M. M. Brown's Mayfield Heights

For over a century, the beautiful tree-shaded community once known as "Mayfield Heights" has stood as a fine example of an early 20th-century American suburban development. No, we're not speaking of the suburb that is located way out on Mayfield Road with the same name, but rather the original Mayfield Heights that is one of the oldest residential sections of Cleveland Heights. The neighborhood, initially part of East Cleveland Township, was envisioned by real estate attorney, developer, and philanthropist Marcus M. Brown (M. M. Brown). Brown, a self-made man, had a successful real estate and legal career in Chicago, but in 1896 he and his wife moved to Cleveland to seek more leisure time for literary and philosophical pursuits.

Shortly after M. M. Brown's arrival, he constructed a home on a Mayfield Road bluff just east of Coventry Road. Real estate development, it seemed, was still in his blood. From his new home, he started planning the development of a modern suburban community. The new community, bounded roughly by Mayfield Road, Superior Road, Euclid Heights Boulevard, and Coventry Road, was christened Mayfield Heights because it was situated above Mayfield Road's interurban and streetcar tracks. Unlike Patrick Calhoun's Euclid Heights to the immediate west, designed to attract a well-to-do constituency, Mayfield Heights was originally envisioned to appeal to the professional and managerial middle class. While some rather imposing dwellings were developed in the Mayfield Heights Allotment by Mr. Brown prior to 1900 (including a splendid new estate for himself and his family on Euclid Heights Boulevard at Wilton Road), later residences were relatively modest builder-designed homes nestled on smaller lots.

M. M. Brown created a network of fine brick streets for Mayfield Heights with such names as Center Avenue (Hampshire), Preyer Avenue (Somerton), Florence Avenue (Radnor), Hurst Avenue (Middlehurst), Monroe Avenue (Wilton), and Cadwell Avenue. Interestingly, Monroe was M. M. Brown's middle name and Cadwell was the maiden name of his wife, Jeanette. Unfortunately, after the turn of the century, sales began to wane and then the nationwide economic calamity known as the Panic of 1907 struck. Consumer interest in real estate all but dried up and in 1908, the Cleveland Trust Company foreclosed upon M. M. Brown and his Mayfield Heights Realty Company. The bank took ownership of the allotment at sheriff sale and began to aggressively market Mayfield Heights. Soon large newspaper ads proclaimed Mayfield Heights as "Country Life in Cleveland" and "Real Homes for Real People." In order to further advance the idea of "Country Life," Cleveland Trust changed the street names that M. M. Brown established to the English monikers we are familiar with today. Homes were sold for the advertised deal of "$500 down, the rest same as rent" until all the lots were gone.

The spirit of M. M. Brown's Mayfield Heights lives on to this day. The neighborhood's solid American Foursquare, Arts and Crafts, Craftsman, Bungalow, Colonial, and Queen Anne homes have been preserved and are mostly faithful to the styles in which they were originally built. The community prides itself as a traditional neighborhood of attractive homes and gardens in a pedestrian-friendly environment.

