Wednesday, November 21, 2018

2018 - a "banner" year for the "Demolish Cleveland History Project"

This post is going to reference multiple events.

Most of you local to Cleveland, Ohio, are aware of the recent (October 2018) demolition of the large, rambling house that no one ever failed to notice that was on Warren Road, on Cleveland's far west side.  Its demise was covered by the local daily newspaper.
Marquard Mansion - several years ago - photo by C. B.
Marquard Mansion - several years ago - photo by C. B.

Known by historians as the Marquard Mansion, it had been constructed in stages, over several decades starting over a century ago, by one of the Cleveland-area's most well-known, admired, and prolific contractors, Paul Marquard.  It had been constantly expanded so as to house various branches of his extended family.  The structure was purchased around ten years ago by the neighboring St. Mary's Romanian Orthodox Church, who announced even then their intention to demolish it, rather than renovate it and find a new use for it.  Marquard family descendents offered to purchase it from them, at prices much higher than the congregation paid for it.  The congregation now claims that they never received a "formal" offer.  Most people consider this to be a weak excuse, not based in any reality, that they are using to try to defend the senseless demolition, which has shocked and outraged the many west siders who greatly admired the structure.

Back in August, a structure that very few have noticed, was also demolished.  Originally built in 1882 for Jeremiah Vanstan, it underwent an impressive storefront renovation with the cooperation of the City Of Cleveland Storefront Renovation Program not more than ten years ago.
Vanstan Building - 2013 photo by C. B.

Bewilderingly, the owner at that time abandoned the structure not long afterward.  Located in Cleveland, Ohio, on Broadway Avenue, in the southeast side neighborhood once known as Slavic Village but in recent years one of the most rapidly declining sections of the city, no merchants or organizations had a desire to occupy the structure.  Earlier this year, complaints were made to the City Of Cleveland's Building Department regarding the structural condition of non-storefront parts of the building.  The building was officially condemned and the City Of Cleveland had it demolished.  This had been one of only a constantly dwindling amount of commercial buildings remaining in this area that had the potential to perhaps start a modest revival of commercial investment in the former Slavic Village area.  The demolition of this significant structure represents what has become the full scale abandonment of this entire Cleveland neighborhood.

A house that was once part of a circa-1910 exclusive residential section of Cleveland is soon going to be demolished, perhaps before year's-end.  Located adjacent to what is now Case Western Reserve University, many of the neighborhood's residences were demolished decades ago for university expansion and for institutions that were choosing to locate near the university.  A good percentage had survived and, despite the predominant institutional ownership and use, the City Of Cleveland designated the neighborhood to be the Wade Park Historic District.  Built in 1909 for Clucas W. Collister from designs supplied by Cleveland architect Harlen Shimmin, the house has been owned by the Cleveland Institute Of Music for many years and actually used by them as the CIM Annex.
Collister House/CIM Annex - built 1909 - 2018 photo by C. B.

Recently, though CIM recognized a need for more instructional, rehearsal, and residential space.  No less than six plans were formulated to build a new structure without demolishing the Annex, all of them on display on the Cleveland Landmarks Commission's Agenda section (September 27, 2018 Agenda) of the Planning Department's website [http://planning.city.cleveland.oh.us/landmark/agenda/2018/09272018/index.php].  But, despite the feasibility of these six options, the option that has been chosen is a seventh option which does not include the historic house.  As has become the standard operating procedure as of late, the Cleveland De-landmarking Commission has wholeheartedly approved this option, once again sending out the message to the city at large that historic buildings are no longer welcome in today's Cleveland.

Note:  Most likely for "token" purposes, in hope of fooling especially naive members of the general public, an item pertaining to the feasibility of MOVING the house was also included in the fore-mentioned Agenda.  It concludes that moving it will be infeasible, due to the narrowness of the street the house faces versus the shortest dimension of the house, and other related problems.  Another bolstering claim is that there is no place to move it (they certainly never even looked for one). This is utterly absurd.  There is an area only yards away, on the same CIM property, that is only grass and is much larger than the house, and to which there are absolutely no physical obstacles.  This new location would be ideal.  It would put it much closer to the main building -- so close that a short connecting wing could be constructed so that outdoor travel would no longer be necessary between the two structures.


