How Did Cleveland Get Its Forest City Nickname?

Steve DiMatteo Culture History

Cleveland Forest City Nickname

"The Land" has more or less taken over as Cleveland's dominant nickname these days (just take a look at how much the Cleveland Cavaliers love using it), but a personal favorite is one we just don't see enough - the Forest City.

Where Did the Forest City Nickname Come From?

This is considered one of the oldest nicknames in the city's history, if not the oldest. It was introduced in the early 19th century, not long after Cleveland became a city in 1796. As you can imagine, the genesis of the nickname itself comes from the densely forested Northeast Ohio region, which began long before any colonizers showed up and continued into the 20th century, when the Bureau of Horticulture planted more than 13,000 trees in city parks.

There has always been a concerted effort in Cleveland to maintain and preserve the city's natural beauty. The Cleveland Metroparks are second to none - literally, they've been ranked the best in the nation - and the region is home to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which protects nearly 33,000 acres of beauty. Another regional nickname - the Emerald Necklace - proves Cleveland has always been steadfast and fierce in its acts of green preservation.

Who Came Up With the Forest City Nickname for Cleveland?

When it comes to who actually coined the nickname for Cleveland, though, that's where things get a little unclear. For the most part, credit for the city's nickname is given to WM. Case, secretary of the Cleveland Horticultural Society in the 1840s and mayor (1850-51), "who encouraged the planting of shade and fruit trees." However, there is also an obituary for newspaper pioneer Timothy Smead that credits him with coining the term. It's possible that Case certainly inspired the nickname while Smead coined it and popularized it, but that will require a deeper dive into the city's horticulturally-obsessed past.

Throughout the 19th century, a variety of local businesses (and baseball teams) also popped up using the Forest City name, and if you look around Northeast Ohio today, you won't have to go far to find some sort of business that still uses the Forest City moniker. 

It's a great nickname for the city and region, and it deserves to have an even bigger presence. With so many city-inspired uniforms now popping up in the NBA and now Major League Baseball, that will hopefully happen soon.

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