Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cleveland Artists in Zoar, Ohio

A drawing by Ora Coltman
By Ora Coltman. Printed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on January 31, 1897, on page 20.

As I mentioned before, I'm curating an exhibit on I.T. Frary for the Cleveland Artists Foundation. Recently, a colleague brought to my attention a watercolor painted by Frary, in 1897. It depicts a backyard scene in Zoar, Ohio.

Note: I have since learned that the painting is dated 1898. While this does invalidate some of the guesses made below regarding what Frary might have done that summer, it does not diminish the value of this information with regard to his career as a whole or to his associations with the individuals. It also doesn't affect the description of the events of that summer. One might guess that the work produced as a result of the summer of 1897 caused him to visit Zoar the following year.

Zoar is a small community, located on the Tuscarawas River, about 75 miles south of Cleveland. It was founded early in the 19th century by German separatists and long retained a communal lifestyle. It still has an "Old World" feel that made it a popular destination for artists.

I wanted to learn more about this painting. Who might Frary have visited Zoar with? Might I be able to locate their paintings, to provide some context for this one?

This article, alas, does not include an image of Frary's painting. That will have to wait for the exhibition at the Cleveland Artists Foundation, which opens June 3.

Artists have long left the city during the summer months, holding "schools" in various rural destinations. F.C. Gottwald visited the town with students as early as 1888. (Plain Dealer, July 15, 1888, page 5)

An article the following year provides some suggestions as to the appeal. "Prof. F.C. Gottwald and his students, Misses Amy Smith, Nina Waldeck, L.B. Black, Agnes Krause, Jessie Jones, and Mrs. H.M. Claflin left for Zoar Saturday afternoon. The uninitiated doesn't known what attracts them so much at Zoar. It's unattractiveness is its chief attraction. Zoar is original. It is like no other town in this state, in this country, in the world. It is slow, sleepy, listless, and communistic. It is everyone for all and no one for himself. It is a world in itself. The town is German in style and character. The inhabitants are Germans of contented and sluggish dispositions." (Plain Dealer, June 24, 1889, page 3)

Evening in Zoar - from a study, by F.C. Gottwald
Evening in Zoar by F.C. Gottwald. Printed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on January 31, 1897, on page 20.

It was common for teachers to take groups of students to this or that desirable rural location during the summer. While they were sometimes called "schools", they were usually informal gatherings.

For 1897, F.C. Gottwald and Ora Coltman planned a more organized environment, with classes running for ten weeks. It was noted that "The project will have the support and encouragement of the Zoar community. The students in attendance will form an artistic colony under one roof, which is believed will be of material advantage in the way of concertive effort, and there will be an attempt made to realize ideals of work not possible amid the distractions of larger places. Membership in the classes will be limited in number, and it will be necessary for pupils to register before the opening day, but there will be no entrance qualifications, and students can begin work at any time. To all these plans the Zoar society will actively lend itself, and it is felt by the projectors that the community has special advantages which could not be found anywhere else in the country." (Plain Dealer, January 31, 1897, page 20.)

A Typical Zoar Cottage by F.C. Gottwald
A Typical Zoar Cottage by F.C. Gottwald. Printed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on January 31, 1897, on page 21.

The story, of significant length, ran with the banner I led this story with. Illustrations of Ora Coltman and F.C. Gottwald's work depicting the rural nature of Zoar was scattered across the pages.

The ten week term was to being Monday, June 28, with classes in oil and watercolor painting, as well as the use of pastels. On rainy days, there would be studio work, either in the form of a model or a still life. (Plain Dealer, April 13, 1897, page 10)

A large number of Clevelanders made their way to Zoar that summer. At least a hundred were present in Zoar, per the hotel register published in the Plain Dealer on August 8. (page 5) Not all of these were artists, of course - some were simply there vacationing.

Summer Sketch at Zoar
This image contains the work of the following artists, as seen clockwise, from upper left: T.J. Ritter; May F. Sanford; [unknown]; Lottie Hoff; Charles Shackelton; and Mary E. Willson. Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on October 24, 1897, page 13.

