Thursday, September 30, 2010

4340 Turney Road, Cleveland, Ohio

Two Hundred Years of a Site and a Neighborhood

Late Greek Revival townhouse

On November 10, 1814, when Noble Bates contracted with Aaron Olmsted to purchase the land this house would later stand on, the population of Cleveland was less than 600. In all of Cuyahoga County, there were fewer than 6,000 people.

1826 Map of the Westen Reserve and the Firelands
Map used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library

In 1826, Turney Road, then known as the road between Newburgh and Tinker's Creek, was one of but a dozen worth noting on this map. And in 1833, when Mr. Bates actually purchased the land this house sits on, Lot 472 in Newburgh Township, the parcel, as purchased from Levi Goodwin and Ward Woodbridge, the trustees of Aaron Olmsted, sold for $550. (AFN: 183304160003)

Noble Bates and Aurilla Boot Bates came to Newburgh Township from Essex, Vermont, in 1812. They had four daughters - two born in Vermont, and two in Ohio.

Noble Bates livelihood was tied to their location adjacent to Mill Creek - he ran a mill, grinding grain into flour. (Pioneer Families of Cleveland, 1796-1840, page 141) He also operated a tavern in Newburg, the Bates Tavern, from at least 1820 - 1830. (Historic Sites of Cleveland, pages 61-62) Both the mill and tavern would have served as community gathering places and made Bates well familiar with the affairs of the area.

Pioneer Families of Cleveland, 1796-1840 (page 141) provides us some details as to the lives of the four Bates daughters:
Sophia Bates married Barnabas Laughton in 1830 and went to Chicago. Five years later, she returned a widow with two sons. Afterward she married Albert Kingsbury, and had one daughter. After Kingsbury's death, she married Thomas Garfield, uncle of the president, and another son was added to her children. Sophia Bates Garfield was energetic and jolly.

Elvira Bates married Stephen V. R. Forbes of Chicago.

Lucy Bates married Benjamin Wiggins of Newburgh, and had one daughter and two sons.

Eunice Bates married Eben Miles, eldest son of Theodore and Lydia Clark Miles. She had two sons and two daughters.
Just across the road from this parcel, on a hill overlooking Mill Creek was a farm where considerable quantities of wild fruits and berries grew. It was the home of Nathaniel Wiggins and Phebe Dodge Wiggins, who had brought their six children to Cleveland from Montpelier, Vermont, in 1820. A son, Benjamin Wiggins, married Lucy Bates. (Pioneer Families of Cleveland, 1796-1840, pages 249-250)

In 1835, Noble Bates sold most of Lot 472, excepting 28 acres from the southeast corner to Benjamin L. Wiggins, his son-in-law, for $1200. (AFN: 183510080009) Wiggins would have been familiar with the land, having grown up in such close proximity. Perhaps it was a wedding gift. Perhaps it was a way for Noble Bates to give his son-in-law some additional capital. The higher price-per-acre listed for the Bates - Wiggins transfer strongly suggests that it had been improved in some significant way - most likely by the construction of a house.

Benjamin Wiggins had 25 acres on Turney Road, which he purchased from Isaac Weigs in 1831 for $125. (AFN: 183111170002) In the intervening years he had likely built a house. The house was located on the east side of the road, between Rosewood and Cardwell Avenues. Wiggins is said to have sold tinware and Seth Thomas clocks before becoming a farmer. Benjamin died in July, 1864. Lucy survived him by four years, until May, 1868. (History of Sangamon County, Illinois, page 728)

On the same day it was given to them, Benjamin and Lucy Wiggins sold their part of Lot 472 to Zacharais Eddy for $2,000. (AFN: 183909160004) Eddy took out a mortgage with Noble Bates to pay for the property. This higher price is likely more indicitive of the property's true value, and suggests even more strongly that a house was already present.

A year later, Zacharias Eddy had left Newburg for Brooklyn Township. They sold the land to Lewis Short (also known as Peter Lewis Short or Peter L. Short) for $2500. (AFN: 183702010001) Three years following, Peter L. Short and Ellen Short sold the property - all of lot 472 excepting 28 acres in the southeast corner - to Thomas Garfield, a farmer, for $1250. (AFN: 183909170001)

Sophia Bates and Thomas Garfield married on November 10, 1850. With this union, the land came back into the Bates family. Given Garfield's other land holdings, he probably already had a house. If there was one present, perhaps it was rented out. Alternately, the house may not have been standing at the time of the transfer to Thomas Garfield - perhaps the reason for the diminished value of the property.

Thomas Garfield residence

Sophia and Thomas Garfield are said to have resided in this house, built c. 1850, at 4400 Turney Road. (Recollections: A Collection of Histories and Memories of Garfield Heights, page 10) The book also provides a historic photo - I detailed this subject, and the time that their nephew, James A. Garfield, spent with them back in June.

Sophia and Thomas had one child, Thomas Garfield, in September, 1852. Sophia brought three other children to the marriage: David Laughton; Peter Laughton, and Harriet Kingsbury. (Pioneer Families of Cleveland, 1796-1840, page 142)

Newburgh Township
A detail from the 1858 Hopkins Map of Cuyahoga County. Used courtesy of Rails and Trails, original courtesy of the Bedford Historical Society.

