Friday, February 25, 2011

Threatened: The Euclid Avenue Church of God

Euclid Avenue Church of God

This church, at 8601 Euclid Avenue, is threatened with demolition. The congregation has been offered an unspecified sum by the Cleveland Clinic in return for demolishing the structure, a Cleveland Landmark, and providing the Clinic with a vacant lot.

The church, originally the Reformed Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, was designed in 1889 by Sidney Badgley, architect of many significant churches both in Cleveland and elsewhere. The cornerstone was laid on September 8, 1889. It was built by Thomas Hamilton, who also responsible for the Hough Avenue Congregational Church, at a cost of $14,000. It was dedicated June 1, 1890. It was said to be the first Reformed Episcopal Church in Ohio. (Plain Dealer: September 9, 1889, page 8; March 31, 1890, page 8; May 31, 1890, page 2; and June 14, 1890, page 7.)

Euclid Avenue Church of God

Part of what makes the structure significant is the relationship of the structure to its next door neighbor, the Francis Drury mansion. It was noted, in a review of the architect's work, "Other Cleveland churches of Mr. Badgley's design are the Church of the Epiphany, on Euclid avenue, where the problem of building on a lot only 45 feet wide was successfully met." (Ohio Architect and Builder, August 1903, page 27)

Francis Drury mansion

The Francis Drury mansion, at 8615 Euclid Avenue, was built in 1910-1912. It was designed by Meade & Hamilton, architects, and is one of but a handful of the remaining structures built on this magnificent boulevard. It is quite telling of the time that someone would be willing to build a house of this scale so close to an existing structure.

Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Landmarks Commission

The interior of the church is just as impressive as the exterior. Note the beautiful woodwork, especially on the ceiling.

Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Landmarks Commission

The sanctuary is lined with stained glass windows.

It's a beautiful building, one that would be difficult to argue in favor of demolishing. Yes, it needs work - but that's the most often used excuse in the book. The cost of everything that ought to be done might even exceed the means of the congregation.

What, then, should be done?

Cleveland's population has declined with the growth of the suburbs. As we've left to these outlying areas for our various reasons, we've avoided the issues facing the city, leaving them for others.

It's not enough for us now to merely "care" about the fate of these historic structures - we must make up for our years of neglect. The arrangement between Temple Tifereth-Israel and CWRU might be taken as a good example of one way this might be accomplished.

The argument of the need for land adjacent to the Drury mansion rings hollow as well. Save for the church and the mansion, the entire block, all the way from Euclid to Chester, is vacant.

In addition to the beauty of this building, is is important as a fragment of the history of Euclid Avenue and the context it provides. With its demolition, the Francis Drury mansion will lose a significant bit of context, and the city, a significant landmark.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Historic Preservation: What You Can Do

With the coming demolition of the historic James H. Foster residence in the Ambler Heights neighborhood of Cleveland Heights, many people have asked what they can do. They've suggested that historic preservation legislation is needed - I agree.

Historic preservation laws can do quite a bit - if you look at the historic neighborhoods that are doing well in this area, many of them are where they are in part because they are part of landmark districts. These neighborhoods are often in better condition and have higher property values than the surrounding areas.

Landmarks legislation is only part of the picture. It's hard to get such legislation with real teeth. It can slow down the demolition process, but often little more than that, if the owner is determined. It's worth pursuing, mind you - and if you want to proceed forward in this regard, talk to your city council member (or euqivalent).

I don't know of any landmarks legislation in the greater Cleveland area that would have protected the owners of the James H. Foster residence from completely gutting the interior - and the interior is at least as significant as the exterior. With any residence, once the interior is gone, the excuse will pop up at demolition hearings that "most of the historic detail is gone, so we should be allowed to bulldoze it."

This is why, if we are to protect the history of our community, we need to take an additional step - we need to take a more active interest in this history. We need to *gasp* talk with our neighbors and tell them that we're concerned about our history. We need to become more interested in the history of the area as a whole, rather than to just be content that we're maintaining the status quo in our individual communities.

