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.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cleveland's Cultural Landscape - An Introduction

A cultural Landscape is a set of changes that people make to the natural landscape. Sometimes these changes are mostly according to a conscious design - like a cemetery or a shopping “lifestyle” center. Most often, however, these changes occur over time, with a type of collective decision making, as if people assemble an internal image of what the place is supposed to look like and then make individual decisions that contribute - like the Main Street in small towns or the front lawns on a residential street. That internal image, of course, evolves over time, but there often comes a moment when an environment ceases evolving and presents itself as mature, realized and expressive. In the natural environment, this is called a climax environment, such as a climax forest.

Downtown is a type of cultural landscape. And, frankly, it has reached and passed its climax form. In the American Midwest, the cultural idea of downtown was popularly based upon models such as Boston, Philadelphia, and, especially, New York City. In Cleveland, because of where we are located and where we go when we have a desire for the enticements of a larger city, many think that ideal downtown is like New York or Chicago. Idealized are characteristics such as high density, intense service by public transportation, and central positioning in the international marketplace of ideas.

But, in fact and form, Cleveland is a different kind of city. New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago grew as centers of commerce. While Cleveland did first grow as a commercial center - booming with importance during its canal decades of the 1830s and 1840s, it was as an industrial city that it reached a climax. Cleveland was not a smaller version of New York, but among the largest of industrial cities and towns. In an industrial city or town, Downtown positions near industry and industry pushes away middle-class and upper-class housing. There are lots of other differences too.

Cleveland is no longer as much an industrial city. We are, as we are reminded by news media from time to time, re-inventing ourselves.

Yet, to imagine what kind of city we will become, we need to know something of what kind of city we have been. And then something of how that city is changing. And then something of what our possibilities might be.

Here, I will write about some of these things. Mostly, I don’t think our future is linked to competing with similar cities, nor in competing with cities in warmer places (more about that, later). I think our future is in realizing the unique possibilities of who we are and in guessing a future that is based upon our romantic and mythic potential.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Leonard Parks Residence: Part 1: The Farwell family

14417 Darley Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio

Leonard Parks residence

This historic brick home, the Leonard Parks residence, sits on a side street in the Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. It looks, for all appearances, like a rural farmhouse built in the 1830s or 1840s. It's not on any of the major historic roads, so was it moved?

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

A quick look at the 1858 Hopkins Map of Cuyahoga County, shown in detail here, reveals that there was a house on approximately this location in 1858, on land owned by one L. Parks. Why, then, was it at the end of a dead end road - piece of land that would have definitely been less desirable? Why did the road going to it disappear soon after?

J.J. Farwell, Rebecca Farwell, and their three children, Benjamin J., Lydia, and John J., were among the early settlers to this area. J.J. Was born between 1761 and 1770 in Maine. Little more is known about him. Rebecca was born in about 1777, in New Hampshire. Benjamin J. was born either in New Hampshire or Vermont, in about 1805. Lydia Farwell was born in Vermont in about 1817. John J. Farwell was born in Vermont, in about 1823. It would seem that the family was probably from an area close to the border between the two states. (U.S. Federal Census, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880 and Cleveland Necrology File: Farwell, Mrs. Rebecca)

Both Benjamin J. and John J. would become involved in creative pursuits. Did they choose these occupations merely because they were good trades or was there some sort of artistic tradition in the family? At present, this is unclear.

Sometime between 1824 and 1834, the Farwell family moved west, from Vermont to Cleveland. Olive, born 1801 in Vermont, married Benjamin Farwell, and in 1834 their first child, Harriet S. Farwell, was born. They may have met in Vermont. Their second child, Eliza H. Farwell, was born in 1836.

That year, Benjamin J. Farwell purchased 10 acres of land from Thomas McIlrath and Jerusia McIlrath, some of the earliest settlers to this area. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 184312220001) This $400 purchase seems to indicate that he was likely having at least some success as a carpenter / joiner. (In April of 1838, Benjamin Farwell purchased more land, this time from Darius Adams and Mary A. Adams. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 184312220002) The sale - six adjacent acres for $180 - includes the space where the house now stands. Later that year, Olive gave birth to the couple's third child, Horace W. The following year, 1839, their fourth child, Henry J., was born.

