Filed Under Architecture

Rose Building

"The New Center"

In 1898-1900, Benjamin Rose financed the construction of the largest office building ever built in Ohio up to that time. At a time when conventional wisdom dictated a Euclid Avenue address, Rose did the unthinkable, selecting a spot at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Erie Street. Naysayers were convinced Rose's daring venture was doomed to fail, but they were wrong.

The ten-story Rose Building took its name from its developer, an English immigrant and pioneer in the meatpacking industry. In 1854 Benjamin Rose and Chauncey Prentiss established Rose & Prentiss, later renamed Cleveland Provision Company, which embraced refrigeration and other innovations early and was the city’s largest packinghouse for more than a century. With the fortune he amassed selling cuts of meat, in 1898 Rose commissioned architect George Horatio Smith to design what would become Ohio’s largest office building.

When the Rose Building was constructed, Erie Street (now East 9th), was on the eastern fringe of downtown, but Rose cleverly dubbed the intersection “The New Center” and used this slogan to entice businesses that might otherwise have considered the location too distant. Indeed, the Rose Building stood out. Its first five stories were sixteen feet high, while floors six to ten were eleven feet high. The choice to make the ceiling height of the lower floors so much higher than usual was reportedly Rose’s wish. 

Upon its opening in 1900, the building’s primary tenants on the lower floors included Lederer Furniture, Scott Dry Goods, and offices of the White Sewing Machine and Cleveland Gas & Electrical Fixture companies. The upper floors contained doctors’ and dentists’ offices, an artist’s studio, a correspondence school, and the offices of fifteen oil companies. In its early years the Rose Building also hosted many exhibitions, including the works of Cleveland artists, a Slavic craft fair, and even a mock Congressional session.

In 1908 Rose was poised to stake out the next speculative “new center” of downtown. He bought out the St. John’s African Methodist Episcopal Church on East 9th across from Erie Street Cemetery with plans to build a twelve-story office building, but before he could carry out the plan, he died during a trip to England. Instead of burnishing his reputation in life as a visionary developer, in death Rose seeded the legacy for which he is known today. In 1909, the Rose Building gained a new tenant. Tucked away in small, sparely furnished office on the tenth floor was the Benjamin Rose Institute. Funded by Rose’s $3 million bequest, it used the office to review applications for small pensions to enable elderly men and women to afford to remain in their own homes.

In 1984, the Institute sold the Rose Building to Medical Mutual of Ohio, which had located its headquarters there in 1947. Medical Mutual owned the building until 2000, when it sold it to California-based BentleyForbes and leased its space. When the owner fell into foreclosure, Medical Mutual bought the building back in 2017, but its future in downtown was anything but certain. After much deliberation, Medical Mutual vacated the Rose Building in 2023 and merged its operations in its Brooklyn, Ohio, offices in the former American Greetings headquarters.

