroyed - Pastoral Landscape - Close Up

Cleveland House Destroyed - Pastoral Landscape - Close Up

Blue Eyed Garage in Cleveland

Blue Eyed Garage in Cleveland

Green Rooming House in Cleveland

Green Rooming House in Cleveland

Green and Red Apartments - Cleveland

Green and Red Apartments - Cleveland

Yellowed Two Flat in Cleveland

Yellowed Two Flat in Cleveland

Old White House - Cleveland

Old White House - Cleveland

Red Brick Victorian Home - Cleveland

Red Brick Victorian Home - Cleveland

Golden Front Door of A-Frame House - Cleveland

Golden Front Door of A-Frame House - Cleveland

Grey and Red A-Frame House - Cleveland

Grey and Red A-Frame House - Cleveland

Factory and Steam - Cleveland

Factory and Steam - Cleveland

Blue House Falling in Cleveland

Blue House Falling in Cleveland

Under the Upstairs Balcony - Retired Apartment Building in Cleveland

Under the Upstairs Balcony - Retired Apartment Building in Cleveland

Downed Apartments - Cleveland

Downed Apartments - Cleveland

Powered by ArtCat