8508 Connecticut Ave.
4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1408 sq. feet, multiple occupancy
Built in 1910, Colonial style
Newburgh Heights—Slavic Village
In the late 1790s, a log cabin built at the intersection of the current Broadway Ave. and East 93rd began the settlement of what is now the Newburgh Heights neighborhood of the Slavic Village in Cleveland. At its inception, the area was its own village, called Newburgh. Newburgh even vied for--but lost to Cleveland--the distinction of being named the county seat in the late 1820s.
In the mid-1800s, significant historical events occurred that led to the neighborhood becoming the place that it is today. The Czech presence in the area began to increase; immigration of the Czech people boomed during this time because of the Prague Upheavals, an early Czech national movement quashed by the Habsburg military. The Polish presence increased as well, with many laborers working in stone quarries in the area. And, Cleveland began annexing pockets of Newburgh--with Newburgh’s citizens’ cooperation and encouragement. The gradual absorption of Newburgh into Cleveland took ninety years.
The first rolling mill also began operating in the area. The mill employed many Czech and Polish immigrants, as well as English-speaking workers, but tension between the Eastern European groups and the English-speakers led to union clashes. Strikes in the late 1800s sparked violence and arson with the intention of intimidating immigrants into not crossing picket lines. New Polish immigrants were recruited to work in the mill from the east coast. Eventually, the issue was resolved, and the union lost power--but the base immigrant population of the area was more prominent than ever.
The Czech and Polish immigrants’ culture colored the neighborhood. Churches like St. Wenceslaus, built in 1867, and St. Stanislaus, built in 1888, served as centers for the community. Large businesses and construction projects by Eastern European immigrants sprang up in the early to mid-1900s, leading to the richly varied neighborhood that exists today. Now a community that celebrates its past and plans for the future, bike trails, art installations, and festivals are all prominent features of the neighborhood.
During the early part of the twentieth century, the residents of the multi-family dwelling at 8508 Connecticut Ave. were, in many ways, typical of those who lived in the area. The neighborhood’s residents worked blue collar jobs--many at the nearby mills--and most of the population was of Polish descent. At the time, the property was divided into two living spaces: upstairs and downstairs.
One Polish resident of the property, Joseph Solek, was naturalized as an American citizen while he lived at 8508 Connecticut Ave., in 1924. He immigrated through New York in 1900, as a seventeen-year-old. Solek was a factory machinist who lived in the building with his wife, Helen, also a Polish immigrant, his daughter, Mildred, and a boarder, another Polish immigrant named Powell Sulek. We know that this group lived in the building through at least 1930.
The other occupants of the house at that time were second generation immigrants from Austria and Germany, Stephen and Olga Fisceri. Stephen was the conductor of a street railroad, which may well have been the interurban Cleveland and Youngstown Railroad, which eventually became Shaker Heights Rapid Transit.
Ten years later, the structure was home to people of English and Swiss descent. Rose Nash occupied the downstairs apartment with her son, Robert, who was a recorder at the steel mill. Her grandkids, Robert Jr., Audry, and John, also lived there with them. Both Robert and Rose were widows. Upstairs, Elmer Reinhardt lived with his wife Edna, their daughter Beverly, and a son from Edna’s previous marriage, Miller. Elmer was an accountant at the oil plant.
Harvesting the wood at 8508 Connecticut!
The house at 8508 Connecticut Ave. was built of Southern Yellow Pine, the strongest softwood lumber. A popular choice for home-building because of its strength, ability to hold fasteners, and its resistance to wear, Southern Yellow Pine played a key role in building during the Industrial Revolution. Europe imported vast amounts of Southern Yellow Pine in the 19th century.
It’s a high density wood that grows in a band from East Texas all the way to Virginia. It has been used in home construction since the 1800s and is also used extensively in wooden roller coasters, docks, and utility poles.
There are four main species: shortleaf, longleaf, loblolly, and slash. Each of these species has similar characteristics, but can demonstrate variation in color and grain. Color ranges from light orange to dark red, and can even sometimes be a cream color. The grain pattern might be wavy or knotty. Sometimes its long needles are used in holiday decorations when it’s cut.
A popular wood still in abundant use today, Southern Yellow Pine grows rapidly and is renewed more quickly than it is harvested. Growing it does not endanger old growth forests.