An exhibit of the best work from the school was held at Natt's gallery, on Euclid Avenue, in October of that year. The exhibit, which consisted of about 60 paintings, almost entirely oils, contained the work of Ada C. Belt, F.C. Gottwald, Lottie Hoff, Mrs. A.J. Nesbitt, A.B. Ring, T.J. Ritter, Blanch Sanders, May Sanford, Charles Shackelton, Harold A. Streator, and Mary E. Willson. The reviewer notes "The uniform excellence of the work, considering it was really the first outdoor study the pupils had had, speaks well for their instructors and individual talent. All the attractive bits of scenery in and about the picturesque village seem to be been found, and one gets glimpses of houses, barns, fields, fence corners, roads, and gardens. Light, bright studies they are, full of summer's rich color and atmosphere, and in very few instances are there daubs and false motions of color in the application of pigments. Mr. Harold Streator's work is undoubtedly the best, his talent having been quite marked while a pupil at the Art school in this city. Mr. Streator has a view of the red brick church and two or thtree other very charming landscapes, which are very praiseworthy. Miss Belt, who was a very moving spirit in the school and a great favorite on account of her enthusiasm and untiring zeal, has some clever work; while Miss Ring, Miss Sanford, and Miss Sanders have also some attractive bits. Mr. Shackelton's "Main Roadway to Zoar" is especially pleasing in coloring and composition. Mr. Gottwald's chief picture, painted at Zoar during the summer, is a large canvas entitled "The Neighbors." It was exhibited at the exposition recently, and is one of the best "old men" studies this talented artist has ever done." (Plain Dealer, October 24, 1897, page 13)

The Neighbors by F.C. Gottwald
The Neighbors by F.C. Gottwald. Printed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on September 12, 1897, on page 22.

A review of Gottwald's painting notes "One feels that his ability to paint this particular type of character so forcibly and directly comes from his love of and sympathy with old men." It continues "The two men are in great contrast. The noe who stands outside shows evidence of a life of poverty and toil. His patient face, lined with care, the droop of his shoulders, his attitude have a pathos that awakens in the obserber a feeling of pity akin to tears. With the other it is not so. His ruddy countenance shows that his life has been of comparative ease. He has had the advantages of education." After speculating on the reasons for this, the author notes "In harmony with the contrast between the men, the reader is placed in the light, with patches of sunlight falling upon him, while the listener stands in the shadow of a picturesque old apple tree, which spreads its branches over him. Behind the two is the quaint village garden. The morning sun flits through the trees in bits of sparking light on the bushes and plants. In the background are the outlines of several village houses." He concludes "The picture was evidently painted while the artist was under the influence of deep feeling for the subject, and Mr. Gottwald is to be congratulated upon the success of his work." (Plain Dealer September 12, 1897, page 22)

What does this all tell us about I.T. Frary and his participation in the school? Why, if he painted this while the class was at Zoar, was he not in the exhibit?

It's quite possible that he simply wasn't able to devote the same amount of time to the class as the other students. Or perhaps he visited briefly with some of these artists.

Main Street, Chagrin Falls (1899)
Main Street, Chagrin Falls, by F.C. Gottwald. 1899. Oil on canvas, 18 x 13 in. From the collection of William McCoy. Plate 28 in F.C. Gottwald and the Old Bohemians (Cleveland Artists Foundation, 1993)

Frary was likely an associate, to some extent, of Gottwald. He took at least one class with Gottwald, in the summer of 1899, in Chagrin Falls. Frary exhibited his work from the class, along with participants Ada C. Belt, Arthur Bohnard, Zella Broughton, Lyda M. Cox, Halliwell King, Florence H. Reid, Charles Shackleton, and Carrie B. Vorce, at Guenther’s Art Rooms, on Euclid Avenue, from November 6-12, 1899. (Plain Dealer, November 12, 1899, page 20)

Ada Belt and Charles Shackelton were also listed in the Zoar exhibit. Lyda Cox was among those in later Cleveland Water Color Society exhibits with Frary. (Plain Dealer December 5, 1899, page 7, November 24, 1901, page 16, and December 3, 1901, page 11)

These individuals were, at the very least, associates of Frary. It's reasonable to make some connection between their work. Further, by 1900, F.C. Gottwald's studio was in the building of the Brooks Household Art Co., were Frary was a designer. (Plain Dealer, April 15, 1900, page 29) If his studio was, in fact, in that building in 1897, Gottwald might have encouraged Frary to visit Zoar that summer.