Doorway, Leonard Parks residence

The doorway, if we ignore the newer door and storm door, looks like something that may have been built in the 1830s, perhaps by a carpenter eager to show off his skill. A historic photo, provided by Dan Musson of the Cleveland Landmarks Commission, shows that the bottom pane of the sidelights was originally a wood panel.

Brainard residence front door The Warren House, drawing 4 (detail)

This is consistent with the doors of the Brainard residence, on Denison Avenue, at left (demolished 2010) and the Isaac Waren residence, at the corner of Warren Road and Lakewood Heights Boulevard, in Lakewood, at right (demolished or moved 1938). The Isaac Warren residence drawing is a detail, taken from a set of plans done by the Historic American Buildings Survey in the 1930s. Both were built at about the same time - Brainard circa 1830-1850, and Warren circa 1835. Both were of similar scale to this one.

The proportions, in specific, the taller transom (the window over the top of the door) and the brackets at the top of the columns, splitting the transom in three, make me think of someting a bit grander.

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

These two doorways were both designed by architect Jonathan Goldsmith. To the left is the one from the Isaac Gilette residence, built in 1821, now in the Cleveland Musuem of Art. At the right is the one built for the William Peck Robinson residence, in Willoughby, in 1831 or 1832. It has been moved to Hale Farm and Village. Both share grand proportions and earlier dates of construction.

It would be worth investigating the glass in this door to see if we can determine its age. While it would be difficult to tell the difference between glass made in 1835 and 1850, it would be much easier to differential between that and glass made in the 20th century. This might help one see whether there were originally such vast expanses of glass or if they were originally broken up into smaller panes.

We can be reasonably certain that there wasn't a residence on this location when Benjamin Farwell purchased the land. The current residence straddles the line between the two parcels he purchased. Further, neither of the individuals he purchased the lots from were listed as residents of Euclid or East Cleveland Townships.

Benjamin Farwell did not call this house "home" for long. By 1840, Benjamin, Olive, and their children had moved into the city of Cleveland, while J.J., Rebecca, and John J. Farwell most likely remained here. (1840 U.S. Census) Perhaps Benjamin was able to find more work as a carpenter in the city.

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

Oliver Emerson, a lawyer, was a relatively early settler to Cleveland. In 1830, he purchased 60 acres in Parma. It was a long, skinny lot, with frontage on Pearl Road, just south of the intersection with Snow Road. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 183010270002) Center Creek, as illustrated on later maps cut through the northeast corner of the proptry. D. Reimes operated a sawmill on the adjacent pond. A school was located just down the road.

We can be reasonably certain that Oliver Emerson was the son-in-law of J.J. Farwell and Rebecca Farwell. When Lydia Farwell married him and where she lived prior to this marriage is less clear - at the age of 23, in 1840, she does not appear to have been living with her parents. Perhaps she was in school, or perhaps she was married to another individual.

View Larger Map

This house, at 5856 Pearl Road in Parma Heights, may have been his residence. The structure, probably built in the 1840s or 1850s, is located on land that he owned. Oliver's first wife, Mindwell Emerson either divorced him or died (I can find no further record of her) sometime after 1844. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 184404250001) By 1850, Oliver Emerson had married again, to Lydia Farwell. They remained in Parma, possibly in this house, for the rest of their lives.

Benjamin and Olive's fifth child, Francis J. Farwell, was likely born in the city of Cleveland, in 1844. That year, they sold all 16 acres to Almon A. Snow for $350. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 184405220004) We don't have any evidence to explain why the sale price of the property, which would have probably had a home on it, therefore increasing its value, would have dropped from the $580 paid a decade prior.

The Farwell farm might have sold after the death of J.J. Farwell. His date of death is unclear - the only thing we can say with certainty is that it was between 1840 and 1850. His death, combined with the marriage of John J. and Mary Farwell, probably in 1844 or 1845, would have left Rebecca alone on the farm. Perhaps this was the reason they chose to sell the property.

