Filed Under Architecture

The New England Building

In the late nineteenth century, downtowns in the United States were the center of major commercial expansion and industrial growth. The construction of skyscrapers and tall business buildings was exploding and replacing old structures located in central cities. The New England Building is an example of this trend in the late 1800s. The New England Building, also known as the Guardian Building and the National City Bank Building, was built in 1896 on the property that had formerly held a mansion owned by Henry Chrisholm. The structure was initially called the New England Building after the company constructing it. Still, the plan was for the building to be officially named the Ohio Building with the title throughout the structure. However, this name did not seem to catch on as the building continued to be commonly referred to as the New England Building until about 1916.

At the time of the New England Building's completion, it was the tallest building in Cleveland, and one of the tallest in the country, with fifteen floors. However, it lost its distinction as the city's tallest building in 1905 when the Rockefeller Building was built. The architects of the original design of the New England Building, Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, were an out-of-state firm located in Boston. Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge's plan was a "sandstone-faced structure" that was "designed with restrained Renaissance detail." Because of its status as the tallest building in the 1890s and its impressive architecture, many businesses and architects moved their offices to the impressive new skyscraper. Many members of the Cleveland Architectural Club, like Charles F. Schweinfurth, relocated to the floors of the New England Building. For about twenty years, the New England Building stood with its original design, with the majority of the floors occupied by business offices.

In 1915, the New England Building was bought by the Guardian Savings and Trust Company for $2,000,000. The Guardian Savings and Trust Company was a widely successful and expanding banking business during the early 1910s. When the leases held by other companies in the New England Building expired, the Guardian Savings and Trust Company hired architects Walker and Weeks, at that time, a relatively new firm, to design rooms for a bank. Walker and Weeks designed an addition added to the back that added 250 rooms, and a new design for the front of the building. Walker and Weeks added the distinctive Corinthian columns to the front of the bank, standing out from the original design of the top of the building. After their role in the redesign of the New England Building, now being called the Guardian Building, Walker and Weeks went on to design more than sixty banks across Ohio.

The New England Building stayed in the hands of the Guardian Savings and Trust Company for close to thirty years. The corporation grew widely in Ohio through the 1920s and was made up of "26 corporations, including investment and real estate firms." However, in March 1933, the Guardian Savings and Trust Company was forced to liquidate. It was discovered that the company mismanaged its customers' money by giving insider loans to members of the company. The National City Bank leased the banking part of the New England Building after the Guardian Savings and Trust Company vacated it, and officially bought the building from the Guardian liquidator for $300,000 on March 28, 1944. From 1944 to 1948, after the National City Bank purchased the New England Building, the third floor housed tenants such as the Veterans Administration and the War Labor Board. After the Veterans Administration and the War Labor Board vacated the New England Building, the National City Bank took up many of the floors for their departments and the banking lobby on the first floor. Beginning June 1, 1949, the National City Bank formally renamed the building, the National City Bank Building.

The National City Bank occupied the banking floor of the New England Building until 2008, when the PNC Bank absorbed the National City Bank. However, the National City Bank moved its executives and departments to a new headquarters that had begun to be built in 1978 and was finished in 1980. In the late twentieth century, the New England Building, like many historic buildings in downtown areas, was not being fully used. The use of historic office buildings fell because of the rising demand for newer office space. The downtown buildings were frequently losing the competition to new office spaces developed in the suburbs.

In an effort to revitalize the building in the late 1990s, a bid was put in for the competition of turning a downtown building into a Holiday Inn Express hotel. In 1997, “Richard Maron, a specialist at bringing old buildings back to life,” bid two-thirds of the New England Building to be converted into the Holiday Inn Express. Despite the competition, Richard Maron won the bid, and to this day, the New England Building is occupied by the Holiday Inn Express.

After the National City Bank was absorbed into the PNC Bank in 2008, the National City Bank located in the New England Building vacated the structure. The bank lobby was empty for many years until the Marble Room converted the old banking rooms into an upscale restaurant and bar. The Marble Room followed the current trend of turning old banking locations into businesses "related to food and dining."

It has been more than 100 years since the New England Building was constructed, and, like other historic buildings still standing in downtown Cleveland, the New England Building has been able to transform itself and continue to be in use for businesses. While the New England Building was an important and record-breaking building at the time of its construction, it is now a historic building that continuously revitalizes itself with the current trends of downtown life.

Images

New England Building This photo shows the building soon after it's completion. Note the Garfield Building to the left and the low block to the right where the National City Bank later expanded eastward to the corner of Euclid and East 9th Street. Designed by Chicago-based architectural firm Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge and completed in 1896, the New England Building, was the tallest building in Cleveland until 1905, when the Rockefeller building was built. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection
Henry Chrisholm's Mansion Henry Chrisholm’s mansion (left) once stood where the New England Building now stands. Henry Chrisholm's mansion, like many other mansions on Millionaires' Row, was demolished for a business building to be built in its place. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection Date: 1865
Construction of New England Building The steel skeleton of the New England Building was still fully exposed in this early photo. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection Date: 1895
Another Interior View of Bank This photo shows the banking lobby prior to the Walker and Weeks transformation. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection
The Front of the National City Bank Building The front view of the National City Bank located on Euclid Avenue in 1950. This photograph displays the Corinthian columns that architects Walker and Weeks added to the New England Building in 1916. Source: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
The Inside of the National City Bank The banking lobby of the National City Bank in 1956. The New England Building housed a bank for the majority of its existence. It was home to the Guardian Savings and Trust bank until 1933 and the National City Bank until 2008. When the National City Bank was absorbed by the PNC Bank in 2008, it was the first time the New England Building was unoccupied by a banking company since 1916. Source: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Date: 1956
National City Bank The front of the National City Bank with pedestrians walking by in the New England Building. The National City Bank bought the building from the Guardian Savings and Trust Company after it was forced to liquefy its assets. Source: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Grid Map of New England Building The map of downtown Cleveland from 1898 displays the block holding the New England Building. In 1898, the New England Building housed many architectural firms. Source: Cleveland Historic Maps. Accessed November 27, 2019. www.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=ddb0ee6134d64de4adaaa3660308abfd&extent=-81.6901,41.4996,-81.6865,41.5011. Date: 1898

Location

629 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44114

Metadata

Cecelia Brunecz, “The New England Building,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 8, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/881.