There's a certain amount of conjecture here, I will admit. This is not an attempt to carve any facts in stone, but to generally illustrate a group of associates at a certain point in time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Baseball's First Opening Day

On St. Patrick’s Day, 1871, nine base ball clubs gathered at Collier’s Pub in New York City to form baseball’s first major league, The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players. The league was comprised of all professional clubs, for the first time in baseball’s history. Prior to this historic event, clubs were mainly amateur until 1869. From 1869-1871, the National Association of Base Ball Players allowed a professional and amateur category for clubs. By St. Patrick’s Day, 1871, the professionals made a clean break from the NABBP, forming the first professional major league. Of the nine club’s Cleveland’s Forest City club was a member.

The Forest City Club, which was originally a cricket club that played at old Case Commons, was the areas prominent base ball club since the mid-1860’s. They had been members of the NABBP since they were an amateur club, and, in 1871, were entering their first season as an all professional nine. Pitcher “Uncle” Al Pratt, catcher Deacon White and Right Fielder Art Allison were their club leaders.

The Forest City Club was slated to start their season on May 4, 1871, against the Ft. Wayne Kekiongas in Ft. Wayne. However, the match was not scheduled to be the first played in the new league. That honor was slated for the Boston Red Stockings and the Washington Olympics, but the game was rained out. As a result, and though neither team knew it, the Forest City’s of Cleveland and the Kekiongas of Ft. Wayne were to be the first baseball teams to play in a major league game.

The game was played at Hamilton Field ballpark, land that once served a a Civil War camp, and was donated by Allen Hamilton. It was a rainy day, and attendance was low, with estimates of 200-500 people at the game. The match started at 3:00, and was umpired by John L. Bloake, of Cincinnati. Deacon White recorded the first hit and first double in Major League history in the league’s first at bat. He also led all players by hitting 3 for 4 from his lead-off spot. This combined with a solid pitching performance from Al Pratt were not enough for the Cleveland’s to prevail in the match. They fell 2-0 to the Ft. Wayne’s, and history was made.

The New York Herald reported on the match:

“The finest game of base ball ever witnessed in this country was played on the grounds of the Kekiongas of this city this afternoon, the playing throughout being without precedent in the annals of base ball, and the members of both clubs establishing beyond doubt their reputation as among the most perfect ball players in the United States."

The game was considered an anomaly, due to the low scoring of the match. During early baseball, it was very common for scores to be in the double digits for both sides in a match. The Fort Wayne Gazette thought the game was more significant because of the final score, than the fact it was the first major league game ever played:
“This is undoubtedly the best game on record. We know of nothing like it that has ever happened before. Just think of it, only two runs made in nine full innings!”

Cleveland’s newspapers headlines had a more familiar reaction:
“The First Dose of 1871 – A Whole Nest of Goose Eggs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0”
- Cleveland Leader

Overall, the game is a major first in baseball history, and Cleveland was a big part of it. Hopefully, the Cleveland’s will do better on Opening Day in 2011!

Base Ball on the Western Reserve, James Egan Jr.
The Baseball Almanac
National Association of Base Ball Players, Marshall D. Wright
Blackguards and Red Stockings, William J. Ryczek
Ft. Wayne Gazette
Cleveland Leader
New York Herald
Cleveland Herald

1st - 1869 Cleveland Forest City's - Western Reserve Historical Society
2nd - Deacon White - A.G. Spaulding Base Ball Collection
3rd - 1871 Ft. Wayne Kekiongas -

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Don Hisaka: The Cleveland Years

Don M. Hisaka residence

A while back, I wrote about a more recent piece of this region’s built history – this house, built by Don Hisaka as his personal residence. The structure, an AIA honor recipient in 1970, is located at 14300 Drexmore Road, in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

The Cleveland Artists Foundation is presenting an exhibit of the structures designed during Hisaka’s time in Cleveland – 1960 – 1985. The show opens tomorrow and runs through May 21. After that date, the exhibit will travel to the Cleveland Clinic, and then, in January, 2012, to the Mansfield Art Center - a structure designed by Hisaka.

Full disclosure: I’m curating the CAF’s next exhibit, set to open June 3 and running through the middle of July.

Seven of the structures in the exhibition are in the greater Cleveland area. What follows is a look at four of them.

Don M. Hisaka residence

I wrote about the first structure, Hisaka's personal residence in Shaker Heights, back in 2009. The label from the Cleveland Artists Foundation exhibit provides more detail:

Don Hisaka's home received a national Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects. The 1970 AIA jury stated: "An interesting and difficult site, the desire to relate to adjacent homes, the need for outdoor privacy, the need for a reasonable amount of living space, and an obviously austere budget have all been brought quietly and with great delicacy into handsome balance."

