Monday, November 7, 2011

Cleveland's Oldest House

Cleveland's Oldest House
Photo from the Cleveland Press Collection, used courtesy of the Cleveland Memory Project.

When I come across a photo with the title "Cleveland's Oldest House", I can't resist. Such was the case with this photograph, found on the Cleveland Memory Project. (For the record, the amount of new stuff that continues to show up there is just ridiculous. How am I supposed to keep track of so much interesting new material?)

The description of this photo, from the Cleveland Press Collection, reads "Old Lorenzo Carter Homestead, Cleveland's Oldest House, Lorain Ave. and 93rd St., Cleveland apartments and residences, Built 1800, Razed 1932." It's dated September 15, 1932.

There are several problems with this caption. I've yet to see any evidence that Lorenzo Carter lived in this vicinity - he is known to have lived much much closer to downtown Cleveland. Further, I wasn't able to locate a pair of structures meeting the profile of the two shown here on the Sanborn fire insurance maps for the area in question.

Still, it seems strange that this would all be wrong - there must be some factual basis behind some of it, right?

The house definitely fits the period - it dates between 1800 and 1830. It would help if the photograph hadn't been retouched so heavily, but there's not much that can be done about that now.

Who was this house really built for? Where was it located? What else can we learn about it?

Answer any one of these or provide substantial information that helps in the process and you could win a copy of my forthcoming book, Hidden History of Cleveland. (I'll do a random drawing from all the answers that help lead to the identification of the structure.)

To help in this quest, Bill Barrow, Special Collections Librarian at Cleveland State University, has been kind enough to let me use a full resolution copy of the image (2750x2200!) - click on the image to get through to the bigger file. Perhaps there is some clue hidden away in it that will help answer the question.

How might one start the search? Perhaps one might find the corresponding article in the Cleveland Press. Or perhaps there's another spot that seems right. Or perhaps a historic map reveals something that I've missed. Wherever you find the clues, post them here or on our Facebook page and join in the conversation!


  1. And I thought it was the so-called Astor House that was "Cleveland's Oldest House". It seems that this sort of status was once a distinction. Anyway, I think we had not yet made the necessary agreements with the native Americans to be able to settle west of the Cuyahoga in 1800. Besides, it is highly unlikely that anyone was building a house of anything other than logs, here in 1800. I'm surprised someone hasn't seen and reported here what was in the Press article. That will hopefully straighten this out.

  2. Seeing that no one "stepped forward" to check the Press, I had an opportunity to do so and took advantage of it. In so doing, it has been revealed why the location seemed wrong. It was. This house was at EAST 93rd and LOREN. It also seems that this was the home of ALONZO Carter. Its time of construction could still be debatable, but I personally am still convinced that 1800 is much too early. I have forwarded the "full" version of this to Christopher; hopefully, he will add an 'update' posting that will give everyone more of the details.