Filed Under Education

Coventry Village Library

Harry Potter and his friends would feel right at home in the Coventry Village Library, a brick Tudor Revival and Jacobean-style building that sits on a gentle grassy slope near the intersection of Coventry Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard. The building features many historical details, including a large fireplace, Arts and Crafts tilework, and medieval light fixtures.

Designed by John H. Graham & Co., which also drew plans for Fairmount Presbyterian Church nearly a decade before, the Coventry Village Library opened as the main library for Cleveland Heights in 1926. Built on land originally platted as part of Grant W. Deming's Forest Hill residential allotment, the library, along with Coventry School, were the only non-residential structures in Deming's development.

In 1961, the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Libraries system boasted the country's second highest book circulation among comparably sized municipalities. The growth of these two suburbs strained the library's ability to serve public needs, so in 1968, the library board opened a large new main library on Lee Road, demoting Coventry to branch status. The library languished and fell into disrepair after the Lee Road facility opened.

A new chapter in the library's history began with the building's sale in 1974 to the Fairmount Center for Creative and Performing Arts, a non-profit arts organization formed four years earlier in Novelty, Ohio. The Fairmount Center hoped to extend its reach to a larger population and used the library to provide fine arts services to the CH-UH and East Cleveland school systems, and to run dance programs for Cuyahoga Community College and Lake Erie College. The Fairmount Center leased two main-floor rooms back to the library, so Coventry remained open.

Residents expressed growing dissatisfaction as hours and services were pared back. After failing to secure a long-term lease, concerned citizens, rallied by Shirley Hyatt, gathered more than 2,000 signatures on a petition in 1979 to get the library to buy back its building. The library board, however, saw the building as decrepit and hoped to obtain federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding through the city to open a larger library in developer Lewis Zipkin's CoventrYard mall development across Euclid Heights Boulevard. Two factors--city council's refusal to allocate CDBG monies to the library and the Fairmount Center's worsening financial woes--combined to persuade the board to repurchase Coventry Library in 1980.

After an extensive renovation in 1981, Coventry Village Library reopened. Its role as a center for fine arts, however, did not disappear. The Pottery Cooperative of the Heights Guild of Artists and Artisans (later renamed Cleveland Clay Works) purchased ceramic studio equipment, including a kiln, from the Fairmount Center and continued to serve as a pottery-making center. Coventry Village Library has retained its longtime role as a community center, offering musical and theatrical performances (including those for the deaf), poetry readings, and a forum for community meetings and public lectures.

Audio

High Ceilings, High Windows, Wooden Shelves Dennis Coughlin fondly recalls the features inside the Coventry Library. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Images

Open House, December 1981 Patrons attend an open house to mark the re-dedication of a refurbished Coventry Library. The Heights library board opted to repurchase and renovate the Coventry branch following years of outcry by concerned citizens. Source: Cleveland Heights-University Heights Library
Architect's Rendering, 1926 John H. Graham and Co. designed the Coventry Village Library in the English Tudor style. The library opened as the Heights Main Library in 1926. It served this role until a new main library opened in 1968 on Lee Road. Source: Cleveland Public Library, Photograph Collection
Bookmobile, Late 1920s This Cleveland Heights Library bookmobile, shown in front of the Coventry Library, reflected libraries' adoption of automobiles to extend the accessibility of their book collections. Through the trees you can see the movie theater at the corner of Euclid Heights Boulevard and Coventry Road. Source: Cleveland Heights-University Heights Library
Reading Room, ca. 1928 Two years after opening, Coventry Library added an adult reference and reading room. Schoolhouse light fixtures and wooden desks and chairs were common in early 20th-century libraries. Source: Cleveland Heights-University Heights Library
Outreach Librarian, 1971 Coventry Library's outreach librarian Mary Mays carries a handful of books to elderly or disabled readers on a rainy day in 1971. By this time, Coventry Library was no longer the main library for the Heights Libraries. Source: Cleveland Heights-University Heights Library Creator: Norbert J. Yassanye
Spiral Staircase, ca. 1970s Patricia Pasqual was the library's adult services assistant librarian. Here she carries books down the spiral staircase from the second-floor shelf area. Source: Cleveland Heights-University Heights Library Creator: Herbert Ascherman Jr.
Critter Show, December 1978 Children hold a bird at the Critter Show held in Coventry Library. Four years earlier the library had sold its building to the Fairmount Center for Creative and Performing Arts, a Geauga County-based non-profit organization, from which it leased two rooms to keep the library branch functioning. Source: Cleveland Heights-University Heights Library Creator: Joyce Deep
Interior After Remodeling, 1982 Coventry Library reopened in December, 1981 following an extensive interior remodeling. Source: Cleveland Heights-University Heights Library Creator: Thom Abel
Coventry Village Library, 1985 Coventry Village Library is an imposing presence on the hill overlooking Coventry Village. Its English style mirrors the strong English influence on Cleveland Heights architecture and street names. Source: City of Cleveland Heights

Location

1925 Coventry Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

Metadata

J. Mark Souther, “Coventry Village Library,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 9, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/443.