Maingate Area History
The five square mile Maingate industrial district is situated within an eight mile stretch of the flatlands near the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. While "The Flats" at the north end of this area has evolved into an exciting mix of residential, entertainment and industrial uses, Maingate remains solely industrial. Its function is to produce and distribute products.
Maingate can trace its origins back to the inception of the Connecticut Land Company in 1795. But without adequate roads and ports facilities, economic development in the Western Reserve languished until the completion of the Ohio Canal between Cleveland and Akron in 1827. Improved access to Eastern markets and their higher prices spurred local population growth and industrial development.
By 1860, Cleveland began to emerge as an industrial stronghold, its population increasing to 43,417. The onslaught of the Civil War in 1861 initiated a period of tremendous growth as business and industry contributed to the war effort. With the charter of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company in 1870, the true industrial nature of the Maingate area was fully established. Marathon Oil, Granger Materials, the Grasselli Chemical Company (now Zaclon Inc.) and many other long-time businesses trace their origins to this era.
The area's wholesale food market component also has early origins. The 19th century farmer's Hay Market and the Greeley Warehouse evolved into the Northern Ohio Food Terminal, now the 7th largest such terminal in the country. The NOFT supplies northeast Ohio grocers, restaurants, hospitals and hotels with produce and other food products from area growers.
The transportation industry has grown as well, from the railroad empire of the Van Sweringen brothers to modern rail lines operated by Norfolk Southern, Conrail and CSX. Highway development in the 1950s and 1960s created another transportation hub centered in the Maingate area, but also led to population decline and business relocation to growing suburbs. Population in the Central neighborhood declined some 80% between 1950 and 1980.
The Maingate Business Development Corporation was organized by the local business community in 1990 to reverse this declining economic trend. In its first five years, disinvestment was dramatically reduced and area confidence restored. Forty new companies chose to locate in the Maingate area and 1000 new jobs were created.
Continuing development efforts include land clearance, infrastructure improvements and redevelopment projects like the Maingate Shopping Center, the expansion of The Sanson Co. and the relocation of the Ohio Farmers distribution headquarters within the district. Maingate is becoming known as a dynamic business address now recognized for its previously overlooked strengths. Our bottom line, job creation, will continue to affect the quality and dignity of life for area residents.