Nature Center, Shaker Historical Society to host tour of sites involved in 1960s 'Freeway Fight'

In 1963, Cuyahoga County engineer Albert Porter launched a campaign to run the proposed Clark and Lee Freeways through Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights. The freeways would have demolished the Shaker Lakes and the parks surrounding them—prompting outrage among community members.

The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes was created by “Freeway Fighters” in 1966 to preserve, highlight, and educate people about the wetlands, greenspace and environmental significance of the Doan Brook watershed—and ultimately prevent the highways from coming through destroying the greenspace. Thanks in part to the work of the Freeway Fighters, Ohio Governor James Rhodes scrapped the freeway plans in February 1970.

For a unique look back at what the Freeway Fighters experiences in the 1960s, the Nature Center and Shaker Historical Society will host a Historical Homes & Building Tour this Sunday, Feb. 4 from 11:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. to tour two homes and a church that were important in the freeway fight and would not exist today if the freeways had been built.

The event begins at the Nature Center with locally brewed cider while local steward and eco-historian John Barber, who has family ties to the freeway fight, discusses the impact of the freeway fight had on both the community and green spaces today.

Our Lady of Peace ChurchOur Lady of Peace ChurchA trolley will then take guests to the three tour sites: 18700 South Park Blvd, 16201 Shaker Blvd., and Our Lady of Peace Church, 12601 Shaker Blvd

The trolley will then take the group to the Shaker Historical Society, where guests will get a sneak peek at historic and significant archives surrounding the freeway fight.

Guests will learn about The Grasselli mansion, 18800 Shaker Blvd, which was the home of Grasselli Chemical Co. president Caesar Augustin Grasselli, who also was one of the founders of the Cleveland Museum of Art and Cleveland Institute of Music.

Although the home was demolished in the late 1960s, its carriage house still stands as a result of the freeway fight victory. At Shaker Historical Society, guests will learn the history of the mansion, the carriage house, and the Grasselli family.

The Nature Center’s local food partners will serve brunch bites at each stop on the tour. A limited number of tickets are available, and are $160, $125 for Nature Center or Shaker Historical Society members. 

Guests should wear shoes that are easy to remove (booties provided or bring house shoes). Attendees must be able to navigate stairs.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.