Puritas Springs Park was an amusement park located on Puritas Avenue on Cleveland’s west side from 1898 to 1958. For some period of time it was a destination for Black patrons, although their experience there is not well-documented. A 1919 Cleveland Plain Dealer article reported that about 15,000 people would gather at Puritas for an Emancipation Day picnic. This choice resulted from a decision by the Caterers’ Association and the Cleveland Association of Colored Men to abandon their tradition of holding the annual Emancipation celebration at Luna Park, another amusement park on the city’s East Side. For nearly a decade, the Cleveland Gazette (a Black weekly) had agitated against “color-line Luna Park’s annual ‘rake-off’ from our people.” Through the 1940s, Black organizations planned picnics at the amusement park. However, as at Euclid Beach Park, African Americans also sometimes met violence at Puritas. A park employee struck a 17-year-old Black patron in 1937, leading to a lawsuit against the park.
Ten years later, lawyers for both amusement parks decried the so-called Carr ordinance, a measure introduced after the 1946 Euclid Beach Park Riot by City Councilman Charles V. Carr to try to eliminate racial discrimination, charging that their clients were singled out when many other parks also violated Ohio civil rights statutes. One argued that there had been no issue until 1943, when, he alleged, communist agitators had planted the idea of discrimination in the heads of local African Americans. This notion belied the fact that Carr’s ordinance was actually lifted verbatim from the earlier Bundy ordinance that had passed with little fanfare in 1934. In spite of the parks’ opposition, the now-contentious reinforcement of the earlier ordinance passed, but Puritas Springs then designated its roller rink as a “private” concession to avoid compliance, borrowing a tactic from Euclid Beach’s response. The clashes over the ordinance do not appear to have made a deep impression, for the park continued to host at least occasional Black organization picnics until it closed permanently in 1958.
Even after its demise, however, Puritas Springs continued animate racially charged debate. In 1963, African American city councilman Lowell Henry introduced legislation to rezone the former amusement park for a large apartment complex, an action that led another councilman, George Blaha, to warn that the developer wouldn’t be able to obtain Federal Housing Administration (FHA) financing without guaranteeing that the housing development was open without regard to race. The Call & Post pointed to how the so-called “Dixiecrats” on City Council opposed the rezoning of Puritas for a housing development on the grounds that, as Mayor Ralph Locher alleged, “the people in that area do not want it.” One of them, Councilman Leonard P. Franks, claimed he had “heard secretly” that “Negroes wanted to get access to the West Side.” Locher vetoed the City Council’s passage of the rezoning measure, and the councilmen who favored the rezoning mustered only an 18-15 vote to override the veto, four votes shy of the necessary two-thirds majority.
- “Beach Ordinance Approved By Two Committees, Stalemated In Third.” Call & Post. February 8, 1947.
- “Carr Says, Mayor Bowed to Angry Mob.” Call & Post. March 23, 1963.
- Cleveland Gazette. August 9, 1919.
- “Colored Picnic Planned. 15,000 Will Gather at Puritas Springs Park Aug. 18.” Cleveland Plain Dealer. August 4, 1919.
- “Euclid Beach Park “All Set” to Open As City Probes Private Club Set-Up.” Call & Post. April 26, 1947.
- “Puritas Springs Park.” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. case.edu/ech/articles/p/puritas-springs-park.
- “Puritas Springs Park Sued For Assault.” Call & Post. August 5, 1937.
- Sabath, Donald. “2 Quit City Jobs, Run for Council.” Cleveland Plain Dealer. September 26, 1963.
- “Shades of Doc Bundy!: Beach Ordinance Passed in 1934.” Call & Post. May 24, 1947.
- Williams, Bob. “Pressure Will Pass Park Ordinance for Council Sees Will of the People.” Call & Post. November 30, 1946.
- Wolcott, Victoria. Race, Riots, and Roller Coasters: The Struggle over Segregated Recreation in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.