Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday shopping in Cleveland, Ohio

Where have you done your Holiday shopping this season? Wherever it was, I bet there was not a 73-foot high Christmas tree there like the one seen below (photo courtesy of the Cleveland Memory website) at the Sterling-Lindner-Davis store that was formerly located in Playhouse Square.

Some of the best holiday window displays that Cleveland had to offer were shown in the windows of Higbee's at Terminal Tower. Higbee's was moved to the Tower in 1931 after the Van Sweringen's purchased the company to compliment their Cleveland Union Terminal project. According to the Cleveland Memory site, this photo was taken in 1958.

Kudos to Tower City for carrying on the tradition of the window display. My 3-year-old son and I thoroughly enjoyed this extremely colorful advertisement for Kringle's Inventionasium.

It wouldn't be right to mention the holidays in Cleveland without a nod to the Halle's created character, Mr. Jingeling who was keeper of Santa's keys. Christopher constructed an excellent three part series on Mr. Jingeling. Start reading part 1 here.

It's enjoyable to look back and think about the magical feelings that Cleveland retailers and commercial districts stirred up for our young ones. Many people might remark that things just are not the same.

How do you create magic for your children and grandchildren in Cleveland during the holiday season?

Keri Zipay moved to Cleveland from Pennsylvania in 1999 and has since discovered a love for local historic architecture. She has been volunteering with the Cleveland Restoration Society since 2004, and historic structures are her favorite photographic subject, particularly the remaining Millionaire's Row mansions. Contact Keri by email

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Does Your Basement Look Like This? I want to know!

or: Identifying the Region's Oldest Houses.

Photo by Laura Howard

On numerous occasions, I've been asked to help figure out how old this or that house is. More often than not, these questions come from the residents themselves. While it is possible to learn quite a bit from historical records, this can require specialized knowledge and still leave one with only a range of dates.

Homeowners (and other residents) are in a unique position to help date a structure - they have full access to the house, and can learn everything that the structure might tell them.

5856 Pearl Road
Photo by Laura Howard

Today, I will illustrate what we can learn from the physical evidence present at 5856 Pearl Road, in Parma Heights, Ohio. This historic home was photographed by Laura Howard, about a year and a half ago, and she was kind enough to share the photographs with me.

South wing
Photo by Laura Howard

The oldest part of the house, the southwest wing, is said to have been built by Oliver Emerson in 1831.

The exterior has been heavily modified. Other than the basic proportions, little original detail remains to be seen here. The original wood siding has been covered by asbestos shingles, and the window openings have likely been moved. Dormers have been added to the center wing of the house. The location of the center window on the second floor is likely original, but beyond that, I can't be sure of much without further physical investigation.

Foundation, south wing
Photo by Laura Howard

The one spot where the wood siding is exposed, alas, does not provide much detail for us to work with. Likewise the foundation, which appears to be made of material consistent with the suggested date, is sufficiently concealed that we can't learn much. There isn't a basement under this portion of the house, which is consistent with an earlier construction date.

Wood paneling, south wing
Photo by Laura Howard

Inside this part of the house, the north wall includes this wood paneling.

Front hall

It is consistent with the paneling installed in the front hall of the Dunham Tavern. It's unclear whether this was installed at the time of construction or later. This could be determined by the careful removal of said paneling - if there is evidence of plaster underneath, it would indicate that the wood was added later.

The wide, thick floors, without use of subflooring would also tend to be indicative of an earlier date of construction.

The house retains a central fireplace. Unfortunately, it appears to have been modified so extensively that I can't tell much about it. I suspect that underneath the current brick may be the original fireplace. If this is, in fact, the case, this would tend toward indicating an early construction date, as with time and wood stoves, the trend was toward fireplaces on the ends of the structure.