Further, it means that we'll have to figure out how to explain why we're concerned with these issues. Is it because we find the stories of those who came before us fascinating? Is it because we love the aesthetic of the beautiful old buildings? Or is it just because we want to continue to live in an area where there are historic buildings in addition to the ones that we, personally, live in?

All are valid reasons. Each of us needs to figure out how to express this to our neighbors, because while we can work for legislation, none of this will be effective without the community as a whole being more interested in our history.

You say you don't know that much about our history? That's fine. Take a look at the books at your local library branch - see if any of them deal with your neighborhood. Bring up a story you read here, on Cleveland Area History, about a historic farmhouse, for instance, and ponder if something like that might exist in your neighborhood.

Individually, all we have to do is start a dialogue with our neighbors. We're making progress. Now we have to start actually talking to other people, instead of just talking amongst ourselves.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cleveland Baseball Spring Training History is Well Traveled

Spring Training in Cleveland

One of the sure signs that winter is heading into spring, is when the Indians begin Spring Training every year. This week, the tradition continued as pitchers and catchers had to report to the Indians Spring Training home in Goodyear, Arizona. In years past, Cleveland’s baseball clubs wintered in 13 different states, and even in some local places here in Cleveland that still exists today! The Waring Block Building, St. Malachi’s Hall and The Cleveland Athletic Club all were home to some “indoor” Spring Trainings in Cleveland’s past. These locations were chosen for one of two reasons; traveling South for Spring Training developed as a tradition in the late 1880’s; or, financial considerations.

List of Cleveland Baseball Clubs’ Spring Training Homes:

Cleveland Blues
· 1879 – Case Commons, Cleveland
· 1880 – Waring Block Building, Cleveland
· 1881 – St. Malachi’s Hall, Cleveland
· 1882-1884 – Cleveland
· 1887 – Cleveland Driving Park, Cleveland
· 1888 – Columbus, Ohio & Wheeling, WV

Cleveland Spiders
· 1889-1890 – Hot Springs, Arkansas
· 1891 – Jacksonville, Florida
· 1892 – Hot Springs, Arkansas
· 1893 – Atlanta, Macon, Charleston, SC, Savannah, GA and Chattanooga, TN
· 1894 – Cleveland Athletic Club, Cleveland
· 1895-1898 – Hot Springs, Arkansas
· 1899 – Terra Haute, Indiana

Cleveland Indians (Blues, Bronchos, Naps)
· 1901 – Cleveland
· 1902-1903 – New Orleans
· 1904 – San Antonio
· 1905-1906 – Atlanta
· 1907-1908 – Macon, Georgia
· 1909 – Mobile, Alabama
· 1910–1911 – Alexandria, LA
· 1912 – Mobile, Alabama
· 1913 – Pensacola, FL
· 1914 – Athens, Georgia
· 1915 – San Antonio
· 1916-1920 – New Orleans
· 1921-1922 – Dallas
· 1923-1927 – Lakeland, FL
· 1928-1939 – New Orleans
· 1940-1941 – Fort Meyers, FL
· 1942 – Clearwater, FL
· 1943-1945 – Lafayette, Indiana
· 1946 – Clearwater, FL
· 1947-1992 – Tucson, Arizona
· 1993-2008 – Winter Haven, FL
· 2009-present – Goodyear, Arizona

source – & Base Ball on the Western Reserve

Through all the years of the Spring Training tradition, Clevelanders could look forward to baseball in the spring, while the players practiced to bring a Championship to Cleveland.

Photo Credits
- St. Malachi's Church - Cleveland Catholic Diocese
- 1909 Cleveland Naps in Mobile, Alabama - Library of Congress

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Our Citified County

Looking at Land Use in Cuyahoga County in 1954


The Cuyahoga County Planning Commission recently digitized an interesting document, Our Citified County: A Study of Cuyahoga County and Its Land Use Now, and for the Future. The title, published in 1954 by the Regional Planning Commission, examines land use in Cuyahoga County.

Land Use 1948

Maps illustrate the use of land within the county, as of 1948. The red shows residential areas, while the darker areas are indicative of business and industry. We can also see the dedicated parkland, especially in the outlying areas - most notably the areas now known as our MetroParks.