In the spring of 1854, for the sum of $213, the Garfields sold .6 acres to one H.M. Miller. (AFN: 185403230004) The next month, Miller took out a mortgage with Garfield to pay for the lot. (AFNL 185404140009) The property would have been in the northeast corner of the section outlined here.

This was the first time the parcel the house sits upon was clearly separated from the larger lot. It seems reasonable to suspect that the house may have been built by H.M. (or H.W.) Miller, an individual for whom, unfortunately, I have been unable to learn anything else. Miller does not show up on the 1850, 1860, or 1870 U.S. Census for the are. Further, I have been unable to locate when Miller might have sold the house to the next owners, the Browns.

In 1855, the Cleveland State Hospital was completed, on the opposite side of the road. It was built on land donated by the Garfield family.

James H. Brown and Elizabeth Brown were both born in England, in about 1820 and 1823, respectively. They emigrated to Canada, where they had a child, Louisa, in 1860. (1870 U.S. Census) Sometime before 1870, they moved to Newburgh.

James H. Brown was a carpenter and joiner. It's possible that he built the house, if the property was transferred to him relatively shortly after Miller became owner of it. It's also possible that he did a major renovation on the existing structure.

Regardless of the builder, the house is indicative of a moment of social change. This is not the sort of house that we expect to find on a farm. Rather, it is indicative of a house built in town. In the 1850s, the area in the center of Newburg was built up, and there were plenty of houses along Warner Road, but Turney remained less densely populated. In the following decades, this would change.

In 1873, this part of Newburgh Township was annexed by the city of Cleveland. This confirms the growing economic importance of the industry located along Mill Creek.

The Browns sold this .75 acre parcel to Carrie L. Salisbury, wife of Vial Salisbury in April, 1874, for $3,800. The Salisburys moved here from Bedford. (AFN: 187404040019) By this time, Thomas Garfield's farm had been split up into residential parcels.

Image courtesy of Special Collections, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University

Two years prior, this building was completed. It was part of the massive new complex for Cleveland State Hospital, on the east side of Turney Road. Ot was built by John Gill and Sons, whom you might remember from this Euclid Avenue house. The Victorian stone edifice would loom over the neighborhood for the next hundred years.

Vial Salisbury was born in Ohio on June 3, 1843, in the village of Warrensville, Ohio, to Alson A. Salisbury and Betsy B. Salisbury, who had both come to Ohio from New York. His father, Alson, was a millwright. His oldest brother, Vincent, ran a tavern on adjacent property, while the next eldest, Hiram, was a blacksmith. (1850 U.S. Census, AFN: 184211100007)

On July 25, 1861, Vial enlisted as a bugler, 9th Independent Battery, Ohio Volunteer Light Infantry. He mustered out with battery on July 25, 1865. (Official roster of the soldiers of the state of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, page 519)

A detail from the 1858 Hopkins Map of Cuyahoga County. Used courtesy of Rails and Trails, original courtesy of the Bedford Historical Society.

Caroline Ward was born in Pennsylvania, in about 1845, to Joseph and Emeline Wood. A few years later, the family moved to Bedford township, where they purchased a farm of about 83 acres, located south of the village, shown here in the 1858 Hopkins Map of Cuyahoga County. Their farm, on what is now Northfield Road (State Route 8), was transversed shortly after their purchase by the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Railroad. A tributary to Tinker's Creek ran through the property. The schoolhouse was just down the road, to the north. The farmhouse was located near the intersection with Forbes Road.

Shortly after his return to Ohio, Vial Salisbury and Carrie Ward were married. They had four children: William (born 1866); Alson (born 1869); Joseph (born 1876); and Emma (born 1878). Also was born in Pennsylvania, suggesting that they had resided there for a time before returning to Ohio. Vial would work for the State Hospital. This Annual Report indicates that he worked for four months of 1876 as a painter, earning $100. He remained in its employment of the for the rest of the following year, 1877, as a painter, with an annual salary of $300. We can probably assume that he remained their employee for several years following.

Image used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library

This detail, from the 1881 City Atlas of Cleveland, Ohio illustrates the location of the parcel in question. This is the full size of the parcel sold by Thomas Garfield to H.M. Miller, before any parts were sold off. It illustrates the growth of the residential areas around the house, as well as the massive campus of the State Hospital. Compare this to the 1858 map, above, where this area was almost entirely farmland.

Image used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library

This is a closer detail of the same location. It shows that the farmhouse had reached the current shape, with a minor exceptions, by 1881. Further, the property is shown to contain a barn of a decent size - perhaps 700 square feet - and a small shed.

The Salisburys witnessed the growth of this area to one that was more densely populated and that focused more heavily on industry. In 1894, the Salisburys sold off the west end of lot for $250. (AFN 189402030016) This diminishment of the lot marked another transition point in this property, to one with a still less rural note.

The exact date of Vial Salisbury's death is unknown. It was between 1894 and 1903, and probably before 1900, but beyond that, evidence is lacking.

