PAYER, ERNST (1904-1981) was an architect in the Greater Cleveland, Ohio area noted for his work with mid-century modern style. 

Payer was born in Europe and later relocated to the United States. He first trained under Josef Hoffman in Vienna, then moved to Harvard University to study under Walter Gropius. Ernst Payer was one of the most significant modern architects practicing in Cleveland in the 1950s. He was one of six architects to receive two pages of coverage in Cleveland Goes Modern: Design for the Home 1930-1970 (2014). In his career in Northeast Ohio, he designed beautiful homes, including his own home, an iconic mansion in Shaker Heights.

Robert A Little, another noted Cleveland architect, and Payer lead the vision for Cleveland’s modern domestic architecture due to their training at Harvard with Gropius and Marcel Breuer. Their projects focused heavily on the interaction of nature and the interior of the house. In their designs, windows became walls of glass, and other innovations were created. They also emphasized spaces that created a flow for ideal family living. 

Payer also worked with CHARLES BACON ROWLEY, another influential architect, known for his work with Philip Small in the 1920s. He created the firm of Chas. Bacon Rowley & Assoc. in 1928. From 1957 to 1972, Payer was part of the firm, which became Rowley, Payer, Huffman & Leithold (1962-69), then Rowley, Payer, Huffman, & Caldwall (1969-72). During the 1940s, Cleveland-based developer James Rideout hired Payer to work for his firm. 

In addition to residences, Payer also designed a number of institutional structures, including the Medusa Portland Cement Company corporate headquarters in Cleveland Heights, public libraries in Cleveland, Cleveland, Heights and Orange, and the Crawford Aviation and Auto Museum wing at the Western Reserve Historical Society.

Payer was featured in the exhibit Cleveland Goes Modern: Mid-Century Residential Architecture.  Sponsored by the Cleveland Artists Foundation, the exhibit and ancillary programming celebrated both the 150th anniversary of the American Institute of Architects and the modernist architectural pioneers of this area. This exhibition opened on September 7, 2007, and ran until November 24th of the same year. 

Payer married DOROTHY G. SHEPHERD on March 22, 1951.  She was the Curator of Textiles and Near Eastern ART for the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART and was one of only a few WOMEN museum curators in the United States in the 1960s. Payer had two children from a previous marriage, Peter and Mark.

Payer died in 1981. In 2017, the Shaker Heights mansion that was designed by Payer and built in 1958 went on the market for $799,000.


Morgan McCommon