CLEVELAND — Tucked in between towering medical buildings, parking structures and new high-rise apartments sits one of Cleveland’s oldest historic landmarks, which is believed to be linked to the Underground Railroad, though there is no documented proof.
Becky Voldrich, Senior Director of Communications with University Circle Inc., told News 5 that University Circle was originally primarily farmland and was called “East Cleveland Township.”
The Cozad-Bates House is the only pre-Civil War home remaining in University Circle. According to University Circle, Inc., the home was built for Justus Cozad by his father Andrew. The oldest section was built in 1853 followed by additions in the 1860s and 1872. The Cozad family first settled in Northeast Ohio in the early 19th Century in an area known as East Cleveland Township, located several miles east of Cleveland along the road that became Euclid Avenue.
The Cozads and other area residents were active in the work of the Underground Railroad, providing aid and safe haven for freedom seekers waiting to travel by boat to Canada. Cleveland’s code name on the Underground Railroad was “Hope.”
“Great records were not kept about the number of people who passed these ways, but it had to have been many, many thousands of people, though, I mean logically speaking,” said Voldrich.
After UCI acquired the home in 2006 and with help from retired social worker and Cleveland-area activist Joan Southgate, the home is now an interpretive center divided into three parts. Maps, pictures, and gut-wrenching newspaper clippings throughout the home detail journeys through slavery in America and Cleveland’s role in it all.
Though it can be painful to look into the past and present, the stories and history held inside the Cozad-Bates home remain crucial to our future.
“If you don’t learn the lessons of history, you really are doomed to repeat them,” said Voldrich.
For more information and tour visits, click here.