Carrie L. Salisbury sold the house and property to Julius E. Stewart, in July, 1903, for $1,500. (AFN: 190307090051) Immediately, Mr. Stewart sold the property to Lorenzo F. McGrath, at the same price, $1,500. (AFN: 190307080006)

Image from Progressive Men of Northern Ohio

Progressive Men of Northern Ohio, published by the Plain Dealer in 1906, describes McGrath in the following manner (page 184):
Lorenzo F. McGrath, Cleveland. Beckwith & McGrath. Born Big Island Township, Marion Co., Ohio, Nov. 28, 1871. Teacher in public schools from 1888 to 1891. Admitted to the Bar June, 1894. Began the practice of law in Cleveland same year and later in the firm of McGrath & Stern. Assisted in the organization of and became interested in several coal and railroad enterprises in West Virginia. President of Cleveland & West Virginia Coal Co.; Director The Cecil Coal & Coke Co.; Director The Valley Fork Coal Co.; Director The S. W. Burrows Co.; Vice-President The West Virginia Securities Co.; Member the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce; Member Clifton Club.

It seems likely, on this basis, that McGrath bought the house either as an investment or as a rental property. Five years later, he sold the house, to Catherine J. Flueck, for $1650, a modest increase over the previous sale, but definitely not enough to cover the expense of ownership and transaction costs. (AFN: 190804290018)

August J. Flueck was born in about 1862 in Ohio, the son of German immigrants. He married Catherine J. Schmitt, who was born in about 1865, also the child of German immigrants. (1910 U.S. Census) They had three daughters: Frances M., born in about 1897; Catherine A., born in about 1901; and Alexandra T., born in about 1906. (AFN: 194609070013) The house would remain in one of their hands for almost 70 years.

August Flueck was a machinist in the steel mills.

The Fluecks moved into the house next door, 4346 Turney, sometime before 1910. It was owned by Catherine's family. The date of purchase by the Schmitts is unclear. It was a smaller house, so their move to it suggests either economic need or strong financial incentive to rent the other property. (AFN: 191504140123)

As of 1910, 4340 Turney was being rented by two families. Perhaps it had been split up into a duplex. One was that of Gustav W. C. Trende, a wire drawer in a wire mill, and Katherine Trende. At the time, they had five children: Arthur (17); Nicholas (16); Frank A. (14); Florence (12); Carl M. (3); and Walter J. (9/12). Two were employed in industry - Arthur as a teamster and Nicholas as a plater in a chain works.

The other family living at 4340 Turney in 1910 was that of Gregory Gonder, Theresa Gonder, and their son, Martin G. Gonder. Martin was employed as a machinist in the chain works, and his father, as a helper there. These occupations all indicate the industrial trend the neighborhood had taken. The air was surely hazey with pollution.

Theresa Schmitt sold the Fluecks the house at 4346 Turney in 1915. (AFN: 191504140123)

The date of of August Flueck's death is unknown, however, by 1920, Catherine Flueck is listed as a widow. Perhaps the cause of death was an industrial accident. All three daughters were still living with her. Frances and Catherine A. were both working as stenographers, in a hardware store and chair factory, respectively.

In 1920, the residents of 4340 Turney were Elizabeth Crago, a widow, and the Bennet family. John Bennet, an English bricklayer, had come to America in 1883. He became a U.S. citizen in 1896. With Lena, he had six children:
Charles (23); John (19); Fred (17); Myrtle (14); George (12); Gladys (8); and Lucille (3). Charles worked as a machinist in a steel mill, while John and Fred both were employed in a print shop.

I have been unable to locate the 1930 U.S. Census records for the Fluecks or for the residents of 4340 Turney. When found, they will surely illuminate the state of the neighborhood at that time. The Bennet family had left the house by this time, for a residence on East 95th Street.

Catherine J. Flueck died on January 17, 1946. A funeral was held the following Monday (the 21st) at Holy Name Church. (Cleveland Necrology File) The house then passed to her three daughters (AFN: 194609070013) who, in turn, passed it to Catherine A. Flueck, the older of the two who remained single. Catherine A. and Alexandra T. remained residents of 4346 Turney. (AFN: 194703070071)

Catherine A. Flueck died on July 18, 1963. A funeral was held at Dolon Funeral Home, 9213 Miles Avenue. There was also a mass, at Holy Name Church, on Monday, July 22. (Cleveland Necrology File) The house then passed to Alexandra T. Flueck, who remained a resident of 4346 Turney Avenue. (AFN: 196408120074)

The State Hospital was closed in the early 1970s, and the main building was demolished soon after.

In 1976, after living in or next door to 4340 Turney Avenue for almost 70 years, Alexandra Flueck sold the house to Laureno Viera and Pilar Viera. (AFN: 00938852) The Vieras made this their home for 22 years, until 1998, when they sold it to Christopher McClatchey and Jeanne M. Stein, later Jeannine M. McClatchey. (AFN: 00834135)

The site of the State Hospital was redeveloped, and in the late 1990s, new homes were built there.

The McClatcheys sold the house to Willie F. Hodges, in 2000. (AFN: 200011090911)

How old, then, is the house itself?

It's a difficult question. The evidence presented above would tend toward a date after 1854. A house would not have been built in this style after the Civil War, and there was virtually no construction during the Civil War, so 1861 is a reasonable end date.

Foundation detail

The stone used for the foundation is so abraded that we can't really tell much about the age of the house from whatever tooling might have been present on it at one point.

