Showing posts with label Cleveland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cleveland. Show all posts

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Farmhouse in the City

Greek Revival farmhouse

This house, at 1209 East 71st Street - just north of Superior - has been on my radar for a long time. In fact, it was the subject of one of my very first stories here.

Try to imagine the house as it was at the time it was built, 160 years ago. Remove the porch. The house would have sat on a rise, a couple of steps leading up to the front door. The windows on the front of the house, on the first floor, had a somewhat ornate trim, as did the front door. The windows, two over two, would have been flanked by shutters, perhaps in dark green, in contrast to the white of the house.

Clemen N. Jagger residence

The color scheme might have been something along the lines of the Clemen N. Jagger residence, now at Hale Farm and Village. The first floor windows on the front might have had panels underneath, like this structure, or they might have been triple-hung - what I do know is that the original window trim extended downward to a line even with the bottom of the doorframe.

It was a simple structure, but with good proportions, on a relatively small (ten acre) lot.

Greek Revival house - foundation detail

On the exterior, the house has plenty to tell us. The foundation, now covered with a layer of paint, bears the tool marks of the people who quarried and cut it.

Hand-hewn timbers

While most of the framing for the house was cut in a sawmill, the largest timbers were hewn by hand. One can be seen here, underneath a bit of trim.

Siding detail, W. Lewis residence

A closer look at the front of the house illustrates the flush siding - an uncommon detail. One can also see, in the paint, the outline of the trim that originally flanked the windows - a helpful piece of information for the party that chooses to fix up this house.

This house plays a signficant role in illustrating the way this neighborhood changed and grew over time.

William Lewis was born on 3 April 1809, in Westport St. Mary, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England. His wife, Mary Anne Ponting Lewis, was born 1814, also in England. In 1847, they immigrated to the United States with their four children: Thomas (born 1838); George (born 1840); Jane (born about 1842); and Edward (born about 1845). By 1850, they were farming in East Cleveland, Ohio. (Sources: Find a Grave records for William Lewis and Mary Anne Ponting Lewis, 1850 and 1860 US Census).

1209 East 71st street Google Maps

In September, 1852, they purchased, for $500, a ten acre parcel facing Becker Avenue - now East 71st Street. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 185312190004 ) The parcel extended eastward to what is now East 79th Street. The original property is shown in blue on this map - the location of the house, in green.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10 October 1897, page 4. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

The seller was one Edward Lewis, also from Wiltshire, England. He had risen to prominence within the iron and steel industry by the time this portrait was made, in 1897. His relationship, if any, with William Lewis is unclear.

At the price, it's plausible that the house had just been built - especially if Edward Lewis was a relative and was giving William a good deal. If not, the house was built soon after.

The 1860 US Census lists two more children: William (born about 1848) (henceforth William, Jr.) and Benjamin (born about 1851). It's unclear why William, Jr. wasn't numerated in the 1850 census.

William Lewis died July 30, 1854, at the age of 45. He was buried in Woodland Cemetery. I have not been able to locate any documentation as to the cause of death. (Find a Grave William Lewis.)

View of the Ohio State Fair Grounds, 1856
View of the Ohio State Fair Grounds, 1856. A hand-colored print (1856) by Klauprech & Menzel. Used courtesy of the Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps.

The family would have likely attended the 1856 Ohio State Fair, held just a mile and a quarter to the east.

By 1858, there were neighbors on either side, both occupying similarly sized (and shaped) lots. The family remained at this house, and by 1860, the value of the property was listed as $4,000.

Used courtesy of the National Archives,, and Cleveland Public Library.

Thomas Lewis and George Lewis both registered for the draft in 1863. Their occupation is listed as "gardener". How this is different from "farmer", which appears far more frequently, is unclear.

Mary Lewis died 11 December 1863. She was buried alongside her husband at Woodland Cemetery. (Find a Grave: Mary Anne Ponting Lewis)

George Lewis and Jane Lewis transferred their shares in the property to Thomas Lewis, in 1863. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 186302250002)

Thomas Lewis married Amelia Gibbs. They raised several children in the house: Celia Jane Lewis (born 23 October 1865); Frank J. Lewis (born 1866); William E. Lewis (born July, 1870); Thomas E. Lewis (born 9 July 1873); Charles A. Lewis (born January, 1878); and Sarah E. Lewis (born December, 1879). Arthur Lewis, born November 1875, died the following month, from whooping cough.

