The Flats is a mixed-use industrial, recreational, entertainment, and residential sector in the Cuyahoga Valley region of Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Named for its low elevation along the banks of the Cuyahoga River, the town lives up to its moniker.
The Flats is a renovated region on the banks of the Cuyahoga River, noted for its bustling nightlife, with edgy bars and clubs featuring live music, comedy, and drag events. The party scene extends to patios and beer gardens nearby, while dining options include gourmet taco places and chic cafes. In order to get from one side of the river to the other, people frequently use the water taxis that run along the west bank of the shoreline.
In 1796, Moses Cleaveland and his survey crew arrived on the banks of Cuyahoga upon their arrival from Connecticut. Early immigrants included Lorenzo Carter, whose land holdings comprised much of what makes up today’s East Bank entertainment district, including Whiskey Island, which was established after the mouth of the river was straightened by the Corps of Engineers.
Early residents found the Flats unfriendly with humid summers that brought airborne sickness and hard winters with high winds and precipitation from Lake Erie. Many took to higher ground in current-day Downtown.
Cleveland expanded slowly until the construction of the Ohio and Erie Canal, which brought a commercial route from the Ohio River and other southern Ohio communities. The mainly Irish immigrant workforce that built the canal established residence on the West Bank of the Flats and adjoining Ohio City.
The Flats’ industrial heritage, however, would be defined by its steel mills, located along the river south of the Tremont district and west of the Slavic Village. The mills were the backbone of the city’s economy and the major consumer of water and power. Post-war recessions and manufacturing moves to China and Europe struck the steel industry hard.
Layoffs in the late 1970s caused many to pursue work elsewhere, or support from social programs. During this period, Cleveland, along with other industrial cities in the region like Youngstown, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Gary, had become known as the Rust Belt. LTV’s recurrent bankruptcy finally led to the closure of their plants in 2000, until investors founded ISG and resumed scaled-back operations.
Over the second part of the 20th century, much of the industry and manufacturing in the Flats collapsed, leaving crumbling structures and persistent pollution. The chemical-clotted Cuyahoga River caught fire multiple times; most recently in 1969.