Further, the wood siding was replaced at some point in the past. In doing so, some trim detail may have been lost. Said detail might have suggested an earlier date. Finally, the house shows evidence of having been framed with boards cut on a sawmill.

Front door

The front door may reveal more of the story. The door is probably about 6'8" - the height of a standard door today. Above the doorframe is a transom - a window, probably 3 or 4 panes.
The style of this tends toward the 1850s, but could have been present at an earlier date as well.

Framing detail, front door

The framing of the front door raises questions. Note that while the lumber appears to have saw marks, it also seems to have been worked by hand quite a bit.

What does this mean?

While it is reasonably likely that this house was built in the 1850s, there's another option that cannot be ignored. When the property changed hands in the 1830s, the price suggested a major improvement to the property, as noted above. Yet when Garfield sold the small lot to Miller in 1854, the price was less than what one might expect for a lot with a solid dwelling. Perhaps the dwelling in question was elsewhere on the property.

I have another idea. Perhaps the condition of the dwelling had deteriorated significantly. It could have been used as a rental property - it was at the opposite end of the parcel from Garfield's residence. Rather than deal with a decaying house that he didn't need, Garfield might have sold off the land. Miller might have fixed up the house, or James H. Brown, an enterprising carpenter, might have significantly renovated and expanded the existing structure.

Late Greek Revival townhouse

Either way, this structure is an important piece of our past. I can't think of similar structure in this city outside of Ohio City and Tremont.

This house is at least 150 years old. It has survived through the transition of this neighborhood from rural to urban. It has endured the rise and fall of industry. Yet now the owner wants to demolish it and be rid of this liability.

The owner, one Willie F. Hodges, has pulled a demolition permit for the property. As the house is not in a landmark district, he could proceed forward with this at any time. I sincerely hope that he reconsiders.


Yes, this house does need some work. But it's not an insurmountable project. The interior, from what I could see, isn't especially scary. The historic details that remain are relatively easy to work with.

Take a look at this illustration by Shawn Hoefler, from back in March, when I first mentioned it. Imagine it in white, with dark green shutters on the windows - the proportions are such that there were likely shutters there originally. Further, imagine it with a small garage to the rear, done in red, and shaped like a small barn. It could happen.

The house has great proportions. It appears to retain most of the original double-hung windows. The biggest thing now, other than removing the boards from the windows, to improve the aesthetics would be to prune the trees / bushes in front of the house. This would do much to improve its street presence.

This neighborhood has a lot going for it. There's Mill Creek Falls, the highest waterfall in Cuyahoga County, and the associated parks serving it. There's a ton of great architecture along Miles Avenue, Turney Road, and Warner Road. Those, however, are the subject of another post - I trust that you don't want me to ramble on for another 1500 words.

This is the sort of house that neighborhoods are rebuilt around. If Mr. Hodges is unable to manage the task of restoring it, I can respect that. But he needs to step aside, then, and offer it to someone who can. It's a piece of history that we simply cannot afford to lose.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Euclid Avenue: What We've Lost and What We Will Probably Lose

Demolition on Euclid Avenue

Cleveland's Euclid Avenue isn't the main thoroughfare that it once was. Most of the grand homes that once graced it are now long gone. However, in conjunction with the creation of the Health Line, much has been lost. More of the historic fabric will be gone, if we don't act soon, just like the historic Cobb & Bradley building, shown here.

This post is an attempt to identify what we've lost (or may lose) along Euclid Avenue. It focuses on historic buildings that have been lost in the past couple years, or, in the case of structures still standing, those that face immediate danger. Are all of these great architecture? Perhaps not - but they contribute to the streetscape and to the shape of our community.

Our journey will begin east from downtown Cleveland.

Photo by Keri Zipay

The terra-cotta-faced Cleveland Cadillac Building, at 1935 Euclid Avenue was built in 1914. Knox and Elliott were the architects. It was demolished by Cleveland State University to make way for expansion.

The Student Center at Cleveland State University, designed by Don Hisaka was also demolished, to make way for another structure serving the same purpose. Many said that the structure as it was was utterly unusable. Perhaps it was. How do you deal with a visually stunning structure when it doesn't do the job it's supposed to do?

Photo by Pavel Dyban

This group of four buildings were located on the south side of the street, immediately east of the train tracks and East 55th Street. They have all been demolished. When the photo was taken, it seems that an additional building, immediately to the east, had been recently demolished. The third building over appears, based on the lack of windows, to have been some sort of secure storage facility.

Cobb & Bradley Building
Photo by Otterphoto

The Cobb and Bradley building was on the north side of the street, between the trestle and East 57th Street. The late 19th century architectural detail is more of an earlier era than most of what was present on this part of Euclid Avenue. It was demolished in April of 2009.

Cobb & Bradley Building
Photo by Otterphoto

Immediately to the east lay this apartment building, which was demolished at the same time. It's interesting that most of the copper detail around the roof still remained when this photo was taken.

Another building was present on the north side of Euclid Avenue, between East 57th and East 59th Streets, but I have been unable to locate a photo of the structure.

Photo by Pavel Dyban

Of the three commerical / industrial buildings photographed here by Pavel Dyban in November, 2005, during his cross-country road trip, only one survives. The block looks like a single building, but is actually three. The rear part, as well as the building closer to us have both been demolished.