By 1874, the area was becoming more developed. The Lewis children would have attended a brick schoolhouse, built at the corner of what is now Carl Avenue and Addison Road, a walk of abuot a fifth of a mile.

The best frame Italianate house on the east side

The larger farm lots were beginning to be split up to build residences. Some were massive, grand structures, like this house, at 6512 Superior, which I've written about in detail. (See: The best frame Italianate house I've seen in Cleveland and Threatened: The best frame Italianate house on Cleveland's east side)

Italianate house on Superior

On the opposite side of the street, the Beckenback residence has a similarly interesting story. Like the house facing it, it retains significant interior detail.

The biggest change to the immediate surroundings came in the form of the Lakeview, Collamer, and Euclid Railway, which ended just a couple hundred feet up Becker Avenue (now East 71st Street).

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 23 June 1876, page 4. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8 May 1880, page 4. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

449 Camp Gilbert
Residence and Grounds of George Gilbert, Esquire, Euclid Station, Ohio. From the 1874 Lake Atlas of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

Passengers might have used the railway to visit Camp Gilbert, at the mouth of Euclid Creek.

The following clipping, in addition to illustrating storm damage (front page news!) provides us with a vital bit of history - this house did, in fact, have shutters.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 16 December 1876, page 1. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10 February 1877, page 4. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

This quantity - an unknown portion of the Lewis flock - strongly suggests that at least part of their income came from selling either eggs or chickens.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 13 April 1880, page 5. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

This purchase suggests that the railway was busy.

A beer garden was built at the railway terminal - next door to the Lewis house. As this 1885 article suggests, it caused some problems.

There's nothing useful that I can say about the following articles.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 13 July 1885, page 1. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 14 July 1885, page 1. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 14 July 1885, page 3. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1 October 1885, page 3. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

In 1885, Celia Lewis married John Moser in a ceremony at the Lewis family home. John Moser moved in to the house, where they had two children: Grace M. Moser (born 1886) and John Lewis Moser (born 1887).

The Lewis / Moser family remained in the house through the end of the 19th century. The ten acre lot was gradually split into smaller and smaller peices, as this became a residential neighborhood. In 1900, Amelia Lewis sold the house to Eliza and William Lehmann. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 190003230029)

In the next article, we'll see how this house (and the neighborhood) changed during the course of the 20th century.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New Find! First* Painting of Cleveland in Color!

Lake Erie, From Cleveland
Lake Erie, From Cleveland. A watercolor painting (July, 1833) by Seth Eastman. Used courtesy of Sloans and Kenyon Auctioneers and Appraisers, Bethesda, Maryland.

When I think about downtown Cleveland and the mouth of the Cuyahoga, images of industry and commerce come to mind. While I know it wasn't always this way, this area has so long been the heart of the city it's hard to imagine it otherwise. Even Thomas Whelpley's four views of the city, published in 1834, show a quickly-growing city.

It's for that very reason that this watercolor, made by Seth Eastman in July, 1833, is so special - it represents the earliest detailed painting I'm aware of of the mouth of the Cuyahoga River.

Eastman probably came through Cleveland en route from Fort Snelling, in Minnesota, to West Point, New York, where he had received a teaching appointment. He appears to have been looking west from what is now the intersection of West Sixth Streets and Lakeside Avenue.

In the foreground, to the right, there's a group of five Native Americans, said to be Iroquois. A few people sit on the hillside, where a row of fenceposts is visible. Closer to the river are a couple of buildings, one of which appears to be a log house. On the river, there are what could be canal boats. The pier and harbor light are also present. The hill at the mouth of the Cuyahoga, on the west bank, had not yet been flattened. A steamship, with a cloud of black smoke, sails on Lake Erie. In the distance, we see what would come to be called the "Gold Coast."

These things are all significant.

There are almost no historic images of Native Americans in Ohio. Of those, virtually all were either made years after the fact, based on memory and conjecture or were made by artists who hadn't seen the people in question. I can't think of another painting (within the scope of my current research - before 1866) that documents Native Americans in Ohio at the time the painting was made.

