I-77 South: Cleveland
Interstate 77 starts in downtown Cleveland,
near Jacobs Field and Gund Arena, home of the Cleveland Indians and the
Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively. It proceeds south past Richfield, Akron,
Massillon, Canton, Bolivar, and Zoar. This program ends at New Philadelphia, but
I-77 continues through Ohio until it crosses the Ohio/West Virginia border at
Marietta and keeps on going south.
This route begins in industrial Cleveland. You'll see remnants
of what was once Cleveland's defining industry, steel, in old factory buildings
and warehouses. You will also pass through neighborhoods that were built for
workers in the mills and that have housed generations of immigrants.
At the southern edges of the Cleveland metropolitan area, there
is a surprising transition. Suddenly, you're in what appears to be a
forest, with glimpses of rolling wooded hills to the left. This is the Cuyahoga
Valley National Park, Ohio's only national park. It was established in 1974 as a
national recreation area and only recently upgraded to national park status.
With the exception of the national park, I-77 passes through a
heavily populated and industrial region that extends for 60 miles. Why this
concentration? Answer: the Ohio and Erie Canal. In the early 1800s Ohio's first
canal opened into Lake Erie at Cleveland. This transformed Cleveland from a
village into a trading center and then an industrial powerhouse. Akron was
founded because of the canal, and all along the route, smaller communities were
bolstered by its trade and traffic. Though the canal is long gone as a commercial waterway (it has a
second life anchoring the Cuyahoga Valley National Park), it started a process
of development whose effects continue to this day.
As you make your way through Akron, you might glimpse
reminders of what once were Akron's main industries: tires and oatmeal. Akron
was home to the "big four" of the rubber industry–B. F. Goodrich, Goodyear,
Firestone, General Tire–and Quaker Oats. Today there are only traces of those
industries left. You'll see some names reminiscent of the era (Firestone Blvd)
and some structures (a silo complex that was turned into a hotel–it can be seen
off to the left when you pass Akron's downtown). You'll also see evidence for an
anchor of the new economy: the University of Akron.
Throughout this route, you'll be following the path of the old
Ohio and Erie Canal. At Bolivar, I-77 is built just about on top of the canal bed.
Look to the right just before the Bolivar exit, and you'll see a row of
canal-era buildings. It doesn't take much imagination to see how those
structures were lined up to serve the canal traffic.
Right after the Bolivar exit, you'll pass through a section of
what was once Fort Laurens, the only American fort built in the Ohio territory
during the Revolutionary War. The fort didn't have much of an effect
militarily–the greatest battle was with the threat of starvation. But
it scored a few points for the struggling American forces for even attempting a
presence out here in the wilderness.
Throughout most of this route, the landscape
is gently hilly. But then a rather dramatic transition occurs near the Stark
County/Tuscarawas County line: the hills get higher, the valleys are deeper, and
there is more forested land. The reason for this change? Glaciers. The landscape
of northeast Ohio once was similar to the more rugged geography of southeast
Ohio, but from 2 million years ago to 10,000 years ago, glaciers scraped back
and forth, shaving down the hills and filling in the valleys. The result is the
more gentle landscape of northeast Ohio which is more conducive to human
settlement. Hence, the considerably larger population in the sections smoothed
by the glaciers.
This program is available for purchase on CD or cassette tape.
The narration runs for about one hour in 3 segments that take you from Cleveland
south along I-77. The CDs and cassettes sell for $9.95 each.