Cleveland is distinguished by and made unique by streets, places and sites that no longer exist. To know Cleveland is to know a half-forgotten tale told in a bar one afternoon by a disheveled character intent on a staring contest with a glass of beer. The bar is Otto Moser’s on Sheriff Street, currently East 6th but more widely known as Wig Alley. It was the haunt of professional sportsmen, touring Broadway celebrities, gangsters and Eliot Ness, of the Untouchables, on hideaway from Chicago. Writers, gamblers, politicians, and characters straight out of Studs Turkel were regulars. Otto Moser’s is gone, moved uptown to a chromium glossy bistro on Playhouse Square. The Wig Hats still wait in the windows.
Cleveland was founded by General Moses Cleaveland in 1796 as he laid out the Western Reserve of the land grant to Connecticut. He never lived there. In its early years it was known as ‘Cleaveland.’ In 1831, a local newspaper bought a new type font for its masthead. The font was too big. The newspaper dropped the ‘a.’ Cleaveland soon became ‘Cleveland.’
In 2010, the population of the city itself, not including the substantial surrounding suburbs, was 396,698. In 1990, it was 505,616 - in 1970, 750,903. The population peak was 1950 with 914,808. In 1910, as the city's heyday was passing, it was 560,663.
In some ways, 1988's The Tenement Year is a farewell to Cleveland. Goodbye to the Nike Missile Base on the Shoreway, Universal Vibration, Dead Man's Curve, Eriwview Tower, the alien domain of the Flats, the Near West Side Market, Wig Alley, the USS Cod and the lake freighters, Liberty Boulevard, Coventry Road. The Church of the Holy Oil Can. On and on.