The ALLEN-SULLIVAN HOUSE, located at 7218 Euclid Ave. was built in 1887 for Richard N. Allen, railroad engineer who made a fortune in the railroad industry through his design and patent for the paper car wheel which provided quieter train travel for passengers. The paper car wheels were constructed of wrought iron or steel with compressed paper in the center held between two plate-iron discs. His invention revolutionized passenger railroad travel on sleeping and dining cars on trains in the 19th century. Allen and his brother-in-law founded the Allen Paper Wheel Company in 1868. In 1880, Allen returned to the city of Cleveland after he opened a factory in Chicago. The Allen’s chose a desirable area of Euclid Ave. whose residences included BRADLEY TRANSPORTATION magnate, Morris A. Bradley; WHOLESALE GROCER, Samuel F. Haserot; and J.H. Thorpe, Vice-President of Forest City Varnish Company (later GLIDDEN COATINGS & RESINS DIV.).
Allen and his wife Susan purchased the home of prominent attorney Ephraim J. Estep and lived in the house for several years. Becoming dissatisfied with the house, he demolished it for a new three-story 9,000 square foot Queen Anne style house in 1887. The new house towered over the property, with a large room on the top floor that was notable for an arrangement of windows. The house included turrets for decoration and a dramatic entryway with a substantial staircase leading to the upper floors. The property was transformed into an unmistakable display of wealth, but upon Allen’s death at the age of 63 in the early 1890s the house came up for sale.
The house was sold to prominent banker, JEREMIAH J. SULLIVAN when the Avenue was at its peak of wealth. The new residents of the East 71st – East 79th section included DAN R. HANNA, DAVID Z. NORTON, and AMBROSE SWASEY. Sullivan moved to Cleveland in the late 1880s and in 1890 he was one of the founders of Central National Bank of Cleveland (See BANKING). Sullivan was instrumental in bringing a FEDERAL RESERVE BANK to Cleveland. Sullivan married Selina J. Brown in 1873. They shared the Euclid Avenue house with three children—Helen, Selma, and Corliss. Shortly after his death in 1922, the Sullivan family moved out of the home to an English cottage style property in HUNTING VALLEY.
As EUCLID AVE. declined as a residential street the Allen-Sullivan House in 1923 was converted into an upscale furniture store known as the Josephine Shop. Josephine Beaubernard routinely traveled to Europe to select high end merchandise to offer for sale in her shop. The Josephine Shop was associated with the George H. Bowman Company, a fine furniture retailer in today’s Warehouse District. A 1923 ad published in the PLAIN DEALER promoted its grand opening. The grand entryway was converted into a decorative showroom with the addition of a large faux fireplace bordered by ceramic tile. The Josephine store operated in the house until 1931. In 1923, the garage on the property was rented out for auto storage, body, and repair work by the Service Motor Co. (later Euclid Services Co.) The garage was later torn down in 2021 for a proposed apartment complex.
By 1935 the house had become Grand Lodge or Fraternal Lodge of Ohio, order Sons of Italy (SOI) in America, an Italian-American fraternal organization, providing a venue for events of political controversy and incidents of illegal gambling. By 1933, 30 senior and 10 junior branches of the order developed in Cleveland—making the need for a grand lodge pertinent for SOI branch members to meet. The Sons of Italy paid $24,000 for the property. Frank Azzerelli was the architect of the three-story auditorium added to the rear of the house. A carriage house and one outbuilding on the property were demolished for the club’s addition. The addition cost $75,000 to build and could seat up to 200 people. The 2 June 1935 dedication ceremony held by SOI was attended by 15,000 local, state, and foreign dignitaries. The Italian ambassador, Augusto Russo, visited Ohio for the first time. A grand ball was held in the newly built auditorium in Russo’s honor for his two-day visit in Cleveland (See ITALIANS). A replica of the Lion of St. Mark crowned the brick arch main entrance to the lodge.
SOI occupied the house until 1946, when it became the headquarters for a national engineering company, American Society of Heating and Ventilating Engineers (today known as ASHRAE-American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers). The 18,000 square foot Allen-Sullivan house and its auditorium served as a national research laboratory and offices for ASRAE until 1961. A staff of 25 engineers, technicians, and aides worked at ASHREA. The laboratory in its 42-year-old history was pertinent for scientific, design, and technical journals. A tour of the facility was featured in a 1948 annual meeting held in Cleveland. From 1944 to 1945 George Tuve, CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY Dean of Engineering was chairman of the research committee.
The hall served as the Colosseum Night Club (later named the Coliseum Party Center) from 1964 to the late 1990s. The house was converted into a seven-family apartment building. Top notch entertainers Aretha Franklin and Sam & Dave performed at the Club. Nation of Islam’s, Khalid Abdul Muhammad delivered a controversial speech to 10 area Cleveland community and religious organizations in 1994 at the hall. In 1964, Mary and Benjamin Fisco, restored the house to the condition of when it existed as the SOI Grand Lodge. The hall was transformed into a main ballroom, colosseum, and fountain rooms. The Fisco’s founded the AAA Electric Sewer Cleveland Co. the first electronically operated sewer cleaning machines and drain cameras. The Fisco’s ran the party center until Benjamin Fisco’s death in the late 1990s.
In 2000, the house was abandoned except for an on-site caretaker and later fell into to disrepair. Five sublots including the Allen-Sullivan house were additionally purchased and assembled into a $3 million dollar property for sale. Signet Real Estate Group purchased the property to develop a city-approved apartment project. An attempt was made to save the Allen-Sullivan house by Signet Realty and the CLEVELAND RESTORATION SOCIETY to identify a buyer for the house. Land on the other side of Euclid Avenue was set aside by the City of Cleveland and offered the plot for the relocation of the Allen-Sullivan house. But no developers showed interest in the expensive task of restoring and relocating the property. In 29 June 2021, the Allen-Sullivan house was demolished. Signet salvaged architectural artifacts and incorporated them into a common room within the MidTown Foundry Lofts that sit on the site of the demolished house.
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Crain’s Cleveland Business. Midtown apartment plan might spur relocation of historic Euclid Avenue mansion. (2021).
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Pendergast, Ken. Euclid Avenue mansion may be razed for new development. (2020).
Pendergast, Ken. Millionaire’s Row mansion down to the 11th hour. (2021).
Perry, Richard. Benjamin Fisco. Plain Dealer: Leading Maker of Pipe-Cleaning. (1992).
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Wright, H.E. Technology and Culture: George Pullman and the Allen Paper Car Wheel. (1992).