John J. Farwell, like his brother Benjamin, was engaged in a creative pursuit - painting. The 1848 Cleveland City Directory lists his address as 120 Erie Street, Cleveland, Ohio. The extent of his work is unknown - I've been unable to locate any information about his works, either in the standard source, Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900 or elsewhere. He remained a painter for the rest of his life, though as of 1870, he was a "varnsher in a railroad shop", suggesting that his work may have been more technical than artistic. (U.S. Federal Census, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880)

John J. Farwell married one Mary Farwell, from Pennsylvania, presumably before 1845, the year of the birth of their first child, Mary C. They had three more children: Charles (born about 1848); Julia (born about 1852) and Lilly (born about 1856). (U.S. Federal Census, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880)

As of 1880, John J. Farwell and his family had moved to 251 Erie Street (now 1793 East 9th Street). By 1892, they moved to 450 Erie Street. The address is now 2254 East 9th Street. (Old and New Street Numbers, page 61)
He died of cancer on March 25, 1892, at the age of 70. He is buried in Highland Park Cemetery. (Cleveland Necrology File and the Plain Dealer, March 29, 1892, page 6)

As of 1850, Benjamin Farwell had moved back to the neighborhood where he grew up, and was working as a carpenter. He was probably renting, as I can locate no record of him having owned property in the vicinity at that time. (1850 U.S. Federal Census) Ten years later, his occupation was listed as "grocer", and his son, Horace W. Farwell, was working as a carpenter and jointer. He had likely learned the trade from his father, and had perhaps taken over his father's business.

I have not been able to find anything regarding the death of Benjamin Farwell's wife, Olive Farwell. She does not appear on the 1860 U.S. Census record with Benjamin, strongly suggesting a date between 1850 and 1860.

Rebecca Farwell moved into the house of her son-in-law, Oliver Emerson, in Parma, by 1860, when she would have been 83. She remained there, perhaps in the residence shown above, until her death, on July 31, 1868. The funeral was held at the residence of John J. Farwell, at 251 Erie Street (now 1793 East 9th Street). The Cleveland Necrology File notes her age as 70, though, given that this is inconsistent with every other souce, 90 seems more likely. (Cleveland Necrology File, Farwell, Mrs. Rebecca)

In his later life, Benjamin Farwell also lived with his brother-in-law, Oliver Emerson. (U.S. Federal Census, 1880) He died in December of 1880 of "neuralgia of the heart". The funeral was held at Oliver Emerson's residence. Benjamin Farwell was buried in East Cleveland Township Cemetery. (Cleveland Necrology File, Farwell, Benjamin J.) If we were looking for the graves of other members of his family, this cemetery might be a good place to start.

The Farwell family likely had a creative impact greater than we can know based on the existing record. The aesthetic quality of the doorframe, illustrated above, makes me wonder what other structures Benjamin Farwell might have been responsible for.

In the next post in this series, I'll address Almon Snow, who purchased this parcel from the Farwells in 1844, and his family.

Friday, October 8, 2010

4340 Turney Road: The Violations and the Cost of Fixing Them

Late Greek Revival townhouse

Last week you learned about the history of this historic Cleveland home, built circa 1855, at 4340 Turney Road. This important structure marked the transition of this area from rural to urban. As it is right now, it might be demolished - the owner has pulled a demolition permit rather than deal with the code violations - so action is needed soon.

Perhaps you were scared off by the prospect of addressing the code violations. Given the state of some houses, this seems perfectly reasonable. I've obtained a list of the violations and found them to be quite managable. Note: I've omitted page 1 because it does not contain any actual violations.

Violations for 4340 Turney Avenue, page 2

Violations for 4340 Turney Avenue, page 3

As a whole, the violations don't seem that prohibitive. My description of the violations is followed by two tables - one for the cost of the materials (or labor) another for the cost of the tools (if you don't already own them).

