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.

Thursday, April 02, 2015


The latest session of the "De-Landmarking Commission" of the City Of Cleveland gave their blessings to St. Ignatius High School to demolish yet another historic structure in their possession. It is a house that was built in the late-1860s for George Schlecter.  It is located in the Ohio City Local Historic District.  Owned by the school since 1991 and used by them primarily for some function related to volunteers, the school has decided that they want to expand the parking lot that they own which surrounds the house.  Removing the house will give them six parking spaces.
2900 Carroll - 2015 photo

2900 Carroll - 1957 photo

Ignatius has been in this general location since the 1880s.  They could have easily relocated to suburbia, as many a Cleveland area private school did.  Instead, mimicking the standard strategy of inner-city universities, they proceeded to acquire as many of the surrounding properties as possible.  The nearby buildings are/were strictly 19-century.  The quantity of historic buildings that they have acquired and demolished over the decades is staggering.  After the 1960s flight to the suburbs of anyone who could afford to do so, particularly businesses and institutions, the City Of Cleveland has obliged every desire for which Ignatius has needed their cooperation, for fear that Ignatius finally will relocate outside of Cleveland if they do not.  Entire blocks of historic buildings have been demolished, the streets officially "vacated" by the City, and the land they once occupied transferred to Ignatius.  They apparently have a "cart-blanche" relationship with the City.  [Note:  Apparently as a further expression of 'solidarity' with the school, the "De-Landmarking Commission" in the same recent session also re-confirmed the approval they gave to Ignatius last year to demolish another mid-19th-century house, a block or so down the street. (See the post from December 21, 2014.)]  How much longer will it be before the City obligingly removes the ultimate obstacle to Ignatius -- the "Historic District" status of the neighborhood?

Friday, January 02, 2015


There has been only ONE example of a positive story that has ever been posted on this blog.  It truly seems like the passion for preserving our historic buildings is fading away to nothingness.  Was its former popularity just some sort of 'fad'??  It seems that the masses have embraced a new era of 'urban renewal', instead.  It seems that historic buildings are, once again, being perceived as nothing but 'eyesores'.  Even the sustainability movement, which had originally promoted historic preservation as an important expression of sustainability, has seemingly now turned its back on this former 'ally'.

The 'scorecard' of historic architecture losses in the Cleveland, Ohio, area continues on its downward spiral into the dark abyss.  Only two months ago, in October of 2014, the Caine House, one of Cleveland's most important Italianate-style houses and located on one of Cleveland's most traveled thoroughfares, was demolished.  It was built in 1877 for William H.Caine, who owned a stone-yard in the nearby valley of Mill Creek that specialized in providing stone suitable for sidewalks.  Perhaps the sole remaining stone example of Italianate style residential architecture in the city, located on Broadway Avenue near Miles Avenue, it has been seen thousands upon thousands of times because of its very 'high-profile' location.  This house was included as one of Cleveland's prominent residences featured in Cleveland Illustrated, published in 1889.  It had been a City Of Cleveland Landmark for many years (which, at best, "protects" a structure only "on paper" since the Ordinances that require proper maintenance have NEVER been enforced).
1991 photo
Another 'high-profile' historic structure, due to its location on a much-traveled street, was demolished back in March of 2013.  Located on Cedar Avenue not far from East 55th Street, it was also frequently noticed by  travelers along the latter street, as well, due to the general absence of other buildings between the house and that street.  Built in 1883 in the midst of a period in Cleveland history when Cedar Avenue was considered a 'fashionable' residential street, many passers-by most likely noticed its quirky little round bay above the front entrance.  It originally had a fine front porch with an expansive arch stretched across its entire width.

1992 photo

Yet another blow to the local architectural heritage pertains to a house that probably went largely unnoticed by many.  Located on a very secondary street, it was unfortunately located very close to a university campus, where much new residential construction is going on.  The house was in remarkably good condition for its age -- it was built in 1892 -- and had a remarkably original exterior.  One might imagine that its only 'crime' was being immediately adjacent to a brand-new housing developed for 'upscale' occupants.  It was demolished in January of 2014.
1997 photo

So much artistic beauty, lost forever.  Cleveland, Ohio, charges along in its determination to become one of the nation's most UN-distinctive locations.  It certainly has found a "winning" strategy.