Photo by Pavel Dyban

The remaining structure looks somewhat naked. The fa├žade of 6611 Euclid was removed when the road was widened, to accompany a turn lane (as was required) when the Health Line was built. Another building, also now lost to history, stood adjacent to the east.

Continuing east on the north side of the street is the Dunham Tavern, the oldest structure on its original foundation in the city.

Photo by Pavel Dyban

Immediately east of the Dunham Tavern, at the northeast corner of Euclid and East 69th Street was this two-story commercial structure, which has been demolished.

Two Dollar Rare Book Store

Immediately opposite, on the south side of Euclid Avenue, sat the two story brick building that housed The Two Dollar Rare Book Store. While the building itself was relatively undistinguished, the bookstore was phenomenal. I've never seen so many great books at such reasonable prices. Chris Uram, the owner, took in the books that other book dealers wouldn't touch, because they were often in such poor condition. He offered them at bargain prices. Hundreds of them made their way to my house. I do hope that he is able to relocate.

Eton and Rugby Hall apartments

The Eton and Rugby Hall Apartments, at 7338 Euclid Avenue, were built 1925. George Allen Grieble was the architect. These buildings, with their beautiful terra cotta details have been vacant for at least 30 years. They will be demolished soon to make way for low-income senior housing.

Cleveland Play House

The Cleveland Play House was remodeled in 1983 by Philip Johnson, the architect best known for his 1949 Glass House, a National Historic Landmark, in New Canaan, Connecticut. Johnson is a Clevelander, and this is the only building by him in this city.

The structure has been purchased by the Cleveland Clinic. While they have not yet revealed their plans for the structure, I strongly suspect, given their track record, that it will be demolished.

Euclid Avenue Congregational Church

Euclid Avenue Congregational Church 9606 Euclid Avenue, was built in 1884-1887. The architects were Coburn and Barnum. It was demolished, following a fire caused by a lightning strike in the early hours of Tuesday, March 23.

Hathaway Brown II
Photo by Thom Sheridan

The original Hathaway Brown School building, on the north side of Euclid Avenue, at East 97th Street, was designed by architects Hubbell and Benes in 1905. It was demolished in January by the Cleveland Clinic.

Laurel School

The original Laurel School building had been connected to the Hathaway Brown structure, and was demolished at the same time.

Were these buildings too far gone to be saved? For some, the answer is yes. Others could have been easily reused if the owners had chosen to. There's one, however, that I believe should be saved.

It's been defaced, as I indicated above, and what remains isn't terribly architecturally distinguished. That doesn't stop it from being important.

Dunham Tavern

6611 Euclid, the tall industrial building standing here next to the Dunham Tavern, provides real context for the museum. It illustrates how the city grew up around this tavern, and the level of development threats faced by it. It hints at how close the tavern might have come to being demolished itself.

This historic structure, 6611 Euclid Avenue, was condemned on May 7. Do we want another vacant lot, or do we want something that contributes significantly to the Dunham Tavern Museum?

It's the last of the taller structures of its type along Euclid Avenue, between East 55th and East 105th Streets. Once it is gone, this context will be lost forever. The building is owned by the RTA - in other words, us. We need to make the right decision here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Which Cleveland structures have been condemned?

One of the issues we face in the field of historic preservation is simply identifying the properties that are most threatened. Some threats include neglect, redevelopment, and vandalism. Here, right now, the greatest threat is from the Cleveland Department of Building and Housing, in the form of demolition used as a tool to abate housing code violations.

How and why may a property be condemned? When there is probable cause, a housing inspector may obtain a warrant and search a structure for code violations. If the violations are severe enough, a condemnation notice will be issued, listing the violations - see the Stanley Block for an example. This gives the property owner a period of time, usually 30 days, to fix the violations or appeal. If the owner fails to respond or comply within the given time, the case goes to the Law Department, who reviews the case and then forwards the file to Department of Building and Housing's Demolition Bureau. The Demolition Bureau requests bids and selects a demolition contractor. Once the demolition is complete, the city bills the owner for the cost of demolition.

A condemnation notice doesn't mean that the structure will be demolished. A property owner may elect to fix the violations. It is, however, the first step on that route, and therefore, the best time to act. The problem is knowing which historic structures have been condemned.

The only public notice currently provided are signs stapled to the exterior of the structures. These are often removed or fall off. While one can keep track of a few important properties, and others will notice some, as was the case where one of you let me know about the Frankie Yankovic boyhood home, this just isn't sufficient. It would be a massive, time-consuming task to identify all of these structures. We can do better.

To that end, I requested a list of the structures that had been condemned in the past six months from the Department of Building and Housing. I said that if that list wasn't available, I'd take whatever data they might have that would include the condemnations. I received this list. It lists all 1202 properties condemned between April 1 and September 21, 2010. Look at it. See if there are any that you know to be important.

Note: At present, one cannot sort the list by street. I had tried to split up the addresses so that this could be done, but for some reason, it led to errors in the column for type of condemnation. I will work on this. Update: October 4, 2010: the data can now be sorted by address. Also note that the two far right columns are my own notes. I'm trying to figure out which structures are important, both for history and aesthetics. As you can see, I need help.

