Best Places To Learn About Cleveland History

September 10, 2016 2:00 PM

Photo Credit: Doug Bardwell

Cleveland was first inhabited circa 10500 BC, with its first settlement recorded between 9200 and 8850 BC. Most notable inhabitants of this region were the Early Woodland people, who lived here from 500 BC to 100 AD — builders of the mounds which made Ohio world famous. The city of Cleveland was actually founded by General Moses Cleaveland of the Connecticut Land Company in 1796. By 1800, Cleveland’s population grew to a total of 7 inhabitants, and later that year, the city’s first distillery opened. Much has happened since then to make Cleveland what it is today, and these five venues will help bring the city’s history to life.
Cleveland Museum Of Natural History
1 Wade Oval Drive
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 4600

If you want to trace Cleveland’s roots back to the beginning, the Museum of Natural History would be a logical place to start.  Museum archaeologists have researched many of the Native Americans who called this area home prior to 1650 AD. Through outreach programs such as Earth Science & Archaeology Day as well as Discovery Day, area residents can learn about the city’s prehistoric history first hand. Even the youngest visitors to the museum will find things of interest, especially the Smead Discovery Center, where little ones are encouraged to be hands-on with the exhibits. The museum is open year-round.

140709 Best Places To Learn About Cleveland History

Western Reserve Historical Society (Photo credit: Doug Bardwell)

Western Reserve Historical Society
10825 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 721-5722

Cleveland and its surrounding area was formerly known as the Western Reserve, and the historical society maintains a huge library documenting the last 500 years. The research branch of the History Center holds more than 250,000 books and 340,000 photographs and other images documenting the area’s history. Library tours are available and the reading room is open Thursday through Saturday each week, other than holidays. While you are there, be sure to check out the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum and the antique carousel at the corner of the building.

Hale Farm
2686 Oak Hill Road
Peninsula, OH 44264
(330) 666-3711

Two-hundred years ago, the Hale Family started their farm just south of Cleveland. Even now, 200 years later, the farm is still producing vegetables and raising livestock, using many of the same techniques as were used on the original farm. Witness centuries-old techniques for candle making, pottery making, spinning/weaving, glassblowing and blacksmithing to learn what farm life was like in northern Ohio during the early 1800’s. The farm is open Wednesday through Sunday from June until August, and then weekends only September and October. Winter and spring, the farm is open only for educational groups.

Related:  Historic Walking Tour of Cleveland

Cleveland Public Library
325 Superior Ave., N.E.
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 623-2800

Open year-round, Monday through Saturday, the Cleveland Public Library is a great place to stop when trying to learn about Cleveland. In addition to having more than 2,500 books specifically about every facet of the city’s history, the library has an extensive collection of photographs taken by now defunct local newspapers. Cleveland Public Library’s main buildings downtown are certainly worth a visit, but if you can’t make it, there’s plenty of research you can do online. The Digital Gallery offers dozens of collections of historic Cleveland memorabilia from old aerials to sports records to lantern slides to high school yearbooks and newspapers.

Lolly The Trolley
1790 Columbus Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44113
(216) 771-4484

Want to sit back and have someone else do all the work while you soak up what’s cool about Cleveland? Lolly the Trolley is probably just what you are looking for. With one and two-hour guided tours of Cleveland, you’ll quickly pick up all sorts of interesting trivia about Cleveland and its history. Tours start at the Powerhouse on the West Bank of the Flats, near the epicenter of Cleveland’s first neighborhood. Private charters can be arranged for family or corporate groups, and specialty holiday lighting tours are given in December.

Related: Cleveland’s Best Guided Tours (Even For Locals)

Doug Bardwell is a freelance writer, traveling the globe in search of unique experiences to share with his readers. He writes about travel, tech and the active life from his base in Cleveland, Ohio. Doug’s work can be found on