The presence of a log building is also notable - there are very few known in northern Ohio. While there were a good number built (though not in such numbers as in the southern part of the state) they would have usually been covered with siding as soon as was practical, as a matter of fashion and appearance.

Further, this painting documents Cleveland at a point just before it underwent a major transformation. With the completion of the Ohio and Erie Canal, Cleveland and the interior of Ohio were opened up to commerce. The cost of shipping goods dropped considerably. Cuyahoga County's population would more than double between 1830 and 1840. It would almost double again by 1850. The landscape illustrated here would soon be gone.

Cleveland, 1853
Cleveland, 1853 A hand colored lithograph (1853) by B.F. Smith, after a drawing by J.W. Hill. Published by Smith Bros. & Co. Used courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society. Reproduced from Bird's Eye Views: Historic Lithographs of North American Cities by John W. Reps.

This view, made 20 years later, from the west bank of the Cuyahoga, looking east, shows the magnitude of the change. While the west bank still has plenty of vacant land, the east side and downtown are mostly built up. Warehouses line the banks of the Cuyahoga River. To the right, we see both the Cuyahoga River and the narrower Ohio and Erie Canal.

Cleveland, Ohio, From Brooklyn Hill Looking East
Cleveland, Ohio, From Brooklyn Hill Looking East. A hand-colored etching (1834) by Thomas Whelpley. Engraved by Milo Osborne. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

The point from where Seth Eastman made the watercolor is illustrated in this 1834 print, Cleveland, Ohio, From Brooklyn Hill Looking East.

Whelpley detail
Detail, Cleveland, Ohio, From Brooklyn Hill Looking East. A hand-colored etching (1834) by Thomas Whelpley. Engraved by Milo Osborne. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

This detail, taken from the left side of the print, illustrates the location more clearly. Eastman's vantage point is indicated by the red arrow. Note the row of fenceposts, illustrated in the painting, to the left of the arrow. The yellow arrow indicates the location of the Cleveland lighthouse.

Harbor Light
Detail, Lake Erie, From Cleveland. A watercolor painting (July, 1833) by Seth Eastman. Used courtesy of Sloans and Kenyon Auctioneers and Appraisers, Bethesda, Maryland.

It's worth noting the presence of the harbor light, at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. This structure was likely completed a year or two earlier.

[Cleveland harbor]
[Cleveland harbor] A print (1837) by Charles Whittlesey. Published in the Annual report on the geological survey of the State of Ohio (1837). Used courtesy of Ohio State University and the Internet Archive.

The pier upon which the harbor light was built is illustrated, top and center, in this drawing - letter "F". There's a square, on the right (east) side of the river that provided the foundation for the structure.

Cleveland Lighthouse on the Lake Erie
Cleveland Lighthouse on the Lake Erie. A hand-colored engraving (1839) by Pierre Eugène I. Aubert, after a drawing by Karl Bodmer. Published in Reise in das innere Nord-America in den Jahren 1832 bis 1834 (1839) by Maximilian Wied. Used courtesy of the Beinecke Library, Yale University.

I've often heard suggested that this 1839 print, based on preliminary drawings and/or paintings made in 1834, doesn't actually portray the Cleveland lighthouse. What then, I ask, does it portray? The response tends to be a mumble that it's probably somewhere else.

It's been pointed out that the structure in the print doesn't look like the Cleveland lighthouse, nor is it located up on the hill like the Cleveland lighthouse was - see the point noted by the yellow arrow above.

Seth Eastman's painting, combined with Charles Whittlesey's map of the harbor seem to indicate that Karl Bodmer's print, Cleveland Lighthouse on the Lake Erie, does, in fact, depict a Cleveland scene. It's just that the structure being illustrated isn't the lighthouse but rather, the harbor light. Perhaps this was a translation issue.

Bodmer's vantage point appears to have been from the west bank of the Cuyahoga. It's worth noting that the physical relationship between the ship and the harbor light appears to be about the same in Seth Eastman's painting and Karl Bodmer's print. What does this mean? I do not know.

