Monday, November 2, 2009
Historical markers are one of my other interests, so much so that I'm an editor with the Historical Marker Database. Of course, that may be due less to my level of interest and more to get me to shut up...
I'd long heard the occasional rumor that the historical marker for the John W. Heisman birth site was in front of the wrong house, an error which occurred due to a change in the street addresses in Cleveland some time in the early 20th century. Heisman is the namesake of the Heisman Trophy. The house in question is in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland, on the near west side.
The marker is in front of this 1910s Cleveland duplex on Bridge Avenue, at W. 29th Place, where it has been for the past 30 years. I thought it would be worth doing the legwork to determine whether this was, in fact, the site of Heisman's birth.
The Cuyahoga County Recorder maintains a database of all real estate transfer documents dating back to the early 19th century. I was able to locate the deed transfering the property to the Heismans, which included a specific lot number. Utilizing historical maps, I was able to determine exactly which house the Heismans purchased. I came to the conclusion that the Heisman birthplace is, in fact four tenths of a mile to the west, at 3928 Bridge Avenue. I've documented the history thoroughly on the page illustrating the marker at the Historical Marker Database.
This is the house at 3928 Bridge Avenue. Historically, this house is more interesting, as the main part of it was built in the 1850s. This means that it is the actual house John Heisman was born in, rather than merely the house on the site of his birthplace.
This angle illustrates the main portion of the house in a slightly clearer manner.