The two-story home is located on a triangular corner lot in Shaker Heights. Although it is a contemporary design in a traditional neighborhood, its roof-line geometry blends with homes on both sides. In conforming to strict setback requirements, Mr. Hisaka had to place his family's home in the furthermost corner of the site.

Four connected blocks-three living units and the garage- almost completely surround a private courtyard. Inside the house is a world of space, light, and serenity. Every first-floor room has floor-to-ceiling glass walls and overlooks the courtyard.

Architectural Forum, July-August 1969, devoted four pages to the Hisaka residence. A comment: "Even though the neighbors cannot look into the Hisakas' court, they can tell it is there, and perhaps they realize that the scheme of additive units around a court solves some of the basic problems of housing in the suburban setting. It shows one way to enjoy private outdoor living space and large glass areas - without living either in a goldfish bowl or behind a stockade."

Exterior walls are rough-sawn cedar, stained to blend inconspicuously with the trees.

The Hisaka residence was one of the homes featured in the Fortune article, "When an Architect Builds for Himself" (November 1971)

The Gund Residence, also designed in 1965, was featured on the cover of the catalog for Cleveland Goes Modern. The house is located on the south side of Major Road, between Riverview Road and Oak Hill Road, in Peninsula, Ohio. The site is not visible from the road.

The Cleveland Artists Foundation, in the exhibition label, describes the challenges the site and the client presented to Hisaka and the manner in which he addressed them.

The clients chose a heavily wooded site, south of Cleveland, amid slopes and ravines. Then, in discussing a holiday & summertime retreat with Hisaka and Associates, they talked about a home with large decks and an international style “treehouse” floating over a densely wooded site. They wanted a view of four small, man-made lakes and asked not to destroy a single tree.

Hisaka’s solution places two stark white cubes on an expansive wood desk. The entire structure is perched on concrete stilts, and a glass-enclosed bridge connects the two-story wings. After the house was completed, the client allowed one tree to be chopped down. As a result, three of the four manmade lakes on the property and broad expanses of forest are visible from the interior of a light-splashed home that gives its residents a sense of living outdoors.

Giddings Elementary School

Giddings Elementary School, completed in 1970, is located at 2250 East 71st Street, Cleveland, Ohio. The exhibition label describes the reasoning behind this Brutalist design.
The award winning Giddings Elementary School in Cleveland has three stories of classrooms surrounding a skylit courtyard. Here exterior windows are minimized to discourage vandalism in a modern structure that replaces a burned-down 19th century schoolhouse. The new school turns inward toward the courtyard, which is enlivened with greenery, a prominent staircase and a two-story glassed-in core housing offices and a library. The mustard brick exterior steps down in one- and two-story levels to harmonize with the scale of traditional wood-frame houses in the neighborhood.

When built, square lintels topped the entrances - one is seen off-center here - not unlike a brick piece of stonehenge. They have since been removed, to the aesthetic detriment of the space. The band of paint, eight or nine feet high, around the bottom of the building has not helped the appearance. The architect can accept some responsiblity for this - graffiti in this situation is almost an inevibility, and it must be painted over, as chemical and mechanical means of removal either pollute or damage the brick - it should be considered as part of the design process.

Eric Johannesen, in the authoritative Cleveland Architecture, 1876-1976 selects this school as one of the best examples of its type. The text (page 233) illustrates the atrium described above and an entrance, before it was altered.

I can't speak to how well the building does or does not function as an educational institution. It's worth keeping in mind that the design was a product of the times, and that the lack of windows on the exterior was meant to reduce distractions. Natural light was to come from the atrium.

The presence of this building in the neighborhood could be improved by the replacement of the missing brick lintels. Compared with many other building restoration projects, the cost of this is low. Perhaps those involved in mounting the exhibition would consider donating the work and materials to accomplish it.

Interior, University Center Atrium, looking south. Photograph taken in 1980 by Clay Herrick. Used courtesy of The Cleveland Memory Project.