View of Inscription Rock on South side of Cunningham Island, Lake Erie
View of Inscription Rock on South side of Cunningham Island, Lake Erie. A print (1852) The print is based on a drawing by Seth Eastman created in 1850.
C. E. Wagstaff & J. Andrews (Engraver) Published in Historical and statistical information respecting the history, condition, and prospects of the Indian tribes of the United States; collected and prepared under the direction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs per act of Congress of March 3rd, 1847, Volume 2 (1852) by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. Image used courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society.

Seth Eastman is best known for the work he did portraying Native Americans - the greatest bulk of which appeared in Henry Rowe Schoolcraft's Historical and Statistical Information, Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, published in the 1850s. This view of Kelley's Island is one such image.

Sculptured Inscriptions on Rock, South Side Of Cunningham's Island, Lake Erie
Sculptured Inscriptions on Rock, South Side Of Cunningham's Island, Lake Erie. A pen and ink drawing (October 10, 1850) by Seth Eastman. Reproduced from Seth Eastman: A Portfolio of North American Indians (1995) by Sarah E. Boehme, Christian F. Feest, and Patricia Condon Johnston.

His record of Inscripion Rock on Kelley's Island, the original drawing for which is shown here, remains the best document that we have of this important, but now rather eroded, pictograph group.

Inscription Rock, North Side of Cunningham's Is., Lake Erie
Inscription Rock, North Side of Cunningham's Is., Lake Erie. A print (1852) by Seth Eastman, from a sketch made October 12, 1850. Published in Historical and statistical information respecting the history, condition, and prospects of the Indian tribes of the United States; collected and prepared under the direction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs per act of Congress of March 3rd, 1847, Volume 2 (1852) by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. Used courtesy of Cornell University Library and the Internet Archive.

Another boulder, now lost, inscribed with pictographs was present on the north shore of Kelley's Island, near the present state park campground.

Eastman's documentation of the island also included two earthworks.

Cleveland, Ohio Grocery Store
Cleveland, Ohio Grocery Store [John Smith Grocer]. A drawing (October 9, 1850) by Seth Eastman. Used courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

In the course of his travels, Seth Eastman made drawings of the cities he passed through, along with other items not relating to the subject of his research. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has drawings by Eastman of Fairport Harbor and Sandusky, in addition to this one, of a grocer on the Cuyahoga River, in Cleveland.

After the initial discovery of this painting wore off, I started to suspect that the watercolor painting, Lake Erie, From Cleveland, might have been made in the 1850s, based partially on his observations in the 1830s. I couldn't locate any works this early by Seth Eastman, and the combination of factors in this painting - the portrayal of the landscape and the presence of Native Americans, among others - just seemed too good to be true.

So I did more research. I found that the layout of the harbor is consistent with Cleveland in 1833. The number and nature of buildings corresponds reasonably with Whelpley's print of a year later. And the improvements made in the 1840s are not present. Further, the technique of the painting is not as refined as Eastman's later works.

I'm confident, now, that Lake Erie, From Cleveland depicts Cleveland in July of 1833. It provides a rare glimpse into the landscape of this region as it used to be.

This watercolor is to be auctioned at Sloans and Kenyon this Sunday. Their estimate is $80,000-$150,000 - meaning that the bidding will likely start at $40,000.

* The Seth Pease 1796 map of Cleveland (see a drawing based upon said map) features a tent with a couple men situated by the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. However, this appears, to my eyes, to be merely added as a visual device, rather than an attempt to illustrate the location. For that reason, I don't count it as a painting of the city.

Correction: Janice B. Patterson, author of Cleveland's Lighthouses, pointed out to me that where I said "breakwater", I meant "pier". I corrected the two instances of this term. She noted that "There were no breakwaters in the 1830s -- they were built in the 1870s. I think what you are calling a breakwater was actually just a wooden pier, built on pilings and possibly reinforced with stones."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hiding on the Near West Side

Over the weekend, I was driving around the near west side of Cleveland. My purpose was twofold. I needed to keep the kids entertained (our visit to the art museum had lasted but 45 minutes) and I wanted to check out a house, said to have been built in 1865, owned by someone that I went to high school with. Said house is undergoing a full-gut rehab, and I was hoping, if the date was indeed 1865, to be able to better document construction techniques.