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Thursday, March 29, 2018

"THE MONSTER WHO ATE FAIRFAX" (FORMERLY A CLEVELAND NEIGHBORHOOD)

As the African American community in Cleveland, Ohio, grew substantially after World War I ended, there was a need to find new places to worship in the neighborhoods that were new to this community.  In 1923, East Mt. Zion Baptist acquired what had been Cedar Avenue Baptist, at 10302 Cedar.  This structure was built in 1892 for that latter congregation, according to plans provided by notable church architect Sidney Badgley, of Cleveland.  East Mt. Zion Baptist worshiped here for the next thiry-three years, and in 1955 they acquired the former Euclid Avenue Christian Church on Euclid at East 100th (where they remain today).  In 1956, another African American congregation, Calvary Hill Baptist, moved into the Cedar Avenue building, which they outright purchased in 1963.
Image: CALL & POST - 1956

Fast-forwarding to the present, Calvary Hill Baptist realized that, after being here for sixty-one years, they too had a need to relocate and, luckily for them, found that the former property of Hope Lutheran on North Taylor in Cleveland Heights was for sale.  They acquired it in August of 2017.
Image: Google Maps Street View - Aug. 2017

Simultaneously, they sold the propety at 10302 Cedar.  And, of course, it was purchased by the Monster Who Ate Fairfax (some know them benignly as the Cleveland Clinic), who for the past couple decades has been greedily devouring this entire neighborhood, property by property, hurriedly destroying whatever historic buildings that happen to occupy the properties so that they can construct shiny gargantuan buildings to add to their ever-expanding mini-city within the city.  There are many in the preservation community here that believe that a strong effort has been made in recent times to preserve the heritage of the African American presence in Cleveland.  But, despite this 94-year-long example, the outcome has been anything but preservation.

The church was demolished in March of 2018.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

WHO NEEDS HISTORY WHEN WE CAN HAVE PARKING???

Lest the readers of this blog think that all the affronts to historic preservation are occurring in Cuyahoga County alone, we must now be the bearer of bad news that is also occurring several counties to the south, in Tuscawaras County.  The name of the city is Dover.  The house that is soon to be lost forever is Dover's most superlative example of the Second Empire style.
It is going to be lost for little more than a handful of parking spaces for the adjacent high school. The house is NOT in deplorable condition.  It is not an "eyesore".  It just happens to be in the "wrong" location, and, apparently, and, as far as can be discerned by us, not a solitary soul in the Dover area has expressed any objection to this travesty.  To see the local newspaper's account of the "wonderful" news of more school parking, here is a link to it.
http://www.timesreporter.com/news/20180313/historic-house-to-be-torn-down-for-dover-high-school-project

"HOW QUICKLY THEY "FORGET"..."

The Gordon Square neighborhood of Cleveland has, for the most part, been numerous very successful historic preservation projects on a neighborhood-wide scale.  Much credit has to be given to the late Raymond Pianka, a well-liked and well-respected -- and luckily for preservation -- very influential, life-long resident who never compromised when it came to historic preservation.  This neighborhood most likely would otherwise have become just another neglected, declining Cleveland neighborhood full of abandoned buildings and parking lots.  One might imagine that his legacy would have been to inspire those in leadership positions in this area to continue to do what he fought so enthusiastically to do.  Sadly, though, this appears to be not the case.  A 106-year-old commercial building, in the much celebrated, high-profile business section, is soon to be demolished (if it hasn't already been) so that an organization can build a new structure in its palce.  This will be happening in a City Of Cleveland Historic District and the plan has been approved by the infamous "Cleveland De-Landmarking Commission" (otherwise known as the Cleveland Landmarks Commission).  The building had its street-facing facade horribly mutated a good number of years ago, long before historic facades became popular again.  The City Of Cleveland has a very busy Storefront Renovation Program, which provides certain very desireable benefits to those who use it.  It has been happily used countless times, and of course could have been used again for this structure. There is a historic view showing exactly what it originally looked like.
But the present owners of this building, like so many other Americans, have no interest in history. 

Mr. Pianka is surely turning over in his grave.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

SCHOOL'S OUT (FOREVER)!!

The wholesale eradication of the historic public school buildings in Cleveland, Ohio, by the Cleveland Board Of Education, has been going on for so long, most see it as a "given".  No other type of historic building in Cleveland is as guaranteed to have a short 'life' as Cleveland public school buildings.  There is no discrimination.  Size does not matter.  Elegance (wherever relevant) does not matter.  Good state of preservation does not matter. The sole determining factor is age.  Usually it is at least 50 years, although there have been a few that have been "younger".  The next one to be destroyed is Tremont School.
TREMONT SCHOOL - 2016
Designed by Walter McCornack and built in 1917 as an elementary school, it has lately been used for a good number of years now as a K-8  'Montesorri' school (whatever that is -- if anyone can tell us, please do!)   Despite its substantial size, elegance, and good state of preservation, AS ALWAYS, it has been deemed to be "inadequate for today's educational needs" (or however else that tired propaganda is usually worded).                     
The neighborhood surrounding this school was not long ago one of the few mostly intact late-19th and early-20th century neighborhoods remaining in Cleveland, with a mostly working-class demographic.  But, in recent years, it has become a suburbia-wannabe, overwhelmed with art galleries and snooty restaurants.  The historic architecture, much of it modest and lacking sufficient "sophistication", is no longer "tolerated" and is being slowly but surely being purged from the neighborhood and replaced with luxury housing.  The destruction of this historic school building fits right into the "master plan" for the neighborhood.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

