Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Some Context: Madison and Unionville


I've been trying to assemble a better body of research regarding the historic architecture of our region. I've been trying to locate every single title that might be of use to describe the buildings built in this area. I've sought out the ones that might help to provide better evidence as to when this or that structure was built, as well as the titles where people have already done that research. Too much of what we have in the way of dates for the architecture of northeast Ohio is guesswork, based largely on style.

In addtion to better research, I've also wanted to provide better context, both for myself, and for you, the reader. Many of the historic buildings I've photographed in Cleveland and the surrounding area have been modified significantly. Further, they are often spread far apart. I wanted to look at a large group of 19th century structures that were in a single location, that I might better understand what I was looking at here.


To that end, I followed State Route 84 in Lake County for about 10 miles - from Vrooman Road (exit 205 off Interstate 90) east through Madison and on to Unionville - before looping around and returning. The houses along this route have been modified some, of course, though not to the extent of the the remaining structures in the city. It's a beautiful and insightful stretch of road, all the more interesting now that most of the leaves have fallen from the trees, providing better views.

The house that I've lead with, with this beautiful front entry, is on the north side of the road, just east of Vrooman Road. The door itself is likely a later replacement - we can see that from the many small blocks glued together to make the cross pieces. The leaded glass sidelights and fanlights are definitely original. It's unusual to see a doorway of this style placed like this on a house. It makes me wonder if it might have been brought here from another house.


There are also examples of simpler structures, like this one.


Continuing east, this house has a bit more ornament, but is otherwise similar to the preceding one. Originally, the windows on the front of the house would have been the same size as those on the side. They were likely enlarged in the 1860s or 1870s, though it could have been a bit later.

Continuing to Unionville, I came across this house - a perfect image of the perception of what a house of this period is supposed to be. I also encountered this church, in a style so common in this area in the mid-19th century.


In Unionville, just south of the cemetery, on County Line Road, I came across this house, perhaps the most stunning of the trip.


The front doorway appears recently restored. It would be interesting to learn whether the wood in the transom and sidelights is based on some sort of historical element, or whether it was added to provide a bit of privacy.


This classic form, also in Unionville, caught my attention.

Connecticut Land Company Office

This tiny brick house served as a Connecticut Land Company office. It was built by Abraham Tappan, a Connecticut Land Company Surveyor, in 1817. The portion of the structure to the right of the front door is a later addition.


On my return west, I was able to better observe many of the historic structures on the south side of State Route 84, like this house at 25 Main Street, in Madison.


Note the detail in the doorway on this house. I speak frequently about the doorways because they are often the only places that the early builders put much detail, and as such, are examples of the highest form of their craft and artistic expression.


The landscape along this stretch of State Route 84 is worth taking a closer look at. These photographs represent but a small part of what I shot that day - please look at the full set for a better idea, but know that even that is but a sample.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ghost Landscapes: Seeing Everything

In human intellect as much as in human intuition, memory and empirical reality blend. As we pass through a place in our ordinary experience today, we encounter not only what is there, but also our memory of previous experience of that place, as well as our memory of responses and recollections to that place by others. Our ability to consciously perceive this all at once depends upon how much we choose to engage our attention. But however much we attend, this rich and complex presence of place is still there, offering considerable potential for us to participate with everyone – past and present – with whom we share the place.

As an example, an etching of the Cuyahoga River created by Kalman Kubinyi in 1934 is not just ink and paper, but a powerful spell which conjures up our knowledge and experience of human image-making, and evokes other personal associations with the Cuyahoga River. And then, the next time we cross the River and our sight gathers water, bulkheads, vegetation, and other bridges, the Kubinyi etching nudges how we process that information, altering the way that we understand that landscape.

Similarly, If you stop by the edge of the river, and take a moment, lyrics of a 1972 song by Randy Newman might involuntarily touch:

“Cleveland city of light city of magic
Cleveland city of light you're calling me
Cleveland, even now I can remember
'Cause the Cuyahoga River
Goes smokin' through my dreams”

And, If you know some history, you know that however slightly we might regard the slow and muddy Cuyahoga, it has been an important highway for thousands of years. It was one of a few routes that led to a relatively easy portage between the Great Lakes and Mississipi River water systems (Chicago grew at the site of another portage). The Continental Congress of the United States took special note of the significance of these portages, asserting in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 that ”the navigable waters leading into the Mississippi and St. Lawrence, and the carrying places between the same, shall be common highways and forever free.” Is your imagination sufficient to see the ghost ripples of canoes being paddled up the river?

Finally, up the hill from the river, as you travel west on Detroit Road, you’ll notice that the land slopes immediately to the north. This was once the shoreline of a glacial Lake Erie. The asphalt road upon which you travel was built upon a brick road which was built upon a dirt road, which followed a path, which, again, had been traveled for thousands of years. This was once wilderness, then farmland, then a thriving commercial street, and then what it is today.

What the river and road are today are all of the landscapes which they have ever been, and as they are today, mediated by our expectations of what they will be tomorrow.

There’s the empirical landscape, the landscape which we can easily frame with a camera. And then there are the ghost landscapes of memory and imagination and of the possible, all present, when we choose to see everything.

artwork above: Kalman Kubinyi (1906-1973), Cuyahoga, c. 1934, etching, 7.25 x 10 in

artwork below: Frank N. Wilcox (1887-1964), title?, c. 1924, etching, 5 x 7 in

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The LaSalle Theater

On Saturday, October 9, 2010 the Cleveland Restoration Society offered a SNOOP tour of the LaSalle theater on East 185th Street at Kildeer Avenue in the Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland. The theater was built in 1927 by the International Savings and Loan Association as a mixed-use project that included their bank branch, retail store locations, apartments, and the theater. The architect was Nicola Petti and the style was considered Neo-Classical. The original marquee seen here is still intact.