Basement door, between south and center wing Doorway between south and center wings
Photos by Laura Howard

The wall between the south and center parts of the house has been covered with drywall, concealing or eliminating much of the structural evidence. The door on the left, to the basement, is consistent in style with something built in the middle third of the 19th century, but beyond that, it's hard to be sure. It could be later, too.

If we look at the doorframe on the left, we can see, on the right side, the horizontal white lines where the plaster spread through the lath. At the bottom, there is an area that is free of such markings, suggesting that wood paneling may have been present originally.

Photos by Laura Howard

The center part of the house reveals more detail. In this photo of the basement, as well as in the lead photo, we can see hand-hewn timbers, indicative of a very early construction date. Cutting lumber was incredibly labor-intensive, and sawmills were set up anywhere that there was sufficient water to operate them. As a result, hand-hewn timbers are indicative of some of the earliest houses in the region. Further, as this part of the structure is one of the most difficult elements to change, this can help us date a house even when much of the original detail is missing.

One might also note that the subflooring (or possibly flooring) appears smooth in this image, suggesting that it was either replaced, or that the hand-hewn timbers we see here were reused from another structure. Note also the various shapes the timbers were hewn into.

Corner cupboard, center wing
Photo by Laura Howard

On the first floor of the main wing, at one of the front corners is this corner cupboard, probably added circa 1910-1930. Behind it, we can see a structural timber, which would not have been common in a later structure.

Photo by Laura Howard

The stairs to the second floor reveal more structural details. We can see the outlines of the structural timbers that make up the top of the wall and the corner. We can also see a line on the wall, above the stairs, at a steeper angle than the stairs currently have. I found this rather suspect.

Wall and stringer, center wing
Photo by Laura Howard

This photograph, of the wall opposite the right side of the stairs, helps reveal what we see here. The steeper diagonal lines are the original stringers - the structural boards that make up the sides of the stairs. Why they were left in when the staircase was rebuilt at a more comfortable angle is unclear. This photo provides a closer detail of the structure.

Detail of paneling, center wing
Photo by Laura Howard

This view, at the bottom of the stairs, on the same wall, suggests that there was wood paneling, similar to what is visible in the older part of the house, that may have been concealed by drywall or plaster.

Detail, top of stairs
Photo by Laura Howard

Here, at the top of the stairs, we can see with more detail the massive timbers that make up the frame of the house.

There are many more details that I've omitted simply because I lack the information or detail to make full sense of them.

How old is this house? It's hard to say. It's believable that some part of the physical fabric dates to 1831, but how much is unclear. There's still a lot of research to be done in the history of buildings in this area.

If you have a house with structural hand-hewn timbers, please let me know. I'd be interested in better documenting and understanding the construction methods. It would help increase our knowledge of the early history of northeast Ohio.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Greatest Local History Resource Ever: The Plain Dealer, 1845-1991

Cleveland Public Library is now providing access to what I believe is the greatest local history resource ever - the full text of the Plain Dealer from 1845 to 1991. With your Cleveland Public Library card, you can now do research that would have previously required weeks spent in research libraries and archives. Even then, you might not have been able to learn what you can with this database.

Let's say you want to learn more about your house. Try searching for the most minimal part of the address that would still be unique - something along the lines of "XXXX StreetName" - omit the suffix that indicates the road type and the city. I got 34 hits for mine - and the name of my street changed in the early 1950s. Most of these results will likely be real estate advertisements. They'll provide some hint as to what features might have been added (or subtracted) at any one time. Remember that in 1905, the city of Cleveland street names and numbers changed - check Old and New Street Numbers to figure out what the pre-1905 number for your address might have been.

Or, say you wanted to research someone. The newspaper of 50 or 100 years ago wasn't the skinny little thing it is today. The Sunday paper was often 150 or more pages. It was a lot more gossipy in nature, too. Take I.T. Frary, author of Early Homes of Ohio and membership and publicity secretary for the Cleveland Museum of Art. I've been doing some extensive research on Frary, and without this database, it simply wouldn't be possible.

