Shaker Square Historic District

Shaker Square is neither located in Shaker Heights nor shaped like a square, but ask for directions to the coffee shop at "Cleveland Octagon" and you'll most likely receive only confused looks in return. Shaker Square has always been shaped like an octagon. The original plan did not leave enough room for automobile parking, necessitating the adjustment, but the name remained the same. And Shaker Square is indeed located in the city of Cleveland, just west of its border with Shaker Heights. Strict zoning regulations originally prohibited the construction of apartment complexes and commercial buildings in Shaker. Thus, the dense residential neighborhood and bustling shopping center the Van Sweringen brothers developed would serve as a gateway to Shaker Heights, but remain apart from it.

The origins of Shaker Square date to 1922, when real estate developer Josiah Kirby purchased land along Shaker Boulevard from the Van Sweringens. Kirby began building the upscale Moreland Courts apartment complex and planned to build shops and more apartments, but he soon went bankrupt. The Van Sweringens subsequently reacquired the land and planned a retail development of their own, as well as a high-density residential neighborhood and the completion of the Moreland Courts. Architect Philip Small -- a favorite of the Vans who also designed their Daisy Hill estate and a series of Demonstration Homes on South Woodland Boulevard -- designed Shaker Square with four buildings set around a "village green" which the Shaker Rapid ran through. Each building featured a two-story center section flanked on either side by a one-story wing. Small designed the buildings in the Georgian Revival style with red brick exteriors, white trim, and slate roofs. After more than two years of construction, Shaker Square opened in 1929. It contained a variety of high-end shops, restaurants, and professional offices. In addition, the Colony Theater opened on the Square in 1937.

The Shaker Square Historic District became a Shaker Heights Landmark in 1980 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. It contains 106 buildings, 72% of which were built between 1920 and 1932. Besides the four commercial buildings that make up the Square, the historic district contains mainly apartment buildings, as well as some duplexes and single-family homes on Ludlow Road.

Since the construction of Shaker Square, Shaker Heights' zoning restrictions have been eased to allow apartments and shops in a number of areas. Shaker Square, however, remains a popular shopping and dining destination, and the apartment buildings that surround it continue to attract residents.


A Destination Kathleen Crowther remembers going to Shaker Square as a child. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection


Shaker Square, 1938 Children sit on a lawn in the northwest quadrant of Shaker Square in 1938. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Division of Special Collections. Cleveland Press Collection.
Guardian Trust, 1929 A 1929 newspaper advertisement for the new Guardian Trust bank branch at Shaker Square describes it as an "attractive replica of an early New England banking house." Other businesses located at Shaker Square during its early years included the Helen and Gertrude's Beauty Shop -- which promised "Scientific Care of the Hair and Scalp," Marshall's Drug Store, Mielziner Furs, Bunce Brother's men's clothing store, and a photography studio offering "Camera Portraits by Anthony Weins." Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Division of Special Collections.
Moreland Circle, 1926 Moreland Circle (lower right corner), constructed around 1920, was where the Shaker Rapid originally split in two, with one line continuing east on Shaker Boulevard and the other heading southeast on South Moreland (later renamed Van Aken) Boulevard. The circle disappeared with the construction of Shaker Square between 1927 and 1929. The rapid lines now diverge at a spot a bit further east. In this aerial view from 1926, the Moreland Courts can be seen to the left. Building temporarily stopped on the apartments in 1923 after the real estate developer who owned the property went bankrupt. The Van Sweringen brothers later reacquired the land and had Philip Small (who also designed Shaker Square) finish the apartments, building a final section that connected with the northeast quadrant of Shaker Square. Image courtesy of the Shaker Historical Society
Aerial View, ca. 1979 This aerial view of Shaker Square looks southwest towards the dense residential neighborhood along Buckeye Avenue, which runs parallel south of Shaker Boulevard. Not part of the Van Sweringens' Shaker Square development, this Cleveland neighborhood was once the center of Cleveland's Hungarian community. "Little Hungary," as it was formerly known, is now populated largely by African-Americans, who moved into the area after large numbers of whites left for the suburbs beginning in the 1970s. Image courtesy of the Shaker Historical Society
10th Anniversary Celebration, 1939 From left, L. Morris Van Fossan (manager of Shaker Square and Moreland Courts), Shaker Heights Mayor William Van Aken, and an unknown man are pictured on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the opening of Shaker Square. Image courtesy of the Shaker Historical Society
African Safari, 1943 Shaker Square Travel uses an attention-grabbing display in its front window to advertise an African safari in 1943. Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society
Shaker Village Sales Office, 1943 The Van Sweringen Company had a sales office at Shaker Square from its opening in 1929. The office became unnecessary once all the land in Shaker Heights and the surrounding suburbs owned by the company had been sold. This had apparently not occurred by 1943, when this photograph was taken. Image courtesy of the Shaker Historical Society
John Wade Record Shop, 1943 John Wade Record Shop sat on the northeast quadrant of Shaker Square (next to where Dewey's Coffee is today) from the 1940s until the 1970s. Frank Carie, a former silent movie pianist, owned the store for 32 of those years. His store drew local music lovers, visiting musicians playing with the Cleveland Orchestra at nearby Severance Hall, and even Imelda Marcos, wife of Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. Grammy-winning musician Marc Cohn, who grew up in Beachwood, shared fond memories of the store when he spoke with the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2010. "On Saturdays, my maternal grandmother would take us out for brunch at Stouffer's, right next to John Wade," he remembered, "and if I was a quote-unquote good boy, I'd get to buy a single." Image courtesy of the Shaker Historical Society
Christmas Tree Lighting, 1965 The annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Shaker Square always attracts a large crowd. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Division of Special Collections. Cleveland Press Collection.
Shaker Square Historic District This map shows the boundaries of the Shaker Square Historic District. The district contains Shaker Square, as well as the residential neighborhood the Van Sweringens developed surrounding the Square. The historic district is mainly in Cleveland, but extends slightly into Shaker Heights at its northern and eastern edges. Image courtesy of the Shaker Heights Landmark Commission



Michael Rotman, “Shaker Square Historic District,” Cleveland Historical, accessed January 23, 2022,