What was Parma before it became Cleveland’s largest suburb and Ohio’s seventh largest city? Why was it named Parma anyway? Why is there Parma and Parma Heights? Have Parmidians always loved their local taverns? We hit the Parma library to find out more about our city. Here are a few facts about the area’s early days to better understand our roots.
1. Parma was originally known as Township 6, Range 13 of the Western Reserve. With institutions such as Case Western Reserve, you may recognize the name. Much of the Greater Cleveland area (and Northeastern Ohio) was included in the Connecticut Western Reserve, land granted to the Colony of Connecticut under the terms of its charter by King Charles II. After the American Revolutionary War, Connecticut sold much of the reserve to a group of speculators who in turn sold it in portions for development by new settlers. The first settlers arrived in 1816.
2. The Parma area was once called Greenbrier after the many thorny bushes in the area. Early settlers had to clear out these bushes and woods to build on the land. The first settler was a merchant who opened an inn and tavern. Eventually a doctor from Cleveland visited Parma, Italy and was so impressed with it he persuaded the people of Greenbrier to change the town’s name.
3. Though some may complain about the city’s potholes, imagine driving down muddy roads and having to pay tolls just to cross through the Pearl and York intersection! This is how roads were in the city’s early days. Also, Ridge Road was once called Center Road because it ran through the center of town. Ridgewood Drive was first known as Bean Road after bean farmers in the area. And streetcars ran along State Road from Ridgewood Drive to Brookpark from 1915 until buses took over in 1939.
4. In 1842 there were so many bears, wolves and rattlesnakes destroying farm animals and crops in Parma that a hunting party had to be organized.
5. In 1912, a portion of Parma broke off and became Parma Heights. Some say that this may have been because of the Temperance Movement against the use of alcohol. Parma had a lot of taverns and inns (even then!) and perhaps the people of Parma Heights wanted to form their own (more sober) community. But if you look around today you see the city came around 😉
6. After WW2, many soldiers came home to Parma to raise their families. The 40s and 50s saw industrial growth with the construction of the General Motors Chevrolet Plant. In 1950 Parma’s population was 28,000, but tripled to more than 82,000 by 1960. Many shopping plazas popped up, as well as Parmatown Mall and Parma Community General Hospital. Parma soon became not only one of the fastest growing cities in Ohio, but in the United States!
7. Parma has more than 34,000 homes, but the oldest is the Henninger House built in 1849. It’s still standing near the corner of Broadview and Snow. Philip and Sophia Henninger came to the United States from Germany, had 10 children and are buried at St. Peter’s Church Cemetery on Broadview Road.
8. Along with its many drinking holes, Parma also has a long tradition of being a city of churches. The first church in Parma was a Baptist church, but today the city has close to 50, including the iconic golden domes of St. Josephat’s Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral and a Islamic mosque.
9. The Parma School district encompasses Parma, Parma Heights and Seven Hills, making it the 11th largest in Ohio with close to 20 schools. Many have been standing for decades: Thoreau Park Elementary 1926, St. Charles Elementary School 1924, Parma Senior High School 1853, Normandy High School 1968, Padua High school 1961, Tri-C 1966.
10. Byers Field was named after Superintendent Carl Byers and is one of the largest stadiums in Cuyahoga County. It sits on a site that used to be an apple orchard.
11. Parmatown Mall was built in 1956 as a shopping center and later was enclosed in the 1960s (and now it’s back to open space…ironic!).
12. Ridgewood Golf Course opened in 1925. Famous golfers including Arnold Palmer have played there, and you should too!
13. There’s been lots of news about how West Creek Conservancy is redeveloping the old Parmadale site. But what was Parmadale to begin with anyway? For those unfamiliar, Parmadale was a village for needy children created in 1925. Cottages, a dining hall, school chapel and even power plant spanned 180 acres of land off State Road. The complex was closed in 2014.
14. The Parma Theater opened in 1936 and stood for almost 80 years before also closing in 2014. Parma also had a drive-in theater on Brookpark Road that closed in 1990, and a theater inside Parmatown Mall that closed in 2004.
15. After WW1, many Germans came to the United States and settled in Cleveland. In 1924, they established the German Central Organization, which purchased land in 1926 that became a farm and is still used today for many recreational activities including weddings, fish frys and the group’s fabulous Oktoberfest! While many settlers of Parma were of German descent, over time the city has become a mix of cultures including Ukrainian, Polish, Italian and Irish.
To learn more and see other great photos from Parma’s history, pick up Parma (Images of America) by Diana J. Eid from a Parma library or online. Much of the information here was taken from this book.
Read why Parma’s mascot is the pink flamingo, and other blogs here.
Henninger House is not the oldest house in Parma/ 7777 York Road (big white house) was built in 1818
Hi Michael, thanks for reading. Both the book and additional sources I’ve found online state Henninger as the oldest. Has that home been registered as a historic site? Or do you have any references where this house is states as being built in 1818? Curious to see.
l belong to the Parma Heights Historical Society, and the house l mentioned he had great interest in the house on York Road so he researched it
Very interesting! This must not be a well-known fact. Do you have any other information about the house?
While it’s true that the York Rd. structure is older, it’s not in Parma anymore but in Parma Heights, so Henninger is the oldest in what is Parma today.
On our old deed from our house that was built in 1911 Parma used to be called Ramona Heights!
So interesting Laurie! Thanks for sharing. Looks like there’s a lot to learn about Parma!
I am the owner of 7777 York. The original owner was Ely. The info at the Franklin institute only goes back to 1865. The rest is at the western reserve historical society. They have sketched portrait copies of Ely and his wife. I am hoping to get copies for over one of my fireplaces. It can not be registered historical because too many updates were done that were critical. However we preserved as much as we could.
So interesting, thanks for sharing Penny! You are lucky to live in a nice piece of Parma’s history.
There’s also a Hindu temple and three tiny Jewish cemeteries (all clustered together).
Tri-C West was built in 1975. For several years before that they operated out of the old Crile veterans hospital that was there from 1944 through 1964 and that housed wounded soldiers and some German POWs. It was named for medical pioneer George Crile who also founded the Cleveland Clinic. The back of that property and the neighboring land that is now a park was a Nike Missile site, one of several ringing Cleveland.
I’ve heard that the Parma Heights split was over slow police response times to a rowdy tavern.
The population topped out at over 100,000 by 1970.
I know this is a fun piece, but I think it’s worth noting that Parma has been making a positive change. In the 1970s a federal judge found Parma guilty of housing discrimination against African Americans. It’s still predominantly white today, but there are definitely more black residents, and you see people who’ve come to this country from outside Europe too. That growing diversity is a positive development that we need to continue working on.
Thanks for the additional information and comments Tracy!