Why? Because of the volume of information that is provided in the variety of little articles. Would you expect today to learn when a person in similar position was going on vacation, or who they might have as a guest in their house? Of course not. But in the 1920s and 1930s, it was not uncommon.

There still remains the challenge of assembling all of these little facts into something useful, of course. I believe that this represents a great democratizing force. No longer is research limited to those who are physically able to visit archival collections during their limited hours of operation, hours that so often seem to coincide with the hours they work. I can't wait to see what we come up with as a result.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Following the Old Roads

One way to find the oldest buildings is to follow the old roads. This is not quite so useful in the urban core, where whole cultural landscapes have vanished as an area is re-imagined as something else. But, as you drive into the country - where there is enough space that it's not necessary to demolish before building new - you can see most of the set of buildings that were present in 1860.

Settlement of Northeast Ohio by people of European ancestry began about 1800, and in rural areas had reached a climax population by 1850. By this, I mean that the land had filled with as many people as it could support from farming and associated activities. Towns continued to grow, but the rural population stayed pretty much the same. As examples, while the population of Cuyahoga Country jumped from 26,512 in 1840 to 130,564 in 1880, the population of the rural townships in Cuyahoga County of Brecksville (1840 - 1,124; 1880 1,095), Royalton (1840 - 1,051; 1880 - 1,124), and Strongsville (1840 - 1,151; 1880 - 1,029) were stable.

Most early settlers built rude, temporary structures at first, such as log cabins. It was not until the 1820s and 1830s that there were considerable numbers of frame (mostly), brick (occasionally), or stone (rarely) structures. As the decades progressed, the number of new rural homes declined and desires for up-to-date styling and function were most often met through remodeling and expanding existing homes.

When building their "permanent" homes, the farmers sited them along the existing public roads, which were far fewer than there are today. As a result, the farm houses were much closer together than you might think. The houses of the rural settlement landscape are in linear corridors, with the agricultural fields owned by the householder sometimes adjacent, sometimes in a scattered patchwork in the surrounding area.

Typical settlement pattern of a rural Western Reserve Township in Portage County, about 1870. The area in this graphic covers approximately 2 x 4 miles, with the town center at bottom center.

You can find the old roads by looking at old maps or you can find them simply by following the farmhouses.

In general, roads follow the suggestions and imperatives of natural geography; the rules and necessities of political geography; and the uses of commerce. In northeast Ohio, in the area once known as the Western Reserve, townships were 5 miles square. Usually, in the center of each township was a place called, reasonably enough, "the Center" or, in variant spelling "the Centre." Typically, in each Center was a township hall, 2 or three churches, a school, a general store or two, and a few tradesmen (such as blacksmiths). The center was also often the intersection of two roads - a north-south road through the township and an east-west road through the township. These were often the most traveled roads. [Geographic imperatives always create exceptions - In a recent, earlier, blog, Christopher Busta-Peck followed the main Road that followed the Erie Lakeshore.]

So, if you start at a town center in northeast Ohio and head east or west, you will most often find other old town centers, at about 5 miles apart. On Route 82, if you start at Columbia (Lorain County) and you head five miles east you will find Strongsville, then 5 miles to North Royalton, then Brecksville, Northfield, Twinsburg, Aurora, Mantua, and Hiram. The term "center" is still found in some road names, such as Dover Center Road, Warrensville Center Road, and SOM (for Solon, Orange, Mayfield) Center Road.

On the west side of Cleveland, some of the oldest roads follow the ridges formed by various shorelines of glacial Lake Erie. Detroit Road (so named because it was the road to Detroit) follows North Ridge (you will find Northridgeville in Lorain County); Hilliard Avenue, for a while, then Center Ridge Road follow Center Ridge; Lorain Avenue (so named because it was the road to Lorain) follows, in part, Coe Ridge; Dennison follows Dennison Ridge; and Butternut Ridge Road follows Butternut Ridge.

