Cleveland, C-Town, or whatever you prefer to call it, is a city in Ohio that’s rich in history and multiple identities.
Cleveland, Ohio is the first city to be lit by electricity, hold a rock concert, and it’s the birthplace of Superman!
As much as there’s a lot to be said about the City of Cleveland, we’re here to focus on the many names this city has been called throughout history. After all, the multitude of nicknames alone already tells a lot about the city’s culture and development.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the list of Cleveland, Ohio nicknames and why it has those nicknames.
Here’s our list of Ohio’s nicknames:
1. Forest City
Forest City is known to be Cleveland’s first nickname, coined way back in the 1850s.
Cleveland, being called the Forest City, is credited to the 1840s mayor and Cleveland Horticultural Society secretary, WM. Case, who advocated for the planting of shade and fruit trees.
As of 2020, some Greater Cleveland firms still use the name.
2. Sixth City / Fifth City
Cleveland gained names based on the city’s substantial growth in the 20th century. Cleveland became among the most populous cities in the United States between 1890 and 1970.
The city overtook Baltimore in 1910 and became the 6th most populous city in the U.S., giving birth to the name Sixth City. Fifth City became its name for a while in 1920 when the city rose to the 5th spot before eventually going back to the 6th spot.
3. The Best Location in the Nation
The Best Location in the Nation was coined after the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. spearheaded a marketing campaign in 1944.
The idea of claiming that Cleveland is the best location in the nation was advertised on multiple channels to emphasize the city’s geographic and resource advantages.
4. The Mistake on the Lake / The Mistake by the Lake
Between the 1960s and 1970s, Cleveland experienced a steep decline in terms of economy, racial issues, environmental problems, and political turmoil.
The collective issues at the time tarnished the city’s local and national image.
The name Mistake on the Lake was popularized in the early 1960s as a response to the campaign Best Location in the nation.
5. City of Light
In correlation with the Cuyahoga River Fire, popular American singer and songwriter Randy Newman wrote a song titled “Burn On” in 1972.
The song was inspired by the fire event, with lyrics explicitly saying, “Cleveland, city of light, city of magic” and “‘Cause the Cuyahoga River goes smokin’ through my dreams.”
6. America’s North Coast
The idea of Cleveland being America’s North Coast came from a local ad agency owner in the 1980s.
It was first seen in one of the Greater Cleveland Growth Board’s ads in 1963, eventually becoming an official slogan that describes Cleveland as a port city.
7. The Rock and Roll Capital of the World
The radio station WMMS’ program director Billy Brass gave Cleveland the name Rock and Roll Capital of the World in 1972.
He credited the name to the city after reading The Sound of the City – The Rise of Rock & Roll by Charlie Gillett, who associated the naming of the rock and roll genre with Clevelanders Leo Mintz and Alan Freed.
8. The Big Plum
New York May Be the Big Apple, but Cleveland Is a Plum.
The idea of Cleveland being associated with a plum was created as a slogan by the popular newspaper Plain Dealer’s Thomas Vail and Alex Machaskee for the 1981 New Cleveland Campaign.
As New York was widely known back then as the “Big Apple,” Cleveland’s slogan response was a twist on plum being superior and more desirable.
9. 216 / CLE / The Land / C-Town
These locally-made names were popularized between the 1990s and 2010s as a result of the intersection between Cleveland’s black community and the emergence of the hip-hop and rap scene at the time.
The names are abbreviations of the spelling of Cleveland, and 216 was the assigned area code to the city.
10. Cleve (We’d All Like to Flee to the Cleve)
The name Cleve was taken from a popular 2007 NBC television show, 30 Rock. An episode of 30 Rock praised Cleveland as a parody in which Alec Baldwin’s character had a line saying, “We’d all like to flee to the Cleve.”
11. The Green City on a Blue Lake
The Green City on a Blue Lake was made popular by the head of EcoCity Cleveland David Beach in 2004.
The name and slogan were a means to promote Cleveland as a green city that protects its waters, despite the unfortunate past incident of the Cuyahoga River Fire.
Believeland was a term inspired by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ victory in the 2016 NBA playoffs after many years of disappointments in sports.
The slogan boosted the city’s pride and was spun around the concept that everything is earned.
Nicknames for Cleveland Based on the Cuyahoga River Fire
The Cuyahoga River Fire in June 1969 caused multiple environmental issues for Cleveland. The great fire coined lots of names for the city as a means to poke fun at the ironic incident of the city’s river catching fire.
The longest name and slogan is “The Only City in the World With a River That Caught Fire.”
- Pollution City
- Blight City
- Flammable Cleveland
- The Only City in the World With a River That Caught Fire
- City of Magic
Cleveland has been known for many names throughout history, and each name has its own story to tell. Cleveland’s various brandings and slogans exemplified the city’s ups and downs in order to put its name out locally and internationally. Now, the city proudly stands as one of the best cities to live in the United States, thanks to the continuous efforts of Clevelanders in promoting the city by word and principle. Let the City of Cleveland ring bells in your heads whenever the question “what’s in a name?” is asked.
Jason Dempsey is the CEO and Co-Founder of Home City Living. After abandoning the corporate world in order to indulge his wanderlust, Jason founded Home City Living with his partner Rose to create the premier source of travel information and inside local knowledge on the web to help other would-be global explorers and seekers learn to spread their wings and fly.