Exterior paint - Items 1, 3, 5, 9, and 14
By my calculations, the exterior of the house is 2300 square feet. A major home improvement chain (which I will be using for the remainder of the estimates unless noted otherwise) lists a quality paint at $120 per 5 gallon bucket (covering 2,000 square feet) - assume 10 gallons - $240. Some of the wood will need to be scraped of peeling paint and then primed - assume $150 in tools for scraping and sanding and 4 gallons of primer (two 2 gallon buckets) ($40). Add another $50 for two gallons of exterior trim paint. Finally, you'll need apply the paint - $75 to rent a spray gun and $80 for three good quality brushes.

Broken window glass - Item 6
Five windows are obviously broken, which should be fixable for $100 of materials. For this budget, let's assume that another 20 need to be fixed and say $500, total.

Masonry repair - Items 10, 11, and 12
There has been considerable deterioration to the mortar on the foundation. It needs to be repointed with historically appropriate lime-based mortar, as do the steps. (Most of what you'll find at the store today is cement-based, which is considerably harder than what was used historically. It will cause damage to the stone or brick.) Assume $250 for the mortar and another $50 for basic tools.

Exterior trim - Items 2, 4, 8
The wood trim appears to be in good condition. Some areas, where there is peeling paint, could require work. Just about all of the exterior is basic wood siding or rectangular trim. There isn't any fancy moulding that would be expensive to replicate. Metro Hardwoods has a reputation for reasonable pricing, such that one might replace the damaged wood trim with hardwood lumber, as it would have been when it was built, for, at the most, $1,500.

Expect to spend another $500 on a decent table saw and good blades to go with. Don't skimp on the blades.

Storm window frames and screens - Item 7
Several of the windows with storm frames appear to lack storms or screens. It's quite possible that they are inside the house and just not installed. The cheapest way to fix this violation would be to remove the storm window frames and, at some future date, fabricate more aesthetically appropriate ones. Screens themselves are easy enough to replace, and cheap, too. If more work is required, we can assume a higher cost - at the high end, to make it legal, $1,000.

Roof - Item 13
I am unsure of the extent of the problems with the roof. At the worst case scenario, a full tear-off and re-roof might be required. This calculator estimates a cost of $7500-$9,000 to do this and install a 40 year dimensional shingle.

Lumber, exterior trim and siding$1,500
Mortar and supplies$250
Paint, Exterior - 10 gallons$240
Paint, Trim - 2 gallons$50
Primer, 4 gallons$40
Storm window and screen repairs$0-1,000
Window glass and glazing compound $500
Extension ladder$100-200
For scraping and sanding paint$150
Paint spray gun rental$75
Paint brushes$80
For mortar work$50
Table saw and blades$500
Roof, new, with tear-off$7,500-$9,000

Other obvious concerns

There are other issues, of course, that one might need to address. There are some missing gutters and downspouts. There are deteriorated basement windows.

There's the tree growing into the foundation at the rear. It's worth noting that while the main part of the rear of the house is historic, the part that the tree is growing into is an early 20th century addition. It might be worth considering whether, at this point, it might be better to remove it. The same could be said for the second floor porch, which, like all porches, surely suffers some moisture issues.

The interior, from what I've seen, seems managable. While I'm usually in favor of retaining original plaster, it might make more sense to just put a layer of quarter inch drywall on the ceiling rather than deal with the peeling paint.

The plumbing, from what I can see based on the locations of vents in the roof, appears to all be in the rear part of the house. It would be less work to replace than in a larger house or a structure where plumbing was spread out throughout the whole house.

Of course, one could surely spend much much more than the price I have suggested fixing up this (or any) structure. There will be problems that show up that have not been considered, and there will be cost overruns.

The cost fixing the existing code violations does not seem so daunting as to be insurmountable. Think about the history of this structure and the position that it occupies in this neighborhood and consider taking on this historic property. It's a significant part of our local history.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mystery Photo for October 7, 2010

Sally Avery Olds

Do you know who this is a painting of or why it is significant?

Peter Buettner correctly identified this painting as Sarah Avery Olds, painted by Jeptha Homer Wade. It's in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. It's one of a pair - and you're much more likely to have seen the other half of the pair, also in the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Nathaniel Olds

The couple were painted in 1837. Nathaniel wears the glasses, for which his portrait is so well known, to protect his eyes from the extremely bright light of whale oil lamps, which was thought to be harmful.

