Grant Deming's Forest Hill

Grant Wilson Deming, born in Sarnia, Ontario, at the southern tip of Lake Huron, moved to Cleveland with his brothers in the 1890s and became swept up in real-estate development. The Demings built upper-middle-class residential districts in Cleveland's Glenville area to the north of University Circle in the 1900s. Grant's brother Barton set out on his own to redevelop Rockefeller's old Euclid Golf Club in the "Heights" to the east as a fashionable destination for Millionaires Row families seeking a more sylvan setting away from the city. Sensing the eastward push into the Heights, Grant Deming also shifted his focus to suburban speculation. In the early 1900s, he acquired almost 200 acres of land owned mainly by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the heirs of James B. Haycox, a dairy farmer. There Deming imagined Forest Hill, "America's Richest Suburb."

Deming thought big. His promotional literature attempted to situate Forest Hill in the company of Boston's Brookline, New York's Llewellyn Park, and Washington's Chevy Chase. Like these other garden suburbs, Forest Hill would have gently curving streets, setback sidewalks, and a pastoral air. Deming characterized the streets, laid out by the same company that platted Shaker Heights, as "natural openings through the giants of the forest," but the landscape was more accurately a mosaic of woods and meadows. An exception was the western side of the tract, where two branches of the Dugway Brook meandered through thickly forested ravines on their descent to Lake Erie.

Almost completely built out by the time the Great Depression hit, Forest Hill gradually lost its identity as residents came to identify more with the Coventry or Cedar-Lee business districts that flanked it to the northwest and southeast. Some also turned inward. The Lincoln Boulevard Club, formed by women on the street to sew bandages for the Red Cross during World War I, is reputedly the oldest surviving block club in Greater Cleveland. Far from the well-to-do allotment promised by Deming, Forest Hill became a mishmash of varying sizes of homes and even a number of two-family houses. To some extent the neighborhood also looked to nearby religious institutions for identity. Forest Hill lay wholly within the St. Ann's Roman Catholic parish, and many Jews who moved to the Heights from Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood lived in Forest Hill and worshipped a half-mile to the northeast at the Temple on the Heights. The arrival of the first African American family in the early 1930s in a house at Washington Boulevard and Cottage Grove Avenue prompted a bombing before cooler heads prevailed. It would take another four decades for racial integration to make real progress.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010, Forest Hill is beginning to reclaim its long-obscure name recognition apart from the places it is near. Like Cleveland Heights itself, Forest Hill today melds historic sense of place with a socially diverse population.

Audio

Washington at Cottage Grove: A Woodsy Swamp Miriam Greene, who lived on Yorkshire Road near Washington Boulevard in the 1920s, recalls the sounds of croaking frogs in the tiny rural pocket just a block west around Cottage Grove Avenue. Source: Courtesy of City of Cleveland Heights
Washington Boulevard "Dinky" Streetcar Miriam Greene describes taking the small single-track "dinky," or streetcar, from Washington at Cottage Grove, then transferring to a bigger streetcar to visit early teenage friends in neighboring East Cleveland. Source: Courtesy of City of Cleveland Heights
It Was a Mixed Neighborhood Stanley Adelstein remembers ethnic diversity and horse stables on Washington Boulevard in the 1920s and 1930s. Source: Courtesy of City of Cleveland Heights
A Fine Addition to the Neighborhood Stanley Adelstein remembers the first African American family's move into Forest Hill in the early 1930s. When their white neighbors learned of their purchase, they hired someone to plant a bomb, a fact that Mr. Adelstein finds repugnant. The family did not leave and became what he calls "a fine addition to the neighborhood." Source: Courtesy of City of Cleveland Heights

