Thursday, March 17, 2016


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.
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


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


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


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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Friday, October 09, 2015


It is with "heavy heart" that we must, once again, and so very soon after the previous post, report even more loss to historic Cleveland, Ohio, buildings due to fire.  In the early morning hours of September 23, 2015, fires erupted in five different locations across the city.  One totally destroyed three adjacent buildings in Cleveland's Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood.  The most significant of the three was the structure built for John Cain in 1893.  Its exterior had been restored in recent years, and it had even been given a period-appropriate paint job.  [Note:  The owner at that time put an incorrect year of construction, plus his own name, onto the roof-line pediment.]

The two adjacent structures, both still in desperate need of restoration, were equally historic.  The middle building had been built in 1893 for the allotment-owner, Henry Grumbacher, while the one at the other end had also been built in 1893 (with a one-floor addition the following year), for William J. Krause.
One of the other fires severely damaged a house only a block and a half from Euclid Avenue, in Cleveland's Fairfax neighborhood.
1997 photo

This house had been built in 1887 for 'speculative' purposes by Rollin White, which was then promptly purchased and occupied by Charles W. Foote.

All five fires occurred within hours of each other and spaced enough apart to have made it feasible for them to have been set by the same person[s], if it were to be determined that arson caused them.  To our knowledge, no fire department investigation reports have been released.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2015

R. I. P.

This post departs from the usual purpose of this site.  We regrettably must post an architectural obituary.  One of the more 'high-profile' historic buildings of Cleveland, Ohio, due in large part to its close proximity to a heavily-traveled freeway, was recently lost.  Located in the Lorain Station Historic District, this structure was built for a John Howland in 1896 -- with a decidedly out-of-fashion mansard-roofed top floor that had many convinced it was much older.
Howland Building - 1999 photo
It was severely damaged by a fire in late-May of 2015.  It and the adjacent historic building, equally damaged by the same fire, had to both be demolished a few week later.  This was one of the most unique and -- to some - one of the most picturesque historic buildings of its type in Cleveland.  At the very least, there was no better example of a mansard roof in the entire county.  It will certainly be remembered fondly for a very long time.

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Monday, April 27, 2015


It is with what, in perhaps melodramatic contexts, is known as "a heavy heart", that we must report the loss of one of northeast Ohio's more architecturally significant structures.  Apparently constructed in 1898, it was built as the summer residence for John Gehring, then the President of the Gehring Brewing Company of Cleveland, Ohio.  Located in Avon Lake (Lorain County), with the rear of the property overlooking Lake Erie, Gehring commissioned Cleveland architect Frederick Baird to provide a "Swiss Chalet" design complete with an expansive porch and balcony framed by that style's visually prominent, pierced balustrades.  As was the practice in times gone by in regards to 'country' residences, Gehring called his summer home "Green Gables".



This lakefront property has a street frontage of 200 feet and a depth of over 600 feet.  Someone with apparently more money than he knew what to do with somehow acquired the property in late-2013 -- with no intention of making any use of this spectacular house.  It was demolished sometime within the past twelve months.  A house approximately three times the size is presently [April 2015] under construction at the site.

The Swiss Chalet style had not been hugely popular and most examples were built, briefly, between 1900 and 1910.  Therefore, this was a very early example, of a generally rare architectural style. The house's exterior had been essentially unaltered, with the only obvious change being the screening-in of some sections of the porch and balcony.
The Swiss Chalet style had not been hugely popular and most examples were built, briefly, between 1900 and 1910.  Therefore, this was a very early example, of a generally rare architectural style. The house's exterior had been essentially unaltered, with the only obvious change being the screening-in of some sections of the porch and balcony.  Reportedly, a complementing Swiss-style beach house was also built, although no image of such a building is known.  A Swiss-style coach house was definitely built.  It was positioned very close to the street.  Added across the entire 200 feet of street frontage was a wrought-iron fence, with two sets of grand gates.  Both the coach house and iron fence were still present at the time of this post, but it should be only obvious that the "modern-minded" new owner will soon eliminate them, as well.

Public records reveal that the new owner purchased this property at a price of over a million dollars.  The house presently under construction appears as if its final cost could approach yet another million dollars.  With this sort of wealth, the new owner could have easily afforded the cost to move the Gehring House, preferably to another property, where its architectural magnificence could have lived on for many more years.  But, instead, yet another grand historic building has been callously tossed aside, like yesterday's garbage.