A further note on my notes:
H = Historic
m = Maybe historic
n = Not obviously historic. May still be a very interesting house or have historic value not obvious on the surface - i.e. the residence of a famous person.
? = I can't see enough from the available aerial photos to make a judgement one way or the other.
i = Architecturally interesting. Not of major historic value, but of above average quality and probably worth preserving.

To better illustrate which structures have been condemned, I've used a map here to display the data. Which historic sites do you see?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mystery Photo for September 23, 2010

Mystery Photo

Do you know what this house is or where it was located? The house, which is built out of wood, is no longer standing. It was in an area that is now the city of Cleveland. Quarrying stone was very labor-intensive work. Thus, you would only have walls and terraces made of stone in a place where there was a stone outcropping. Think about the various stream valleys that have been filled in - look at the 1858 Hopkins map of Cuyahoga County for a good idea what they might be.

Be the first to identify it in the comments here and win your choice of the following books:
  • Covering History: Revisiting Federal Art in Cleveland, 1933-43, a beautiful, 72 page joint publication of the Cleveland Artists Foundation and the Cleveland Public Library. It picks up where Karal Ann Marling's work (Federal Art in Cleveland) left off, and is highly recommended.
  • Any of the other publications of the Cleveland Artists Foundation that are still in print. The CAF is the organization publishing works on the history of art in greater Cleveland.
  • Shaker Heights Fences by Patricia J. Forgac (1984, 16 pages)
  • Shaker Heights: the Van Sweringen Influence by Claudia R. Boatwright (1983, 56 pages)

All guesses must be made as comments on this post. If the answer has not been correctly guessed by 2pm, the post will be edited to include a clue. If it has still not been guessed by 8pm, it will be edited again to include another clue.

If you publish books or other products relating to Cleveland history and would like to offer them as prizes, please email

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The two oldest buildings in Downtown Cleveland

A little while ago, I wrote about the Mechanics Block, built circa 1835 and demolished in 1971. At the time of the demolition, it was the oldest building in downtown Cleveland. I wasn't able to learn much about its early history because, for most of its lifespan - probably because, for most of its history, it wasn't seen as that significant - there were plenty of larger, more (commercially) important buildings built soon after. Only with the loss of those buildings does this early structure begin to seem more important.

I encountered the same problem in trying to learn about the early history of the two oldest buildings in downtown Cleveland. While good examples of the style for the time they were built, they weren't considered fancy or otherwise architecturally special. They had escaped academic notice as late as 1964, when Edmund H. Chapman's classic analysis of this city's growth, Cleveland: Village to Metropolis, was published. Only now that they are the last of their type do we try to look further.

Photograph by Jenny Carpenter Valencic

The Hilliard Block, at 1415 West 9th Street, Cleveland, Ohio, was constructed circa 1850. It was built for Richard Hilliard, for his grocery business, Hilliard and Hays. Hilliard, a Cleveland resident since 1824, was involved in both business and politics. He was elected president of the village council twice, in the early 1830s, and in 1836, when Cleveland became a city, he was elected alderman.

The condition of this historic brick late Federal has improved considerably since it appeared in Landmark Architecture of Cleveland by Mary-Peale Schofield, in 1976. At the time, almost all of the windows were boarded up.

Photograph by Jenny Carpenter Valencic

Since that date, the building, seen here from the rear, has been restored. The chimneys, built right into the sides of the structure, and which were missing in 1976, have been reconstructed. The peeling paint (and lovely patina) of the sign, reading "Drug Sundries Co." are now gone, replaced with paint in a color that is probably similar to that of the bricks. While it would be nice to remove the paint from the bricks, there isn't a safe way to do that, short of using a dental pick. Further, it's possible that the bricks are somewhat deteriorated and that the paint affords a measure of waterproofness.

Photograph by Jenny Carpenter Valencic

The Central Exchange, now Frank Morrison & Son, is similar in style. The historic structure, at 1330 Old River Road, was built at about the same time as the Hilliard Block - circa 1850. Schofield's guide is the first pubication to notice the historical importance of this structure as well.

The unusual curved corner of the front of the building, shown here, is likely original.

Photograph by Jenny Carpenter Valencic

The Central Exchange is wedge shaped - the angles of the walls in the photographs are not the result of some wide-angle lens. Schofield noted that part of the riverside dock remained, though it appears obscured in this photograph. The windows on the side of the structure have been widened - they would have originally been of the same proportions as those on the front of the building, like the Hilliard Block. Further, the windows on the rear have been shortened.

It's worth noting that the Central Exchange also appears in better condition than it did in 1976 - the glass block on the front of the structure has been replaced with traditional windows.

The dates for both of these structures are estimates. There's still plenty that could be learned about their history. This research would better illuminate these few remaining elements of this period of our history that are left in downtown Cleveland.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Skating Rink at Progressive Field is 130-Year Old Idea

Skating Rinks and Ball Parks

The Cleveland Indians plan on creating "Snow Days" at Progressive Field this year. The project will include a skating rink, and sledding hill along with a big fire pit. The goal of the project is to put the stadium to use during the Indians offseason, and generate some much needed revenue for the club. It's an idea that is innovative and logical, and it's happened before in Cleveland. As a matter of fact, it's an idea that has been around since the 1860's.

