History

  •  History of Parma Schools, Churches and Community
    NOTE:  All excerpts are quoted directly from the book:  

    "Parma, Ohio"

    By Diana J. Eid

    Published by Arcadia Publishing, Charleston SC: 2010

    Early records show that the first classes were held in the home of resident Samuel Freeman. Freeman was not only the first schoolteacher, but he also served as the first justice of the peace and first postmaster of the township. With Parma’s population growth, trustees met on May 13, 1826, to form the first school district in Parma Township. The first schoolhouse was located on what is now the Parma Heights Cemetery on Pearl Road. It was used for schooling, meetings, elections and religious services until 1841. A plaque mounted on a boulder in the cemetery marks the location of where this school used to be. The township first started with two school districts and later split into nine. As time went on, many schools were built in the area to accommodate the growing number of children attending classes.

    The Parma School District is the 2nd largest in Cuyahoga County and the 11th largest in Ohio.  Made up of Parma, Parma Heights and Seven Hills, the district currently has 15 schools.  This includes three high schools, three middle schools, eight elementary schools and one preschool.

    Parma is also known for its many places of worship and has often been referred to as “A City of Churches.”  The first religious service was held in 1822 by Rev. Henry Hudson at the home of early settle Asa Emerson.  The first church in Parma was the Free Will Baptist Church, which started around 1830 and was located in the southeast corner of the township. Featured here are some of the older churches that were started in Parma in the late 1800s to the 1930s.

    What began as a small gathering of worshipers in 1822 has now led to Parma becoming a home to over 50 churches, including a Byzantine cathedral and a Ukrainian Catholic Church, as well as one of the nation’s largest Islamic mosques. 

    Interesting historical information taken from captions under photos from the book . . .

    The first school house was built out of logs and sat on top of a hill in the Parma Heights Cemetery on Pearl Road.  As the population grew, more schools were needed, and soon nine one-room buildings were added around town.

    In the early 1900s teachers were paid $30 per month at the time to teach. Teachers were offered an extra $3 if they cleaned the schoolroom as well as kept the school fires burning. 

    Back in 1938, many children did not attend school during the months of May through November because there was a lot of work to be done on the farm during those times.   

    When Pearl Road School opened in 1921, it was the end of one-room schoolhouses in Parma. Winifred Stroud served as the school’s first principal.  Pearl Road School was one of a few schools built around this time that were located in such a way that they were to face the main road as well as be a reasonable distance from the road in order to avoid dust and noise.  

    Thoreau Park Elementary School was built in 1926 when Parma was a village. The school started with half-day sessions for grades kindergarten through sixth and shared the school with older grades until Schaaf Junior High School opened in 1928.  After Schaaf opened, the primary grades went back to full-day classes.  The first principals of Thoreau Park School were Mrs. McCreary and Mrs. Bardsalls. McCreary stayed on as principal and retired in 1944.  

    Schaaf Junior High School was built at a time when Parma was a village, and the increasing number of children caused the school to be opened in 1928.  Schaaf Junior High was eventually sold to a church group who later sold it to the City of Parma.  This city then sold the building to Constellation Charter School. 

    State Road School, located on State Road, was built in 1921 at the same time as Pearl Road School and Ridge Road School.  The three schools were considered sister schools back then because they were designed very similarly to one another.  They all had nearly the same exteriors as well as a red brick floor on the inside.  Ridge Road School was located at Ridge Road and Day Drive and closed in 1962.   

    Parma Senior High School was built in 1953.  It was originally designed for 2,000 students, but soon had over 4,000 students, which gave it the title of being the largest school in Ohio at one time.  Parma Senior High was the first school built in Parma after 22 years.  

    Normandy High School is located on Pleasant Valley Road.  It opened in 1968.  The school system’s third high school.  Normandy started out with junior and senior grades and then added more grades in later years.  The school is home to the Normandy Invaders.   

    Byers Field, 1950.  In the early 1950’s, a new football stadium for Parma Senior High was built at the site of a previous project abandoned in 1935.  The field was reconditioned, with lights installed for nighttime football. The stadium, now called Byers Field, after Superintendent Carl Byers, is located at Ridge Road and Day Drive and is the second largest stadium in Cuyahoga County (the largest is Cleveland Browns stadium).  Prior to being a stadium, the area was once an apple orchard. 

    Split sessions began in February 1977.  Students of Parma’s John Muir Elementary School (built in 1930) would board buses to be transferred to John Glenn Elementary School in Seven Hills, in order to conserve natural gas.  At that time, Parma had to close 14 of their 30 schools.  The transferred students had to endure split sessions at school until March of that year.   

