Needham Castle

Where a grocery store and parking lot now stand on the south side of Detroit Avenue just west of West 58th Street there once stood a mansion so large that neighbors called it "Castle Needham" after the man who built it. The castle was said to be "surrounded by spacious grounds, on which flowers and fruit trees grew in rich abundance." Other sources noted the "marble fountain on the front lawn which distinguished it from its neighbors," and that it was "one of the most interesting landmarks in the residence district."

Castle Needham, or Needham Castle as it was later called, was built in 1836 by Needham M. Standart, a nineteenth century Lake Erie shipbuilder who was born in New York and moved to Milan, Ohio in the 1820s. In the 1830s, Standart relocated to fast-growing Cleveland where he built a number of Lake Erie steamers, including the famous steamboat Cleveland. He served as mayor of Ohio City from 1840-1841 and was one of the commissioners who in 1854 negotiated the terms of the annexation of Ohio City to the City of Cleveland.

In the decades leading up to the Civil War, Needham Castle was the site of "brilliant evening parties" that were said to be the talk of the west side for weeks afterwards. It was also rumored that more than "brilliant talk" occurred at Needham Castle and that its famed cupola was often used in these years as a hiding place for runaway slaves as part of Cleveland's Underground Railroad.

Shortly after the end of the Civil War, Needham Standart, whose son William had commanded the famous "Standart's Battery" of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery during the war, suffered a severe business reversal and was forced to declare bankruptcy. Needham Castle was sold to pay his debts. In the early 1870s, it was acquired by early Cleveland industrialist Daniel P. Rhodes (the father of historian James Ford Rhodes), who attempted to preserve the castle while redeveloping the surrounding mansion grounds into a residential subdivision. Before Rhodes could complete the project, however, he died suddenly in 1875.

In the 1880s, Needham Castle was purchased by Herman and Ida Stuhr. Herman Stuhr, a German immigrant architect and lumber dealer, designed several commercial buildings in Cleveland and built a number of the houses on West Clinton Avenue that still exist today. In 1912, Stuhr decided to convert Needham Castle into a three-family residence for his extended family. Shortly after completing the project, Herman Stuhr, like previous owner Daniel Rhodes, died suddenly.

In the years following Herman Stuhr's death, Needham Castle continued to be the subject of neighborhood talk. Every March 6, for more than 50 years from the early 1880s until the mid-1940s, Herman Stuhr's widow, Ida, who lived to age 95, hosted a grand dinner party at Needham Castle for friends and family in celebration of her birthday. She continued to host these parties at Needham Castle until 1946 when she moved out to live with her daughter and sold the castle to St. Mary Romanian Orthodox Church.

In the years following World War II, St. Mary used the castle as an apartment house for Romanian immigrants coming to America in the wake of the communist takeover of their country. The castle also served as a photography studio, its beautiful Victorian era rooms and decor serving as the perfect backdrop for parish wedding pictures.

St. Mary also had planned to eventually build a new and larger church on the mansion property, but abandoned the plan in the early 1950s when its parish priest could not resolve his differences with city leaders over living conditions in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. Instead, St. Mary built its new church on a site on Warren Road. In 1954, Needham Castle was purchased by a realty company which tore down the historic old mansion and built a Kroger grocery store in its place.

Some mysteries of Needham Castle, including the rumor that it served as an Underground Railroad site, have been largely lost to history. However, one mystery has been solved. Although Needham Castle had stood at 5913 Detroit Avenue for nearly 120 years and was widely touted as one of the most famous landmarks on Cleveland's west side, an exhaustive search in 2011 of newspapers, city and county records, public libraries, and private historical society collections, failed to uncover a single photo, painting or other image of the house. Then, in 2014, a descendant of Herman and Ida Stuhr, who had read this story online, generously provided copies of photos and sketches of the historic mansion. A number of those now appear in the photo array that accompanies this story.