Much of the interior detailing has remained intact although the seating and organ have been removed.

This is a close up of the medallion that adorns the top of the center of the stage.

This photo below of a Peerless lamp was shot in complete darkness inside one of the upstairs projection rooms.

This is the staircase leading up to the projection rooms.

Below is a shot of some of the equipment used behind the curtain area on stage.

This is another snapshot of some of the intricate plaster ceiling decor.

Below is one of the two open areas that flank each side of the main stage. It was thought by one of the attendees who watched shows at the LaSalle when she was young, that these areas were for "premium" seating.

If you have memories of the LaSalle or want to read more from others who visited the LaSalle when it was previously open, visit this page at www.cinematreasures.org, which is a great website to read more about historic movie theaters.

Hope abounds for the future of the LaSalle. Northeast Shores (the community development corporation for this area) now owns the structure. They've obtained funding for repairs to the limestone and for stabilizing the building. They are in the second phase of having it added to the National Register of Historic Places. An associate from Northeast Shores stated that there is the possibility for a brew pub inside the structure. Since this building was built when people either walked or took the streetcar to this site, parking could potentially be an issue because there appears to mainly be on-street parking available. Once that issued is addressed, I am sure the LaSalle will make a great venue, and also has the benefit of having an Arabica directly across the street, and great restaurants like Scotti's Italian, Chili Peppers, and Bistro 185 nearby.

In any case, many local residents await the next act for the LaSalle.

Keri Zipay moved to Cleveland from Pennsylvania in 1999 and has since discovered a love for local historic architecture. She has been volunteering with the Cleveland Restoration Society since 2004, and historic structures are her favorite photographic subject, particularly the remaining Millionaire's Row mansions. Contact Keri by email

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Leonard Parks Residence: Part 2: The Snow Family

14417 Darley Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio

Leonard Parks residence

In the first post in this series, I detailed the life of the Farwell family, including Benjamin Farwell, the carpenter perhaps responsible for the strongest visual element in this historic Cleveland house - the front doorway. Today, I will address the following owners of the property.

Leonard Parks map
From the 1858 Hopkins Map of Cuyahoga County. Used courtesy of Rails and Trails, original courtesy of the Bedford Historical Society.

Benjamin J. Farwell and Olive Farwell sold 16 acres of land to Almon A. Snow for $350. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 184405220004) It is illustrated here as being owned by L. Parks.

Almon A. Snow was born in about 1819, Massachusetts. He moved to Ohio, where he likely met and maried Amanda M. Snow. Amanda was born in Ohio, in 1816, 1823, or 1826, depending on whether we want to believe the 1850, 1860 or 1870 U.S. Federal Census.

By 1850, when they sold this parcel to Sheldon Parks for $700, Almon and Amanda Snow had moved to Eaton Township, Lorain County. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 185003120005) This sale, a doubling of the purchase price six years prior, has several implications. It suggests that that the price realized in 1844 was lower than it should have been. Perhaps the Farwells needed to sell the property quickly, or perhas the Farwells and the Snows were acquaintences. Alternately, we might assume that the Snows made some significant improvements to the land.

As of that year, the Snows had three children, Viola J. (born about 1845), Lexor B. (born about 1847), and Archie J. (born 1849). Their farming endeavors seem to have been more successful in Eaton Township - by 1860, the value of their land had gone from $900 to $3500. They had three more children while living on this farm - Forest (born about 1851), Ernest (born about 1853), and Alva (born about 1857). (U.S. Federal Census, 1850 and 1860)

Again, probably before 1866, the Snow family moved, this time to Vienna, Marshall County, Iowa. I suspect a pre-1866 date because in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, one additional child is listed, Lella Snow, born in about 1866, in Iowa. Their farming efforts seem to have been more financially successful here. The value of their land was listed at $8,000, while their personal property, at $1,700. Their farm was worth more than any of those nearby (plus or minus two pages in the 1870 U.S. Census. Most of the values clustered around $2,000 to $5,000.

As of 1880, Almon A. Snow remained in Marshall County, though none of the rest of his family was present. Curiously, the U.S. Census records for that year show that he was still married. It is unclear what happened to the rest of his family.

Why did the Snow family move west from here, and then move west again? Perhaps it was the lure of better land or better opportunity? What impact did they have on this land while they were here? At present, there simply isn't enough evidence to be sure of anything more than the knowledge that they were farmers who, at the very least, had the means to move onward.

In the next chapter in this series, I'll address the Parks family - the builders of the house presently on this location.

Christopher Busta-Peck is the founding editor of Cleveland Area History. Contact him by email.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Birthday to Us!

Celebrating the First Year of Cleveland Area History

Note: This post is a bit late - the first post here was, in fact, on October 31, 2009 - but I've been rather busy of late, with the birth of our second child.

In the past year, Cleveland Area History has grown into a movement with significant following. As of a couple of weeks ago, we had a daily readership of 400-500 and more than 2600 followers on Facebook. We've shared more than 180 posts detailing various bits of our local history.

In the upcoming year, we will branch out, with new writers, and will address more than just the built environment. Is there a subject relating to local history that you'd like to write about? Let me know.

Further, we will take paths to harness the energy that Cleveland Area History has generated, so that we can advocate for and preserve the history of this area.

What has been your favorite story from the past year? Why?