From Geological Survey of Ohio, Vol 2, 1874. "Map of Lake Ridges in Lorain and Cuyahoga Counties."

After following the old road for a while, you learn to filter your vision, so the older buildings pop and newer buildings fade.

For more about the really old roads (which European settler's roads usually followed), see:

William A. McGill, ed., Ohio Indian Trails - A Pictorial Survey of the Indian Trails of Ohio Arranged from the Works of the Late Frank Wilcox. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1970.

Frank N. Wilcox, Ohio Indian Trails. Cleveland, Ohio: Gates Press, 1934.

William C. Mills, Archeological Atlas of Ohio. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State Archaelogical and Historical Society, 1914.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Revisiting the Context: The Warner House, Unionville

Or: Yet Another Case Where I Don't Know Everything


I've been doing a lot of research of late, trying to locate and look at (if only briefly) everything of significance that's been written about the 19th century buildings of northeast Ohio.

This meant finally breaking down and getting a Greater Access library card. With it, one can have books from any Ohiolink library sent to any other one, including your local branch, for pickup.

One of these titles was Frank J. Roos, Jr.'s 1938 Ph.D. dissertation, An Investigation of the Sources of Early Architectural Design in Ohio. The title, as delivered to me, is illustrated by 160 black and white photographs. Many of these are original images. I'll be addressing them in detail at a later date.

This dissertation is one of the earliest publications on the historic architecture of Ohio. The only earlier book on the subject is I.T. Frary's Early Homes of Ohio, published in 1936. Frary's work is a classic - both for the work he did here in Ohio, as well as on a wider scale, for the way he addresses something other than just the most grand homes. Early Homes of Ohio is on my short list of essential titles for understanding the architecture of northeast Ohio.

Frary's work is also the subject of some more extensive research that I've been doing for a museum exhibit scheduled for the summer of 2011. As such, I'll be addressing him in further detail in future posts.

To get back to the subject at hand - the doorway of the Warner house, pictured above, that I featured on Tuesday in a post about historic architecture in Madison and Unionville. It's located in Unionville, on County Line Road, just south of the cemetery. It appears to have recently been restored, and is definitely eye-catching. There's something different about it - I assumed that it was the quality of the carving and the sharp detail.

The Warner House, Unionville, Ohio

I didn't realize, however, was that it is missing some key elements, namely four Ionic columns. I just discovered this photograph, by Frank J. Roos, Jr., and used as figure 102 in his dissertation. The photograph, likely taken between 1935 and 1938, illustrates the doorway as it was. Alas, it does not show the details of the fretwork in the windows surrounding the door, something that I have not seen elsewhere in northeast Ohio.

Note how the columns provide (visual) support for the elements above them. Further note that the spaces where the columns once stood now appear visually empty, when compared with the rest of the doorway.

Doorway from the Isaac Gillet House by Jonathan Goldsmith Jonathan Goldsmith residence

Some have compared this to the work of Jonathan Goldsmith, illustrated here by the doorways from the Isaac Gillet house (left), built 1821 in Painesville (now in the Cleveland Musuem of Art) and the William Peck Robinson house (right), built in 1831 in Willoughby (now part of Hale Farm and Village). Frary suggests that "The front doorway of the Warner house, though similar to the others in design, seems to be a copy by a less able man than Goldsmith." (Early Homes of Ohio, page 35)

I disagree with Frary's assessment. To my eyes, the more bold lines of the carving on the Warner door are pleasing in their own right. They have an appeal that is different from that of Goldsmith's work, which tends to be much more refined. It would be interesting to find additional historic photographs of this structure, that we might better understand it. Perhaps the collection of Frary's photos at the Ohio Historical Society will provide this illumination.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Some Context: Madison and Unionville


I've been trying to assemble a better body of research regarding the historic architecture of our region. I've been trying to locate every single title that might be of use to describe the buildings built in this area. I've sought out the ones that might help to provide better evidence as to when this or that structure was built, as well as the titles where people have already done that research. Too much of what we have in the way of dates for the architecture of northeast Ohio is guesswork, based largely on style.

