Filed Under Architecture


The John L. Severance Estate

In the early 1900s, wealthy Clevelanders escaped from the pollution and congestion of downtown to the fresh air and open spaces of the countryside. Three members of the Severance family purchased land at the intersection of Mayfield and Taylor Roads in Cleveland Heights for their new estates. Wealthy businessman and philanthropist John L. Severance, best known for building Severance Hall as the home of the Cleveland Orchestra, began purchasing land in this area in 1899 and eventually acquired nearly 200 acres.

Severance's Cleveland Heights estate, called Longwood, included a mansion, a dairy barn, several stables, gardeners' cottages, natural brooks and waterfalls, and extensive formal gardens. Severance hired architect J. Milton Dyer, who studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and designed Cleveland's city hall, to build an English Tudor mansion. After six years of construction, Severance and his wife Bessie moved into Longwood in the summer of 1910. But just four years later, the couple hired renowned Cleveland architect Charles Schweinfurth to completely remodel their home. Their new 50-room mansion included a tea porch, wine cellar, interior fountain court, and a dedicated space for flower arranging. The finishes included elaborately carved wood paneling, ornamental plaster ceilings, fabric wall coverings, and eight large Italian stone fireplaces. The workers even detached the original servants wing and added a two story addition to connect the two sections. The Severances moved into their "new" $2 million home in early 1916.

After the death of John L. Severance in 1936, the estate transferred to his second cousin Severance Millikin. Millikin lived in the home until 1959, when he moved to a more secluded estate in Gates Mills. But for years before the move, Millikin worked on his plan for a "new downtown" on the former estate. In 1952, he requested rezoning that would pave the way for commercial development of the property. After five years of legal wrangling, the rezoning was approved. Longwood was demolished in 1961 to make way for Ohio's first enclosed mall, Severance Center, as well as the Austin Company headquarters, offices and apartments.


Sneaking In Catherine Black Aldrich recalls sneaking onto the grounds of the Longwood estate as a child. Source: Courtesy of City of Cleveland Heights
"Something I Knew Nothing Of, a Mile From My House" Barbara Wherley, in retrospect, expresses surprise that she knew nothing of the Longwood estate until the land became Severance Center in 1963. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection


Longwood The palatial Longwood mansion consisted of over fifty rooms, including a large library, a drawing room, and a great hall with a pipe organ. The exterior featured elaborate chimneys, refined stone carvings, and castellated stone detailing. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Severance Family Farm, ca. 1900
Severance Family Farm, ca. 1900 John L. Severance built his grand mansion on a large estate located next to the Mayfield Road streetcar line. His sister Elisabeth Severance Allen's estate Glen Allen, and his cousin Julia Severance Millikin's estate Ben Brae were built close by, on the opposite side of the the streetcar line. Source: Western Reserve Historical Society
Aerial View, 1949
Aerial View, 1949 This aerial photograph looks eastward from the intersection of Mayfield and Taylor Roads. The Longwood Estate is the open stretch of land to the south of Mayfield Road, which runs across the left side of the image. In 1917, The Architectural Record said of the estate, "The entire place is imbued with the charm of the old English manors and, although new, has little of the awkwardness of youth; quite to the contrary, its splendid setting of trees, augmented by a liberal planting of shrubbery, has tied it well into its surroundings, so that it already possesses that most desirable of assets, the quality of seeming to be an essential part of its environment." Source: City of Cleveland Heights
First Floor Gallery
First Floor Gallery "At the west end of the gallery is featured a bronze replica of Verrocchio's famous little fountain in the Palazzo Vecchio at Florence. The floor surrounding it is of marble, inserted in which, around the fountain's base, are twelve small bronze plates bearing the signs of the zodiac." Source: I. T. Frary, "The Rebuilding of Longwood," The Architectural Record, June 1917, 490, Google Books.
Drawing Room
Drawing Room "The woodwork of the drawing room is of French walnut and the mantel facing of Botticino marble. While there is but little woodwork in this room, there is found on the door casings one of the most interesting bits of carved detail in the house, consisting of intertwining vines, perched on which are tiny birds and animals carved in high relief and executed with the greatest delicacy and spirit. The room contains rare pieces of furniture both antique and modern, to say nothing of pictures, ceramics and jades." Source: I. T. Frary, "The Rebuilding of Longwood," The Architectural Record, June 1917, 495, Google Books.
Dining Room
Dining Room "Perhaps the most interesting room in the house is the dining room, with its linen fold paneling, ornamental plaster ceiling and great carved limestone mantel. The woodwork is of English oak... The linen fold paneling is carried to the ceiling and ... the carving is excellent in character, of low relief, and has the texture which is so beautiful in the old hand wrought work." Source: I. T. Frary, "The Rebuilding of Longwood," The Architectural Record, June 1917, 500, Google Books.
Garden Side View
Garden Side View The beautiful grounds and gardens of the Longwood estate were designed by the lanscape engineer M. H. Horvatch. At times, large parts of the estate were used for crops. During WWI, a seventy five acre tract was made available for community cultivation, with plans for the produce to be sold and proceeds given to "the war charity." Two landscape elements remain: an alley of trees that lined the entry to the estate that runs south from Taylor Road, and a pond on City property directly east of Courtyards of Severance at the northeast corner of the former estate. Source: City of Cleveland Heights
Demolition, 1961
Demolition, 1961 Longwood was demolished in 1961 to make way for Severance Town Center, Ohio's first enclosed mall. Prior to this, the Harris Wrecking Company ran the newspaper advertisement on the right for several months, hoping to attract buyers for the wide variety of architectural salvage items available from the house. Source: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
John L. Severance, 1930
John L. Severance, 1930 John L. Severance (one the left, wearing a hat) poses during the construction of Severance Hall in University Circle. Severance donated more than $2.5 million for the construction of the Cleveland Orchestra's new home. Source: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Longwood Stables, 2007
Longwood Stables, 2007 Only a few reminders of Longwood remain on the Severance Mall site. These original stables, tucked into the wooded outskirts of the mall property, are used by the CH-UH Board of Education for storage. They are constructed of beautifully detailed brick in a U-shaped plan. Source: City of Cleveland Heights
Fountain, 2012
Fountain, 2012 The Severances collected exterior sculpture for their Cleveland Heights mansion. This beautiful fountain made of Carrera marble once marked the entrance to Longwood but was surrounded by an expanse of concrete when Severance Mall was constructed. In 1998, the Cleveland Heights Historical Society and other preservation groups worked to preserve the fountain and move it to its current location outside City Hall. Source: Cleveland Heights Patch


Mayfield Rd and Severance Circle, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 | Demolished except for original marble fountain now on City Hall grounds.


Mazie Adams, “Longwood,” Cleveland Historical, accessed July 16, 2024,