Images

M. M. Brown House, ca. 1905 The M. M. Brown House was completed in 1899 at the corner of Euclid Heights Boulevard and Wilton Road (then Monroe Avenue). The Queen Anne-style mansion had 15 large rooms on three floors, each finished in mahogany, cherry, or quarter-sawn oak. The house, which still stands today, also had a large carriage house, a barn, and a pool house, the latter now converted to a single-family home. Source: Marcus M. Brown, A Study of John D. Rockefeller, the Wealthiest Man in the World (1905)
Preyer House The landmark Preyer House at 14299 Superior Road was built about 1825. It is the oldest standing structure in Cleveland Heights and among the oldest in the Western Reserve. John Peter Preyer and his family, immigrants from Germany, purchased the stone cottage in 1864. According to one description of the Preyer grounds, "walls of lilacs and snow- balls" lined a tree-shaded pebble path leading to the road, and "carefully trimmed beds of low evergreens and old fashioned hundred-leaf roses bordered with fragrant pinks and stars-of-Bethlehem" added to the home's picturesque setting. Much of M. M. Brown's Mayfield Heights was built on Preyer's Lake View Wine Farm on the west side of Superior Road Creator: Charles Owen
Future Site of Mayfield Heights, 1892 The future site of Mayfield Heights, shown in this detail from a plate in the 1892 Cram atlas of Cuyahoga County, was farmland into the 1890s. Although M. M. Brown initially subdivided the former Everett farm just east of Coventry Road in 1896, he soon acquired and laid out streets on the former Preyer's Lake View Wine Farm, which itself was divided into several smaller parcels after John Peter Preyer's death. Source: Atlas of Cuyahoga and Cleveland, Ohio (Chicago: George F. Cram Co., 1892), plate 99
Harvesting Oats, ca. 1906 On the eve of the development of M. M. Brown's suburban allotment, the land was quite rural, as this early postcard suggests. Although this card dates to the early 1900s - after Mayfield Heights was developed - it was not unusual for postcards to depict earlier scenes. It also was not unusual for suburban allotments to lend their name to their immediate surroundings, so this scene may have been on a nearby farm. Source: Cleveland Memory, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Marcus M. Brown, ca. 1905 M. M. Brown was an attorney, philanthropist, and real-estate speculator from Chicago. He moved to Cleveland in 1896 in search of some relaxation. He and his family built their initial home, a Queen Anne house, on a bluff overlooking Mayfield Road, but within two years they were erecting a much grander home to the south. Source: Marcus M. Brown, A Study of John D. Rockefeller, the Wealthiest Man in the World (1905)
Mayfield Heights Ad, 1909 Despite the claim of "success" in this 1909 ad in the Plain Dealer, following the Panic of 1907, Brown's allotment struggled, leading the Cleveland Trust Company to take control of land sales. A. B. Cramer of the City & Suburban Realty Co. managed the ongoing development of Mayfield Heights through the economic crisis and recovery, and eventually the allotment was built out. Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer
Yellow Brick House, 2012 Yellow pressed brick was very popular in early suburban developments in Chicago but largely unknown in Cleveland until M. M. Brown built the first houses in his allotment. This house, built on spec in 1898 at 1779 Cadwell Avenue on the corner of Hampshire Roadl, made ample use of this yellow brick. Unable to find a buyer, Brown rented the house for several years before famed vaudeville actor Ezra F. Kendall purchased it in 1906. Later the house belonged to Marcus Feder, who was known as the "Father of the American Cigarette." The house, which sat empty over 60 years, was demolished in 2013 and is now a park called Spirit Corner as a nod to the belief that the house was haunted. Source: J. Mark Souther
Ezra F. Kendall Poster, 1892 Among the most notable residents of M. M. Brown's Mayfield Heights allotment was Ezra F. Kendall. Born on a farm in New York, Kendall became a famed actor, comedian, and playwright. Well known on the Vaudeville circuit, Kendall reached the height of his popularity with "A Pair of Kids," a farce comedy in which he starred in the 1880s-90s. Kendall moved to Cleveland in 1906 and purchased a large 12-room residence in the Mayfield Heights allotment, where he lived when he wasn't performing all over the country. Kendall reportedly died of "apoplexy" in 1910 at an Indiana sanitarium where he had sought to recover his health. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Cadwell Avenue Mansion This Colonial Revival house on Cadwell Avenue is among the larger homes in Mayfield Heights, built in 1899 for Union Paper & Twine Company manager Myron E. Battles and his wife Sadie. Cadwell Avenue was named for M. M. Brown's wife Jeannette's maiden name. Creator: J. Mark Souther
A "Painted Lady" on Hampshire The term "painted lady" is an architectural term for Victorian houses painted with three or more colors to accentuate gingerbread details and delineate different sections of a house. Painted ladies can be found anywhere homeowners have either adhered to original color schemes of the late 19th century or chosen to capture one of the most exuberant expressions of the Victorian age. Reminiscent of houses in San Francisco, this painted lady stands on "Upper Hampshire" on the steep hill above Coventry Village. Source: J. Mark Souther
Upper Hampshire Road Locals often refer to the section of Hampshire Road to the east of Coventry as "Upper Hampshire" because it ascends abruptly from the village in its first two blocks. The street is lined with an eclectic mix of Victorian and Craftsman style houses from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These homes have handsome rock walls that add to the Arts-and-Crafts feel. Creator: Charles Owen
Radnor Road Radnor Road is emblematic of the "Real Homes for Real People" that Mayfield Heights promised. After the initial homes designed in high styles for the affluent, Mayfield Heights filled with more modest builder-designed homes such as these. Radnor Road, originally called Florence Avenue, is among the couple of red-brick streets that remain. It is also home to the private Cleveland Heights Tennis Club, which dates to 1912. Future Cleveland Heights mayor Frank Cain won the club's first championship. Creator: Charles Owen

Location

The historic district is roughly bounded by Mayfield Rd on the north, Euclid Heights Blvd on the south, Superior Rd on the east, and Coventry Rd on the west.

Metadata

Charles Owen and J. Mark Souther, “M. M. Brown's Mayfield Heights,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 10, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/449.