Can we afford this sprawl

The authors suggest that the vacant land at the extremities of the county might most cost-effectively remain as rural land.


The document concludes by painting a picture of the Cuyahoga County of the future - both literally and figuratively. There's the suggestion that proper land use wout provide space for us to grow our food locally, provide space for work and play, and for us to preserve water quality.

Overall, it's an interesting view of how we might have developed in the past 50 years. The questions raised are many of the same ones that we're facing now, though the vacant land is in different areas now.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The James H. Foster residence, Part 2

The Owners and Residents of this Historic Structure

James H. Foster Residence

On Tuesday, I reported that this house, the James H. Foster residence, was slated for demolition. This 8,000+ square foot structure, at 2200 Devonshire Drive, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, is a contributing structure in the Ambler Heights Historic District. It is the oldest extant house designed by Walker and Weeks, the Cleveland Architectural firm responsible for Public Auditorium, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Severance Hall, the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, and the main building of Cleveland Public Library.

On Tuesday, I dealt with the house and gardens. Today, I'll address the history of the people who lived here.

James H. Foster purchased the land this house is sited on in August, 1911, from Elizabeth S. Caswell and Martha B. Ambler. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 191108160057 and 191108160058) He hired Walker and Weeks to design the house, which was completed in 1911 or 1912.

Samuel Orth, in his History of Cleveland, Ohio (pages 637 and 638) describes Mr. Foster:
James H. Foster, whose relation to the public interests of Cleveland is that of vice president and general manager of the Hydraulic Pressed Steel Company, is contributing through his activity in this field to the business enterprise that has led to the growth of the city and given it rank with the ten largest cities of the Union. Of New England birth and ancestry, he is a direct descendant of Thomas Foster, who was one of the early settlers of the Hartford colony of Connecticut, having come to America from England in 1660. His grandfather, Hiram Foster, was a prominent Connecticut manufacturer. His father, Samuel H. Foster, was a native of Meriden, Connecticut, and the senior member of the well known hardware manufacturing firm of Foster, Merriam & Company. He served during the Civil war on the staff of General Phil Sheridan and military and commercial duties were alike carefully guarded in his hands. His death occurred in 1889, when he had reached the age of fifty-four years. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Mary Stanley, was a daughter of Augustus and Elvira (Conklin) Stanley. The Stanleys are one of the old New England families and were founders of the Stanley Rule and Level Company of New Britain, Connecticut.

James H. Foster was born in Meriden, Connecticut, April 10, 1879. Pursuing a course in St. Paul's school at Concord, New Hampshire, he thus prepared for collegiate work, which he received in Yale University and Williams College, being graduated from the latter with the degree of Bachelor of Arts as a member of the class of 1900. Thus equipped by liberal education for a business career, he turned his attention to real-estate operations in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, where he continued for one year. During the succeeding three years he was connected with the American Tubular Wheel Company and in 1904 came to Cleveland, entering into active association with the firm of Parish & Bingham in the capacity of assistant general manager. He thus served until August, 1906, when he organized the Hydraulic Pressed Steel Company, with a capital of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and was elected vice president and general manager. From a modest beginning the business has advanced by leaps and bounds until it is the largest institution of its kind in Cleveland, doing a business of one million dollars annually. The plant covers six acres and its capacity is being doubled yearly. Several of the most powerful presses ever constructed are in use in this plant, the largest striking a blow of eight thousand tons at the rate of eight strokes per minute. Their product finds ready market in every section of the United States and the export business is continually increasing. Mr. Foster has contributed in substantial measure to the development of this concern, having knowledge and business experience which have constituted a safe foundation on which to build the success of the enterprise. He is also a director of the Ohio Sherardizing Company and the vice president of the Citizens Taxicab Company.

