Filed Under Architecture

The Park Building

One of Cleveland’s first skyscrapers goes frequently unseen amidst the hustle and bustle of Public Square. But ask any long-term resident to conjure up an olfactory memory, and all of a sudden the place becomes crystal clear.

One of Cleveland’s most overlooked structures overlooks one of Cleveland’s most bustling intersections. Located on the southeast corner of Public Square—with the May Company building to the east and Jack Casino across Ontario Street to the west—the Park Building is hardly unattractive; it’s just lower profile. For one thing, it is nine stories high, significantly shorter than most area structures. And for most of its 115-year life, it was a multi-tenant building (railroad offices were particularly common) which might further explain its unassuming presence.

But here’s one really memorable thing about the Park Building. Thousands of longtime Cleveland residents remember it by smell! That’s because, for decades, much of the Park’s ground-floor retail space was occupied by the legendary Morrow’s Nut House. And the geniuses who ran Morrow’s went to great lengths to keep the product warm (and thus aromatic) and to pipe that marvelous odor out into the street. The scent could be detected blocks away. Adding to the Park Building’s olfactory ambiance were neighbors Fanny Farmer Candies and Hough Bakery, the latter a purveyor of the finest glazed doughnuts in the galaxy.

Sadly, Morrow’s, Fanny Farmer and Hough are now closed—replaced by less pungent storefronts. And the Park Building is now filled with condominiums—the first Public Square building in more than a century to house private residences.

Built in 1904—11 years before the adjacent May Company, 21 years before the Terminal Tower, and just previous to the seven-building Group Plan designed by Daniel Burnham—the Park Building was (for the period) a true skyscraper. It also featured other innovations unique to the time, such as steel-cable-reinforced concrete floors. Oversize windows (round on the top floor) and bronze and granite facings continue to grace the exterior, complemented inside by maple and terrazzo flooring, oak trim, tall ceilings and globular wall sconces.

In the late 1800s, a W. P. Southworth Grocery Store occupied the corner where the Park Building now stands. William Palmer Southworth was a prominent area businessman. The structure just south of the Park Building on Ontario Street is named after him, and his 1879 Classical Revival home at 3334 Prospect Avenue is on the National Register of Historic Places.

By the end of the century, the corner was occupied by a candy store owned by T. M. Swetland and his wife Carrie. Recognizing the location’s increasingly high potential, the Swetlands engaged architect Frank Seymour Barnum to create the Park Building. Barnum already had designed several Cleveland structures, including the Caxton Building (completed in 1900). For about 100 years, members of the Swetland family maintained control of the building, hosting tenants ranging from doctors, dentists and insurance companies to less-mainstream occupants such as the American Commission on Irish Independence, the National Window Glass Workers Association and the Eagle Discount Stamp Company.

In 2006 Matthew Howells became the building’s second owner. Under Howell’s stewardship the Park Building has begun its second century as a residential space with great views of Public Square but, sadly, no upward-wafting scents of cashews, chocolates or glazed donuts.

Images

Park Building at Night This postcard view looks southward across Public Square toward the Park Building. Source: Cleveland State University, Special Collections Date: ca. 1911
Before the Park Building This 1897 view faces southeastward across Public Square at a time when low-rise storefronts still lined Public Square, including on future site of the Park Building at right. The Williamson Building also had not yet been built on the east side of the square. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection Date: 1897
Park Building, ca. 1910 This postcard faces southward toward the Park Building and the old May Co. on Ontario St. from the pond in the southwest quadrant of Public Square. One of the tile-roofed transit shelters is visible on the left. Source: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Aerial View of Public Square, ca. 1925 The Park Building is immediately to the right of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in this view. Source: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Fanny Farmer A crowd crosses Ontario Street in front of the Fanny Farmer candy store at Public Square, 1938. Source: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Storefronts in Park Building, ca. 1950 This photo shows the front of the Park Building, including signs for Kaase, Morrow's Nut House, Peggy Ann, and Clear Sylk. Source: Jasper Wood Collection, Cleveland Public Library, CC BY-SA 4.0 Creator: Jasper Wood
Public Square postcard Looking east down Euclid Ave., with the Park Building at near right. Source: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Date: ca. 1958
Park Building Ad, 1967 This 1967 ad touted the Public Square redevelopment vision of Howard Cain, a Park Building-based architect who had been offering various ideas for Public Square since the late 1950s. The ad urged taking office space in the Park Building while plugging Cain's vision, which if adopted would have enhanced the building's value. Source: Clevelander, May 1967

Location

Metadata

Chris Roy, “The Park Building,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 15, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/865.