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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

ARCHITECTURE, RESIDENTIAL

ARCHITECTURE, RESIDENTIAL

ARCHITECTURE, RESIDENTIAL. Throughout the city's history, the residential architecture of Cleveland has generally followed the trends of the rest of the nation. It cannot be said that Cleveland produced a distinctive architects' style like Chicago's Prairie style, or a characteristically regional style like that of the San Francisco Bay area. However, the character and quality of its residential architecture are comparable with the best examples of the same type anywhere. The most characteristic residential contributions have probably been in 3 areas: PUBLIC HOUSING, early 20th-century suburban homes, and the common detached neighborhood houses.

From the settlement of Cleveland in 1796 to the opening of the Cleveland-Akron section of the OHIO & ERIE CANAL in 1827, homes represented little that could be dignified by the name of architecture. The original settlers built log houses, and in 1810 there were only 3 frame houses. However, by 1830 the town began to acquire the appearance of a New England village, with numerous neat clapboarded houses based on Late Colonial vernacular practice. The only survival from this era is the DUNHAM TAVERN, which was then far out on the Buffalo Rd. The growth of the village into a mercantile town at the terminus of the canal coincided with the spread of the Greek Revival style; moreover, Cleveland boasted a handful of first-rate master builders. During the 1830s and 1840s, many homes were erected that were the equal in every sense of those in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. The characteristic feature of the Greek Revival, a full 2-story classic temple portico, appeared on many Euclid Ave. homes. Usually of 4 columns, the porticoes were either Doric (Erastus Gaylord house, 1836) or Ionic (Geo. Worthington house, 1852) in style, and usually the central colonnaded block was flanked by symmetrical wings.

Two other domestic revival styles appeared in Cleveland's homes before the Civil War, the Gothic and the Italianate. The former style could be rendered either as a Gothic cottage based on the pattern books of A. J. Downing (Thos. Bolton house, 1846), or as a pretentious stone mansion (Henry B. Payne house, 1849). The Italianate, Tuscan, or "bracketed" style achieved a far more widespread usage. It appeared in Cleveland as early as 1849 and was executed both as a Tuscan villa with a square tower (Jacob Perkins house, 1853) and as a squarish Italianate block with a cupola (Hurlbut house, 1855). The most extravagant and lushly ornamented house of this style was Amasa Stone's (1858). All of these houses have been razed. In the Civil War era, the introduction of a mansard roof on some of the late Italianate houses gave them a "French" look, but for some reason the Second Empire style never gained a strong foothold in Cleveland. Examples are the John D. Rockefeller (1866) and Anson Stager houses (1863). The latter, now the home of the UNIV. CLUB, is the only Euclid Ave. mansion remaining from the first three-quarters of the century.

The street reached its heyday during the late Victorian period. The homes of the giant industrialists transformed Euclid Ave. from a picturesque Western Reserve street into "Millionaires Row." Great houses, later called "monstrosities," rose in the High Victorian Gothic, Queen Anne, Richardsonian, Romanesque, and various eclectic styles. The diversity of the mansions, unified by the generous setbacks, wide, spacious lawns, and tree-lined roadway, provided a display of 19th-century architectural styles equaled by few cities in America. However, the mansions of Euclid Ave. did not represent the entire picture of housing in a growing industrial city. The typical smaller homes of tradesmen, artisans, and factory laborers in the mid-19th century were in the common vernacular building style, which consisted of frame houses with a simple gable outline and a small stoop, or, less commonly, brick houses with stone lintels over doors and windows. These types were indistinguishable from the rural farmhouses being built in the Western Reserve countryside at the same time. There were very few row houses in the manner of eastern cities such as Philadelphia and Baltimore, which might be accounted for by the sense of unlimited space for expansion in the new West, and also by the greater distance from the European medieval tradition. In any case, the individual detached house was the rule and the row house the exception.

With the introduction of the railroads into the city and the development of heavy industry in the FLATS, the disintegration of some of the more central neighborhoods had already begun by the last quarter of the century. To accommodate the rapidly growing working-class population at the beginning of the 20th century, the speculative developer flourished. Platted subdivisions, usually no more than a few streets in one direction and 3 or 4 blocks in the other, were the pattern. Duplicate or nearly identical houses were erected on speculation, on narrow lots laid out to afford the greatest possible return to the builder, and sold on a mortgage. Neighborhoods throughout the city were completed in this way on the west and east sides alike, and by 1925 the city of Cleveland proper was practically built up to its final city limits.

Almost without exception, the developers' houses were wooden. The typical house was 2 1/ 2 stories. Sometimes variety was added by an overhanging attic gable, a window, or classical porch columns. Around World War I, this typical form became a 2-family house, with identical floorplans on each story, enabling the property owner to become an investor and a landlord. This type of income house became enormously popular and was endlessly duplicated throughout the city. Although many refer to these houses as "Cleveland doubles," there is no reason to suppose that the type was indigenous. At the same time, there was a sudden growth in the number of apartment buildings. Between 1900-10 alone, nearly 1,000 apartment buildings and terraces or row houses were built. They were seldom more than 4 stories tall, and usually were of brick and frame composite construction. Apartments were built in every style, from the simplest utilitarian block to ones with Queen Anne, Colonial, Tudor, or Spanish detail.

