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Virtual Program: The Environmental Legacy of Cleveland’s Roaring Twenties

May 19, 2021 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


Virtual Program: The Environmental Legacy of Cleveland’s Roaring Twenties

Earth Day provides us a good opportunity to think about how far we have come in dealing with our destruction of the natural world and, of course, how far we have yet to go. On May 19, Senior Historian John Grabowski will look back 100 years and discuss the incredible impact the “Roaring Twenties” had on Cleveland’s environment.

While pollution did not begin in the 1920s, it certainly was accelerated by the growth during that decade. An already polluted Cuyahoga River became even dirtier as steel mills along its banks used its waters for cooling and as a convenient sewer for unwanted by-products. Automobile ownership increased and thousands of cars spewing exhaust from leaded gasoline added a new mixture to the smoke and fumes from the mills and refineries. Internal combustion also contributed to the death of a marvelous electric interurban system. Pollution was so bad that new stone buildings quickly turned dark from the dirt and pollutants in the atmosphere. Those who could, chose to escape the central city to the growing suburbs – the “Heights” represented a good choice – well above the pollution of the city, and apart from those who labored in its factories. But the homes in the Heights and every other district in the region contributed clouds of coal smoke from the furnaces that warmed them.

Join us on May 19 and find out why Cleveland not only “roared” one hundred years ago, but smelled, and why that “good old neighborhood” was not really a healthy place to be.


This event is free for all participants, but registration is required. To register, please see below. This event will be held through the Zoom platform. When you register, your confirmation will include a link that will allow you to join, as well as all necessary login information and instructions.

The Western Reserve Historical Society would like to thank the Ohio Environmental Council for their support of this program.


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May 19, 2021
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm