Filed Under Architecture

Oliver Alger House

The Oliver Alger House was built by one of the village of West Cleveland's most popular mayors. A successful commission agent in Cleveland before becoming a gentleman farmer, Oliver Alger served as mayor of West Cleveland for six years--longer than any other mayor of the village which was annexed to the City of Cleveland in 1894. Alger's house, which in the late nineteenth century was one of the grandest mansions on Detroit Avenue, was saved from the wrecking ball in 1998 when the Detroit-Shoreway Community Development Organization arranged for it to be moved to the northwest corner of Franklin Boulevard and West 77th Street. (Interestingly, the house had been moved one time before--about forty feet west of its original site when West 67th Street was extended north to Detroit Avenue in the early 1900s.) The house is now one of the historic grand houses in the Franklin Boulevard-West Clinton Historic District of Cleveland.

In a strange twist of post-mortem fate, it was not only Oliver Alger's Detroit Avenue mansion that was moved twice after his death in 1891. In 1894, the Village Town Hall for West Cleveland where Alger presided as Mayor from 1883-1889, was moved by Irish immigrant James Faeron to a vacant lot on West 69th Street and then moved again in 1911 to its present location on Herman Avenue when the City of Cleveland extended Herman Avenue west from West 67th to West 69th Street.

And even more strangely, fate bestowed yet one more after death move on Oliver Alger--one which has impacted his legacy not only as the most famous and popular mayor of West Cleveland but also as a local horticulturalist who was so talented that his farm was visited in 1867 by an editor of a national journal devoted to horticultural interests. In 1915, less than three decades after Alger's death, the City of Cleveland, as part of a plan (which never materialized) to build a convention center on the Erie Street Cemetery grounds, removed the remains of hundreds of people from the cemetery and reinterred them at Highland Park Cemetery. Among the remains removed were those of Oliver Alger and his wife Mary and their infant son who had been buried in a vault on the northeast corner of the cemetery. At Highland Park Cemetery, Oliver Alger's remains, as well as those of his wife and their infant child, are entombed under a nondescript patch of grass that lies between two monuments--one erected to a man named James Miller and the other to man named Enoch Collier.

Today, residents and visitors to Herman Avenue near West 69th Street are reminded of the history of the Village of West Cleveland by the former town hall building that now sits at 6702 Herman Avenue. The 1998 relocation of Oliver Alger's mansion from Detroit Avenue to Franklin Boulevard reminds residents and visitors of the grandeur of nineteenth century Franklin Boulevard which was arguably second only to Euclid Avenue's Millionaire's Row as Cleveland's most prestigious residential avenue. But a visitor to the southern tip of Section 2 in Highland Park cemetery where Oliver Alger is buried will find nothing there--not even a faded stone, as a memorial to one of West Cleveland's most popular mayors and one of Cuyahoga County's pioneer horticulturalists.

Images

The Oliver Alger House Built in the period 1850-1860, the Oliver Alger house was originally located on a farm abutting Detroit Avenue in the Village of West Cleveland just west of the village's border with the City of Cleveland. The house was moved in 1998 and today is located on the northwest corner of Franklin Boulevard and West 77th Street. Image courtesy of Jim Dubelko
Oliver Alger Farm - 1874 This excerpt from the Cuyahoga County Atlas of 1874 shows the location of the Oliver Alger farm, as well as the Oliver Alger house, on Detroit Avenue just west of the border (vertical red line) between the City of Cleveland and the Village of West Cleveland. What was the Oliver Alger farm in 1874 is today, in large part, West 67th Street north of Detroit Avenue. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Library, Special Collections
A Pioneer Horticulturalist Oliver Alger was a pioneer horticulturalist who experimented with vines and plants on his farm. In 1867 an article appeared in the national "Horticulturalist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste," commenting positively on the raspberry patch one of their editor's examined on Oliver Alger's Farm "near Cleveland." Not to be outdone by her husband, Alger's wife Mary grew prize-winning Dahlias in her garden on the farm.
Death of a Cleveland Pioneer Oliver Alger died in 1891 at the age of 76. In this article from the January 18, 1891 edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Alger's public service to his community was lauded. Alger was buried in Erie St. Cemetery in downtown Cleveland. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Division of Special Collections.
West Cleveland Town Hall Oliver Alger presided as mayor of the Village of West Cleveland from 1883-1889 in the above building which served as the town hall. The town hall was originally located on the corner of what is now Detroit Avenue and West 83rd Street. In 1894, the building was moved to West 69th Street and then moved again, in 1911, to Herman Avenue. Shown here in a 1948 photograph, the building served as a neighborhood grocery store during this era. Image courtesy of Cleveland Public Library, Photograph collection
1915 Convention Center Proposal In the early twentieth century, many Cleveland officials, including famed Cleveland mayor Tom Johnson, proposed that Erie Street Cemetery be sold and the land used for business development. In 1915, Cleveland officials proposed to build a Convention Center on the grounds of Erie Street cemetery. Hundreds of bodies were removed to Highland Park Cemetery. Among those were Oliver Alger, his wife Mary and their infant son. The plan to build a Convention Center on the cemetery land never materialized. Later, the City reversed policy and in 1940 permanently rededicated Erie Street cemetery. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Library, Special Collections
Moving a Mansion The Oliver Alger mansion was so large that, in order to move it from its location on West 67th Street in 1998 to its new location on Franklin Boulevard and West 77th Street, it had to first be cut into three separate sections. This photograph shows those three separate sections loaded onto the house mover's tractor trailers. The mansion had been one of the grandest residences on Detroit Avenue since before the American Civil War. Image courtesy of Raymond Pianka
Just a patch of grass The remains of Oliver Alger and those of his wife and infant son, were reinterred at Highland Park cemetery on November 13, 1915. No monument marks the place which is now, hopefully, the final resting place of Oliver Alger. The unmarked graves of Oliver, and his wife and infant son, lie two lots to the left of the Collier monument shown in this photograph. Image courtesy of Jim Dubelko

Location

7702 Franklin Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44113

Metadata

Jim Dubelko and Raymond L. Pianka, “Oliver Alger House,” Cleveland Historical, accessed December 8, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/526.