Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Luther Moses house

Luther Moses house, built 1854, a Cleveland Landmark

This house, at 5611 Lexington Avenue, was the home of Luther Moses, a prominent Cleveland shipbuilder. The residence, built c. 1854, is a Cleveland Landmark. The west side of the house, shown here, was originally the front, facing East 55th Street.

The front door, now bricked in, was centered between two pairs of windows. An Ohio Historic Inventory form completed by Eric Johannesen in November of 1975, says that the door was simple, with a transom and sidelights. I don't know what sort of front stairs or porch might have been present at the time it was built. The boarded-up opening below the location of the front door was likely added later, as access to it would have been blocked blocked by the front steps.

A Gothic-arched window, now partially bricked in, was centered over the front door. It was still present in 1975. Perhaps it was eliminated when the windows were replaced as a cost-saving measure.

Luther Moses house, built 1854, a Cleveland Landmark

When I first saw the house, I forgot that it was built before Lexington Avenue was cut through. This side faces the street. I felt uneasy about the date given the house by the Landmarks Commission - the house, from this angle, just didn't feel like an 1850s house. From this angle, it isn't - it more represents a later style, as the house was modified to face the street now called Lexington Avenue. This photo, on the Landmarks Commission's page on the house, shows a front porch, which is no longer standing.

There were originally three windows, evenly spaced, on the first floor of this side of the house. One of them has since become a door. On the second floor, the windows seem to be in their original locations. The door was clearly added later, when the porch was built on the house. The lintel over the smaller window seems a bit (visually) heavy, but that might just be to an excessive amount of mortar above and around it.

It is relatively common for the chimney to be routed at an angle, so that it would exit the roof at the peak of the gable - if it went straight up and down, the windows could not be placed where they are. Even with the chimney running at an angle, I can't visualize where the fireplace might be.

Luther Moses house, built 1854, a Cleveland Landmark

This side of the house is now the back, but was originially a side. It is very similar to the side that is now the front. I don't see any evidence of a third window on the first floor, so it isn't an exact mirror. I suspect that the changes to the second floor windows were made at the same time as the addition was built, due to the similarity in the style of the arches. The lintel was replaced with an arch at the time, and the double window was expanded, to the right, from a single one. It is unclear whether this was done for aesthetic or mechanical reasons.

The two door openings to the left, on the first and second floors of the main part of the house, were added later. The shape and style of the porch that the second floor door opened out onto are not clear.

To the right, one can see a boarded-up opening, at ground level. This is not another basement window, but a doorway that would provide access to the cellar.

Luther Moses house, built 1854, a Cleveland Landmark

It's hard to be sure about what this side of the house might have looked like. There is evidence of at least two different windows being filled in on the second floor. Neither is centered. I can see evidence of at least two windows on the first floor and I suspect that there were more than that. The addition had four windows, two of which have been filled in.

Luther Moses house, built 1854, a Cleveland Landmark

The only spot of real concern (can you tell it takes a lot to cause me "real concern?) is this one, on what used to be the front of the house. It is located directly below the valley on roof, so a large quantity of water probably gathers here when it rains. Installing gutters would keep this from getting worse.

The present owner, Herbert Landon, of 3644 East 147th Street, appears to have at least some interest in the preservation of this property. The roof was recently redone, which would offer some measure of protection. For some reason the shingles have refused to remain attached.

At one time, Luther owned 90 acres in this area. As of the 1858 Hopkins map, this number was down to 30. By Friday, I hope to be able to address who Luther was, the extent of his landholdings, and his importance in the growth of the city of Cleveland.


  1. I wonder if that Johannesen might have been Eric Johannesen.

  2. That would make sense, wouldn't it? I'll look into that.

  3. I don't have any specific comment, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to share your findings. Fantastic. If all goes well, I'll be the proud owner of a home over a century old by the end of the month. Planning to do a lot of research on it and the street, any tips are welcome (this page is a great start:

  4. Could the roofers have not replaced rooted boards in the roof, and so the roofing nails are coming loose. Or was this roof installed over an old roof that's very deteriorated?

  5. Russ,

    Congratulations. Cuyahoga County has some of the best online access to historic property records anywhere - I've been able to trace the ownership of my house back to the people who had it built and the ownership of the land it sits on back to 1812. I'll do a piece on the various resources available sometime in the near future. I could even use yours as an example, if you're willing to have the address be public.

  6. I'd be flattered and enlightened. Once I close (11/23), I'm in!

    I've already done some digging with Google at the Planning Commission site ( searching for the street (West 81st), and while my address didn't show up, I did find some houses built slightly before mine by some known architects/builders:

    1435 W 81 CLEVELAND 1895 Residence for Herman Junge Andrew Mitermiler
    1436 W 81 CLEVELAND 1898 Residence for Otto Schuelle Albert Skeel
    1437 W 81 CLEVELAND 1897 Residence for Mathilde Junge Frederick Baird
    1440 W 81 CLEVELAND 1895 Horace Rossitter Residence Morris Gleichmann
    1441 W 81 CLEVELAND 1899 Residence for Michael Regan Edward Beier
    1448 W 81 CLEVELAND 1896 Melius Collart Residence Coburn, Barnum, Benes and Hubbell

    I also located a picture of St John's Hospital slightly down Detroit (which I learned had a rather boxy face-lift of its own in the 60s) on the Cleveland Memory Project site (, which does show the area nearly 40 years ago.

  7. If I may, what ever became of this project? I keep fiding myself coming back to this story and wondering, has this house been restored, yet? Bringing this home back to it's origial grandure would be an absolute dream come true for me. I would love to take on this restoration project...if only I had the means to do so. *sigh*