On the 28th of September, 1907, occurred the marriage of Mr. Foster and Miss Edith A. Mcintosh, a daughter of George T. and Elizabeth (Ellis) Mcintosh, of Cleveland. Their only child is George Mcintosh Foster. Their home, at No. 1932 East Seventy-First street, is the abode of a warm-hearted and generous hospitality. Mr. and Mrs. Foster are members of the Emmanuel church and in church and charitable work Mrs. Foster takes active and helpful part. Mr. Foster belongs also to the East End Tennis Club and the Hermit Club, while his political endorsement is given the republican party. His leisure hours are devoted to golf, tennis, baseball and various outdoor athletic sports. Pleasure, however, is always the secondary consideration to business with him and his success in manufacturing circles is due to an unlimited capacity for hard work, splendid executive ability and the faculty of enlisting the support and cooperation of strong business men in his projects.
By 1918, he was president of the Hydraulic Pressed Steel Company of Cleveland, described in A History of Cleveland and its Environs (page 371) as
"An industry with a history of more than ten years of prosperous growth and now without question one of the leading concerns in contributing to Cleveland's greatness as a center of the iron and steel industry.

Mr. Foster learned the steel business through a rigorous apprenticeship. His first experience was in the Pittsburgh district, where he worked for the steel mills at any post of service which his superiors saw fit to assign him. He began there in 1900, fresh from a college career. He had been previously nurtured in the scholastic atmosphere of old New England. His birth occurred in Meriden, Connecticut. April 10, 1879, a son of Samuel H. and Mary (Stanley) Foster.

In 1885 the family moved to New Britain, Connecticut, where James H. Foster attended the public schools. He afterwards completed a preparatory course in St. Paul School at Concord, New Hampshire, and in 1896 attended Yale University, but a year later transferred to Williams College, from which he graduated in 1900.

After his three years of apprenticeship in the iron and steel district around Pittsburgh, Mr. Foster came to Cleveland and found a position with the Parish & Bingham Company in their sheet metal stamping works. In a short time he was manager of this plant and filled that position until 1906.

In that year he was instrumental in organizing and incorporating the Hydraulic Pressed Steel Company. The first officers of this organization were: A. W. Elleuberger, president; Mr. Foster vice president and general manager; and H. F. Pattee, secretary and treasurer. The plant was ready for operation in 1907. It then contained 20,000 square feet of floor space. The plants now include a steel plant of four open-hearth furnaces, rolling mills, sheet mills, etc., located at Canton, Ohio, and two fabricating plants in Cleveland. These plants occupy 133 acres of land, have an aggregate capital of over $12,000,000 and employ about 5.000 men. The present officers are: A. W. Elleuberger, chairman of the board; J. H. Foster, president; Ernest E. Bell, vice president and director of sales; R. R. Freer, vice president and comptroller; R. D. Mock, treasurer; H. F. Pattee, secretary.

Mr. Foster is a member of the Union Club, Country Club, Mayfield Club, Roadside Country Club and Hermit Club. Politically he does his voting according to the dictates of an independent judgment. In Cleveland, September 28, 1907, he married Miss Edith Mcintosh. They have four children: George, aged nine; Mary Stanley, aged seven; James H., Jr., aged five; and Elizabeth Mcintosh, aged three. George is a pupil in the Hawkins School for Boys, while Mary Stanley attends the Laurel School for Girls.

The Fosters lived in the house until 1936, when it was transferred (possibly the result of foreclosure) to the Guardian Trust Co. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 193608180078) The Guardian Trust Co., in 1945, sold the house to Emmie E. and Harvey B. Brackenridge. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 194511210122)

Another interesting Hough residence

Prior to their move here, the Brackenridge family lived at 1883 East 84th Street. (Plain Dealer, 4 June 1942, page 17) They, in turn, sold the house in 1951 to Dr. John M. Wittenbrook and Genevieve Wittenbrook. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 195101100109)

From left, Dr. and Mrs. John M. Wittenbrook and Mr. and Mrs. Robert M. Hornung. Plain Dealer Photos (Richard J. Misch and Robert J. Quinlan) From the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 24 April 1962, page 21.

Dr. John M. Wittenbrook, a psychiatrist and Genevieve Wittenbrook raised a large family in this house. (Cleveland Press 31 May 1972)

Kitchen, James H. Foster Residence
Photo courtesy of a Cleveland Area History reader.