In addtion to better research, I've also wanted to provide better context, both for myself, and for you, the reader. Many of the historic buildings I've photographed in Cleveland and the surrounding area have been modified significantly. Further, they are often spread far apart. I wanted to look at a large group of 19th century structures that were in a single location, that I might better understand what I was looking at here.


To that end, I followed State Route 84 in Lake County for about 10 miles - from Vrooman Road (exit 205 off Interstate 90) east through Madison and on to Unionville - before looping around and returning. The houses along this route have been modified some, of course, though not to the extent of the the remaining structures in the city. It's a beautiful and insightful stretch of road, all the more interesting now that most of the leaves have fallen from the trees, providing better views.

The house that I've lead with, with this beautiful front entry, is on the north side of the road, just east of Vrooman Road. The door itself is likely a later replacement - we can see that from the many small blocks glued together to make the cross pieces. The leaded glass sidelights and fanlights are definitely original. It's unusual to see a doorway of this style placed like this on a house. It makes me wonder if it might have been brought here from another house.


There are also examples of simpler structures, like this one.


Continuing east, this house has a bit more ornament, but is otherwise similar to the preceding one. Originally, the windows on the front of the house would have been the same size as those on the side. They were likely enlarged in the 1860s or 1870s, though it could have been a bit later.

Continuing to Unionville, I came across this house - a perfect image of the perception of what a house of this period is supposed to be. I also encountered this church, in a style so common in this area in the mid-19th century.


In Unionville, just south of the cemetery, on County Line Road, I came across this house, perhaps the most stunning of the trip.


The front doorway appears recently restored. It would be interesting to learn whether the wood in the transom and sidelights is based on some sort of historical element, or whether it was added to provide a bit of privacy.


This classic form, also in Unionville, caught my attention.

Connecticut Land Company Office

This tiny brick house served as a Connecticut Land Company office. It was built by Abraham Tappan, a Connecticut Land Company Surveyor, in 1817. The portion of the structure to the right of the front door is a later addition.


On my return west, I was able to better observe many of the historic structures on the south side of State Route 84, like this house at 25 Main Street, in Madison.


Note the detail in the doorway on this house. I speak frequently about the doorways because they are often the only places that the early builders put much detail, and as such, are examples of the highest form of their craft and artistic expression.


The landscape along this stretch of State Route 84 is worth taking a closer look at. These photographs represent but a small part of what I shot that day - please look at the full set for a better idea, but know that even that is but a sample.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ghost Landscapes: Seeing Everything

In human intellect as much as in human intuition, memory and empirical reality blend. As we pass through a place in our ordinary experience today, we encounter not only what is there, but also our memory of previous experience of that place, as well as our memory of responses and recollections to that place by others. Our ability to consciously perceive this all at once depends upon how much we choose to engage our attention. But however much we attend, this rich and complex presence of place is still there, offering considerable potential for us to participate with everyone – past and present – with whom we share the place.

As an example, an etching of the Cuyahoga River created by Kalman Kubinyi in 1934 is not just ink and paper, but a powerful spell which conjures up our knowledge and experience of human image-making, and evokes other personal associations with the Cuyahoga River. And then, the next time we cross the River and our sight gathers water, bulkheads, vegetation, and other bridges, the Kubinyi etching nudges how we process that information, altering the way that we understand that landscape.