Don Hisaka's University Center for Cleveland State University was completed in 1974. The structure, which was located on the north side of Euclid Avenue at about East 22nd Street, is described, in an object label in the exhibit as
[A]n L-shaped building which joins the plaza on two sides. Lecture rooms and public functions, located on the lower three floors, are accessible to students and outsiders. Offices are on the upper three floors. Lounge and dining facilities are on the second floor, handy to the enclosed bridges which, connecting with library tower and classroom buildings, create an all-weather campus.

The oblique wall at the entrance on Euclid Avenue is an invitation to pedestrians from Cleveland’s main business area, only a few blocks west.
Unfortunately, while the structure was visually stunning, it was also quite unusable. It was demolished in 2008.

Don Hisaka's buildings shaped, in their way, the built landscape of the greater Cleveland area. While they're not as old as the structures we usually call "historic", they've clearly had an influence. Take his house, a better answer to a skinny triangular lot in Shaker Heights than the usual boring duplex. Look at Thwing Center, at Case Western Reserve University, which brings together two historic structures. Take a look at Giddings Elementary, which might be seen as a fortress to protest those who wish to learn, while still bringing in plenty of natural light.

The exhibit, Don Hisaka: The Cleveland Years, opens tomorrow - Friday, March 25, and continues through May 21. An opening reception will be held from 6 to 8 pm.

The Cleveland Artists Foundation is located in the Beck Center, at 17801 Detroit Road, in Lakewood, Ohio. A catalog has been published to accompany the show. More information on Hisaka's work can be found in the CAF catalog Cleveland Goes Modern.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Visions of a City in 1872

Cleveland as seen in Picturesque America

Mouth of Cuyahoga River, Cleveland

Picturesque America was a massive two volume set, first published in 1872. It is best known for the high quality illustrations of various natural features across the United States. In a way, it was the first popular coffee table book.

In addition to the aforementioned natural wonders, the title also provides glimpses of life in cities across the country. Cleveland was included among these. A Cleveland Area History reader was kind enough to let me borrow a copy, so that I might make a high-resolution scan of the images - be sure to click through for more detail, if so desired. All are from the edition published by D. Appleton And Co., New York, 1872.

The chapter opens with, Mouth of Cuyahoga River, Cleveland (page 521) - shown above. Compare it to Otto Bacher's prints and drawings, which cover the same area, at about the same time. In the drawings, there is a certain quality of composition that is shared with this image. In Bacher's prints, it becomes darker, perhaps partially due to the nature of the etching process.

Cleveland, from Scranton's Hill

This is followed (page 523) with Cleveland, from Scranton's Hill. The location today is close to West 17th Street, just north of Lorain Avenue - immediately before it crosses over the Cuyahoga River and becomes Carnegie. From this promentory, we can see a good part of the residential area of the city, as well as the industry that would transform it in the following years. If we look in the distance, in this historic view, we can see the steeples of several churches.

Superior Street, Cleveland, from Presbyterian Church

One of these provides a view of downtown Cleveland, looking west, in Superior Street, Cleveland, from Presbyterian Church (page 525). Second Presbyterian Church was located on the south side of Superior, just west of  where the Arcade is located today. In the midground, there is a group of trees - Public Square. Adjacent to that is the one structure that remains from this historic view - the Old Stone Church. Immediately between the the viewer and the church is the old post office and custom house.

A flagpole is visible near the center of Public Square. Behind this, on the right side of the street, is a building with a dome. This is the Weddell House, one of the city's best known early hotels.

Euclid Avenue, Cleveland

On the following page, we are provided with this view of Euclid Avenue, presumably looking east. I must confess that I cannot, with the resources I have in hand at the moment, identify the specific churches. Update: thanks to Kevin's comment below, I can now identify the scene. The view is indeed looking east, from about East 13th Street. The church in the foreground is the Euclid Avenue Presbyterian Church. It was located at what is now East 14th Street. In the distance, we can see the tower of the Euclid Avenue Baptist Church, at the corner of what is now East 18th Street.

City of Cleveland, From Reservoir Walk

The Ohio City neighborhood is illustrated through this engraving, City of Cleveland, From Reservoir Walk, bound between pages 528 and 529. The reservoir was located on the block bounded by the streets now known as Franklin Boulevard on the north, West 32nd Street on the east, Woodbine Avenue on the south, and West 38th Street on the east - the block that now includes Fairview Park.

The reservoir provided an excellent view of the city. About a third of the way from the right, the Methodist Church is visible. Just behind that is the steeple of the Baptist Church. Off center, in the distance, the First Congregational Church can be seen. In the distance, we can see Lake Erie, with several boats sailing on it.