    Cuyahoga Community College. The college opened in September of 1966 with 2,600 students enrolled.  In October 1996, President Bill Clinton visited the campus and talked to a crowd of 15,000 people about education.  Clinton had previously visited Cleveland and made sure to stop at Parma Pierogies restaurant before going on his way. Their 200-acre setting includes Veterans Memorial Garden, as well as many streams, ponds, and fountains.  When Crile Hospital announced that it was closing its doors, speculation arose as to what would take its place.  Many thought it might become a state park, veterans’ cemetery, or even a mental hospital.  

    Parma City Hall.  In 1924, Parma was incorporated as a village, and a new town hall was built.  Previously, the former town hall had been in an old schoolhouse on Ridge and Bean Roads (Ridgewood Drive).  This new hall was constructed on the east end of Ridge Road. (Courtesy of Cleveland Press Collection.  On January 1, 1931, Parma was declared a city.  The first city council meeting occurred on January 5, 1931.  During the time of the Depression in the 1930s, Parma was not growing, and there was talk of annexation to Cleveland, but instead, a resolution was passed on January 15, 1931, to decrease the wage of every employee in Parma in order to recover some of the loss the city was experiencing.  

    Parma Community General Hospital,1951. In 1957, a committee started a fund-raising drive to raise money for the proposed hospital. In August 1961, the hospital opened its doors.  In 2000, Parma Community General Hospital was named one of the top 100 hospitals in the country by Healthcare Industries Association and the Health Network. 

    Holy Family Home. In 1956, the Holy Family Home was established by the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, New York, who cared for cancer patients.  A prominent figure in the development of the home was Rose Hawthorne, daughter of writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Holy Family Home has taken care of over 12,000 patients with cancer at no cost. 

Historical Facts About Parma

  • The following is excerpted from "Images of Parma" by Diana J. Eid 

    What was Parma before it became the big city it is today?

    To get an idea, the area known in the Western Reserve as Township 6, Range 13 was once called Greenbrier after the many thorny bushes that filled the area.  Imagine traveling by foot or wagon hundreds of miles to arrive at a destination only to have to hack a clearing out of the woods.  That is just what the first settlers did when they arrived in the area in 1816.  In doing so, they made that clearing their home and soon set out to build up the land. The first settler was a merchant and soon after arriving saw an opportunity for business.  In 1819, this merchant and his family built a home and turned it into an inn and tavern.  Business soon began to thrive as more settlers landed in the area.  People in Cleveland were referring to the area as Briar Hill.  Somewhere along the line, a medical doctor in Cleveland named Dr. David Long visited the Duchy of Parma, Italy, and was very impressed with the area.  He came back into town and persuaded the people of Greenbrier that they should have a better name.  He suggested the name of Parma to them, which they accepted. 

    In 1826, the township of Parma was formed when settlers separated themselves from Brooklyn Township.  It was also in this year that the first and second school districts were formed.  Parma was steadily on its way.  Around this time, the town was also divided into road districts, and many roads had simple names.  For instance, Ridge Road was once called Center Road, mainly because it ran through the center of town. 

    By 1840, there were 963 people living in Parma.  While the land was quickly becoming occupied with new arrivals, there was still a problem with the number of bears, wolves, and rattlesnakes that were destroying farm animals and crops.  In 1842, a hunting party was organized and lasted several days in an attempt to rid the area of these animals that were wreaking havoc.  From 1850 to 1910, Parma’s population growth slowed down, as there was very little land available for purchase, having been used mostly for farming.  Early records show that a few businesses were already in the community.  In 1876, there were blacksmith shops and repair shops in the area, while grocery stores were many miles apart from each other.  Around this time, Parma and its surrounding towns were expanding as bridges and plank roads were now being built.  In 1912, a portion of Parma broke off and became known as Parma Heights.  Some say it had to do with the Temperance Movement, which was a social movement against the use of alcohol.  Since Parma had an abundance of taverns and inns, many believed the people of Parma Heights wanted to form their own community that would give them the right to make their own laws and government.  The U.S. census of 1920 listed Parma Heights’s population at 310, while Parma had 2,345 people. 

    After World War I, many developers started looking at land in the area. They wanted to build, and soon after many homes appeared in Parma.  Howard A. Stahl was Parma’s first major land developer and was responsible for much of the layout of Parma’s streets. Today, the dinkey streetcar soon became a regular fixture for transportation in the area.  In 1924, the people voted and Parma was incorporated as a village.  The first mayor of the village of Parma was John F. Goldenbogen.