Similarly, If you stop by the edge of the river, and take a moment, lyrics of a 1972 song by Randy Newman might involuntarily touch:

“Cleveland city of light city of magic
Cleveland city of light you're calling me
Cleveland, even now I can remember
'Cause the Cuyahoga River
Goes smokin' through my dreams”

And, If you know some history, you know that however slightly we might regard the slow and muddy Cuyahoga, it has been an important highway for thousands of years. It was one of a few routes that led to a relatively easy portage between the Great Lakes and Mississipi River water systems (Chicago grew at the site of another portage). The Continental Congress of the United States took special note of the significance of these portages, asserting in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 that ”the navigable waters leading into the Mississippi and St. Lawrence, and the carrying places between the same, shall be common highways and forever free.” Is your imagination sufficient to see the ghost ripples of canoes being paddled up the river?

Finally, up the hill from the river, as you travel west on Detroit Road, you’ll notice that the land slopes immediately to the north. This was once the shoreline of a glacial Lake Erie. The asphalt road upon which you travel was built upon a brick road which was built upon a dirt road, which followed a path, which, again, had been traveled for thousands of years. This was once wilderness, then farmland, then a thriving commercial street, and then what it is today.

What the river and road are today are all of the landscapes which they have ever been, and as they are today, mediated by our expectations of what they will be tomorrow.

There’s the empirical landscape, the landscape which we can easily frame with a camera. And then there are the ghost landscapes of memory and imagination and of the possible, all present, when we choose to see everything.

artwork above: Kalman Kubinyi (1906-1973), Cuyahoga, c. 1934, etching, 7.25 x 10 in

artwork below: Frank N. Wilcox (1887-1964), title?, c. 1924, etching, 5 x 7 in

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The LaSalle Theater

On Saturday, October 9, 2010 the Cleveland Restoration Society offered a SNOOP tour of the LaSalle theater on East 185th Street at Kildeer Avenue in the Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland. The theater was built in 1927 by the International Savings and Loan Association as a mixed-use project that included their bank branch, retail store locations, apartments, and the theater. The architect was Nicola Petti and the style was considered Neo-Classical. The original marquee seen here is still intact.

Much of the interior detailing has remained intact although the seating and organ have been removed.

This is a close up of the medallion that adorns the top of the center of the stage.

This photo below of a Peerless lamp was shot in complete darkness inside one of the upstairs projection rooms.

This is the staircase leading up to the projection rooms.

Below is a shot of some of the equipment used behind the curtain area on stage.

This is another snapshot of some of the intricate plaster ceiling decor.

Below is one of the two open areas that flank each side of the main stage. It was thought by one of the attendees who watched shows at the LaSalle when she was young, that these areas were for "premium" seating.

If you have memories of the LaSalle or want to read more from others who visited the LaSalle when it was previously open, visit this page at www.cinematreasures.org, which is a great website to read more about historic movie theaters.

Hope abounds for the future of the LaSalle. Northeast Shores (the community development corporation for this area) now owns the structure. They've obtained funding for repairs to the limestone and for stabilizing the building. They are in the second phase of having it added to the National Register of Historic Places. An associate from Northeast Shores stated that there is the possibility for a brew pub inside the structure. Since this building was built when people either walked or took the streetcar to this site, parking could potentially be an issue because there appears to mainly be on-street parking available. Once that issued is addressed, I am sure the LaSalle will make a great venue, and also has the benefit of having an Arabica directly across the street, and great restaurants like Scotti's Italian, Chili Peppers, and Bistro 185 nearby.

In any case, many local residents await the next act for the LaSalle.

Keri Zipay moved to Cleveland from Pennsylvania in 1999 and has since discovered a love for local historic architecture. She has been volunteering with the Cleveland Restoration Society since 2004, and historic structures are her favorite photographic subject, particularly the remaining Millionaire's Row mansions. Contact Keri by email

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Leonard Parks Residence: Part 2: The Snow Family

14417 Darley Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio

Leonard Parks residence

In the first post in this series, I detailed the life of the Farwell family, including Benjamin Farwell, the carpenter perhaps responsible for the strongest visual element in this historic Cleveland house - the front doorway. Today, I will address the following owners of the property.

Leonard Parks map
From the 1858 Hopkins Map of Cuyahoga County. Used courtesy of Rails and Trails, original courtesy of the Bedford Historical Society.