Remeber this photo, which ran in part one of the story? The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 16 April 1964, page 19 provides an interesting bit of history on it.


Dr. Wittenbrook died in 1972. (Cleveland Necrology File) In 1973, Genevieve Wittenbrook sold the house to George H. and Karole V. Baird. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 00621483)

George H. Baird was the former research head of Shaker Heights schools and Founder of Educational Research Council of Greater Cleveland. (Time, 30 May 1960.)

George Baird died in 1997. (Plain Dealer 26 March 1997, page B8)

Kirk S. Ramsey, trustee of the Karole V. Baird Trust, sold the house to Steven E. Nissen and Linda R. Butler in December of 2010. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 201012220312) Dr. Nissen is Chairman of the Robert and Suzanne Tomsich Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. He was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People. (Time, 14 May 2007)

The relatively long tenure of the residents of this house is part of what has kept it in such good condition. All the evidence that I've seen suggests that this house is (or was, prior recent work) quite habitable as-is. Even the kitchen, which some seem to grimace at, is a good, solid, workable space. Would it look better with matching appliances and without the wallpaper? Yes. But these are minor things, matters of taste.

If you do have evidence to the contrary, please email me, that I may share it here.

The question being raised here is not just whether this landmark deserves to stay, but what what are the rights of the community when someone tries to substaintially alter the neighborhood.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The James H. Foster residence, Part 1

James H. Foster Residence

On 2 February, Chuck Miller reported, in the Heights Observer, on a troubling matter regarding the fate of this house, the earliest extant residence designed by the famed Cleveland architectural firm Walker and Weeks. Among the firm's major works can be counted Public Auditorium, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Severance Hall, the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, and the main building of Cleveland Public Library.

The house, at 2200 Devonshire Drive, in Cleveland Heights, is a contributing structure in the Ambler Heights Historic District. It is known as the James H. Foster residence, after the first owner. Miller reported that the new owners, Steven E. Nissen and Linda R. Butler, plan to demolish the house, in favor of a smaller, more "green" structure.

No less an authority on Cleveland architecture than Eric Johannesen (author of Cleveland Architecture, 1876-1976 wrote "Another class of residences was somewhat larger and was characterized by a more emphatic, not to say massive, hip roof that was brought down over a porch in the contemporary bungalow fashion." Johannesen continues, "The finest of these was the stucco house built for James H. Foster on Devonshire Drive in Ambler Heights, and its form could be seen as a direct reference to the work of contemporary English archtiect C.F.A. Voysey, who was working in a revival of a country vernacular idiom." (A Cleveland Legacy: The Architecture of Walker and Weeks, page 16. Emphasis mine.)

Interior, James H. Foster Residence
Photo courtesy of a Cleveland Area History reader.

This is not the sort of house one usually sees threatened with demolition. Most often, it is a structure that has long been neglected. This is simply not the case here.

Take a look at the interior photographs of this house, taken when the house was listed for sale. It's phenomenal - the very best quality of work and finish that one will find in this area.

Stairway, James H. Foster Residence
Photo courtesy of a Cleveland Area History reader.

The 8,500 square foot house, sited on a 1.15 acre lot, boasts six bedrooms and six baths. It's beautiful.

Bathroom, James H. Foster Residence Bathroom, James H. Foster Residence
Photos courtesy of a Cleveland Area History reader.

The bathrooms, save for the replacement toilets, show the absolute highest quality of fixtures. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to replace them today at any price.

Kitchen, James H. Foster Residence
Photo courtesy of a Cleveland Area History reader.

The kitchen might appear to some eyes dated, but it is still quite functional. There's nothing evident here or elsewhere that prevents this house from being habitable.

Greenhouse, James H. Foster Residence

If you've driven through the neighborhood, you've likely noticed the greenhouse, at the rear of the property. This greenhouse was but part of the gardens.

Describing a debutant party for Mary Stanley Foster, Cornelia Curtis stated that "The Foster home with its spacious rooms and broad verandas was a profusion of flowers, gift bouquets sent to the debutante, which were placed on tables and banked on the fireplace mantles. There are two large living rooms at the north end of the entrance hall, and in the second, several steps lower than the first floor, Mrs. Foster received the tea."