Images

Main Entrance
Main Entrance This original, ornate arched entry was later replaced with a simplified one. Note the plaques on the left and right that advertise the Builders Exchange, which was located on the third floor before it moved to its own building in the Cleveland Union Terminal Group in the 1930s. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Creator: Carl F. Waite
Rose Building Nearing Completion
Rose Building Nearing Completion The first two stories of the Rose Building are clad with decorative ironwork reminiscent of the Rockefeller Building. The upper floors are clad in white terra cotta. This photo clearly shows the step-down in ceiling heights from 16 feet on floors 1-5 to 11 feet on floors 6-10. The Rose Building was designed by George Horatio Smith, who also co-designed the Arcade. Source: Cleveland Public Library, Photograph Collection Creator: Detroit Publishing Company Date: 1900
Engraved Portrait of Benjamin Rose
Engraved Portrait of Benjamin Rose Born in England in 1828, Rose immigrated to Cincinnati with his family in 1838. By 1840 he was working in a slaughterhouse in "Porkopolis," as the Ohio River city was known. In 1854 he and Chauncey Prentiss opened their own meatpacking house, which was later renamed Cleveland Provision Company. It became the city's leading packinghouse, and there Rose applied many innovations, including refrigeration. He plowed some of his fortune into real estate ventures, including the construction of the Rose Building in the late 1890s. Rose also left the Rose Building and a $3 million bequest to the Benjamin Rose Institute upon his death in 1908.  Source: Cleveland. Cleveland: Lewis Publishing Co., 1918.  Creator: E. A. Williams & Bro., N.Y.
Erie-Huron-Prospect, Looking West
Erie-Huron-Prospect, Looking West This photo, taken one year before the Rose Building construction got underway in the block on the far right, shows how the area was not yet a central downtown location. Rose first operated a two-story commercial block on the corner parcel (just outside this photo) for a few years before building the large office building that would bear his name. Note the "livery" sign in the distance on the right. This was John Corlett's business. Corlett also owned the property that Rose bought for the Rose Building soon after this photo was taken. Source: Cleveland Public Library, Photograph Collection Date: 1895
Houses Next to Rose Building
Houses Next to Rose Building These two rooming houses were owned by John Corlett, who operated a livery just to their left into the late 19th century. E. A. Palmer and his brother Stephen operated a drug store on the corner of Erie Street just to the east. Corlett offered to sell the corner building and some land around it to Palmer for $5,000 in the 1890s, but Palmer turned down the opportunity. Benjamin Rose bought it instead. And, just as Palmer missed his chance to make a lot of money, so did Corlett, who stubbornly refused to sell his rooming houses right up to his death in 1911. (Note the detailed decorations on the iron facade of the Rose Building and the sidewalk sign for a Houdini show at the Hippodrome.) Source: Cleveland Public Library, Photograph Collection Date: 1910
Early Rendering of Rose Building
Early Rendering of Rose Building This early drawing was made two years before construction began. The actual building deviated modestly from this plan by adding two more upper floors and a more dramatic presence on the corner of Prospect and Erie. Source: Cleveland Public Library, Center for Local and Global History Creator: "The World's" History of Cleveland Date: 1896
Completed Rose Building
Completed Rose Building Benjamin Rose christened his office building "The New Center," a name that he also applied to the six-point intersection on which the building sat. Within a couple of years he and other interests in the area formed the New Center Association to promote further commercial development. Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer Date: May 12, 1901
Lederer Furniture Ad
Lederer Furniture Ad Lederer Furniture moved to the Rose Building from Woodland Avenue in 1900. The large store occupied space on the first five floors of the building and, as this ad claims, offered the best selection of furniture "west of New York." It stayed there until, as another ad noted on April 11, 1916, it was "Forced Out By High Rents" and moved to another building on Euclid Avenue at East 61st Street. Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer Date: April 24, 1902
"The New Center," Looking East
"The New Center," Looking East This postcard shows the view one would have had from the Prospect Avenue sidewalk outside the Rose Building. The home of Myron T. Herrick is barely visible at left across Erie (E. 9th) Street. The Osborne Building in the fork of Huron and Prospect is at center, while the turreted YCMA stands to the right. Source: Springfield College Archives and Special Collections Creator: Cleveland News Co. Date: ca. 1905
Panoramic View of The New Center
Panoramic View of The New Center This photo shows the progress of development around the Rose Building soon after its completion. Most notably, the Schofield Building, completed in 1902, stands immediately to its right. Source: Cleveland Public Library, Photograph Collection Date: 1906
Advertisement
Advertisement The Union Trust Bank operated the Rose Building for the Estate of Benjamin Rose. In the late 1920s it added an annex to the rear of the building and made a number of renovations, including a new lobby with an Italian rose motif in memory of the building's namesake.. As this ad notes, Rose's gamble paid off. In less than three decades, his "New Center" saw 32,000 automobiles pass daily, and streetcars deposited another 50,000 riders each day within one block of the Rose Building. Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer Date: March 27, 1929
Looking West Down Huron and Prospect
Looking West Down Huron and Prospect In this bird's-eye view from the top of the Osborn Building, the Rose Building is barely visible on the far right corner. The density of development shows that Benjamin Rose's designation of the intersection as "The New Center" was prescient. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Creator: Gary Brookins Date: ca. 1945

Location

2060 E 9th St, Cleveland, OH 44115

Metadata

J. Mark Souther, “Rose Building,” Cleveland Historical, accessed July 21, 2024, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/1012.