Mouth of Rocky River

The two remaining views of the Cleveland area are both of the Rocky River. One, here, provides a view from close to the river itself. The other shows the lake from a bluff overlooking it.

From here, the authors continue west, with two views of the Black River in Elyria. The commercial importance of Sandusky is illustrated through lumber boats there, not unlike the scene at the mouth of the Cuyahoga here in Cleveland. In addition, we are provided a view of the city iteself.


The journey west continues to Kelly's Island, and then to Put-In-Bay, shown here. At Put-In-Bay, we are given a look into Perry's Cave and two features on Gibraltar Island, in the harbor at Put-In-Bay, - Perry's Lookout and the Sphinx Head.

Toledo, Ohio

The journey along the south shore of Lake Erie concludes with this view of Toledo. In many ways, it seems to resemble Cleveland.

These views provide an idealized view of Cleveland and the adjacent areas in the 1870s. Looking at them and then at Cleveland as seen by Otto Bacher would be an interesting exercise - Bacher's drawings and prints provide a somewhat different perspective.

I'm always looking for unpublished or underutilized historic imagery of northeast Ohio. If you have books or photographs that you are willing to share, please contact me, that I might scan them and share them with a wider audience.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Work of J. Milton Dyer

A week and a half ago, reader Doug Wheeler brought an article to my attention. At least that's what he meant to do. Somehow, it didn't register in my head. As a result, I didn't have this great period photo of the Brown Hoist building in my post on Tuesday. The article in question, The Work of Mr. J. Milton Dyer, appeared in Architectural Record, November, 1906, pages 384-403.

Brown-Hoist Building

The historic photo, at top, may help us to better see the building, which is located on Hamilton Avenue at East 45th Street. As built, it feels grand - not merely imposing. The massive arch shapes the space, in a way that feels almost like a major passenger train station. I can imagine that the quality of the light, from the many banks of windows, must have been something to behold.

Another image that immediately caught my attention was the Tavern Club, at 3522 Prospect Avenue, in Cleveland. The Tudor-style structure feels, to my eyes, like the very essence of a private club at the time it was built (1904-1905). It is a Cleveland Landmark.

I've tried to photograph it, without much success. Even if the light in my photo had been right, the streetlights and utility lines would have still been quite a distraction. Further, the building could not have been successfully photographed from this angle today, due to the presence of the building on the southeast corner of Prospect and East 36th Street, which would have obscured the left part of the building.

It's one thing to theorize about how the architect might have meant for a building to be seen, but quite another to have it illustrated so clearly.

The article includes several illustrations of the Cleveland City Hall, built 1911-1916. The exterior views don't offer any surprises. This cross section, however, opens up the space and helps me to visualize how the building fits together as a whole, centered around the grand atrium. Floor plans for the building are also provided.

I would include the tall and very skinny Guardian Savings and Trust, but I can't see a good way to format the text around it. The bank, built in 1904, was located at 322-326 Euclid Avenue.

For related reasons, I will omit the competitive drawing for the Post Office, Custom House, and Court House (now known as the Howard M. Metzenbaum United States Courthouse). Dyer's design is very similar to the design that was used, the work of architect Arnold W. Brunner.

The carriage entrance to the Loftus Cuddy residence catches my attention more than the structure as a whole. For some reason, it reminds me of the Paris Metropolitain entrances designed by architect Hector Guimard. Dyer, as a student at École des Beaux-Arts in Paris would have seen these, so the suggestion of a connection isn't a complete stretch. The ornamentation is different, but both seem to convey similar senses of light and space.

The residence, which appears (per the Cleveland Blue Book, 1907, 1911, and 1915) to have been on Overlook Road, in the Euclid Heights neighborhood of Cleveland Heights. It is no longer standing.

The article contains several more designs worth mentioning. Among them are a Competitive Design for Carnegie Technical Schools (shown here), interiors of the opulent Central National Bank, the Mill Street School, a few private residences, and the Windermere Presbyterian Church.

How does one close a description of a group of work like this? I'm unsure. The photos and drawings speak for themselves quite well. The article records, as a group, the early work of J. Milton Dyer. It's worth a look to see his vision for our city in the first decade of the 20th century.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Brown Hoist Building

An Industrial Landmark

Brown-Hoist Building

One of Cleveland's most interesting industrial structures is just off a major road (St. Clair Avenue), at the northwest corner of East 45th Street and Hamilton Avenue. It's hard to convey the size of this massive structure - 312 x 500 feet - and its design is sufficiently impressive that I was shocked I hadn't written about it previously.

