The SOUTHWORTH HOUSE located at 3334 Prospect Ave. was built in 1879 for W. P. Southworth Company Founder, William Palmer Southworth and his wife Louise M. Stark. W. P. Southworth Company (later WILLIAM EDWARDS CO.) started out as a general store (WHOLESALE GROCERS) near PUBLIC SQUARE grew into a prosperous retail grocery. Southworth was the first retailer in the City of Cleveland to offer home delivery using his own wheelbarrows and he was also known by his strict business practices which won him a director’s board seat at NATIONAL CITY BANK.

Southworth Mansion
Southworth Mansion

The 12,000 square foot two-story grand Italianate style brick house was designed by architect & furniture designer Charles Locke Eastlake. A mahogany grand staircase with orate wood railings graced the main entry hall and main floor rooms high-ceiling drawing rooms were designed with elaborate relief geometric base, crown, & door moldings. Five fireplaces with stone and wood mantles heated the interior of the structure. The red brick exterior was designed with built-in bracketed cornices and roof eaves along with an imposing wooden entrance porch with a leaded glass double door.

An oak tree, which still stands today, was planted by W.P. Southworth and commands the front lawn of the property. In 1894, four years after the death of W.P. Southworth his widow Louisa extended the home to nineteen rooms, added an enclosed Colonial Revival Style west back porch with fan-like windows, and built a large three-story Tudor Revival Style carriage house at the rear of the property for stables, a blacksmith shop, and an apartment for domestic servants. The additions to the property added an additional 12,000 square feet of living space. Before her passing in May 1905 Louisa was active in the women’s suffrage movement and entertained Susan B. Anthony at Southworth House. None of the four Southworth children stayed in the home.

After Louisa’s death the property was sold in 1907 to the Baptist Home of Northern Ohio. When the Southworth House was sold to the BAPTIST CHURCH.   JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER donated $5,000 towards the purchase and it served as a refuge for Baptist widows. The Women’s Social Bible class meet to discuss Sarah T. Garlock, a recent elderly ill widow who had no family, home, or financial resources and decided to create a home for caring for the elderly. Over a period thirteen years the home grew from six to twenty-seven occupants and in 1919 the facility was moved to the seven-acre Bicknell estate at 1801 Chestnut Hills Dr. in CLEVELAND HEIGHTS which later became JUDSON RETIREMENT COMMUNITY.

From 1950 to 1960 the house was known as the Edelmar Building and from 1960 to 1973 it was known as the Accountants Building. In 1973, the Southworth house was purchased by the Pi Sigma Alpha Alumni fraternity and became a party house for the CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity. The property was nominated for the Ohio Historic Inventory and NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES in 1984.

In 1994, the home was purchased by Michael Chesler a developer of historic properties who sold the property to Stanich Michelle, owner of Horizon Health Services. In August 2005 the property was auctioned at a sheriff’s sale and repurchased by Michael Chesler, owner of Chesler Group Incorporated who planned to lease the home to small businesses. In fall 2005, the Southworth House was was showing severe deterioration as the exterior wood was rotting, original features were stripped, and pigeons were living in the top-floor attic ceiling rafters. The Laborers Union purchased the structure from Chesler. After the property changed hands to the Union, architects Scott and Analia Dimit who had worked for Chesler, stayed on as part of the restoration team. In 2006, in partnership with Laborers Local 860 Executive Board Chesler drew up plans to restore Southworth house.

The eighteen-month restoration project was under the supervision of Frank Rini & Jay Reeths of Rinello Construction, architects Scott & Analia Dimit headed the restoration design, and Local 860 Business Representative Dennis Arian coordinated the planning and construction of the project. The Dimit architects also provided interior design services including material selections, paint color schemes, and exterior lighting.  Union workers removed “clumsy alterations” and uncovered the building’s original character. Skilled craftsmen hired onto the project carefully copied the remaining wood and plaster architectural figments to retain the building’s original character. The main house and carriage house were restored to the period when the Louise Southworth lived on the property.

The acquisition, restoration, and renovation of the Southworth House cost a total of $2.5 to $2.8 million. The most important details of the home survived and restoring the property became a point of pride for the union’s members and executive board. The Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program awarded the project $500,000 in 2009 and provided economic incentives to develop a historic structure for non-residential use. The project also received $2,561,589 million in federal tax credits to defer the construction and restoration costs.  Local funding from a Cleveland Storefront grant of $28,000 helped with the restoration costs.

In 2006, the Local 860 purchased the 14,000 square-foot warehouse on the adjoining lot to the rear of the Union Hall and restored the building into a union meeting facilities space. The restoration was completed in October 2007 and the Union moved into its new headquarters. In 2009, the Union received an Honor Award from the National Trust in Historic Preservation at the National Preservation Conference in Nashville and a CLEVELAND RESTORATION SOCIETY/ AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS Award. The Laborers Local 860, a Cleveland chapter of the LABORERS’ INTERNATIONAL UNION OF AMERICA, revitalized the Southworth House, a CLEVELAND LANDMARK STRUCTURE into an administrative headquarters that makes it the only union in the United States headquartered in a 19th century mansion.

Angelina Bair

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Laborer’s Local 860. Southworth House: The Remarkable Transformation of a Stately 19th century Manor into a 21st century Union Headquarters. (n.d.).


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