The Vans' Engineers

When Fred Alwood Pease, the founder of F.A. Pease Engineering Company, died in 1955, his obituary noted that his engineering firm had designed the roads and streets of approximately 30 square miles of Cleveland's eastern suburbs. Among those suburbs were Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights and Gates Mills. As almost all of the present day streets of Shaker Heights were designed by this engineering firm, it would be somewhat arbitrary to select any street as the marker for this story. So instead we've selected Shaker Lakes Park as the site for this story, because the parklands were the one constant in their engineering work which the firm could not change and around which the firm was compelled to exercise both its creativity and its engineering knowledge in designing for the Van Sweringens the first boulevards and avenues of Shaker Heights.

F.A. Pease was born in 1873 in Kingsville, Ohio; a small town in Ashtabula County. After graduating as valedictorian of his high school class, he came to Cleveland in 1891 looking for work. He was employed in a number of private firms before landing a job as deputy county engineer for Cuyahoga County shortly before the turn of the century. In 1903, F.A. left his county job to found the F.A. Pease Engineering Company. The firm's design work for Fairmount Boulevard and other east side suburban streets soon caught the attention of a group of land investors that included O.P. Van Sweringen. The investors hired the firm in 1904 to begin laying out streets for the residential subdivisions which the group envisioned for the 1300 acres of land former owned by the Shaker Colony. This land would within a decade become the original territory of a new garden suburb of Cleveland called Shaker Heights.

The streets of Shaker Heights as designed by F.A. Pease Engineering fit the model of early twentieth century design for upper middle class American suburbs. Rather than laying down a traditional square or rectangular grid of streets, the firm designed curvilinear streets for Shaker Heights which followed the natural topography of the land and attempted to retain as much of the natural beauty of the land as possible, including wooded areas and streams.

Harry C. Gallimore (1886-1958), who was hired by the F.A. Pease Engineering Company in 1908, and who later became a partner of F.A. Pease, was an especially important member of the street design team for Shaker Heights. In addition to his skills as an engineer, Gallimore, who was an avid reader of English literature, drew upon that knowledge to name many of the streets of Shaker Heights.

Another prominent member of the firm was William E. Pease (1875-1943), a younger brother of F.A. Arriving in Cleveland later than his older brother, William was formally trained as an engineer at the Case School of Applied Sciences. After working for several years for his brother's firm, he was hired by the Van Sweringen Brothers to be the principal engineer for the rapid transit line and the Terminal Tower and Train Station. In presenting his arguments to Cleveland City officials why the new train station in Cleveland should be located on Public Square rather than the Mall, Pease may have claimed, according to one newspaper account, that he was a descendant of Captain Seth Pease (1764-1819), the surveyor of Moses Cleveland who laid out Cleveland Public Square. While William Pease may have been distantly related to Seth Pease, research of his family history suggests that he was not a direct descendant.

The F.A. Pease Engineering Company brilliantly designed the streets and boulevards of Shaker. Their work significantly contributed to making Shaker Heights one of America's premier twentieth century garden suburbs.

Images

F. A. Pease (1873-1955)

F. A. Pease (1873-1955)

Fred Alwood Pease, shown here on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, founded F. A. Pease Engineering Company in Cleveland in 1903. The company's offices for many years were in downtown Cleveland in the Williamson Building. Almost all of the streets of Shaker Heights were designed by this engineering firm. Image courtesy of the Cleveland Public Library. View File Details Page

William E. Pease (1875-1943)

William E. Pease (1875-1943)

William E. Pease was the younger brother of F. A. Pease. For more than twenty years, he served as the Chief Engineer for the Van Sweringen railroad empire, designing the rapid transit line from downtown Cleveland to Shaker Heights, as well as the Terminal Tower and the Union Train Station. Pease was said to have a sense of humor. He assigned colorful names to sections of the transit line according to the difficulties he encountered in acquiring land or addressing difficult terrain. Thus, he dubbed one section "Tin Can Dump" and another "Jackass Hill." Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Library, Special Collections. View File Details Page

Attending a Council Meeting

Attending a Council Meeting

In this photo (which appears to have been taken in the 1930s), F.A. Pease is shown attending a meeting of the Shaker Heights City Council. Pease is sitting directly across the table from Mayor Van Aken. Also seated at the table are Councilmen Sanford, Vaughan, Hecker, Rudolph, Palmer, Pratt and Cantillon, and Law Director Ralph W. Jones. Image courtesy of the Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

While O.P. Looked On. . .

While O.P. Looked On. . .

This July 20, 1930 Cleveland Press article chronicles the work ethic of W.E. Pease, chief engineer for the Van Sweringens, in early twentieth century Cleveland. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Library, Special Collections View File Details Page

Engineering the Shaker Streets

Engineering the Shaker Streets

Caricature of F.A. Pease - the man who designed the boulevards and avenues of Shaker Heights for the Van Sweringens. Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

1909 Street and Development Map

1909 Street and Development Map

This early Shaker Heights map, prepared for the Van Sweringens by the F.A. Pease Engineering Co., prominently features Shaker Lakes Park. Around the park lands are grand boulevards and curvilinear avenues with residential lots that were strategically placed to have direct access to the Park. Image courtesy of the Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Jim Dubelko, “The Vans' Engineers,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 28, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/409.
comments powered by Disqus

Share this Story