The first large movement to the suburbs began in the early 1890s. Suburban village developments were laid out simultaneously on the Overlook at the northwest edge of CLEVELAND HTS., in AMBLER HTS. between Cedar Hill and DOAN BROOK, and in CLIFTON PARK on the western end of LAKEWOOD. Bratenahl's Lakeshore Blvd. and the former lands of the Shakers on the Heights also began to be developed. Although the spirit of 19th-century eclecticism was still firmly established, the house of the prosperous suburbanite began to develop a new and distinctive style between 1900-10. Its form tended toward a longer horizontal block with a low, hipped roof and a broad imposing front. In a reaction to Victorian ostentation, the interior plan was designed for more informal and practical modern living. The entrance hall was a circulation area that led on one side to a living room centered on a fireplace, and on the other to a dining room. Beyond the living room was a sun porch, and somewhere was a study, den, or library for privacy. The garage was detached and treated as a stable in the rear. The foremost exponent of this style was the partnership of FRANK B. MEADE and JAS. M. HAMILTON (Joseph O. Eaton house, 1917).

In the 1920s, the development of this progressive American type was cut short by the resurgent popularity of eclecticism. This fact has been attributed to a desire for a style expressing stability and security, and architects turned to historical styles from every period. The result is the suburban streets where Tudor, French, American Colonial, English, and Spanish homes stand adjacent to one another to form an attractive ensemble (Fairmount Blvd., Cleveland Hts.). It was the period of the full development of SHAKER HTS. (1915-30), and these assemblages of eclectic homes constitute a domestic architecture located in planned residential suburbs that have never been surpassed for livability and good taste.

However, the modern style that first gained currency in the 1930s never captured the public imagination as an alternative for domestic living, remaining an architects' style and an experimental method. During the Depression, a number of individual experimental houses were built showing either stylistic elements of the International style (flat roofs and corner windows) or new structural methods (steel framing, wallboard, and porcelain enamel shingles). The first complete statement of the modern house in Greater Cleveland was the home of architect HAROLD B. BURDICK (see BURDICK HOUSE) in Cleveland Hts. (1938). It displayed a square geometric shape, glass block and plate glass windows, a lack of historical ornament, and several "streamlined" features. The extreme simplicity of the modern style influenced postwar suburban architecture to some extent, but the "pure"' modern style was bypassed by residential builders. Individual projects were built, especially architects' own homes such as those of Ernst Payer, Clyde Patterson, and Don Hisaka, and in the 1950s a unique private enclave of modern houses was completed in PEPPER PIKE. Located on a rural property that was not subject to the Van Sweringen Co.'s design restrictions, a dozen houses were designed by Robt. A. Little for a private cooperative community. The homes largely reflected the functionalist style promulgated by Gropius at Harvard. Apart from such isolated instances, however, the modern style made little impact on Cleveland's private residential architecture.

The chief manifestation of modernism was in Cleveland's pioneer public housing. The first public-housing projects authorized and begun by the federal government were built in Cleveland in 1935-37. The LAKEVIEW TERRACE project was especially remarkable for its successful adaptation to the irregular hillside facing the lake. The development became internationally known and has been called a milestone in the history of American architecture. The design of the 44 residential units was clearly influenced by the work of European modernist architects, especially in features such as windows arranged in horizontal bands, iron pipe railings, and the distinctive downturned hoods over the doorways. In the postwar period, the urban high-rise apartment became the standard for public-housing units. Regardless of the judgments that were made later on the failure of such densely populated blocks, Cleveland remained a leader in the provision of public housing under the leadership of ERNEST J. BOHN, director of the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority from 1933-68. Bohn achieved a national reputation for his work in Cleveland, and the housing estates built under his direction included 9,537 units.

After World War II, the new affluence of a growing middle class provided the means for thousands of families to seek a better home. The massive exodus to the suburbs in the 1950s made the suburban migrations of the 1910s seem like a mere trickle. The main directions of the movements were to the southwest and the southeast, and the most phenomenal growth took place in PARMA, Warrensville, and BROOK PARK. Unlike the older suburban homes, which were virtually without exception architect-designed, the 1950s suburban houses were builders' houses. Whether "Cape Cod," ranch-style, 2-story Colonial, or split-level, they consisted basically of a box or a set of boxes. Often the most distinguishing feature of these houses was the attached garage. This "packaged" housing provided homes for urban emigrants in all the suburbs of Cleveland's metropolitan area.

However, by the 1970s and early 1980s, significant numbers began to reassess the benefits of living close to the city center. A movement to rehabilitate the near west side neighborhood revived the 19th-century name of OHIO CITY. A number of high-rise apartment buildings of 20 stories or more rose in the downtown (Park Centre, 1973), and there were efforts to establish studio or loft living in the old WAREHOUSE DISTRICT. Another phenomenon began to emerge in the late 1980s, as new suburban-style single-family and townhouse units began to appear in such formerly disintegrated neighborhoods as HOUGH.

Eric Johannesen (dec.)


See also ARCHITECTURE.