3012 Barber Avenue (rear)
Then, I came across this house, peeking out from behind another, at 3012 Barber Avenue. Based on the style, it seems to have been built around 1840-1850. A better look reveals a bit of detail, but not much – it’s all hidden underneath vinyl siding.

3012 Barber Avenue (rear)
The foundation appears to be made from rusticated concrete blocks, which replaced the original stone blocks. This means either that it was moved at some point or that something happened (deterioration of the original foundation, for instance) that made it require a new foundation.

This house is of a style not often seen in greater Cleveland – and for that reason, it’s especially interesting. The I.T. Frary photograph collection at the Ohio Historical Society contains a couple similar structures.

House, North of Wellington, Ohio. 1923.
House, North of Wellington, Ohio. 1923. Print 1755, a photograph by I.T. Frary, in the collections of the Ohio Historical Society. [19566 State Route 58, Wellington, OH.]
This one features a front porch. The house on Barber Avenue might have had one – it’s impossible to know without getting inside the structure. (Note that the front windows on this house appear to have been replaced with much wider ones than would have been original, likely in the early 20th century.)

2612 - House
2612 - House. Between Shalersville and Freedom, Ohio. 1926. A photograph by I.T. Frary. Scanned from a photocopy of an original in the I.T. Frary Audiovisual Collection at the Ohio Historical Society.
Another, seen here, lacks a porch, but instead has a small awning, which is likely original. The lattice work on it, however, is not. Such awnings were often lost, as they, like all porches, tend to deteriorate more quickly than the rest of the houses that they are attached to. One would have to remove the vinyl siding on the house on Barber to determine if such an awning existed originally.

To get a better idea as to just how old the house might be, I turned to the 1881 Atlas of Cleveland, Ohio.

Plate 19, 1881 Atlas of Cleveland, Ohio
Detail of Plate 19, 1881 Atlas of Cleveland, Ohio. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.
The house should be approximately where the bright green box is – but there’s nothing there. Further, there aren’t any other obviously square houses nearby that might have been moved here.

View Larger Map
To better illustrate the landscape, here’s a map showing the same approximate area now.

Where was this house moved from? What other stories does it tell? They’re worth investigating – especially if said investigation involves historic photos or removal of the existing vinyl siding.

Friday, February 3, 2012

URGENT! Langston Hughes House is Being "Demolished"

UPDATE (4:00 pm, February 3, 2012) The situation is not completely as I understood it to be - and I apologize for the confusion. The porch is going to be rebuilt - it was removed due to the failure of the foundation. The woodwork is still all being removed, to be replaced with identical - it's an issue of lead abatement - and it is still in the dumpster. There will be an in-depth follow-up on Monday.

Langston Hughes, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, had his first works published while a student at Cleveland's Central High School. At this time (his sophomore and junior years) he lived alone, in the attic of 2266 East 86th Street, in Cleveland's Fairfax neighborhood.

When I learned that the house had been forclosed upon and was sitting vacant, back in 2009, I worked to bring public attention to the structure. These efforts resulted in coverage on National Public Radio's All Things Considered and in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The structure was made a designated Cleveland Landmark. All these efforts led to Fairfax Renaissance assuming ownership and management of the rehabilitation, with the intent of offering it to a low to moderate income family at a reasonable mortgage - an idea solution.

Progress was being made. The plans for the renovation were approved by the Cleveland Landmarks Commission and it looked as though things were proceeding well.

Then, yesterday, I drove by the house, and was shocked at what I saw.

Langston Hughes house - under renovation
A look through the window openings this morning confirmed my worst fears: the house had been gutted to the studs, with all traces of the original building material, save for the staircase, gone. Where has it gone? Likely to the two large dumpsters, full to the brim, in the vacant lot next door.

Detail of a photograph, used courtesy of the Cuyahoga County Archives.
The most obvious loss is the front porch, which was original to the house.

Langston Hughes residence
Most of the components of the porch remained, in good condition, when I last photographed the house. It was to be repaired, not removed - and I'm sure that the Landmarks Commission will do whatever is necessary to ensure that it is rebuilt. The staff of the commission will be meeting with Fairfax Renaissance next week to discuss replacement window options, and the porch will be addressed at that time. Of course, it will be much harder to do this if the lumber that made up the porch is in the aforementioned dumpsters, which I fear will be emptied soon.