    During this time, a new town hall was built.  The previous one had been in an old schoolhouse at Ridge Road and Bean Road (now Ridgewood Drive).  The city continued to thrive.  In 1927, Parma was considered Cleveland’s fastest-growing suburb.  With a population of 2,345 in 1920, by 1930 it was booming with over 13,000 people.  More schools were being constructed as well as businesses and homes.

    Parma became a city in 1931.  However, it wasn’t as joyous an occasion as it should have been.  The 1930s saw the Depression, which had an effect everywhere, including Parma.  Wages of employees were cut in order to keep the city afloat, and many people were unemployed at the time.  There was talk of the city and school district annexing to Cleveland, but the people took a vote and decided against it.  By the beginning of the 1940s,  Parma was beginning to emerge again with more growth around the city.

    After World War II ended, many soldiers came home and needed a place to raise their families.  Many of them moved to Parma.  Abandoned streets were rebuilt, and new homes sprouted up everywhere.  The 1940s and 1950s saw much growth to the industrial side of the city.  The General Motors Chevrolet Plant was being constructed in 1947, and the Union Carbide Research Center was established as well.  More schools were being built to keep up with the growing area.  In 1950, the population was over 28,000, but by 1960 it had tripled to more than 82,000 people. The 1960s saw many shopping plazas pop up in the area as well as Parmatown Mall.  Parma Community General Hospital also opened its doors during this time.  Even a new city hall was built to keep up with the city’s rapid expansion.  Parma was known at this time as the fastest growing city not only in Ohio but also in the United States.

    Parma is a unique city and has had its share of visitors.  From the president stopping by to make a speech to local comedians doing spoofs on Parma, each and every event has made this city into what it is today.  It is interesting to note that no one person can be credited with shaping the city. The first settlers might have had a vision of what they wanted Parma to be, and along the way, every citizen of the city, even now, has united to keep Parma strong.  The city is still growing, but one thing remains the same, and that is the loyalty each resident has to preserving history. 

    “In the Beginning”

    In 1816, a man named Benajah Fay, his wife, Ruth, and their 10 children arrived on a piece of land identified by the Western Reserve as Township as Township 6, Range 13.  They decided to make this area their home.  Benajah and Ruth had come from Lewis County, New York, and they most likely arrived in this area for the land and better opportunities.  The family soon set out to clear a patch of land in which to live on.  They settled on what is now Theota Avenue at the intersection of Pearl and Ridge Roads.

    About a year later, another family arrived, and soon thereafter Parma had a small group of settlers who had decided to stay in the area. Benajah and Ruth had the first child born in Parma, in 1720, and named her Mabel.  The first death in Parma was that of Isaac Emerson in 1823, and the first marriage in Parma took place between Lois Small of Parma and Ephraim Fowles of Middleburg Heights.

    By 1820, the inn and tavern that Benajah worked to build was becoming a busy place, as it was the“No. 2 stop on the Cleveland-Columbus stagecoach line.  Blacksmith and repair shops as well schools and churches were erected in the area, as the residents decided that they wanted to stay and build on this land that they had chosen to settle on.  By 1850, Parma had around 1,500 people living in the area, which was a big change from 1816 when there were only 500 people living in the same area, which was a beg unique change from the 1816 when there were only 12.

    As more settlers arrived, they brought unique skills. Chapter One of this book, Images of America Parma by Diana J. Eid, shows early images of Parma citizens as far back as the late 1800s. While the farms and businesses are no longer there, these photographs serve as reminders of how the early residents lived and what they did to help Parma grow.

    “Just Parma”

    Parma is said to be named after a city in Italy.  While it may share a similar name, its personality is far from the same.  Many of the early settlers in Parma were of German descent.  Over time, the city has become a mixture of different cultures.  Parma’s history is rich and has had many events for which it was made famous.  In earlier times, Parma Day was a yearly celebration by the residents, as was the Ice Carnival, and later on, Nationality Day made its way through the city to celebrate the diversity of its people.  Other events, such as National Milk Week and Pancake Day, also helped to put Parma on the map.

    While many people think that Parma may be just an average city, it has had some very interesting visitors.  For instance, comedian Bob Hope made appearances in Parma.  Other famous local personalities include Ghoulardi and Big Chuck. Actor and comedian Drew Carey had a theme song for his television show called “Moon Over Parma".  More recently, he ordered 45 pizzas from his favorite pizza establishments, Antonio’s Pizza in Parma, and had them delivered to him in California.  Many political figures have also made appearances in the city.  In 1980, President Jimmy Carter came to Parma to speak with senior citizens and community leaders.  President Bill Clinton always made sure to make a stop at Parma Pierogies when campaigning in the city.  In 2008, Hillary Clinton paid a visit to Grace’s Grille on Pleasant Valley Road to talk about health care.