The artist, Jeptha Homer Wade, would give up painting and go on to found the Western Union Telegraph Company.

Be the first to identify it in the comments here or on our Facebook page 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)
Guesses may be made either as comments on this post or as comments on the corresponding post on the Cleveland Area History Facebook page. If you are unable to comment here, you may want to try commenting using your name and email instead of logging in to Blogger via some other account. Hints will be given as they are merited. If you publish books or other products relating to Cleveland history and would like to offer them as prizes, please email

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Condemned Cleveland: An Update

Dunham Tavern

As you may have noticed, a link to the list of properties condemned in Cleveland (since April 1) has been added to the sidebar titled "Information You Need". It has been updated through October 3. Future updates will be posted as they become available. It can now be sorted by street. As I noted before, being condemned does not mean that a structure will be demolished - rather, it is the first step in the process that leads to the demolition of a structure - and the best time for us to act.

I've now gone through the list, some 1500 entries, using Google Street View and Bing maps aerial photographs and tried to identify the most significant properties. For a full detailing of what my notes mean, see this post. Your help is still needed to determine which, if any, of these structures were the homes of famous Clevelanders.

6611 Euclid Avenue, the structure in the lead photo behind the Dunham Tavern, is on the list. As I mentioned before, it lost its fa├žade to the RTA's Health Line. While it doesn't have the historic importance of some structures that I've advocated for, and it doesn't have much in the way of architectural detail, I believe that it is really important.

It's the last major industrial structure remaining in this vicinity. Its massive, looming hulk provides significant historical context for the Dunham Tavern. It illustrates the direction that Cleveland took, and how what was once a rural road became the major artery for an industrial city.

The survival of the Dunham Tavern among blocks of empty lots and two or three story structures is unimpressive. When one can see what it stood up against, it is much more significant. The building is owned by the RTA - in other words, us - we'll have no one to blame but ourselves when it is demolished.

There's one more item - another condemned structure - to add to my post, Euclid Avenue: What We've Lost and What We Will Probably Lose. The former grocery store at 8400 Euclid Avenue is the only other building on the block that the Cleveland Play House stands on. It will likely be purchased by the Cleveland Clinic. The structure does not appear architecturally significant to my eyes. Rather, I mention it as a further indicator of the transition of this street.

Cold Storage Building
Photograph by Thom Sheridan

The historic Cold Storage Building was added to the list on September 24. This will likely make it easier for ODOT to demolish the structure.

In future posts, I will address more of the structures on this list. Again, I appreciate any assistance you can provide in identifying those that are most historically significant.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The New Cuyahoga: A Proposal to Straighten the "Crooked River"

The name Cuyahoga is said to mean "Crooked River". Yet in the 1910s, there was a proposal to straighten the river, The New Cuyahoga: River Straightening Recommendations. This document was brought to my attention by Kevin Leeson, of the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission. The book is reproduced here from a copy in their collections, with the exception of the map below, which is used courtesy of Special Collections, Cleveland State University.

Image used courtesy of the Cleveland Memory Project, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University

The publication includes this folded map. (Note: a higher resolution version, as well as other maps of the river, are available as part of the Cuyahoga River Online Exhibition.) The blue represents the current course of the river, while the red represents the proposed realignment. Why would the Committee on River and Harbor Improvement of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, the author, suggest this? Why would they suggest the drastic change to something that was for a long time, one of the more graphically recognizable elements of our city?

In short, commerce. The report suggests that the difficulty of navigating the river made shipping to and from Cleveland more expensive, putting the port at a commercial disadvantage. Further, it was said that the project would provide relief from the flooding of the Flats, as had happened in 1904 and 1913. It suggests that the money saved by preventing floods would cover the cost of the river realignment. The authors add that it would open part of the upper Cuyahoga to industrial development.

A 1919 report, Conservancy and the Cuyahoga continues on the same train of thought.