Benjamin J. Farwell and Olive Farwell sold 16 acres of land to Almon A. Snow for $350. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 184405220004) It is illustrated here as being owned by L. Parks.

Almon A. Snow was born in about 1819, Massachusetts. He moved to Ohio, where he likely met and maried Amanda M. Snow. Amanda was born in Ohio, in 1816, 1823, or 1826, depending on whether we want to believe the 1850, 1860 or 1870 U.S. Federal Census.

By 1850, when they sold this parcel to Sheldon Parks for $700, Almon and Amanda Snow had moved to Eaton Township, Lorain County. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 185003120005) This sale, a doubling of the purchase price six years prior, has several implications. It suggests that that the price realized in 1844 was lower than it should have been. Perhaps the Farwells needed to sell the property quickly, or perhas the Farwells and the Snows were acquaintences. Alternately, we might assume that the Snows made some significant improvements to the land.

As of that year, the Snows had three children, Viola J. (born about 1845), Lexor B. (born about 1847), and Archie J. (born 1849). Their farming endeavors seem to have been more successful in Eaton Township - by 1860, the value of their land had gone from $900 to $3500. They had three more children while living on this farm - Forest (born about 1851), Ernest (born about 1853), and Alva (born about 1857). (U.S. Federal Census, 1850 and 1860)

Again, probably before 1866, the Snow family moved, this time to Vienna, Marshall County, Iowa. I suspect a pre-1866 date because in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, one additional child is listed, Lella Snow, born in about 1866, in Iowa. Their farming efforts seem to have been more financially successful here. The value of their land was listed at $8,000, while their personal property, at $1,700. Their farm was worth more than any of those nearby (plus or minus two pages in the 1870 U.S. Census. Most of the values clustered around $2,000 to $5,000.

As of 1880, Almon A. Snow remained in Marshall County, though none of the rest of his family was present. Curiously, the U.S. Census records for that year show that he was still married. It is unclear what happened to the rest of his family.

Why did the Snow family move west from here, and then move west again? Perhaps it was the lure of better land or better opportunity? What impact did they have on this land while they were here? At present, there simply isn't enough evidence to be sure of anything more than the knowledge that they were farmers who, at the very least, had the means to move onward.

In the next chapter in this series, I'll address the Parks family - the builders of the house presently on this location.

Christopher Busta-Peck is the founding editor of Cleveland Area History. Contact him by email.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Birthday to Us!

Celebrating the First Year of Cleveland Area History

Note: This post is a bit late - the first post here was, in fact, on October 31, 2009 - but I've been rather busy of late, with the birth of our second child.

In the past year, Cleveland Area History has grown into a movement with significant following. As of a couple of weeks ago, we had a daily readership of 400-500 and more than 2600 followers on Facebook. We've shared more than 180 posts detailing various bits of our local history.

In the upcoming year, we will branch out, with new writers, and will address more than just the built environment. Is there a subject relating to local history that you'd like to write about? Let me know.

Further, we will take paths to harness the energy that Cleveland Area History has generated, so that we can advocate for and preserve the history of this area.

What has been your favorite story from the past year? Why?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

10,000 Cheered by Candy Gifts

Old Folks and Poor Remembered by "Sweetest Day in the Year" Committee.

So began the story in the Plain Dealer about the first "Sweetest Day", in 1921. The story, published on October 8 of that year, on page 7, continued:

A little rain and a few black clouds failed to affect the spirits of Clevelanders who have come under the spell of the "Sweetest Day in the Year" committee.

The committee distributed 10,000 boxes candy to Clevelands' orphanages and charitable institutions yesterday. This morning an additional 5,000 boxes of candy will be distributed by Ann Pennington, star of George White's "Scandals" at the Ohio theater this week, and Theda Bara, peerless vampire of the screen, and Cleveland's first Sweetest Day in the Year will be inaugurated.

