The Log Cabin was a popular tavern opened in 1934 by Willie Pierson and Rodger Price at 2290 East 55th Street before expanding into the adjacent storefront at 2294 two years later. Pierson, a Guthrie, Oklahoma, native and World War I veteran who would go on to be one of the first African American homeowners on fashionable East Boulevard in the Glenville neighborhood, was known as a sportsman and financier. In the latter capacity he established and operated the Log Cabin along with Price, a Texan who arrived in Cleveland in 1927 and later started Cleveland’s first Black-owned drugstore chain, bowling alley, and medical building.
The Log Cabin was one of the most notable African American nightspots in Cleveland in the 1930s. It was reportedly the second Black-owned bar in Cleveland to receive its liquor license following the 1933 repeal of the Volstead Act. Styled as a “swanky hunting lodge,” the Log Cabin featured a hunting scene painted on its walls by Charles Sallee, who went on to be one of the first two Black graduates of the Cleveland School of Art (in 1938). It became a famous eating and drinking spot that even attracted national celebrities like Joe Louis and Duke Ellington. The restaurant was especially known for introducing shack fried chicken in Cleveland. People rushed to Log Cabin on a nightly basis, and the building was able to accommodate about one hundred couples, offering the absolute best talent and beauty for their guests.
Despite its popularity in the years preceding World War II, the Log Cabin only appeared in the Green Book for one year after the war. It is not clear why the Log Cabin was delisted, but it remained open for almost two more decades, extolling its 55th-Central location at the “Crossroads of the World.” Yet its location became less advantageous over the coming years as city-led and federally funded urban renewal decimated much of the Cedar-Central neighborhood, displacing thousands of its residents, surely including many Log Cabin patrons.
The last owner of the Log Cabin, former hostess Ella Mae Ellis, took over the just before Christmas in 1964. She transformed the business into “The Ellis Bar” in February 1965, shifting from shack fried chicken to egg rolls, fried rice, and other Chinese cuisine. After a devastating fire destroyed the building in 1970, Ellis was determined to reinvest in the neighborhood. By the next year she had moved the business into a vacant storefront next door, opening with a performance by the O’Jays. Ellis’s efforts lifted hopes, but with the closing of the Majestic Hotel three years earlier, her latter-day renewal of the Log Cabin tradition was ultimately not enough to bring back the “Crossroads of the World.”
Green Book Details
Log Cabin appears in the Green Book from 1939 to 1946 at 2294 E. 55th St. under the category Taverns.
- “And So the Repubs Meet Eat and Be Merry!” Pittsburgh Courier. June 13, 1936.
- Digital Scholarship Lab, “Renewing Inequality,” American Panorama, ed. Robert K. Nelson and Edward L. Ayers, accessed November 20, 2021, https://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/renewal/#view=0/0/1&viz=cartogram&city=clevelandOH&loc=13/41.4940/-81.6470&project=3025
- “Display Ad 23 — No Title.” Call & Post. August 23, 1941.
- “Ellis Bar Fire Moves Party To Quincy Ave.” Call & Post. December 12, 1970.
- “Ellis Bar Open: Spanky’s A.M. To Open With O’Jays May 27th.” Call & Post. May 22, 1971.
- Fuster, John. “New Ellis Bar ‘Grand Opening’ for Feb. 24.” Call & Post. February 6, 1965.
- Jenkins, William D. “Before Downtown Cleveland, Ohio, and Urban Renewal, 1949-1958.” Journal of Urban History 27 (May 2001): 471–496.
- “Log Cabin Café one of the Smartest in Cleveland.” Pittsburgh Courier, June 13, 1936.
- “Log Cabin Celebrates 23rd Birthday Monday.” Call & Post. December 14, 1957.
- “Log Cabin’s Grand Opening Scheduled for Friday: Jimmy Sanders and Combo to Launch New Entertainment Policy at Cabin.” Call & Post. July 15, 1950.
- “Log Cabin, Swankiest Grill in Town, To Open.” Call & Post. December 22, 1934.
- “No Arson In Fire Which Damagies New Ellis Bar.” Call & Post. February 27, 1965.
- “Willie Pierson, Sportsman Dies.” Call & Post. September 7, 1963.