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Longtime Cleveland residents see the promise in Hough community

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 1:22 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2021 at 10:30 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - July 1966. More than half a century has passed since the city burned during the deadly Hough Riots, what some now called the Hough Uprising. It took days to regain a sense of peace in the city that erupted in July of 1966.

From July 18 - July 24, the Hough community was in turmoil. People rose up, burning and looting and shooting to protest police brutality, poverty, overcrowding, racism and overcharging by area merchants. Four people died during the uprising, including a couple of people caught in the crossfire between police and protesters.

History tell us it began at East 79th Street and Hough Avenue at the Seventy-Niners Cafe when a white merchant refused a glass of water to a Black patron.

It took heavily armed national guardsmen riding through the streets and community leaders walking the streets to bring a sense of calm. Close to 30 were injured and about 300 people were arrested; almost 250 fires were set, costing between 1-2 million dollars in property damage.

The Hough community is still scarred with abandoned buildings and empty lots. Like in many Urban neighborhoods, shootings are rampant, but thankfully, there is rebirth too. Many new homes have been built in the community over the past 25 years or so and they’re in a sense of optimism, plus millions of dollars of new development is being invested in Hough.

“We had other abandoned buildings that were in here. They had to be torn down.”

Attorney Carolyn Watts Allen has lived in Hough with her husband Robert since 1993. They were among the first to move from the suburbs into this burned-out section of Cleveland following the infamous Hough Riots.

“I was working as a legal secretary for a law firm downtown,” said Carolyn Watts Allen. “They represented a lot of the people who got arrested during the Hough Riots.”

Even today, there are many empty lots from that era. The Allens worked with others to develop the 20 home development “Renaissance Place” on East 75th Street.

“We started talking about it and we approached Mrs. Lewis and she was ready. She wanted people to move into Hough. She was making land available.”

The revered, late councilwoman Fannie Lewis preached about “A New Day in Hough.”

“So, he said if we bring our neighbors together we can do a whole develop,” said Carolyn Watts Allen. “I hadn’t thought of that. But we started asking our neighbors and they were very interested. There were a lot of people who wanted to move back into the Hough Community. They saw the land. They saw the opportunity. They saw the vision.”

“I’ve always felt it’s something kinda wrong with people who think success is moving away from each other,” said Robert Allen.

Robert Allen brought his West Virginia sense of neighborhood to Hough.

“I feel real good now because I know everybody here and I don’t mess with nobody business but I know them all,” said Robert Allen. “If they need anything I’m willing to help and vice-versa.”

The dream of homeownership continues with the planned development of new homes on East 66th Street.

“The Allen Estates, they named that after us, in honor of us,” said Carolyn Watts Allen. “We don’t have any financial interest in it. But we like to give counsel.”

“How do you see Hough today? I see it as opportunity. We’ve had good leadership and we’re on what’s called Hough Community Land Trust now so that we can begin to become good stewards of the land that’s in Hough.”

“The community laid dominant for about 30 years until police commander Billy Tell built an upscale home on 89th and Chester,” said Mansfield Frazier. “Everybody thought he was crazy.”

Mansfield Frazier is another who put down roots in Hough. He and his wife, Brenda, built their forever home 20 years ago at East 66th and Hough and then their vineyard, Chateau Hough, across the street.

“What they didn’t realize was there was a pinned-up demand in the Black community to live in new homes. But necessary to move to Solon or Rocky River. They wanted to do it in their own communities.”

Progress around The Fatima Family Center and the Historic League Park. Hough is also home to St Agnes Catholic Church, which is undergoing a major renovation. There’s more, including this new 4-million dollar investment.

“The new branch of the Hough Library is about a block to the north and then two blocks to the south of us on Euclid on 66th, the Cleveland Foundation is building their new headquarters,” said Frazier. “So, all of that is causing new energy, a lot of desire and we’re hopeful that it will cause more people to build new homes in Hough.”

“We’re so close to downtown and close to the amenities, the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western all of those things,” said Carolyn Watts Allen. “It’s ideal and we want it available to every income and age bracket that’s possible.”

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