View of the downtown skyline from the lakefront with the huge signage of Cleveland in Ohio

20 Interesting Cleveland Facts (That You May Not Know)

Having lived in this Ohio city for 10 years, I’m excited to share my favorite fun facts about Cleveland!

Cleveland is full of fascinating history, unique attractions, and some noteworthy firsts.

For example, did you know that Cleveland was the first city to have public electricity? Or that a famed local coined the term “rock and roll”? Read on to learn about what makes this destination so unique — and maybe add some unique attractions to your bucket list, too!  

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20 Cleveland Facts

1. Cleveland is Where Rock and Roll Got Its Name

Rock music was not invented in Cleveland, but the term was! Alan Freed was a local disc jockey. He coined this term in the 1950s on his show, the Moondog Rock and Roll Radio Hour. [Source]

2. The First Rock Concert Happened in Cleveland

Travel Lemming Editor Abigail and her mom posing outside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland
Travel Lemming Editor Abigail and her mom posed outside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The Moondog Coronation Ball, the first rock concert in history, took place at the Cleveland Arena in 1952. This made the city a significant tour stop for iconic performers like David Bowie, The Beatles, and many more.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation chose Cleveland as the home for its renowned museum because of the city’s rock history. [Source] Today, it tops my list of the best museums in Cleveland.

📚 Related Reading: Visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame made last summer’s list of the best things to do in the USA!

3. Cleveland Was Once One of the Largest Cities in the United States

Construction of the Ohio and Erie Canal was completed in 1832. By connecting the Great Lakes to the Ohio River, Cleveland was able to grow very quickly. By 1920, it had become the United States’ fifth-largest city. [Source]

4. Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue Was Once a Magnet for the Wealthy

In the early 20th century, wealthy people gravitated towards this center of business and industry. This led to the construction of Millionaire’s Row — about 250 mansions on Euclid Avenue.

Today, only four stands. These include the H.W. White Mansion, Stager Beckwith Mansion (current site of the Cleveland Children’s Museum), Mather Mansion (currently part of Cleveland State University), and Francis E. Drury House (currently part of the Cleveland Clinic).

👉 Don’t Miss: 23 Best Places to Visit in Ohio (in 2023)

5. Cleveland Borders the Most Biologically Productive Great Lake

View of the Great Lakes Science Center and FirstEnergy Stadium from the harbor on Lake Erie
A harbor on Lake Erie, featuring views of the Great Lakes Science Center and FirstEnergy Stadium

Lake Erie, which borders Cleveland, is the warmest and shallowest of the Great Lakes. It only has 2% of the water of the Great Lakes, but 50% of the fish. [Source]

6. Many Famous Actors, Including the “Wicked Witch,” Were Born in the Cleveland Area

Arsenio Hall, Drew Carey, Halle Berry, and Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz) were all born in this city. Not only was Drew Carey born here, but The Drew Carey Show was set here as well.

7. Many Influential Figures are Buried in Cleveland

Several famous people are buried in Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery. This includes multiple members of President Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet and many Civil War generals. President James A. Garfield also rests here.

💡 Fun Fact: Abraham Lincoln learned that he would become President when in Ohio’s nearby capital! Check out my guide for more fun facts about Cincinnati

8. Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River Has Caught on Fire Many Times

View of the downtown Cleveland skyline and the Cuyahoga River
Downtown Cleveland and the Cuyahoga River

The Cuyahoga River, which runs through northeast Ohio, has caught fire at least 13 times. The most famous instance occurred in 1969.

Today, the infamous river is much cleaner due to federal environmental initiatives. In 2019, the Ohio EPA even declared fish from this river safe to eat. [Source]

9. The Quintessential Christmas Film Was Set in Cleveland

A Christmas Story, filmed in 1983, takes place in Cleveland. You can get tickets to visit Ralphie’s house, which has been restored to look as it did in the movie.

10. Olympian Jesse Owens Was from Cleveland

Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals and set a track-and-field world record, came from Cleveland. He participated in the Summer Olympics in Berlin in 1936 while Hitler was in power. 

As an African-American man, his presence was controversial. Many people credit him for debunking the myth of white supremacy. [Source]

11. A Clevelander Changed the Game of Golf Forever

Coburn Haskell, a golfer from Cleveland, patented a new golf ball in 1899. It consisted of a rubber core wrapped in rubber thread. This new golf ball was more easily controlled and able to travel further distances. [Source]

12. Cleveland’s Playhouse Square Stands Out Among Its Peers

View of the illuminated signage of Playhouse Square and the giant chandelier above Euclid Avenue at night
Cleveland’s Playhouse Square at night (photo: Kenneth Sponsler / Shutterstock)

Cleveland’s Playhouse Square is the second-largest performing arts center in the United States. Only Lincoln Center in New York City is larger. This is also home to the world’s largest outdoor chandelier, containing 4,200 crystals.

