We are Evicted from the Ginney Block


In the Fall of 1927, my father along with all the other heads of the households in the Ginney Block, received a letter from the rental office advising that the block was to be razed to make way for the building of the new railroad tracks that were to be brought into the new Union Terminal that was nearing completion on the Public Square. The letter gave notice that all the tenants of the block would have to vacate the premises by January 1, 1928. You can imagine the shock and sorrow that filled the hearts in every household in the block. For many families such as ours, the block had been our first and only home. The prospect of seeking and finding new places to live and the need to make plans to move either before or after Christmas was terrifying to contemplate. Needless to say there was many a tear shed by young and old alike in the Ginney Block. For me the trauma was compounded by the fact that I was to graduate from the ninth grade at Brownell Junior High School at the end of January. I was suddenly faced with the need to decide whether to transfer to whatever neighborhood high school might be closest or within the official boundaries of our new home, wherever it might be, or whether to finish my days at Brownell School, where I was President of the Student Council, and working part-time as a page in the school library.




Brownell Junior High School circa 1928. Showing part of the Gym and the Industrial Arts Buildings.
Courtesy of the Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio




As my parents wrestled with their job of finding a new place to live, I struggled with my decision to transfer or not to transfer at move time. Some time before the end of October, my parents' decision was made as a result of a coincidental visit by a former neighbor and tenant of the Ginney Block. The former neighbor and her family had a few years before found it financially possible to move out of the Hay Market district. They had first moved to a detached home on the near east side, on East 38th Street near Central Avenue. By this time in 1927, they had made another step upward homewise, by purchasing a newly built two family home located on East 116th Street between Buckeye and Kinsman Roads.

Having heard of our eviction notice, this former neighbor had come to us to offer my parents the invitation to rent her vacant six room upstairs suite in her recently purchased new home, in a neighborhood predominantly inhabited by people of Hungarian extraction. This would be a big step for my parents, not only because it meant moving away from the inner city and familiar community of paesanos, into a strange area made up of a different ethnic group, but also because it meant a steep increase in monthly rent. Imagine going from $10.00 to $40.00 per month! That in itself was a financial trauma for my father whose income as a tailor, working for a downtown custom tailor was around $15.00 per week!

The prospect of living in a new home, with all the modern conveniences, including a bathroom, and with a family of paesanos motivated my mother to convince my father to take the plunge. So it was that our family moved from the Ginney Block to the Southeast side of Cleveland at the end of 1927. With the move, my school decision was made simultaneously by me! I decided to finish the last month of my junior high school career at Brownell School.




Brownell School Class of January 1928. The author appears at far right of fourth row.




I commuted by streetcar from East 116th Street and Buckeye Road to East 14th and Erie Street, where Brownell was located until graduation at the end of January 1928. During that last month at Brownell, during the first week after our move, I found myself, through force of habit, walking home after school to the Ginney Block, forgetting that I no longer lived there. Absent-mindedly, I made this mistake several times, feeling great homesickness and sorrow as I caught myself in the act, and each time turned and walked the other way, with a hollow feeling in my stomach.

A day or two before the end of my last semester at Brownell, it could have been a day or two before graduation, I decided to go to see the Ginney Block for the last time after school. I recall it as though it were yesterday. It was a cool, crisp January day. I recall that there was little snow on the ground. The sky was clear and blue and sunny for a change. At the end of the school day, I walked rapidly past the Erie Cemetery, crossed East 9th Street, continued down Eagle Avenue. As I passed by the old Eagle Elementary School, where I had gone through the sixth grade, I paused there momentarily, recalling old school chums and school teachers, along with the many hours spent in its gym and game rooms on winter evenings past and the fun times I had had on its playground during summer days in years gone by.




I quickly crossed Woodland and Broadway Avenues and ran with anticipation across Ontario Street, passing the Old Market House, another place filled with many pleasant memories, and sprinted down Race Street to its dead-end for one last look at the Ginney Block! I came to a sudden halt, stopped by a barricade and a workman with a red flag about a hundred yards from the block. I then saw to my great horror and distress a sight that I shall not forget. There in my direct view, was an obscene act of destruction in progress. A huge derrick, with an enormous wrecking ball of steel was viciously smashing at the walls of the Ginney Block. I stood there transfixed in blind anger and utter horror. I began yelling and screaming at the unfortunate workman, who had stopped me, as though he were the perpetrator of the horrible destruction.

Numb with grief, tears flowing freely down my cheeks, sobbing uncontrollably, I watched as great chunks of the Ginney Block came tumbling down.

As the stunned and surprised workman stood there staring at me in disbelief, I turned and fled from the sight! To this day, I can't remember how I managed to get back to my new home on East 116th Street.

So it was that the Ginney Block died at the end of January 1928 under the massive blows of an unfeeling ball of iron.