The Crime

Cleveland's Webster Ave. Neighborhood

Immigration and Urbanization

Confession and Conclusions

Sources

by Sherry Maruna

 

 


Cleveland's Webster Ave. Neighborhood

The EMpire Theatre, circa 1910The neighborhood that the people involved lived, worked and enjoyed leisure time reveal important social implications. For example, both Parrot and Lyons mentioned The Empire Theater as a place they went for entertainment. The Empire Theater was located between Huron Road Hospital and the Caxton Building on the corner of Huron Road and 9th Street. An ad in the Cleveland Citizen, a weekly newspaper, presented an interesting view of the type of shows offered during the week of October 2, 1909. The Empire claimed to "always be a good show" with "Mats Daily" and "Ladies all seats for 10 (cents)." The features included, "Fred Irwin's Gibson Girls in Burlesque" and the "French Portuguese Musical Comedy entitled, 'Frenchee.'" With "Amateurs Friday" and "Smoking Permitted," the Empire Theater provided a certain type of adult entertainment that also included wrestling and gambling.


Parrot claimed that herself, Santee and their dates, Ed Phillips and George Jefferies went to The Empire Theater on at least one occasion. Lyons stated that he went to the theater with George Flood, a boarder of Santee's and Parrot's brother, on the night of the murder to wrestle and win some money. He further stated for the trial record that Parrot and Santee were "hustlers" or prostitutes. Combine his statement with the features at The Empire Theater and one can ascertain the atmosphere of the neighborhood. Additional examination of the surrounding streets and Webster Avenue itself fills out a more complete picture.
East Ninth Street near Central Avenue, circa 1920
Webster Avenue was five blocks south of Huron Road, sandwiched between 9th Street and 14th Street. Santee's boarding house, number 1248, was across the street from a Syrian Church and surrounded by frame houses. The frame structures were one-and-one-half and two story "workers" cottages with "gabled ends" that faced the street. This area was to become known by 1915 as the "vice district." It contained a "deviant subculture" that included gambling, excessive drinking and sexual promiscuity. The gambling houses and brothels catered to African Americans and whites, both native-born and immigrants.

Lyons stated that Parrot was entertaining "a white fellow, an Italian" whom "she called… in from the street" the night of the murder. In Lyons' statement on the death of Sadie Santee, given in Buffalo on October 12, 1909, Lyons claimed that Sadie "would turn tricks right in front of me" even during the summer months of June, July and August when he was employed at J.H. Harbor. Lyons said he was giving Sadie money "to keep her from sporting." The people involved in this murder case lived in a lower class, industrial section near the docks of the Cuyahoga River; it was one of the least desirable neighborhoods to reside in.

There was a cigar factory located on the same back street where Santee's barn was, Columbus Ct. and a warehouse on the corner of Webster and 9th Street. Single and double wooden frame residences occupied the area east and south of 9th and 14th Streets. The occupants of these residences illuminate the wide variety of ethnicity represented in this area. The spatial isolation of ethnic groups and the tendency of immigrant streams, migration from the same village in Europe, are represented in the divisions of East 9th Street. Mostly boarding houses, the northern numbers of East 9th Street, 1807-1811 were home to white men and women of English and German descent with occupations that included, attorney, auditor, inspector of steel works, commercial traveler, wine salesman, insurance agent. The boarding houses from street number 1886 to 2250 on East 9th Street were home to mostly Chinese persons with occupations of cooks and waiters. From the East 9th Street number 2000 on, a small sprinkling of black or mulattos, persons of mixed parentage, was found with occupations of laborer and domestic.

Two cross streets, Ontario and Bolivar, offered the same spatial isolation of ethnicity. Ontario Street was home to Italians. In 1900, Italian immigrants in Cleveland numbered 3,000, in 1910 the number had increased to 11,000. Italians held jobs in a variety of industries, including the garment trade and specifically stone cutting, gardening and business enterprises in the Market District. Bolivar was home to both Greek and Syrian immigrants. Boarding houses on Bolivar were home to Syrian immigrants that worked as laborers, cigar makers and fruit vendors. Just a little further south and east, the number and ethnicity of the institutions increased. Perry Hall Jewish Theater, a Greek Catholic Church, St. Bridget's R.C. Church & School, the Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church and St. Anthony's Church were all within a five- to seven-block area. The range of ethnicity in a relatively small area of the city is testimony to the impact of immigration in Cleveland during the early 1900's.

Immigration and Urbanization