It's unclear why these proposals remained mere proposals. The shape of the river remains an important part of Cleveland's history - from its founding to industrial growth to now, when we're using it for recreation - it's even a part of the Cleveland Area History logo.

There's no mention as to whether they planned to change the name of the river, once it was no longer "crooked".

Monday, October 4, 2010

Condemned Cleveland: A House on South Boulevard

House in Wade Park neighborhood

A little while ago, I shared the list of structures condemened by the city of Cleveland in the past six months. I've been going through the list as I'm able, identifying the structures I that appear to be most historically or architecturally important.

It's a lot of structures. As of right now, the number is about 1200. And it's an imperfect science - I'm using Google Street View and Bing Maps to see what I can - but this is limited. Yes, I'd prefer to actually set my eyes on these properties, but I simply don't have the time. Further, I don't have a good list of which properties might be important for what happened in them.

Take a look at the list. See if there's anything in your neighborhood that you think is important. If you can get me photos of them, it would be much appreciated.

The lead photo is of 10113 South Boulevard, Cleveland, Ohio. It's one of the more interesting houses in the East Boulevard / Wade Park area - a neighborhood of eclectic homes. I wrote a story on it back in November - this was one of the houses included in that story.

The property was sold at Sheriff's Sale in July, 2008, to the mortgage holder, Wells Fargo Bank. Property taxes appear to not have been paid since that time. In December of that year, it was sold to the current owner, Ez Access Funding, LLC.

EZ Access Funding owns more than 70 properties within the city of Cleveland. As of September 30, they have been prohibited from transferring any property in Cleveland, for their failure to appear in court. (AFN: 201009300961)

EZ Access Funding, LLC is registered in California. Its mailing address is listed (by the California Secretary of State) as 3920 Birch Street, Suite 105, Newport Beach, CA, 92660. Their contact agent is one Marc R. Tow, a lawyer, whose mailing address is 3900 Birch Street, Suite 102, also in Newport Beach. Their phone numbers are 949-419-9093 and 949-975-0544, respectively.

This would be the same EZ Access funding who owns the house that exploded on West 83rd Street. Bill Callahan discusses their questionable business dealings in much more detail. Marc Tow / EZ Access were scheduled to appear in Housing Court back in February, to address several matters, including almost $100,000 in back taxes and an outstanding warrant, but to no one's surprise, they did not appear.

How much damage must an individual do before we can justify the cost of sending a bailiff cross country to serve them? Surely there must be something that we can do to address parties who, through apparent negligence, damage the historic structure of our communities and diminish our tax base.

This beautiful turn of the century house deserves a better owner. The architectural character contributes to the historic nature of the neighborhood.

East Boulevard is a great neighborhood - and I'm not just saying this because I work in it (at the Langston Hughes Branch of Cleveland Public Library). Surely this property could be sold at sheriff's sale to the city land bank - and then to the new owner - if there was someone interested in fixing it up. It's a great property - perhaps you are that person?

Check in on Wednesday for the next article in this series. Until then, take a look at the list and see if there is anything that catches your eye.

Update: October 5, 2010: I looked in the first floor windows. Through the front door, you can see a fireplace with built in benches on either side. To the left, one can see a doorway with a pair of pocket doors. To the right, just inside the door, is a small built-in bench. Next to it, the stairs up the the second floor. The woodwork is beautiful. It's the cleanest condemned house I've yet seen.

There are a few liabilities. I saw some damage to the plaster by the pocket doors (looked more like vandalism than a search for plumbing). The kitchen was a rather boring replacement - but in decent condition. The exterior did show some water issues, which appeared to be due to the lack of gutters and downspouts on the structure.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mystery Photo for October 1, 2010

Jesse Owens house

Where is this house and why is it historically important?
Note that I have altered the street sign slightly, so you won't be able to tell based on that.

And we have a winner! This was the residence of Jesse Owens at the peak of his career, from 1934-1936. The house, still standing, is located at 2178 East 100th Street, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Be the first to identify it 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)
If you publish books or other products relating to Cleveland history and would like to offer them as prizes, please email