I have a forum—as wholly uncensored as it is rigidly impartial. 'Freedom of Speech' is graven above my rostrum; and beside it 'Fairness of Speech.'

In June of 1912, The City Club of Cleveland was conceived from the ideals of the Progressive Era by secretary of the Municipal Association Mayo Fesler and Western Reserve University professor Augustus Hatton.

The two invited a group of civic-minded young men to discuss a city club in Cleveland that would, in Fesler's words, "furnish a meeting place for men of all shades of opinions, political beliefs, and social relations."

On October 27, 1912, The City Club of Cleveland was formed and incorporated by five men: H. Melvin Roberts, Walter L. Flory, Edward M. Baker, John A. Alburn, and Mayo Fesler.

The City Club was first addressed by Mayors Thomas Hunt of Cincinnati, Brand Whitlock of Toledo, and Newton D. Baker of Cleveland (pictured at right) on December 21, 1912.


In May 1913, the City Club established its first home above Weber's restaurant, just off Public Square on the south side of Superior Avenue and City Hall, before moving into the City Club Building in 1983.

Jesse Jackson

Since 1912, the City Club has served as one of the country's oldest, non-partisan, and continuously operating free speech forums.

The City Club has hosted an expansive list of speakers from all walks of life, including Babe Ruth, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Shirley MacLaine,
Eliot Ness, Rosa Parks, Robert F. Kennedy, W.E.B. Du Bois, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, among thousands of others. 

At the heart of the City Club’s dedication to free speech lies the question-and-answer period that takes place during the second half of each program.

During these sessions of authentic, unscreened, and unscripted questions from the audience, the City Club transforms into a place where speakers and ideas are challenged and tested, our Cleveland community grows stronger, and our citizens become well-informed.

With a national reputation as a "citadel of free speech," the City Club's 100+ year commitment to informing, connecting, and motivating citizens has secured its place in history as a vital center for community debate.