Shipping and sports to rock & roll and residents, this is the history of Cleveland’s downtown lakefront for over a century.
Cleveland Yachting Club (CYC) opened in downtown Cleveland with docks and a clubhouse on the Lake Erie shoreline. During the time CYC operated, East 9th Street stopped at the railroad tracks and the extension of East 9th Street was named Erie Street Dock.
Three more piers built; two city and one federal. The new piers started the shift in the Lake Erie shoreline that we currently see in downtown Cleveland.
CYC relocated to Rocky River
The lakefront terminal at East 9th Street Pier was created by Cleveland & Buffalo Transit Co. (C&B) and the Detroit & Cleveland (D&C) Line after they obtained a 50-year lease for property at the foot of East 9th Street. The City in exchange built a bridge over the East 9th Street railways and paved the approach to the East 9th Street Pier for transit operations. Shipping and passenger destinations included Buffalo, Toledo, Cedar Point and Put-In-Bay.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District, main two-story office building on East 9th Street was built as a storehouse. The Cleveland office was expanded with a one-story addition in 1917. More buildings were built – a boat house in 1932, an oil storehouse in 1933, additional steel warehouse spaces in 1952 and 1964, and the demolition and reconstruction of the 1-story area in 1974.
C&B Transit Co. purchased “City of Detroit II” from D&C and renamed the vessel “Goodtime”. The leisure ship operated from 1924–1938 from East 9th Street Pier. She was 286′6″ x 70′3″ and was designed at 1,919 gross tons. The ship’s route was Cleveland to Cedar Point; which she made 1,214 round trips and 1,220 Moonlight cruises before closing in September 1938.
Municipal Stadium opened at the lakefront. The venue at the time was said to be one of the largest individual-seated outdoor arenas in the world with 78,189 seats.
Cleveland Indians started playing baseball at Municipal Stadium while keeping day games at League Park. The team converted all home games to the stadium in 1947 and called the Municipal Stadium home until 1994 when their Gateway stadium, Jacob’s Field (currently Progressive Field) was opened.
The Great Lakes Exposition took place along the lakefront in celebration of the centennial year of the incorporation of the City of Cleveland. Held in the summers of 1936 and 1937, the Great Lakes Exposition was sprawled over 135 acres of land near Cleveland’s lakefront and featured hundreds of attractions, including rides, sideshows, botanical gardens, cafes, and more.
Cleveland Browns debuted at Municipal Stadium. The team went on to win all four AAFC Championships until 1949. Cleveland then won the NFL Eastern Conference championship for six straight years from 1950 to 1955 and NFL titles in 1950, 1954 and 1955. The Browns reached the post-season playoffs 22 times in their first 40 years in the NFL. In addition to their four NFL championships between 1950 and 1964, they won 11 NFL American/Eastern Conference championships, three NFL Century Division titles and AFC Central Division championships in 1971, 1980, 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1989. In 1995, the owner moved the team to Baltimore and Municipal Stadium was demolished the following year.
Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport celebrates its grand opening, becoming the first downtown airport in the United States.
Captain Frank’s Lobster House, one of the most well-known restaurants to Cleveland opened. The renovated boat depot turned seafood hot spot called the East 9th Street Pier home for 35 years.
Goodtime excursions and evening dinner & dance cruise ship opens on East 9th Street Pier with the capacity to hold 68 passengers. The Fryan family based their business and name off the original C&B Great Lakes cruise ship from the 1920s.
USS Cod, a decommissioned World War II submarine, delivered to Cleveland lakefront for Navy training after serving 12 years and seven successful war patrols. The Cod was docked between Burke Lakefront Airport and the United States Coast Guard on North Marginal Road.
Goodtime II was purchased with the capacity of 475 passengers, to accommodate the popularity of leisurely cruising the Lake Erie.
Cleveland National Air Show
Port of Cleveland, the third-largest port in the Great Lakes became incorporated for bulk freight shipping.
The United States Coast Guard moved to East 9th Street, the current location of the station. The station was originally housed in several World War II era buildings, until construction began on new facilities for the base. On October 16, 2012, Station Cleveland Harbor took residence in their new facility. The Coast Guard’s major responsibilities on Lake Erie include search and rescue, law enforcement, environmental protection, and marine safety.
USS Cod was given to a non-profit organization (Save Cod, Inc.) by the Navy and she began her career as a floating memorial with public tours. The Cod has called Cleveland’s lakefront home for the last 40+ years with seasonal tours May 1 thru September 30.
The Grand Prix of Cleveland, a 500-km IndyCar auto race, has been held annually at Burke Lakefront Airport since 1982, and was originally known as the Budweiser-Cleveland 500. The race became the Cleveland Grand Prix in 1984, and was changed again to the Budweiser-Cleveland 500 in 1985. Subsequent names for the event corresponded with the primary sponsors: In 2002, the race was referred to as the “Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U.S. Bank.”
North Coast Harbor Inc. is created to plan and manage the development of 176 acres of lakefront properties.
Voinovich Bicentennial Park complete. The $10 million project created an inner lake, promenade and a 3-acre park. The original mission for the inner harbor was to create a safe harbor refuge for the Cleveland Harbor area.
Goodtime III cruise ship replaced the Goodtime II, the new vessel now hosts 1,000 passengers. The Goodtime III continues to operate seasonal lake and river tours, weekend dance cruises and special events out of their East 9th Street Pier. The company is a 3rd-generation family run business and remains a tourism staple to Downtown Cleveland.
