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?


  1. Create two new columns, Street Number and Street Name.

    Street Number is =LEFT(B2,SEARCH(" ",B2))
    Street Name is =RIGHT(B2,LEN(B2)-SEARCH(" ",B2))

  2. The Franklin Blvd addresses are likely notable. 4308 is Franklin Castle. 3108 is smaller, but has a full sandstone porch... very interesting.

  3. Thanks for pointing out that one. The owner of 3104 Franklin has wanted to demolish it for quite a while and build condos in its place. The Landmarks Commission wouldn't give approval. It'll be interesting to see what happens next.