The Cleveland Blues played at Kennard Street Park from 1879-1884. During the offseason, they flooded the field, and made the park a massive skating rink to earn extra revenue. Turning the park into a skating rink was not a novel idea back then. Many major league clubs turned thier ball grounds into ice
rinks in the winter in order to raise money for the club. Union Grounds in Brooklyn actually was a skating pond before it was a ball park. In 1862, base ball games were played at Union Grounds, making it possibly the first skating pond/ball park combination in history.

When Kennard Street Park was built in 1879, the Cleveland Base Ball Club's owners had already envisioned a dual use park. On September 4, 1878, the owners registered the name of the club as "The Cleveland Skating Park and Base Ball Association". In 1881, the club profited $500 from the skating rink operatioins of the park. (Base Ball on the Western Reserve) That was equivelent to the salary of a star player, or two lesser players back then.

Today's Indians are simply reincarnating a great idea from the past. The club will benefit from the winter proceeds, and it seems like skating at Progressive Field would be much fun.

Picture #1 - 1881 Atlas, Kennard Street Park
Picture #2 - Union Skating Pond, circa 1863

Picture #3 - Union Base Ball Grounds (Illustration by Jeff Suntala)

Base Ball on The Western Reserve, James Egan Jr.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The James A. Garfield Monument

Yesterday was the 129th anniversary of the death of James A. Garfield. The Garfield Monument, his burial place, in Lake View Cemetery, is one of our most grand public structures.

These images illustrate the Garfield Monument at the turn of the century. The photographs are from 8x10 glass plate negatives, created by the Detroit Publishing Co.. The originals have been scanned at high resolution and made available online by the Library of Congress.

Note that, in these photographs, the stone of the monument appears to be of a much lighter color. The dark color we associate with the structure is likely the result of decades of pollution. Originally, it was probably a lighter tan.

The processional nature of the roads leading to the monument is more obvious here, as it is not obscured by trees. This provides some hint as to the original landscaping plan of the site. I do not mean to suggest that the trees now present should be removed - my intent is just to show that these aesthetic perceptions have changed over time.

The Library of Congress has a couple more photographs from this series.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mystery Photo for September 16, 2010

House on a hill

On Monday, when I posted Snapshots of Cleveland, 1910-1913, I noted that there was one photo I had omitted. This is the photo.

The house appears to have been new when the photo was taken. It appears to be on a bit of a slope, which should narrow down the location. Do you know approximately where it is (or was)?

Be the first to identify it in the comments here and win your choice of the following books:
  • Covering History: Revisiting Federal Art in Cleveland, 1933-43, a beautiful, 72 page joint publication of the Cleveland Artists Foundation and the Cleveland Public Library. It picks up where Karal Ann Marling's work (Federal Art in Cleveland) left off, and is highly recommended.
  • Any of the other publications of the Cleveland Artists Foundation that are still in print. The CAF is the organization publishing works on the history of art in greater Cleveland.
  • Shaker Heights Fences by Patricia J. Forgac (1984, 16 pages)
  • Shaker Heights: the Van Sweringen Influence by Claudia R. Boatwright (1983, 56 pages)

All guesses must be made as comments on this post. There will not be any clues, as, I must confess, I haven't been able to figure this one out myself.

If you publish books or other products relating to Cleveland history and would like to offer them as prizes, please email

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Repair the Stairs on the Wade Park Bridge!

Bridge over MLK Boulevard

Charles Schweinfurth's four bridges over Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Rockefeller Park help to define the landscape. These stone structures, built from 1896-1899, help form the space into more of a park. While a cohesive group, each has its own style.

The most northern, built for the tracks of the Lake Shore & Michigan Railroad, provides a grand entrance to the park.

Bridge over MLK Boulevard

The St. Clair Avenue bridge, seen here from the south looking north, is monumental without being imposing.

Continuing south, the Superior Avenue bridge, completed in 1897, crosses at a bit of a diagonal relative to the road.

Wade Park Avenue Bridge

The most southern the bridge for Wade Park Avenue, was completed in 1899. The area at the top appears unfinished, allowing vegetation to spill over, providing the appearance of a grand ruin. Many consider it to be the best of the lot.

The significance was further illustrated by the decision of the Historic American Buildings Survey to document the bridge, in 1965. It's worth noting that they too chose to photograph the side of the bridge with the staircase, and that two of the four photographs focused on it.

Wade Park Avenue Bridge

Now, however, the stairs sit in a state of disrepair, closed to pedestrians, as they have been for several years. When the stairs were built, they connected the surrounding neighborhoods with this beautiful piece of parkland. At the turn of the century, walking in the parks was a popular leisure activity - unlike many other forms of entertainment, it didn't cost anything more than the streetcar fare to get there.

Wade Park Avenue Bridge

It appears that the problem is the deterioration of the sandstone that makes up the stairs themselves - the walls and rails on either side appear to be in decent condition. I would hope that this could be repaired without becoming a major construction project.

The bridge falls into Ward 8, which is represented by Jeffrey Johnson. His office seems an appropriate starting point for this request.

