The CLEVELAND RESTORATION SOCIETY (CRS) is one of the country's leading historic preservation organizations and a partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Formerly known as the Downtown Restoration Society, CRS was founded by Dr. Maxine Goodman Levin, Thomas F. Campbell, and Olive D. Tabor in 1972 to preserve and restore Cleveland's historic resources in the central city. The society has been an integral partner in the saving and rehabilitation of historic buildings and neighborhoods and has set a national standard for innovative and effective programs.
Between 1987 and 1999, the society prioritized bringing historic preservation into the mainstream of community revitalization strategies and created core preservation programs that provided direct technical and financial assistance to property owners in Cleveland's historic neighborhoods: the Neighborhood Historic Preservation Program, launched in 1992, and the Sacred Landmarks Assistance Program, initiated in 1995. It also campaigned for the preservation of specific buildings and properties such as the SOCIETY CORP. (SOCIETY FOR SAVINGS) BLDG. on PUBLIC SQUARE and the Cozad House on Mayfield Road in UNIVERSITY CIRCLE.
In 1999, the society established its headquarters in the historic Sarah Benedict House, located at 3751 Prospect Avenue. The house, listed in the National Register of Historic places, was built by Sarah Rathbone Benedict, widow of CLEVELAND HERALD publisher George A. Benedict (see BENEDICT, GEORGE A.), in 1883. The Benedict House was donated to the society by Dr. Maxine Goodman Levin. Adjacent to the house is the Volunteers' Garden, which combines plants commonly used in 1880s gardens with elements of contemporary art to create a unique urban space.
The society became a regional organization during the late nineties through its Preservation Resource Center of Northeastern Ohio program. Through the Center, the society makes historic preservation knowledge and assistance available to municipalities, organizations, and individuals throughout Cuyahoga County and its six contiguous neighbors: Lorain, Medina, Summit, Portage, Geauga, and Lake Counties. Since 2000, the society has focused on expanding assistance within Cuyahoga County through the Heritage Home Program, which was launched in 2001. The society has emerged as a leader in creating and maintaining regional partnerships to improve the quality of life in Northeast Ohio.
Advocacy and public education continue to play key roles in the work of the organization through its leadership in advancing historic preservation in Northeast Ohio through special programs, public forums, tours and educational sessions. The organization produces a biannual magazine, Fagade, and Perspectives, a monthly e-newsletter. The society also works at the state and national levels to advance historic preservation practices. By 2006, it had an operating budget in excess of $1 million, twelve staff positions and five active preservation programs. At that time it continued to operate from its headquarters at the Benedict House. Kathleen Crowther, who became Executive Director in 1987, continued in that position in 2006.