Langston Hughes house - living room
Unfortunately, the jurisdiction of the Landmarks Commission is limited to the exterior. Original doors, crown moulding, and trim, shown here, have all been removed.

Langston Hughes house - stairs
Note how nicely the crown moulding and trim around the doorway complements the stairs - the only remaining bit of original woodwork - and imagine what pictures might have hung from the integral picture rail.

Langston Hughes house - den and living room
The trim and the doors here, too, are gone.

Hot air vent, Langston Hughes house Gas light fixture, Langston Hughes house
And then there are the little things, the furnace hot air vent and the remains of an old, disused gas light fixture - these are the details make a house unique.

What can you do?

My primary concern - is that the fabric that makes this house special will be lost, and most likely soon - as the dumpsters look due to be emptied.

How much use do the barely accessible spaces in your attic get? Very little, most likely. They seem, to me, the perfect place to store historic building materials until their importance can be realized.

Got some free time this weekend? Consider visiting the site. Ask the construction workers present for permission to remove some of this significant historic material from the dumpsters. With their permission, take it home. Make note that it came from this house, so that you or someone else will be able to return it here when more sensible minds prevail.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cleveland Historic Schools Feasibility Study

Cleveland School of the Arts

With so much discussion of late regarding the demolition of historic Cleveland schools - most notably, of John Marshall High School and of the Cleveland School of the Arts - it seems worthwhile to look at why these buildings are being demolished.

I recently obtained a copy of Cleveland Historic Schools Feasibility Study, a report created by the Cleveland Restoration Society in 2006. Although the cost and population estimates have both changed since that date, the general numbers as well as the conclusions remain valid and worth taking a look at. In fact, if you care at all about preserving historic schools anywhere in Ohio, this is essential reading.

To quote the introduction to the document:
The Cleveland Restoration Society (CRS) undertook the Cleveland Historic Schools Feasibility Study as a means to better understand the guidelines used by the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC), the state agency in Ohio that oversees and funds school building projects. Our goal was to examine four historic school buildings currently scheduled for demolition in the Cleveland Municipal School District Facilities Master Plan to determine if these buildings could be renovated to meet current educational standards and still receive full funding from OSFC.

The four schools covered: William Cullen Bryant; Albert Bushnell Hart; Audubon; and Robert Fulton, are evaluated in detail, with illustrations of their merits and liabilities. Full architectural renderings, including floor plans of existing and proposed conditions are provided.

A few surprises caught my attention:
  • Demolition and environmental abatement costs are not included in the the OSFC's replacement costs.
  • The OSFC's estimates of the square footage of the buildings is higher (in once case, considerably higher) than the actual square footage, resulting in the OSFC estimating rehab costs to be considerably higher than they should be. How much higher?
    • 34% (William Cullen Bryant)
    • 11% (Albert Bushnell Hart)
    • 8% (Audubon)
    • 23% (Robert Fulton)

The CRS sums up the findings of the report far better than I can, so I'll quote them directly:
These proposed design solutions demonstrate that historic school buildings can be successfully renovated to meet 21st century standards and to provide a high level of educational adequacy. We can preserve these neighborhood landmarks and not only have
schools that are just as good as new, but better than new because of the materials, craftsmanship, and artistry that have been handed down to us
that we could not afford to replicate today. Not only can be have facilities that are better than new, we can save significant resources by
preserving older buildings. The Cleveland Municipal School District can save $17.1 million dollars by preserving the four buildings presented
in this study. We hope this cost savings will convince district administrators to reconsider using renovation and new additions as an alternative to replacing many of the City’s significant historic school buildings.

Please, take a look at the Cleveland Historic Schools Feasibility Study - if we're to preserve these historic buildings, we need to understand the financial issues behind their repair or replacement.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Inside Our Most Important Early Industrial Landmark

The Luster Tannery

Luster Tannery

In March of 2010, I provided a detailed history of the Luster Tannery, a finely-crafted stone building at 16360 Euclid Avenue. The structure, built circa 1850, was used for tanning animal hides into leather. Samuel Luster chose this location to built the tannery because of the proximity to Nine Mile Creek, which he divereted to provide the water needed for the tanning vats in the basement.