She continues, "The guests enjoyed the garden, and spacious verandas with their attractive summer furnishings." Curtiss added, "The floor of the tent in one corner was cut away to reveal the circular lilly pond iwth its bronze fountain figure. In the pond were colored lillies." Further, "From the tent could be seen the swimming pool in the center of the formal garden which yesterday was like a great turquois in a green setting." (Plain Dealer 18 June 1930, page 16)

This house is more than just a contributing structure to the Ambler Heights Historic District - it is one of the most significant houses in that district. It represents the earliest residential work of Cleveland's greatest architectural firm, Walker and Weeks.

There is no good justification for demolition of this house. The mere fact that the City of Cleveland Heights lacks the legal power to prevent the demolition should not be seen as an indicator that demolition is acceptable. One might consider contacting the owners, and communicating with them, politely, his or her concern about the loss of this piece of our community.

This house represents a significant part of the history of the neighborhood and the city in which it was built. Demolishing it will mar the landscape, and detract from the neighbors who have put serious efforts into fixing their houses.

I respect that the owners of this house are interested in investing in this community, however this is simply not the way to do it. There are plenty of other good home sites.

As of yesterday, a demolition permit had not yet been pulled. It's been said time and again that the greenest structure is the one that's already built. It would be more green to keep this house than to discard all the built energy and history it contains.

Check in later in the week for part 2, where I'll deal more with the history of this house and the people who lived there.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Assembling a Museum Exhibit - I Need Your Help!

The Life and Works of I.T. Frary

I'm working on an exhibit for the Cleveland Artists Foundation on I.T. (Ihna Thayer) Frary, scheduled for June and July of this year.

I.T. Frary is best known as an author and photographer. His works include the classic Early Homes of Ohio, as well as Thomas Jefferson: Architect and Builder, Early American Doorways, They Built the Capitol, and Ohio in Homespun and Calico.

Frary was born in Cleveland and attended the Cleveland School of Art (now the Cleveland Institute of Art). He was chief designer at Brooks Household Art Co., and later a desiger at Rorimer-Brooks. Following this, he worked as an independent designer. He went to Texas for a YMCA position during World War I. On returning to Cleveland, he worked at the Cleveland Museum of Art, as Membership and Publicity Secretary. During this time, he wrote and spoke extensively on the architectural heritage of this area. He was on a national advisory board for the Historic American Buildings Survey, and is part of the reason why they were able to locate and document so many significant structures in this area. After retiring, he moved to Winter Park, Florida.

Frary exhibited his design sketches with the Cleveland Architectural Club and his other paintings in group shows with members of the Cleveland School, in the 1890s through 1910s. Later, his photographs would be included in major museum exhitions, including the Thomas Jefferson Bicentennial Exhibition at the National Gallery of Art and The Greek Revival in the United States, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is a list of the exhibitions that Ihna Thayer Frary was a part of or that I strongly suspect he was a part of.

I've researched Frary extensively in the collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society and the Ohio Historical Society.

I'm writing this with the hope that you can help me locate graphical materials relating to I.T. Frary.

Design for a Lighting Fixture

The following are but some of the things that I'd be interested in finding:
  • Items designed/produced by the Brooks Otis Household Art Co. or the Brooks Household Art Co.
  • Items designed by Rorimer-Brooks before about 1915. (Note: it would have been spelled Rorheimer-Brooks at the time.)
  • Any of four items designed for the Hocking Glass Co. 1, 2, 3, 4.
  • A tile fireplace designed for Rookwood Pottery's Architectural Division, project number A403
  • Any paintings or drawings created by Frary.
  • Any photographs or personal materials relating to him and his work.
Renaissance Hall Mantel Frary002 Note that Frary's signature wasn't always the most ledgible. Here are two examples, one from 1897, at left, from this design sketch and one from c. 1935, at right. I've seen several editorial cartoons from c. 1910 signed merely "Frary", so this might be expected.

Again, I appreciate any assistance you might be able to offer any materials you might be willing to loan. Please contact me directly at