Twenty-five hundred newsboys are expected to storm the Cleveland Advertising Club at the Hotel Statler this morning to receive candy from Ann Pennington.

At the same time Theda Bara will give away 2,000 boxes of candy in front of Loew's State, Park, and Liberty theaters. The candy will be given to every person who presents a card, mailed this week to families from lists compiled by charitable organizations.

C.C. Hartzell, chaiman of the "Sweet Day in the Year" committee, and E. G. Winger supervised the distribution.

Everywhere we went," Hartzell said, "we were greeted wtih cheers. At the Eliza Jennings Home one old aldy told us with tears in her eyes that no one ever thouht of giving them candy."

The purpose of the Sweetest Day in the Year is to bring happiness to everyone, Hatzell explained. The committee arranged to distribute the candy to those who would be unable to buy it. A movement to establish a national Sweetest Day in the Year will be inaugurated next year, he said.

In the weeks leading up to the event, the Plain Dealer was filled with advertisements and filler copy for the event. One suggested "The Sweetest Day in the Year for Mother, Sister, Sweetheart and all." (October 3, 1921, page 4) Another reminded the reader "Don't forget the Kiddies, Oct. 8. The Sweetest Day in the Year." (October 3, 1921, page 20) Yet another read "The Sweetest Day in the Year. Everybody's happy day. Oct. 8." (October 3, 1921, page 11)

Chandler and Rudd Sweetest Day ad

This detail from an ad for Chandler & Rudd (Plain Dealer, October 7, 1921, page 12) refers to the holiday as "Candy Day".

Crane's Chocolates Sweetest Day ad

An ad for Crane's Chocolates suggests life-changing potential. (Plain Dealer, October 3, 1921, page 4)

The following year, 1922, there were many similar advertisements. Another story, with a similarly charitable note to the one the preceding year, ran, under the headline ""Sweetest Day" Brings Joy to City's Orphans - Woman's Club Gives Candy for Wards of Humane Society." (Plain Dealer, October 13, 1922, page 13) The article read:

Childish joy was brought yesterday to the homes where live the 1,200 children looked after by the Cleveland Humane Society, through the gift by the Cleveland Womans's Club of 300 boxes of candy.

The presentation was made yesterday afternoon in the rooms of the Humane Society in city hall by Mrs. Josiah Kirby, president of the club. Mrs. Evelyn F. Stires received the candy for the society.

The club aggregation which made the presentation consisted of Mrs. Kirby, Mrs. Arthur C. Holt, chairman of the programming committe, and Mrs. J.D. Littlefield.

The gift was among the first of a number which will result in the distribution of 10,000 boxes, according to officials at the "Sweetest Day" headquarters, 1901 Euclid avenue. The candy will go to the inmates of thirty-two hospitals, orphanages, and other charitable institutions.

Newsboys each will receive a box of candy tomorrow morning, the day having been designated as "the sweetest day of the year." The distribution will be made by the Cleveland Advertising Club, which will erect a booth at Euclid avenue and E. 12th street. Miss Dorothy Shoemaker, actress playing with the Robert McLaughlin company at the Metropolitan, will personally present 2,500 boxes. The boys will line up in E. 12th Street toward Chester avenue N.E.

While it is true, as has been suggested elsewhere, that it was created to sell product, the product in question was not greeting cards, but candy, as the name implies. It is interesting that the word "sweetest", in this context, now tends to be seen as referring to the person you find "sweetest", while, as created, it was meant more widely, and to refer both to the product being sold as well as hinting at the possible audience.

The charitable aspect of the holiday, as noted in these articles, is worth thinking about. What would we say today if a group mined the address lists of various local charities for what might be called a publicity stunt? Further, what would the response of the recipients be? Would they travel downtown just to get a box of candy?

It would be interesting to know whether those who went to pick up the candy did it for the sweets or for the opportunity to meet the actors.