13. Mass-Produced Potato Chips Were Born in Cleveland

In 1895, William Tappenden started making potato chips in his barn. He used his horse and buggy to deliver them to local grocery stores. 

Later, the first potato chip factory was built in Cleveland on East 79th Street. Before this, potato chips had been available in some restaurants, but they had never been mass-produced.

💡 Fun Fact: The inventor of the Pringles can is buried in nearby Cincinnati — in a Pringles can! Read my guide for more interesting facts about Cincinnati

14. Cleveland Was a Pioneer for Racial Equality

In 1967, Cleveland became the first major US city to elect an African-American mayor. This was Carl B. Stokes, who had lost a mayoral race just two years earlier. He went on to serve as the United States Ambassador to Seychelles from 1994 to 1995. [Source]

15. Cleveland Was the First City to be Electrically Lit and Had the First Electric Traffic Signal

Even though Benjamin Franklin invented electricity, Charles Brush of Cleveland first put it to large-scale use. In 1879, Brush made Public Square the first electrified public square. [Source]

Additionally, in 1914, the first electric traffic signal was put into place at the intersection of Euclid Avenue and East 105th Street. [Source]

16. Cleveland is Home to the Two Tallest Buildings in Ohio

View of the Terminal Tower in Public Square on a sunny day
Terminal Tower in Public Square

During the “skyscraper boom” of the 1920s and 1930s, Terminal Tower was built in Public Square. When it opened in 1928, it was the world’s second-tallest building, standing 771 feet tall.

Outside of NYC structures, it was the tallest building in North America until 1964. This and the 888-foot-tall Key Tower, built in 1991, are now the tallest buildings in Ohio.

17. Chef Boyardee Hails from Cleveland

In 1924, Chef Ettore Boiardi opened an Italian restaurant in this city. When customers started asking for his recipes, he came up with the idea to create a canned pasta company. [Source]

👉 Read Next: Interesting Facts About Columbus, Ohio

18. Superman Was Born in Cleveland

In 1933, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (two students at Glenville High School) created Superman. The earliest prototype of the character was a telepathic villain in their short story, “The Reign of the Superman.” Eventually, they decided to make him a crime-fighting hero instead.

There’s now a Superman exhibit at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. [Source]

19. Cleveland Is Home to the First Indoor Shopping Mall

View of the Victorian architecture and iconic skylight inside The Archade
The stunning Victorian architecture and iconic skylight of this mall (photo: Showcase Imaging / Shutterstock)

In 1890, Cleveland opened the first indoor shopping mall, the Cleveland Arcade. The model for this mall was a gallery in Milan, Italy. A group of wealthy Ohioans, including John D. Rockefeller, funded the construction of this mall.

👉 Read Next: Where to Stay in Cleveland

20. Cleveland Is Home to Some Weird Laws

Believe it or not, it’s illegal in Cleveland for women to wear patent leather shoes (although this isn’t enforced). The law was established because of the idea that men could look at the shiny reflection in the patent leather and see up women’s skirts.

Also, in this city, anyone who wants to kill mice needs a hunting license to do so.

🏖️ Read Next: Best Cleveland Beaches

FAQs About Cleveland 

What are some fun facts about Cleveland?

Some fun facts about Cleveland include:

– Famous writer Langston Hughes attended Cleveland’s Central High School, graduating in 1920.
– American Greetings Corporation, the creator of Care Bears, has its headquarters in Cleveland.
– Cuyahoga Valley National Park, found just outside of Cleveland, is Ohio’s only national park.

Why do they call it Cleveland?

They call it “Cleveland” after General Moses Cleaveland. Working with the Connecticut Land Company, he founded Cleveland in 1796. 

Originally, “Cleaveland” was the city’s name. The extra “a” was omitted by The Cleveland Advertiser in 1831 because it couldn’t fit the full name on the masthead. The new spelling stuck.


That’s all for my list of facts about Cleveland! I hope you enjoyed getting to know more about one of my favorite cities in Ohio. 

(Featured Image Credit: f11photo / Shutterstock)

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for the facts, Nilani! Some of them I knew. There are a couple more that you you can add to your list.
    _The 60’s tv series “The Fugitive” was based on Dr Sam Sheppard’s murder case. His former address is 28944 Lake Rd in Bay Village, Cleveland. The original house was razed in 1993 to built another house. _There’s a Central European neighborhood called “Slavic Village” in Southeastern Cleveland made up of Polish and Czech immigrants who moved to the area in the 1800’s. The neighborhood is centered on Fleet Ave, and Broadway, and around St Wenceslas Church. I’ve been there and there are even Polish restaurants and mini markets. Thanks for the effort!

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