The parkway is used by many as a commuter artery. We should do what it takes to open it back up to the people who live closest to it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Snapshots of Cleveland, 1910-1913

Group portrait 8b

Shortly after I purchased the ten glass plate negatives that I used in the series Cleveland in 1927, I purchased another group of photographs on eBay, one that I hope had similar promise.

This group of 52 snapshots seem to have all been taken between 1910 and 1913. While an interesting collection, they don't feature the landmarks that make for easy identification. I've been able to assemble something of a narrative, but it doesn't seem to be a story that merits being spread out over several posts. I've shared the best of the lot here. I hope that if you find them interesting, you'll look at the full set. Perhaps you'll be able to illuminate more of the story.

I have omitted one photo. That photo will be our mystery photo for the week, to be published at 12:01 AM on Thursday. The first person to identify it will have their choice of our usual assortment of prizes.

As always, if you have a set of photographs like this and are willing to share them, please contact If I deem that they'd make a good story, I'd be more than willing to scan them and do whatever research I can.

The following images are snapshots. They were scanned (and are presented) at 600 dpi. As snapshots, likely made with inexpensive cameras, the quality of the exposure of the originals varied considerably. I have adjusted the exposure as needed to provide the greatest possible level of detail.

The photos were removed from an album, prior to coming into my possession. They retain fragments of the adhesive corners used to hold them into the album.

Group portrait 13a

Many of the photos are group portraits. There are often two versions of the same composition. When so, I've labeled them as "a" and "b" to group them together. Some appear to have been more candid, or at least attempting to look more candid.

"at Stones"

This one features a group of young men, titled simply "at Stones".

Holiday celebration

This one, from December 21, 1910, shows a family seated at a dining table for a holiday celebration.

Christmas tree and a couple

One of the women from the preceding portrait is shown here with a companion, on Christmas Day, 1910.

Alpha Chi Sigma

This group portrait was the one that got my attention. It shows the members of Alpha Chi Sigma, the fraternal organization for chemists, presumably the chapter at the Case School of Applied Sciences.

A key is provided on the back, listing the individuals in the photos. With some work, some of them may be identified in the other photos. From left to right, they are: (top row) Creighton Whitehead; Bob Snyder; John Madigan; Herbert Kortage; (middle row) Howard Rose; Walter Doxey; Ed Horr; James McCaslin; George Russel; (bottom row) Ordello Doty; [unknown]; and Clarence Vollman. It might be worth seeing where else these individuals appear in this group of photos, as well as seeing what they went on to accomplish. Many of the group are pictured in better detail here.

Formal dinner, possibly at East Tech

This is the last interior group photo I'll mention. It appears to be a formal dinner. Several pennants hang on the walls, including those for Harvard, Michigan, Chicago, and the Case School of Applied Sciences. Does anyone recogize the location?

Portrait on East 55th

This couple appears to have been photographed on the west side of East 55th Street, probably near East Tech. The camera was pointed north. Temple Tifereth Israel (now Friendship Baptist Church), built 1894, Lehman and Schmitt, architects, can be seen in the background.

Three East Tech students

These three women appear to be East Tech students or recent graduates. They would likely have been in one of the first graduating classes, as the school opened in 1908. The location of the photo may have been on Sagamore Avenue.

Looking east down Sagamore Avenue

This photo shows the view on the south side of Sagamore Avenue, in the winter of 1913.

7608 Sagamore Avenue Looking west down Sagamore Avenue

These two photos from that winter continue the panorama, with 7608 Sagamore Avenue and the houses to the east.

Christmas Day, 1910

This woman, who appears in several of the other photos, was photographed in the back yard of 7608 Sagamore, on Christmas Day, 1910. The rear portion of the house that is visible immediately to her left, 7702-7704 Sagamore, was moved to the site between 1903-1912, from the southwest corner of Sagamore and East 79th Street. The address, pre-1905, (and pre-move) was 968 East Madison.

Gordon Park

The landscape of Gordon Park features prominently in several of the photos, many of which were taken in the winter. A structure that appears to be a bath house is visible in the background.

Winter portrait, on Lake Erie Winter portrait, on Lake Erie

These two portraits may have also been made at Gordon Park. The camera under the arm of the man on the right may have been the one used to take several of the other photos.

possibly Wade Park

This group may have been on an outing at the pond at Wade Park. I'm unsure as to the location, however. This group might have also been photographed in Wade Park.


This photo was labeled "Camp". One guess as to the location would be the Cuyahoga Valley - but it could be any number of other locations as well.


I would guess that this photo illustrates a campsite, given the presence of the tent to the right. The function of the building in the center is unclear. Another photograph also features it. It seems too large to be an outhouse.

Group portrait in camp

This group appear to also be camping.


This couple was photographed facing backwards in a car. Two photographs of another woman were also taken in this location.

Changing a flat tire Changing a flat tire

Here, we can see a flat tire being changed. Can anyone identify the automobile, or the curious steering wheel?

Repairing a flat tire

I believe that this is the same automobile, again with a flat tire, but in a more urban location.

Man sitting on a fence

To close, I offer this photo, of a man sitting on a fence. It has bothered me, because it seems so familar, but yet I cannot place it. Does it seem familiar to you?

This collection provides a look into a group of upper middle class young men and women from about 1910-1913. It's an interesting little bit of Cleveland history. I look forward to seeing what you, the reader can add to this story.