Blythe Oldfield Through the Years
Following the Neighborhood Story Project event on May 21, check this page out to learn more about this history of the Blythe-Oldfield community in Cleveland, TN.
The Story of Blythe Oldfield
In the early 1910s feed stores, grocers, churches, and schools sprung up in the area known as “the Oldfield”–– possibly named for the common field where residents’ livestock grazed.
In 1919 the Louisville Land Company purchased property that had once belonged to Julius E. Raht, a pioneer of copper mining in East Tennessee. The neighborhood that developed between Wildwood Avenue and the railroad tracks provided homes for hardworking families within walking distance of several local industries, including Hardwick Woolen Mill, Dixie Foundry, and Cleveland Chair Company.
The diligent people of Blythe-Oldfield - or just "Oldfield" as it was called at the time - continued establishing Cleveland as a center of industry, commerce, and culture.
In 1939, Blythe Avenue Elementary opened, becoming a focal point of neighborhood connectivity within the Oldfield. The school still stands today as a community resource center, persisting as a support and place of connection for the neighborhood.
During the 1960s and 70s, mimosa trees lined the streets. Doors remained unlocked, and the grocer and iceman made deliveries when no one was home.
In the summer, churches hosted VBS and Backyard Bible Clubs. Children played ball in the park, swam at South Cleveland Pool, received tiny loaves of bread from the bread truck, and walked to Wildwood Avenue to pay the rent and to the Village Mall to shop for candy. They stayed out until the streetlights came on.
During the school year, they ate home-cooked meals in the cafeteria, competed in spelling bees and math meets, and ran the Blythe Mile up the bleachers and around the gym. The older boys filled the boiler with coal before school and closed the gym windows after school.
The dynamics of the neighborhood began to change in the 1970s. The Woolen Mill closed. Chain stores replaced local businesses. The APD 40 bypass opened, pulling traffic away from Wildwood Avenue. Older residents passed away. Families moved out of the neighborhood and new families moved in. Many forgot the neighborhood that had once been the backbone of Cleveland’s thriving industry.
Residents knew the community had a reputation among outsiders, but they prided themselves on being a tight knit neighborhood. When someone had a need, they met it. They knew how to be good neighbors.
Blythe Avenue School continued to play a foundational role in building neighborhood connectivity until its closure in 2000. Generations of students made memories on the metal train, steep slide, and merry-on-ground. Teachers escorted students on field trips as near as Cooke’s Food Store (at the former Church Street location) and as far as Atlanta, and families attended performances and fall festivals.
In the early 2000s Head Start and other nonprofits moved into the former school building. In some ways the neighborhood experienced decline. Older homes, the playground, and sidewalks fell into disrepair. Businesses began closing down or relocating. In a season when the neighborhood experiencing
When Whirlpool proposed purchasing homes in order to expand their facilities, residents opposed. Whirlpool relocated their facilities in 2012. This was the beginning of the revitalization of the Blythe-Oldfield neighborhood.
Building on the efforts of residents who never stopped working to make Blythe-Oldfield a neighborhood where families wanted to be, physical revitalization, constructing new homes and renovating older homes. The Blythe Oldfield Community Association has promoted social revitalization, hosting a monthly meeting during which neighbors can come together and voice their concerns. Their work led to the renovation of the park and the launch of a Neighborhood Watch Program.