Images

Needham Castle

Needham Castle

Built in or about 1830 by early Cleveland westside politician and industrialist Needham Standart, Needham Castle stood at 5913 Detroit Avenue for over 120 years. The above watercolor sketch was drawn by Charles H. Taylor (1916-2009), a grandson of Herman and Ida Stuhr. The mansion was owned by the Stuhr family from 1884-1946. During the 1850s, the cupola prominently featured in this sketch was rumored to be a hiding place for runaway slaves and part of Cleveland's Underground Railroad. Image courtesy of Nancy T. Schreiner View File Details Page

Needham Maynard Standart (1797-1874)

Needham Maynard Standart (1797-1874)

Needham M. Standart was a successful nineteenth century Lake Erie ship builder. Among the ships he built was the famed steamboat "Cleveland." He served as mayor of Ohio City from 1840 -1841, and in 1854 was one of the commissioners who negotiated the terms and conditions of the annexation of Ohio City to Cleveland. Needham's oldest son William served in the Union Army during the Civil War and commanded the famed "Standart's Battery" of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery. Three years after the end of the Civil War, a bankrupt Needham Standart lost ownership of Needham Castle. View File Details Page

Steamboat "Cleveland"

Steamboat "Cleveland"

The Lake Erie steamboat "Cleveland" was built by Needham Standart in the early 1840s. It was one of the fastest steamers on the Lake in its day. Image courtesy of Bowling Green State University View File Details Page

1881 map depicting location of Needham Castle

1881 map depicting location of Needham Castle

On this historic atlas, Needham Castle is the pink-colored irregularly-shaped figure that is noted to be part of the Daniel Rhodes Estate and surrounded by the Rhodes and Coffinberry subdivison. In 1881, there was no other residential or commercial structure along this section of Detroit Avenue that was anywhere close to being as large as Needham Castle. Image courtesy of Cleveland Public Library, Digital Images Collection View File Details Page

A West-Side Landmark

A West-Side Landmark

In 1886, when the above photograph was taken, Needham Castle---then already over 50 years old, would be considered to be under today's standards already an historic structure. The Castle would remain standing on its Detroit Avenue location for another nearly 70 years. The mansion was purchased-- two years before this photograph was taken, by Herman Stuhr, an immigrant from Germany, and his wife Ida, a second generation German-American. Image courtesy of Nancy T. Schreiner View File Details Page

Herman and Ida Stuhr

Herman and Ida Stuhr

The Stuhrs purchased Needham Castle in 1884. Here they are shown inside the mansion around 1915. Herman, a lumber dealer, died in 1916 shortly after completing a major renovation to the mansion. Ida survived him by 35 years, dying in 1951 at the age of 95. She lived in Needham Castle until 1946 when she sold the mansion and moved in with a daughter who lived in Shaker Heights. For years, Ida threw a grand dinner party at the mansion on her birthday, inviting friends and family to help her celebrate. Image courtesy of Nancy T. Schreiner View File Details Page

Grandchildren Visiting the Mansion

Grandchildren Visiting the Mansion

In this circa 1920 photograph, five grandchildren of Ida Stuhr visit her at Needham Castle. From left to right are: Herman, Freida, Frederick, Maria and Charles. The street in the background is Detroit Avenue, at the 5900 block, as it appeared that year. Image courtesy of Nancy T. Schreiner View File Details Page

Needham Castle Fountain

Needham Castle Fountain

One of the most striking features of Needham Castle was the marble fountain located in its front yard. In the above circa 1920 photograph, two of Herman and Ida Stuhr's grandchildren play near the fountain. The house seen in the background to the right is not the mansion, but another house that was located on Detroit Avenue just to the east of the mansion. Image courtesy of Nancy T. Schreiner View File Details Page

Where Needham Castle Once Stood

Where Needham Castle Once Stood

The mansion known as Needham Castle stood at 5913 Detroit Avenue for over 120 years. It was razed in 1954 to make room from a Kroger grocery store. Today, the parking lot in the above photograph marks the location where Needham Castle once was. Image courtesy of Google Maps View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Jim Dubelko, “Needham Castle,” Cleveland Historical, accessed March 27, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/324.
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