Identifying Lots
from the Original Surveys
of Cleveland


Cleveland was originally laid out by the surveying parties of the Connecticut Land Company, led by Moses Cleaveland, in the summers of 1796 and 1797. They divided the territory on the east bank of the Cuyahoga River into three groups of parcels of land: the "In-Lots," or "Two Acre Lots;" the "Out-Lots," or "Twenty-Acre Lots;" and the "Hundred Acre Lots."

The In-Lots were long, narrow parcels, being two chains (132 feet) by ten chains (660 feet) and arranged in parallel ranks perpendicular to Lake Street (now Lakeside), Superior Avenue and Huron Street. These were intended to be the residential and commercial lots of the future village and surrounded the traditional New England central commons we now call Public Square.

The Out-Lots surrounded the In-Lots to the east and south, beginning at East 14th Street (formerly Brownell) and running out to East 55th (formerly Willson). Like the In-Lots, they were elongated lots, but since they ran between radiating streets, they were longer in length and larger in area the farther they were from the center of town. This portion of the triparte plan appears almost like a spider web. These Out-Lots were intended to be more agricultural in purpose and the idea was that a settler purchasing one farther from his In-Lot would be compensated for the longer walk by having a larger lot for the same money.

The Hundred Acre Lots were the third portion of the plan and consisted of large rectangular tracts of land between the Out-Lots and the surrounding townships to the east and south. These were decidedly agricultural in nature and wound up harboring many small villages, railroad stops and minor commercial centers like Collamer and Doan's Corners (E. 105th and Euclid).

Since the In-Lots portion of the plan were laid out with respects to the lake -- a human-scale, pragmatic decision -- and the streets were therefore aligned northeast-soutwest, and since the Hundred Acre Lots reflected the pervailing east-west orientation of the rest of the Western Reserve's lands, the Out-Lots' radiating plan provided a convenient transition between the neighboring gridiron patterns, oriented at an angle to each other.

An early maps showing the layout of Cleveland into In-Lots and Out-Lots is Ahaz Merchant's Map of 1835. Here you can see the arrangement of In-Lots along the major streets "downtown" (lot #63, adjacent to the NE corner of Public Square, for example), and the radiating plan of the Out-Lots, starting at Huron and Euclid (East 14th Street at today's Playhouse Square). The full plan of the Out-Lots is shown at the bottom of the map in a separate box. Some idea of the bigger picture may be seen in this map of the Hundred Acre Lots and surrounding townships.

The commercial atlases display these In-Lots, Out-Lots and Hundred Acre Lots as one layer of information mixed in with all the other types of geographic information they contain. Think of each type of information as being on separate sheets of clear acetate and you are, in effect, looking down through all these layers when you are viewing a plat book map. The layer displaying the original plan of the village of Cleaveland (as it was spelled then), is valuable because subsequent titles to lands in the inner city ultimately trace back to these original lots and because the pattern of these lots framed the subsquent shape of Cleveland's development down to the present day.

On this latter point, remember that these original lots were usually owned by different people, who developed them independently. Sometimes a group of them might have been acquired by one owner and a larger development -- such as The Mall or the Cleveland Union Terminal, or Erieview -- created which spanned several original lots. But the usual case was that the different owners developed their lots independently and the original lot lines are still the boundaries of today's parcels of land. They frame the history of development within their boundaries, as those boundaries were only infrequently overwritten by later developments.


For more on the original surveys, see Edmund Chapman's book Cleveland:

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December 1, 2003


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