Images

Eclectic 1911 House A hallmark of Forest Hill, like many suburban neighborhoods in the early twentieth century, was the imaginative mixing of architectural styles, known as eclecticism. Rarely do you see a pure Colonial, a pure Tudor, or a pure Craftsman. This house embodies all three. It has the general shape of a Colonial but also the half-timbered look of a Tudor and the large, clunky, blocky "bones" of a Craftsman. Creator: J. Mark Souther Date: 2008
James B. Haycox Farm, 1874 James B. Haycox operated a dairy and stone quarry on what became the eastern half of Forest Hill until his death in 1907. A neighbor of Haycox to the north and west, Worthy Streator, sold his land more than a decade earlier to Patrick Calhoun, grandson of Vice President James C. Calhoun, and John D. Rockefeller. While Calhoun developed Euclid Heights, among the oldest garden suburban allotments in Cleveland, the Rockefeller and Haycox lands became Forest Hill. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Date: 1874
Grant Deming House In 1909, Forest Hill developer Grant Deming patterned his own house (right) on Redwood Road after one (left) built four years earlier for his realty company secretary A. C. Newton on Drexel Avenue in the Deming-developed Grantwood allotment off East 105th Street in Glenville. Source: City of Cleveland Heights, Historical Center at Superior Schoolhouse Creator: Deming Realty Co., Forest Hill promotional booklet, ca. 1909 (left); J. Mark Souther (right) Date: 1909
Detail of Forest Hill Ad, 1909 The Deming Realty Company touted Forest Hill as a place that afforded country living in proximity to Cleveland. Promotional literature trumpeted the idea that here lay the last opportunity to build a suburban home so close to the millionaires' enclave on the overlook atop the Heights. Despite the pastoral imagery, most of Forest Hill was carved into 50 to 60 foot wide lots, which is not much more than in the city. Creator: Deming Realty Co. Date: 1909
Lincoln Boulevard Entrance, ca. 1918 The intersection of Lincoln and Woodward with Euclid Heights Boulevard formed the original main entrance to Forest Hill. It was marked by two pairs of rounded stone pylons topped with decorative semicircular iron street markers and connected by low stone walls. The house in the distance was a massive Tudor-style house built for Thomas Haycox, son of one of the original farming families that predated suburban redevelopment. Source: City of Cleveland Heights, Historical Center at Superior Schoolhouse Date: Ca. 1918
Washington Boulevard, ca. 1921 Curvilinear Washington Boulevard, platted by the F. A. Pease Engineering Company, which also laid out Shaker Heights, was intended as the grand boulevard of Forest Hill. It arced eastward from Coventry Road. After only one mansion was completed by the outbreak of World War I, the Deming syndicate resurveyed 100-foot-wide lots into 50-60 foot properties on Washington and introduced a "dinky," a single-track electric trolley line, to entice more middle-class buyers from Cleveland. Having stimulated the development of numerous homes by the early 1920s, the streetcar was removed. Source: City of Cleveland Heights, Historical Center at Superior Schoolhouse Date: Ca. 1921
Euclid Hts Blvd Near Dugway Brook, 1913 Stella Burke Miller, shown here on Euclid Heights Boulevard near the north entrance to Forest Hill, lived in a colonial home on nearby Lincoln Boulevard. Behind her in these woods, a branch of Dugway Brook meandered through a deep ravine, crossing under Euclid Heights and Coventry on its way northward through Lake View Cemetery and, finally, into Lake Erie. Like many garden suburbs, Forest Hill took advantage of natural features, like forested watersheds, to differentiate themselves from the urban grid of nearby cities. Source: City of Cleveland Heights, Historical Center at Superior Schoolhouse Date: 1913
California-style Bungalow on Washington Blvd. The pioneering work of Craftsman architects Greene & Greene in Pasadena made California a national model for bungalow designers. After World War I, Craftsman bungalows appeared in increasing numbers in cities and suburbs nationwide. Forest Hill was no exception. The Craftsman style often featured exposed, exaggerated rafters, natural stone chimneys, and cedar shingles on walls. It was an outgrowth of wistfulness for natural materials and artisanship as counters to the dominant, mass-produced ethos of the industrial age. Source: City of Cleveland Heights, Historical Center at Superior Schoolhouse
Lincoln Boulevard Parade, 1980 Each year, Labor Day brings a daylong celebration on Lincoln Boulevard in Forest Hill. The annual block party, one of several events staged by residents, usually includes a pancake breakfast, games, skits, a cocktail party, parade, talent show, cookout, and bonfire. Founded in 1917 as a women's organization sewing bandage for the American Red Cross in World War I, the Lincoln Boulevard Club is the oldest block club in Cleveland Heights and among the oldest continually operating street clubs in the nation. Creator: Judith Ryder Date: 1980

Location

The historic district is roughly bounded by Euclid Heights Blvd and Superior Rd on the north, Washington Blvd on the south, Lee Rd on the east, and Coventry Rd on the west. Lamberton Rd between E Derbyshire Rd and Cedar Rd is also part of the district.

Metadata

J. Mark Souther, “Grant Deming's Forest Hill,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 9, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/447.