CONDEMNATION BY TRASH

One of the latest (early-2016) of the many preservation travesties in Cleveland, Ohio, is the Cleveland De-Landmarking Commission's approval to demolish an 1890 house in the Broadway Local Historic District.
Historic 1959 View
A typical visual presentation given to the Commission to attempt to establish that circumstances exist that warrant a building must be demolished are almost always photos showing structural damage.  But, in this matter, the photos presented merely show a generally "trashed" house inside, as the last tenants apparently moved out while leaving behind a great deal of their belongings, with relatively little, easily reparable, structural damage of any kind.  The outside is mostly intact and in fair, if not good, condition.  Although vinyl sided, most of its artistic exterior architectural features, typical for 1890, have survived.
Despite this absence of ability to demonstrate any genuinely 'unsafe' structural situation, the De-Landmarking Commission agreed to the demolition request.  Being in a Local Historic District, this house had to be de-landmarked.  This is, of course, is the Commission's area of established expertise.

The house is in a severely declining section of the city where demolitions and their resulting vacant lots have become an all-too-common occurance.  As has been the case for generations, the City government's general attitude about this kind of neighborhood is to generally "abandon" it -- represented best by "automatic" demolition approvals such as this one.  'Historic' considerations -- even when a Historic District has been established -- are dismissed as of no importance.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

This post is, thankfully, NOT about another regrettable architectural loss.  It's good to have a different sort of post here, once in a while, to relieve the doom and gloom a bit.

There is a mansion type of house in Sebring, Ohio, a tiny town in Mahoning County, that not only has been saved from 'the wrecker's ball' but has even been magnificently restored and converted to a business that will allow the public to experience something of what 'grand' living was like over a century ago.


This post is here primarily to correct some incorrect information regarding the history of this house that is presently in general circulation.  The primary incorrect information concerns who designed this house and when it was built.  The current story is that it was built for Frank A. Sebring in 1902 from a design by a "Rawsthorne of Pittsburgh".  This name came from an illustration made of the house that was published somewhere (source unknown to us) around the time of its construction.


It appears in tiny lettering, inserted in the grass, near the house's foundation, to the left.  It says, "Rawsthorne E. & P. Co. - Pittsburgh".


Unfortunately, this "Rawsthorne Of Pittsburgh" was nothing more than the engraving company that was responsible for producing the illustration.  This is easily confirmed by way of Pittsburgh city directories of the time.  Their full name was the Rawsthorne Engraving & Printing Company.

1902 Pittsburgh City Directory [highlighting added]

There are a couple of especially thought-provoking things about this house illustration.  First is that it does not portray the house that was actually built, but instead portrays something merely noticeably similar.  Second is the fact that this is a re-illustration of one that appears in numerous publications printed for a Knoxville, Tennessee, architectural firm named George F. Barber & Company that were used to promote their designs, for which full working plans were available through the mail [illustration below].


Why did this Pittsburgh engraving company believe that this house was going to be built from this design?

Ultimately, though, there is historical evidence that the design actually used was provided by a Cleveland architectural firm named Chapman & Chapman (later known as the Chapman Architectural Company). They provided an illustration of their design and a brief explanatory story to a Cleveland newspaper, who published it.  This story was stating that the house was about to be built -- and it was 1906 -- not 1902.


But what about that Barber design?  Was it being considered initially?  Was it presented to Chapman & Chapman to be a major inspiration in what they would design?  Did Chapman & Chapman privately "borrow" ideas from this design?

Too many presently unanswerable questions.  But at least we've answered a few questions that a lot of people thought had already been answered.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

TINY HISTORIC DISTRICT GETS EVEN TINIER

The Cleveland, Ohio, architectural partnership of Granger & Meade (Alfred Hoyt Granger and Frank Meade) lasted only three years -- possibly only two and a half -- before Granger left Cleveland for presumably greener pastures in Chicago.  The designs of this firm were 'ahead of the curve' when compared to most of their contemporaries and nearly all their work were 'country' residences for upper-class owner-occupants.  Because of the brief tenure of the firm and its progressive design ideas, there wasn't a particularly large body of work executed in Cleveland.  And, because of the suburban locations, most were demolished long ago to be replaced by apartment buildings, gas-stations, and the like.  Remarkably, one inner-city example of their work survived -- that is at least until very recently (October, 2015).  It was historically the Harry Vail Residence and was begun in 1896 and finished in 1897.
It had been vacant for many years and had been abandoned and deteriorating.  As always, Cleveland's Building Department did not force owners to maintain the house according to the Building Code, and paid attention to it only after it reached the 'point of no return'.  It was located in a historic district known as the Ingleside Avenue Historic District (named after the street's historic name).  An embarrassingly small Historic District, it contained all of seven buildings.  Now it contains only six.  The District's 'mass' has been reduced by roughly 14% by the demolition of this one building.  It is very likely that three or even four of the remaining structures are headed for the same fate.  Cleveland's extant architectural history -- much of it truly spectacular -- continues to be wantonly disregarded.

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