Weddell House/Rockefeller Building
On February 15, 1861, the streets surrounding the Weddell House, as well as the windows, porches and even rooftops that looked upon the hotel, were dense with faces eager to see the newly elected president, Abraham Lincoln. Once inside his overnight lodgings on the corner of Superior Avenue and Bank (now W. 6th) Street, Lincoln walked onto the second floor balcony to greet the crowd of Clevelanders: "To all of you, then, who have done me the honor to participate in this cordial welcome, I return most sincerely, my thanks, not for myself, but for Liberty, the Constitution and Union." In 1931, the room in which Lincoln stayed during his visit was turned into a shrine to the late president. The public was welcome to visit, and fifteen presidents were among the many who visited the room. Other notable people who stepped through the Weddell House doors include the General Philip H. Sheridan, General George A. Custer, Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind, and many others.
The famous Weddell House opened in 1847. Its 200 rooms were used for offices, stores, parlors, dining, a tavern, and overnight lodgings. Important and historical events took place in the five-story, brick and sandstone structure. In August of 1851, the Weddell House exhibited the first sewing machine, an invention that would soon help expedite Cleveland's industrialization. Another example of the hotel's historic significance occurred on November 13, 1869. An organization for teachers that promoted educational and professional improvements - the North Eastern Ohio Teachers Association (NEOTA) --was formed and still operates today. By 1853 the popularity of the Weddell House was so great that a four-story addition was built on Bank Street to accommodate for the high demand for rooms.
In 1903, John D. Rockefeller became owner of the Superior Avenue portion of the Weddell House. After two years of construction, the original section of the historic hotel had been replaced by the Rockefeller Building, a design by Knox & Elliott, a local firm whose partners got their start working for Daniel Burnham in Chicago. The design emulated the celebrated Chicago-style skyscrapers of Louis H. Sullivan. In 1910, four more sections were added in the same "Sullivanesque" architectural style. Offices in the new seventeen-story building were dedicated to iron, coal, and lake shipping. John D. Rockefeller Jr. bought the million-dollar Rockefeller Building from his father for one dollar. It was later passed into the hands of Josiah Kirby in 1920 who renamed the building after himself. The Kirby Building did not keep its new name for long. Rockefeller repurchased the property simply to change it back to its original name.