The structure, built in 1901-1902, was designed for the Brown Hoisting Machinery Company by J. Milton Dyer. It represents one of his earliest commissions. Among Dyer's significant commissions were the Cleveland City Hall, the Peerless Motor Car factory and the Coast Guard Station.

Locomotive Fueling Station Five Ton Yard Cantilever, with Wide Pier, for Handling Structural Material
Locomotive Fueling Station and Five Ton Yard Cantilever, both products of the Brown Hoisting Company. (Cleveland Plain Dealer May 22, 1902, page 13)

The Brown Hoist (or Brown Hoisting) Company was founded in Cleveland in 1885. They became the largest company in the world dealing exclusively in cranes and materials handling machinery, filling orders for all types of industry. In 1900, a fire destroyed the factory.

Soon after the fire, work began on a new, fireproof plant. As of January 25, 1901, the remains of the original structure had been condemned. It was expected to take 30 days to create the plans and another two to three months for the construction. (Plain Dealer, January 25, 1901, page 2) They took the opportunity to expand their manufacturing operations, with the purchase of land on Hamilton Avenue on March 5, 1901. (Plain Dealer, March 6, 1901, pages 6 and 10)

Alexander Brown, vice president of the company, wanted to create a building material that was fireproof, lightweight and cheap. The process, called Ferroinclave, was first used in this building. Eric Johannesen, in Cleveland Architecture, 1876-1976 (page 43) describes the material, which "Consisted of corrugated steel sheets formed by alternating Z-angles into dovetails, covered on both sides with cement." He notes that "This idea was also the origin of the steel-formed stairs with cement treads which are a part of standard building practice seventy-five years later."

The nature of the base material is illustrated here, in Brown's patent application.

In May, 1901, a permit was pulled for the new factory building, with the cost estimated at $200,000. (Plain Dealer May 19, 1901, page 18) When completed, the building was to be the largest in the county. (November 11, 1901, page 8)

In July, a permit was pulled for a new office building for the company, to be made of brick, stone and iron. The estimated cost was $50,000. The article added that "The present office building is located on the corner of Belden and Hamilton streets and has been for some time entirely too small for the demand. The building will be 113 feet front by 140 feet in depth, with a highly ornamental front." (July 14, 1901, page 17) By August, however, the company decided to build a less extensive office building, revising downward the estimate to $20,000, and pulling a new permit. (August 4, 1901, page 17)

Brown-Hoist Building

J. Milton Dyer was responsible for this part of the complex as well. (May 22, 1902, page 14 and October 7, 1903, page 12) The contractor was one H. Scheeler. (December 7, 1902, page 16) A grand opening and dance for the office building were held on Friday, June 20, 1902. (June 21, 1902, page 3) The building, at 4403 St. Clair Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, still stands.

Birdseye View of the Mammoth Plant of the Brown Hoisting Machinery Co.

This rendering of the Brown Hoist complex was published in the Plain Dealer on May 22, 1902. (Page 13) The artist was looking north northwest. At the far left, the office building is visible, including the unbuilt rear wing. Behind it, the drafting shop is visible, and behind that, the factory. This angle illustrates the form of the factory building in a way that my photographs cannot.

An article in the Plain Dealer on May 22, 1902 (page 14) describes the factory building. "The main shop covers about 156,000 square feet of ground, constituting one large room without a single partition. The roofs are supported by heavy steel columns placed at intervals of about forty to seventy feet. The shop is composed of seven compartments or bays, each of which is equipped with huge traveling cranes of twenty to thirty tons capacity. The entire structure has a floorspace fully double that of the old shop and it is estimated that with the largely increased facilities the annual output of the company will be three times as large as formerly." After describing the fireproof constriction, it continues "The plant is lighted by electricity, which power is also utilized in propelling the great cranes, and an improved system of heating and ventilating by underground conduits has been installed. Among the other buildings forming a part of this enormous plant may be mentioned the power house, equipped with the latest improved electric machinery; the pattern shop, pattern stores and store room. The rear yard from which shipping is done is provided with two large traveling cantilevers. The offices of the company front on St. Clair street and occupy one of the most elegant office buildings in the city."

