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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

BUILDING CODE OF 1904

BUILDING CODE OF 1904

The BUILDING CODE OF 1904 (Ordinances 46388-A and 44404-A), adopted by the city of Cleveland on 20 June, was the nation's first modern comprehensive building code. Other cities had had building laws of various kinds; Cleveland's first was passed in 1888. JOHN EISENMANN, engineer of the ARCADE, studied many of these but finally rejected the idea of using any one as a model. Instead, he began with the fundamental premises of safety, public benefit, and the current state of building knowledge, and from these evolved the first "scientific" comprehensive code.

The code contained 5 major sections. The first created a department of building, specified the duties of inspectors in 6 areas according to structure, listed the regulations on permits and drawings, and provided for the process of appeal. The second specified the rules applying to the erection of buildings and structures, written in minute detail but arranged with impeccable logic and good sense. The third dealt with the relation of the building to its site, both the permanent situation and the occupation of public right-of-way during construction. The next section was on fire protection, and the last was on elevators. Within 2 years, the commission found that it had evolved a model for a national building code; 29 cities had already used it as the basis for formulating their own codes, and there were also inquiries from foreign countries. The Cleveland Building Code of 1904 was a manifestation of the "radical democracy" of the city in the first decade of the century, in which rules applied equally to all.