United Recreation was the first Black-owned bowling alley in the United States. Located on Cedar Avenue at East 82nd Street, the bowling alley was a response to racial discrimination. Postal worker and pioneering Black bowler J. Elmer Reed started his own bowling league, the National Bowling Association, a block away in 1939. Difficulties in gaining access to lanes in white-owned alleys soon forced Reed to move his league, first to Euclid and East 59th and then to Woodland and East 9th. But wherever he went, the same problem recurred. While he challenged the whites-only rule of the American Bowling Congress and eventually succeeded in getting the rule scrapped eleven years later, in the meantime Reed worked to carve out a place to bowl without issues. In 1941, with financial backing from Rodger Price and Willie Pierson (who already operated the popular Log Cabin tavern on East 55th), Reed gained a brand-new facility with ten maple lanes called United Recreation. The venue became a recreational mainstay in the postwar heyday of bowling’s popularity, but as population flight began to hollow out the Fairfax neighborhood, Reed encountered another challenge, this time in securing insurance, and ultimately was forced to give up the business in the mid 1960s.
Additional information coming soon.
- Andrzejewski, Thomas S. “Building Where Color Barrier Fell Under Renovation.” Plain Dealer. October 29, 1984.
- “Display Ad 14 — No Title.” Call & Post. August 16, 1941.
- “Honesty, Sincerity Are Keys to Long Life, Says Postman.” Call & Post. January 12, 1957.
- “Pierson-Price Combine to Build $60,000 Bowling Plant.” Call & Post. May 31, 1941.