Eric Johannesen called the Brown-Hoist building a "landmark in both structure and architecture." (Cleveland Architecture 1876-1976, page 43) Mary-Peale Schofield, in Landmark Architecture of Cleveland, said that it was "As striking today as it was in 1906". (page 140)

This historic structure remains in use today, as an industrial warehouse. It's an important piece of our industrial heritage. If you find yourself in the area, stop and take a look. It's impressive.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Progress! The Beckenbach Residence and St. George's Lithuanian Church

Photograph by Tim Barrett

Almost a year ago, I noticed that the Diocese of Cleveland was selling off a great 5,000 square foot 1870s house and a 1920s church, both sited on a parcel that amounted to almost three acres. In April, I wrote about the church and the house, with a more detailed look into the house in June.

I'd forgotten the matter. Recently, I saw that the property had been sold, in December, for a mere $35,000. This didn't give me much hope - it seemed awfully close to the value of the land less the cost of demolishing the historic house and church. Then I looked deeper, and saw what the new owners, Community Greenhouse Partners, had planned for the site.

Courtesy of Community Greenhouse Partners

Community Greenhouse Partners will be converting the church into offices and greenhouse space. Detailed plans may be found here.

I spoke with Community Greenhouse Partners executive director Timothy Smith, expressing my concerns about the significance of the house. He said,
"We absolutely plan on keeping the house. Our current plans are to keep it mothballed, as it needs significant work, but we're currently considering two plans, both of which involve having groups move into the space and having them rehab it in exchange for rent -- one is an intentional community of college grads doing community outreach, the other is a permaculture education organization."
Thes plans inspire hope in me, and suggest that there are plenty of unconventional uses for a property like this.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Stanley Block Landmark Hearing TOMORROW!

Photograph by Tim Barrett

Back in June, it came to the public attention that the historic Stanley Block had been condemned.

The Stanley Block is located at 2121 Ontario Street, on the east side of the street, between Prospect and High. It was built circa 1874. It is one of a few stone-faced commercial buildings of this vintage still standing in Cleveland.

The Stanley Block has had an interesting history, due partially to the ballroom on its top floor, where many meetings and events were held. More detail on these can be found in my initial story on the subject.

Previous efforts to designate the structure a landmark failed due to the opposition of the owner, who appears to want to demolish it. Now the city councilman associated with this ward is willing to override this opposition, in the public interest.

A public hearing will be held on the matter tomorrow (Thursday), March 3, 2011 at 1:00 pm in Room 6 of City Hall, 601 Lakeside Avenue. If you are unable to attend, please consider emailing Commission Secretary Robert D. Keiser ( or City Planner Donald J. Petit ( and let them know that you believe this historic structure is worth preserving.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cincinnati and Cleveland

The Taft Mansion, Cincinnati, Ohio

I came across this photograph of the Taft Mansion (now the Taft Museum of Art) in Louis August Weber's 1947 M.A. thesis, Architecture in Cincinnati Before 1845. It is used courtesy of the Ohio State University Book Depository.

Weber's thesis is an impressive work. It includes almost 160 black and white images, mostly original photographs taken by the author. Weber was clearly quite skilled with the view camera - the work appears to be of quite high quality. Further, it serves as a document of many structures that are no longer standing. I'm trying to find a way to justify scanning all of the photographs, and I probably will, for my personal reference. Tying them in to Cleveland area history is a bit more challenging.

Dunham Tavern

I bring up this Cincinnati structure because it reminds me of this image, of the Dunham Tavern and 6611 Euclid Avenue, the seven story industrial building behind it. Both the Dunham Tavern and the Taft Mansion were built at about the same time. The industrial structure seen next to the Taft Mansion remains, providing historical context and illustrating how the city has changed over time. As I've suggested before, it's important that we consider retaining the structure at 6611 Euclid Avenue, as context to the Dunham Tavern Museum.

The Dunham Tavern will be much less impressive as a survivor when we lose the physical manifestation of the changes that it lived through. We, the citizens, own 6611 Euclid Avenue, so it's up to us to let our elected leaders know our position on this matter.

It would surely be quite expensive to rehab - I dont' believe that rehabilitation is necessary. I suggest that an appropriate strategy would be to figure out how to stabilize the structure, so that it can remain a monument both to our early history and to our industrial past.