Steamship William G. Mather Museum docked on East 9th Street Pier.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame groundbreaking. The Who’s Pete Townshend, Chuck Berry, Billy Joel, Sam Phillips, and Ruth Brown (to name a few) attended the Cleveland groundbreaking ceremony.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum threw open its doors on September 2, 1995, and celebrated with a blockbuster benefit concert at nearby Cleveland Municipal Stadium. This marathon show featured once-in-a-lifetime pairings and performances by greats such as James Brown, Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash and Booker T. and the M.G.s. In addition to the Municipal Stadium concert, the Rock Hall’s festive opening weekend featured a downtown Cleveland parade and a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Little Richard and Yoko Ono.
Great Lakes Science Center opened in July of 1996. The center grew out of a mid-1980s proposal to establish a Great Lakes maritime museum on the lakefront, by 1990, when a planning board was organized, the project had taken on the more ambitious form of a $55 million interactive education center dedicated to “the environment, science, and technology of the Great Lakes Region.” Major donors over the following six years of planning and construction included the George Gund Foundation, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Ford Motor Company, BP Amoco, Society Bank, Ameritech, and TRW. The building itself was designed by Boston museum architect E. Verner Johnson. Upon opening, the center featured roughly 350 science exhibits and activities organized into three floors, each dedicated to one of its educational themes (environment, science and technology), as well as an Omnimax wide-screen movie theatre.
George V. Voinovich Bicentennial Park dedicated to Mayor of Cleveland.
IWASM joined the North Coast and Cleveland Community on May 12, 1998, when Burke Lakefront Airport officially became the museum’s new. Since then, visitors can view their exhibits in the airport’s lobby and east concourse and learn about women’s contributions to aerospace.
Cleveland Brown’s Stadium, currently known as FirstEnergy Stadium, opened for the return of the NFL franchise to Cleveland.
Steamship William G. Mather moved to Dock 32, directly North of the Great Lakes Science Center. The move allowed the Great Lakes Science Center to share ticketing, educational programs, and parking with the Mather. The ship still rests at Dock 32 and is open seasonally from May thru October.
The Harbor Heritage Society, which owned and operated the Steamship William G. Mather, donated the museum to the center, and plans were made for an all-weather connector to be built between the two facilities.
A 150-foot-tall wind turbine was erected on the Great Lakes Science Center’s front lawn to demonstrate renewable energy.
Dew Tour hosted in North Coast Harbor. Post event the games donated the skatepark to the City of Cleveland. The park was active with rails and ramps until 2010.
North Coast Harbor is rebranded as a downtown district and begins programming free signature community events. North Coast Namaste, free outdoor yoga each Tuesday evening hosted 50-100 participants each week June through September. Kids Fish CLE began as a spring event and evolved into a summer outing with the Cleveland Police and Downtown Cleveland Alliance—the City would provide bait and poles for 100+ kids and CPD would provide a free hot dog lunch.
North Coast Harbor Transient Marina opens. The 5-year contract is operated under JIT Services (aka. Rock & Dock Marina) with transient docking, jet-ski and paddle boat rentals.
Cumberland Development broke ground on Nuevo Modern Mexican restaurant located on the East 9th Street Pier. The development required the relocation of the Goodtime III ship and ticket office from the southern portion of Voinovich Park to the East side of East 9th Street Pier. The Goodtime III rests in the off season at her original dock in the inner harbor.
Cleveland Bike Tours calls North Coast Harbor home. Early operations were housed out of a small shipping container located on the East 9th Street Pier. Later the team moved to their home on the lower South East corner of the Harbor Verandas.
Nuevo Modern Mexican & Tequila Bar opens on East 9th Street Pier. The second level event space has beautiful views of the City and Lake Erie. Immediately after opening the restaurant and park became a very popular wedding destination.
Public sand volleyball courts added to East 9th Street Pier. The project was a part of the Cumberland Development leased property and funded by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Along with the courts the grant covered the installation of two public restrooms which attached to the North side of Nuevo Modern Mexican.
Cleveland Script Sign installed at North Coast Harbor. The iconic signature block is 1 of 6 within Cuyahoga County. Destination Cleveland spear headed the project with 3 of the 6 signs installed prior to the Republican National Convention.
Republican National Convention takes over the lakefront for welcome party for 10,000 guests and delegates.
Long Live Rock plaza landmark installed at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Voinovich Park bocce courts installed spring of 2018. The courts were funded by the City of Cleveland’s Department of Port Control and were the first naturally surfaced outdoor bocce courts in downtown. Photo: Inaugural North Coast Bocce Tournament held June 23 & 24, 2019.
Harbor Verandas luxury apartments complete. Our first group of downtown lakefront residents moved in on November 1, 2018. The apartment complex was once the home of a retired skatepark, now rests a 3-story building with lower level retail space and 16 modern luxury apartments each with their own private veranda.
Downtown Cleveland’s first lakefront playground breaks ground on Great Lakes Science Center property. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the playground did not official open until Summer 2020. Photo: Groundbreaking for the first downtown Cleveland playground took place October 28, 2019.
Cleveland’s Downtown Playground dedication.
Oasis Marinas at North Coast Harbor awarded contract to operate the city transient docks on June 1, 2020.