The building is especially large, given the time it was built - about 4400 square feet - twice as large (or more) than any stone building (churches excepted) this old in Cleveland or any of the immediately surrounding communities. It was surely a major landmark when built - and today, represents an important landmark of the transition between an agricultural and industrial economy. It is, quite simply, the most important unrecognized 19th century structure in Cuyahoga County.

When I first wrote about it, I noted that the building seemed abandoned, and that the back taxes, now more than $30,000, were the biggest obstacle to doing anything with the property.

The biggest obstacle I faced, however, was that I had no idea as to the interior condition of the property. What did it look like? What historic details remained? How could this information help me to better illuminate this significant piece of our history?

First floor, front room, Luster Tannery

A couple of Cleveland Area History readers did a considerable amount of legwork and tracked down the owner of the property and obtained the owner's permission to go inside. Further, these colleagues found someone with a key to the building!

I'd been waiting for this day for ages. I knew that the tannery itself would reveal all sorts of heretofore details, and that the clues present would help explain so many unanswered questions. The way the basement was built would help reveal the path of the diverted stream. Perhaps the tanning vats, too difficult to remove, would still be present!

Structural detail, attic, Luster Tannery

My quest for historic detail took me to the attic. Here, part of the original structure was revealed - in the form of a beam cut out to make for more storage space. This was not an isolated case - it was done to most of the beams supporting the roof. Said beams were replaced with lighter-weight lumber, which, with one exception (where there was a leak)seemed to be holding up well.

Structural detail, attic, Luster Tannery

Other structural details were revealed here - though I'm not sure quite what they mean.

Astute readers will notice that I haven't talked much about the rest of the interior. That's because, while I have plenty of photographs, there really isn't much to see. The interior has been remodeled so many times that much of the historic detail has been obliterated. Even the ceiling joists on the first and second floors are replacements.

The basement, which I had such high hopes for, is covered with concrete block. Elsewhere, walls are covered by paneling or drywall, concealing some part of the story.

In some ways, the lack of remaining detail might be seen as an asset - as one might make it serve any number of uses without loss of historic material. That said, I'm sure that, underneath the various remodelings, there's original material that will help tell the story of the Luster Tannery - and whoever does the demolition will need to be sensitive to this.

This building could be repurposed in any number number of ways while retaining its historic presence.

View The Luster Tannery in a larger map

This map may help to illustrate the landscape as it was in 1926. In red there's the Luster Tannery, on the parcels currently owned by Immaculate Dry Cleaning. In blue, one can see Nine Mile Creek, coming down from the Heights and then heading under Euclid Avenue. (At an unknown date, but before 1950, Nine Mile Creek was put into a culvert and covered with fill.)

Nine Mile Creek was not a tiny stream. If the scale on the Sanborn fire insurance maps I've utized is correct (and I have no reason to believe it isn't - they're generally quite accurate), it was a good 20+ feet wide.

Detail of concrete block wing, Luster Tannery

Try to imagine the tannery itself as it might have been then. The first floor would have had a row of windows, just like the second floor. And below the first floor, there would have been another story! This basement, half exposed on the hillside, is where the tanning vats would have been located. The stream would have been diverted through the wall at one point and out at another. This structure is probably all still present - it's just covered by dirt and fill.

Here's my vision: A new owner could obtain the tannery, at very low cost, through the Cuyahoga County Land Bank. He or she would replace the roof and gutters and remove the additions to the structure, as they are now quite deteriorated.

Over time, as they became available, he or she could obtain the other parcels that make up this block, bordered by Euclid, Hillsboro, and Belvoir - an acre all told. After removing the existing structures on the other parcels, the new owner could remove the fill that's been added over the years, daylighting Nine Mile Creek and revealing the hidden parts of the tannery.

You'd have a historic structure and the recreation of a historic landscape - it's an intresting vision. Further, you'd be almost next door to the most impressive early cemetery in the city or any of the inner-ring suburbs - First Presbyterian (Nelaview). Surely some benefit could come from the proximity between the cemetery and this industrial landmark.